In some cases, the juniper tree symbolizes evil, dark, and ominous themes, such as the case in the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. While in others, it was meant to signify protection, purification, strength, power, divination, and eternal youth.
The Juniper Tree is an evergreen tree with thick branches and voluminous leaves that form the shape of a cone.
It has inspired a popular, yet dark story from the Grimm Brothers, and has curiously represented extreme concepts, explored below.
Remember that symbolism is subjective. The below are examples of possible interpretations only, and may not be the correct interpretations for you and your situation.
Symbolism and Meanings About The Juniper Tree
Having been around for a long time, the Juniper Tree has been mentioned in lots of folklore, including a popular fairy tale, and it is even included in stories from the Bible. Some stories even involve witchcraft.
For certain countries, harming the Juniper Tree signifies death, while in others, it denotes rebirth or reincarnation.
1. Symbol of Healing and Purification
Juniper is often associated with cleansing, healing, and purification due to its links with ancient cleansing rituals in Celtic culture.
According to records, it used to be a practice in Scotland, as well as some areas in England and France, to burn branches from the Juniper Tree on the first day of the year to cleanse the household of evil spirits.
While in other European countries, it is the berry that is burned to clear the house of infestations, especially in preparation for summer.
In ancient times, this smoke was used for the ritual purification of their temples as they believed that the smoke aided with clairvoyance. It is even said that it can stimulate contact with the “other world”.
While for other cultures, the smoke of Juniper wood is used to purify the air or drive away demonic beings for sacred ceremonies. Even stables are fumigated to protect livestock from diseases and negative entities.
The burnt branch was also used to drive away illness or ward off infections. During the medieval times, the Juniper’s berries were believed to have medicinal properties and were added to their food during preparation.
As a medicinal ingredient, there are records of it having been used as early as 1500 BC by ancient Egyptians to as a diuretic, laxative, and to cure tapeworm infestations.
Modern practitioners still use it to treat infections, arthritis, indigestion, rheumatism, and many other illnesses.
See Also: Leafless Tree Symbolism
2. Symbol of Death and Evil
Juniper sometimes represents death, evil, or a bad omen. There are many Celtic and Norse traditions prohibiting the cutting of the juniper and the use of its wood.
One of the stories surrounding the Juniper Tree is about it being evil, signaling an upcoming disaster or difficulties.
This is especially so for anyone who harms or acts against the tree. For the people of Wales, the act of cutting down a Juniper tree means certain death to the individual within a year.
Other stories narrating the bad omen of the Juniper Tree are in relation to the Rowan Tree. In Iceland, it is believed that the two trees should not be planted on the same soil, otherwise they will burn out the other.
According to Icelandic boatmen, wood from the two trees should also not be used on the same boat, or else the boat will sink.
3. Symbol of Eternal Youth and Christmas
As some species of the Juniper Tree remain short despite being able to live for up to hundreds of years, some believe that it represents eternal youth and childhood, similar to Peter Pan.
This is more so because some Juniper Trees can also take as long as 50 years before reaching maturity.
While seasons change and plants whither, the Juniper Tree remains green throughout the year. As an evergreen plant, it is also sometimes associated with the celebration of Christmas, a tradition that brings out the inner child in most people.
4. Symbol of Rebirth and Revenge
One of the more popular narratives about the tree is the story by the famous Grimm Brothers, titled “The Juniper Tree”, in which the juniper tree symbolizes revenge.
It is a dark story that involves physical abuse, decapitation, and even cannibalism that circulated around Europe in the 1800s
In the story, the mother first asked to be buried under the tree, and her spirit manifested in the actions of the tree.
Afterward, the bones of her son were also buried under the tree, but he was eventually reborn as a bird. In this form, he exacted revenge on the stepmother who killed him, and he was able to reunite with his family.
5. Symbol of Power and Protection
Juniper often represents protection. In ancient times, it is believed that planting a Juniper tree near one’s home would protect its inhabitants from evil spirits and men with malicious intentions, and safeguard livestock from wild animals.
With the Juniper’s leaves and branches, it is capable of protecting people, birds, and animals. Birds live among its leaves while other animals seek protection under its shade.
The Juniper is also referenced in the Holy Bible. In the Old Testament, it is said that a Juniper Tree sheltered the prophet Elijah as he escaped from the pursuit of Queen Jezebel.
Later on in the New Testament, Mary and Joseph, along with the infant Jesus, escaped King Herod’s soldiers by hiding behind a Juniper Tree.
The Juniper was also used in ceremonies in some traditions that convey putting someone under protection.
This is due to a European folklore claiming that the leaves of the Juniper Tree has the ability to distract witches and prevent them from entering the household.
Dreaming About The Juniper Tree
Seeing a Juniper Tree in a dream generally has a positive meaning, as it indicates happy occasions or new developments in one’s life. But the exact message and significance of the tree still depends on how it was presented in the dream.
- Planting the tree signifies new chances or a fresh start.
- Seeing a dead or dying Juniper Tree hints at internal troubles that you have yet to settle, or maybe even acknowledge.
- If you are sick and see the Juniper Tree in a dream then you may be on your way to a swift recovery in the coming days
- Picking or eating Juniper seeds indicate possible problems that may arise, or an illness may strike the household
Other Trees and Their Symbolic Meanings:
About the Juniper Tree
Though often mistaken as a cedar tree and vice versa because of their similar appearance, it actually belongs to a different species.
Like its contradicting symbolism, its appearance is also quite confusing as some species can grow only as high as 2 meters, while other species can reach as high as 40 meters.
A common sight in the Northern Hemisphere, it is a very useful plant as it can be used as decoration for home gardens, its berries used for culinary and medical purposes, and its trunk as timber.
While young, the leaves of the Juniper Tree look like needles, similar to pine trees. However, as it matures, the leaves spread out while forming clusters of two or three, and take the shape of awls.
Each tree can only produce either a male or female part and the female tree can often be recognized through the colorful berries that it yields.
With its interesting characteristics, it is no wonder that the Juniper Tree has been the subject of many myths and fairy tales. It is also a popular symbol in different cultures, although the meanings are very different.
How to Interpret Spiritual Symbolism
Interpreting symbolism and spiritual meanings is subjective and deeply personal. The symbolic meanings listed in this article are examples of potential interpretations, but might not be true for your situation.
Make sure you meditate and journal about your vision. Reflect on what you saw and think about what message you think is relevant to you and your life right now.
This doesn’t mean choosing the message you want to hear, but the one you think you need to hear at this point in your life. Only you can decide which meaning is the right one for your situation.
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While the stories about the Juniper Tree are varied, with some even bordering on grotesque, the actual tree itself is an appealing plant with quite a colorful history.
Myth and superstitions surround the tree, and the consequences seem rather grim for anyone who goes against it.
Whether you believe in superstitions or not, sometimes it is better to be safe. In any case, cutting off a healthy and flourishing tree is not good for the environment, either.
I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.