The willow tree is a common type of tree found throughout the northern hemisphere in North America, Europe and Asia. The meaning of the willow tree varies across the world, but willow trees are often associated with death, femininity and healing. Willow branches have even been used to ward off evil spirits.
The meaning of willow trees is often associated with goddesses or feminine powers. One reason for this feminine association is because willow trees grow near water, traditionally considered a feminine element. Willow trees may also be considered feminine because of the swaying, graceful movement of willow branches in the wind. The meaning of willow trees extends to many traditionally feminine traits, including harmony, intuition and sensitivity. In pagan customs, the willow tree represents moon goddesses such as Artemis and Hecate.
Willow trees are also associated with fertility and sexuality. According to the Dictionary of Symbolism, willow branches were used in Greek fertility rituals, and the ancient Chinese nicknamed women's body parts after the willow tree. Willow trees are a symbol of the springtime, when new life becomes apparent in nature and fertility is celebrated. In contrast, the ancient Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples also saw the willow tree as a symbol of chastity and used it in tonics to promote sexual restraint.
Willow trees, especially the weeping willow, may also be symbolic of death. The cascading appearance of weeping willow branches brings to mind the flow of tears and is therefore associated with sorrow and loss. Willow trees are traditionally planted in graveyards; in the Middle Ages it was common to place a willow branch inside a coffin to ward off evil spirits. A Greek goddess often associated with the willow tree is Persephone, who rules the Underworld during the deathlike winter and then arises to rule the fertile spring. From this connection, one may infer that willow trees represent not only death, but the cycle of life.
Because of its medicinal properties, another possible meaning of willow trees is healing. Willow branches contain salicin, a medicinal substance that resembles aspirin. Willow trees were used in traditional healing remedies by ancient people all over the world, including Egyptians, Celts and American Indians. Willow is still used in alternative medicine to combat aches and fever.
In the Celtic horoscope, you are a willow tree if you were born between September 3rd and September 12th or between March 1st and March 10th, according to the Spirit Project. However, the book "Celtic Astrology" by Phyllis Vega claims that willow tree people are born between April 15th and May 12th. The meaning of the willow tree in the Celtic horoscope is equality, resiliency, sensitivity, toughness and tolerance. Willow tree people tend to be articulate, intuitive and strong-willed.
- "Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind Them"; Hans Biedermann; 1989
- "Celtic Astrology"; Phyllis Vega; 2002