Its branches are flexible while its narrow and long leaves appear in a particular silver-green color, especially in what is commonly called weeping willow. Let’s learn more about willow tree symbolism, spiritual meaning, and uses.
A peculiarity of this tree is that it produces fruits that, once they are rapidly ripe, fall to the ground giving the feeling that the tree has born fruit prematurely.
The first information on this elegant plant was found in ancient Egyptian texts dating back to the II millennium BC. Hippocrates, however, in the fifth century BC described its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties for the first time.
Indeed, modern biochemistry has confirmed that this tree contains salicin. This substance is used for the production of not only anti-inflammatories but also antipyretics and antirheumatics.
Although we do not possess much documentation, it seems that leaves and bark of the willow trees were used by many populations (perhaps even primitive) for the production of tools as well as medicinal purposes. News of the healing powers of willow trees have also been found in documents of medieval origin.
Willow Tree Symbolism in Different Cultures
The term Willow has Celtic origins and its meaning is “near the water”. Both from a purely symbolic and natural point of view, the Willow is strongly linked to the element of water and the magic ingrained in it.
For people and Celts specifically, the Willow was considered a female divinity and its cult, linked to lunar cycles and fertility, always held great importance over the centuries.
In Celtic tradition and culture, willow was the 5th tree of the year in the arboreal zodiac. This period fell between the 12th of April and the 15th of May.
On the other hand, the wood of the willow was used for the construction of musical instruments among druid people.
They made baskets from the branches, which were used during the sacred rites to deposit offerings.
In ancient Greece, the Willow was the tree identified in connection with the afterlife. This is due to the ease with which branches, once broken, regenerate and grow again.
For the Jewish people, willow trees were instead thought they had the power to propitiate rain and were worshiped as everything related to water.
Mesopotamian people used willows to soothe fever and rheumatism.
In Rome, the branches of willow (wicker) were used to manufacture baskets.
Willow was linked to the world of witches in Britain.
Weeping Willow Tree Symbolism and Meaning
According to one tradition, by intertwining two branches of Willow to form a cross, one could predict his own death.
If the cross placed on a sacred source floated, death was near. But if the cross sank, then it was still far away.
According to Christianity, however, the weeping willows took on the meaning of chastity and purity.
Moreover, given the posture, they symbolized the right attitude to have before God. Kneeling and reverent.
According to a Christian legend, when Jesus for the umpteenth time fell on the way to Golgotha, he clung to the branches of a Willow in order to rise up again.
Since then this tree took on the meaning of pain and tears. In the medieval period, willow was linked to female divinities and witches, and it was believed that it had the power to emanate evil spells.
In the East, however, the willow trees have always had positive symbolism. In fact, they represented immortality, eternity, and spirituality.
A Few Amazing Legends about a Weeping Willow
The weeping willow has always teased the imagination of the man who was able to create an aura of magic and mystery around it, inventing dozens of legends and fables that made it into a tree linked to the fairytale world, mythology and even Christian mysticism.
Various fables have arisen around its origins, belonging to all ages and religions. For this reason, it is not possible to unambiguously outline the legendary origin of the weeping willow.
Now let’s see some of the most common legends.
- Without a doubt the willow tree is a tree linked to the symbolism of the most orthodox Christianity.
In fact, there is a legend that tells how this plant changed its appearance at the time of Jesus Christ: while Jesus carried the cross, at the exact moment of the passion, exhausted and unable to walk, he collapsed for a moment at the feet of a willow that stood in his path.
Taken pity by so much suffering, the willow bent all its branches down to help him get up and support him with its fronds. When Jesus resumed his journey, still haunted by the floggings of the soldiers, the willow remained with all its branches and continued to cry forever.
- There is another legend that explains the current physiognomy of the weeping willow in a reading key that refers directly to the Catholic symbology.
This tells of how the willow tree, originally with the branches reaching upwards, was in a beautiful enclosure (10 commandments) and was the object of the meticulous care of a farmer (God) who watered it every day.
Once a snake (sin) came to visit him and began to instigate him to leave that fence in search of the freedom that he had never known.
The inexperienced and naive willow was convinced and abandoned the fence, going to settle where the snake had advised. The snake spent the whole day covering the roots of the willow, claiming he wanted what’s best for him.
But in reality, a snake had brought the willow to a place where the sun never beamed and no water flowed. And this is how branches of the willow subsided forever and it never stopped crying.
- Another legend tells instead how the willow, always a tree with beautiful branches directed upwards, became friends with a stream that began to tell him about the world and life and all the things his current could know traveling incessantly for many kilometers.
One day they both heard woodcutters who wanted to cut the willow because of its great beauty and together they plotted to escape the danger.
The willow began to bend downwards, leaning forward until it touched the water of the river and began to lower all the branches to look as sad as possible.
As soon as woodcutters saw this sudden change, they decided not to cut the tree because “weeping” in that position it had to be necessarily sick or cursed.
The myths around the willow tree are very numerous and many of them are born in far east Asia and Japan, where the tree comes from.