Trees are both an imago mundi and an axis mundi; the whole of manifestation and the synthesis of heaven, earth, water. Ancients envisioned the cosmos in the form of a tree. Trees have been the object of worship and legends which have included individual trees as well as sacred groves. It was also believed that oracular gods and goddesses dwelled in trees.
leaf – represents fertility, growth, renewal; green leaves symbolize hope, withered leaves are sadness, death; crowns of leaves are seen as divinity, triumph, victory; used in the practice of divination by phyllomancy, which is the art of divination by listening to the rustling of leaves; in Chinese symbolism leaves of the cosmic tree represent all beings in the universe - The Ten Thousand Things
branch – often depicts the Tree of Life; the Golden Bough the link between this world and the next; in the Aeneid, an oak branch covered with mistletoe helped Aneas pass through the underworld; the Silver Bough is the link between this world and the fairy world
wood – prima materia in the Middle East and India, the fundamental material from which all things were made; that which gives shelter at birth (cradle) and death (coffin)
forest – realm of the feminine principle; place of darkness, chaos, and uncertainty; to those who show no fear, a place of peace and refuge; psychologically, a symbol of the unconscious where there are secrets to be discovered and perhaps dark emotions and memories; Druidic symbol of light and darkness with sun and forest married as male and female; Australian aboriginal realm of shades called The Beyond
Bo Tree – ficus religiosa; symbolizes perfection, contemplation, meditation; sacred to Buddha as a tree under which he attained enlightenment
Inverted Tree – has it roots growing up to the spiritual world and the crown growing down toward the earth; symbolizes the creative power and the belief that human life is the descent of spirit into bodily form
(continued in Tree Symbolism Part 2)