The tree depicts the living structure of yourself. In particular it shows not only your past in the condition of its roots and trunk, but also what you have grown into and what your possibilities or potential are. It is what has grown from the past into the present.
Its roots show your connection with your physical body and the earth, your family background and influences, and cultural roots; its trunk the way you direct the energies of your being – growth, sex, thought, emotion. The branches are the abilities, directions and many facets you develop in life – varied and yet all connected in the common life process of your being.
The tree can also symbolise new growth, stages of life and ageing, with its spring leaves and blossom, then the falling leaves.
The top of the tree, or the end of the branches are your aspirations, the growing vulnerable tip of your personal growth and spiritual realisation. From this point of view, the leaves may represent your personal life, this particular life with its many activities and desires, that may fall off the tree – die – but what gave it life continues to exist.
The leaf may indicate something in you that is living, growing, or outworn (depending on colour of leaf). This may be part of your thinking or feeling. You can also be blown like a leaf, suggesting separation from your roots and main growth; or you can take a leaf from someone’s notebook, thus following their example or idea.
To sum up: The roots depict your connection with the earth through food, air and water, as well as your psychological roots in family and culture. The trunk shows your body and what you have developed in your life, the main thrust of your expression. The branches are the different avenues you have explored and developed, your children, your relationships and ideas. The seeds or flowers are your own fruition, the expression of what is deeply your own unique self manifesting creatively. They are also your reproduction as a parent with children or ideas in the lives of others. Dead wood represent parts of you that no longer carry life and energy, perhaps ideas or opinions that you no longer hold. The lightning struck tree represent sudden change, even death.
The tree may also at times represent a place of safety or refuge, as when we climb it to escape.
The tree is our whole life, the urge which pushes us into being and growth. It depicts the force or process which is behind all other life forms – but seen as it expresses in our personal existence.
The phrase ‘family tree’ describes a way the unconscious uses the image of a tree to represent something that is an internal reality. Within the unconscious there is an awareness that our present personality is built upon the lives and character of our forebears. So our face may be presented on the top or surface of the tree, but behind our face, or on lower branches, or in the trunk, lie the lives of our ancestors stretching back throughout the ages.
In some old manuscripts pictures show a man lying on the ground and his penis growing into a tree, with fruits, birds, and perhaps people in its protective shade. This illustrates how ones personal life energy can branch out from its source in the basic drives, and become creativity, fruitfulness, something given to others. The tree can also represent the spine, and the different levels of human experience – physical, sensual, sexual, hungers, emotions, relatedness, communication, thought, self awareness.
Example: In the dream I was looking at a very large and old tree. I wondered if I could climb it but couldn’t see any way up it. But I noticed a large area without any bark, like an old wound, and I thought that area would become rotten and so the tree would become hollow and offer shelter to animals and humans.
Then I walked around the back of the tree and saw that the bark was like thick cables about 6-8 inches wide. I could then see a fairly easy way to climb the tree. So I climbed up and the top of the tree was like a massive bell shape made by the branches, like a huge flower, a crocus shape. And it was light and colourful. Suddenly I saw a spirit, a beautiful female. It was the spirit of the tree. At this point I was semi awake, and I wanted to hold the beautiful spirit, but realised that the tree was a representation of my life, and so was the spirit of the tree. The spirit sat on me in a sexual position, so I was lying on my back and she was upright. She slowly took me into her, I mean the whole me, as if she was sucking my whole body into her. There was no movement as this happened. Then I realised that I had to die because she wanted to take all the experience of my life and endeavour into her and fertilise herself to form a baby. So I was ready to die and watched her form a new baby, a mixture of her and me.
A wood or collection of trees: The natural forces in your own being, therefore ones connection with or awareness of the unconscious; other people’s personal growth and connection with self.
The wood also indicates allowing yourself to be natural, to express what is innate in you, and for the mind and emotions to move in their own way. Walking in a wood might therefore suggest a feeling of relaxation, but it can also mean delving within your deeper feelings and mind – your unconscious – exploring your inner life.
Branches: Members of your family; directions or possibilities in your life. Or the end of the branches are your aspirations, the growing vulnerable tip of your personal growth and spiritual realisation.
Burnt tree: Painful inner situation, perhaps from early in your life.
Christmas tree or other evergreen: The eternal or unchanging aspect of your transitory experience.
Climbing a tree: Exploring or becoming aware of the directions and facets of your personal growth; using your skills or strength to get away from anxiety or danger, such as you do when climbing to get away from a dangerous animal.
Dead branch: A direction that no longer has life or motivation in it; a member of your family dying or leaving you.
Dead tree: Past way of life; something which was full of life for you in the past, but is now dead; dead relative.
Falling tree: Sense of threat to your identity; this can often suggest a big change in the way you express yourself. It is a breaking down of the influences you lived from in the past, perhaps because your childhood set in place painful or negative influences; loss of relative.
Flowering tree: Fertility; femininity.
Human or animal hung on tree: Personal sacrifice; the death of some part of self so further growth can occur – death of dependence so independence can arise; surrender; the pains and struggles, the sense of crucifixion occurring in the maturing process.
Leaves: The living, growing part of you. The part that is still vulnerable because of its newness, or outworn (depending on colour of leaf) part of your thinking or feeling. You can also be blown like a leaf, suggesting separation from your roots and main growth; or you can take a leaf from someone’s notebook, thus following their example or idea. The leaves as a whole, if falling, can represent the end of your life, the passing ego that dies, but leaves the trunk, the process that gave life.
Roots: Your connection with the past, with your family heritage or influences; the things you are tied to by necessity or love; your fundamental physical characteristics as they express in your personality; the aspects of your culture or family ties that you particularly identify with or find connection with.
Tree trunk: Your family background and connections; What you have developed or grown from.
Idioms: Top of the tree; family tree; barking up the wrong tree; tree of knowledge; dead wood; can’t see the trees for the wood. See: Sacred Tree in Dreams and Myth; death and rebirth, and archetypes of the self ; individuation.