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The Winter Solstice, Symbolism of Evergreens and Sacred Inspiration

Evergreen trees have special significance, symbolism, and purpose, especially during the season of the Winter Solstice. It is a mystical time of year for many traditions. It is a time of darkness and light, birth and rebirth, celebration and reflection, letting go and restarting in a New Year. The most ancient trees on the planet have witnessed this cycle many times. Even in the darkest and coldest time of the year, when all the other trees have dropped their leaves, the evergreens thrive and keep their life and color.

 Oregon Evergreens
When I first moved to Oregon, I could not help but notice that the State remained very green even through the winter years. Of course, this was because evergreens are abundant throughout the State. Pictured above is a view from Cape Perpetua, Oregon

Driving between Portland, Salem, and Eugene to the Oregon coast was like driving through a sea of green on the way to the ocean of blue.

My Denver Evergreen Neighbors
When I moved from Oregon to Denver, evergreen trees were still very close to my daily life experience.

The photo to the right is of two very large Silvertip evergreens next to where I used to live in Lakewood-Denver and were 20 feet from my front door next to Bear Creek trail.

They are majestic, thriving, and an inspiration every time I walked past them. They are Silvertips, my favorite type of evergreen and the most beautiful.

They remind me of the symbolism of the holiday tree during this season that has ancient roots that predate Christianity. The image of a tree of life or world tree occurs in many mythologies and traditions. J.R.R. Tolkien developed tree symbolism in his writings, drawing from ancient traditions and myths. These trees are living and stand year-round in their majesty and beauty.

Our Modern Culture Holiday Tree
For some, the traditional Christmas tree name has been replaced by the name Holiday Tree. Another name could be Sacred Tree. Whatever name you choose freely to call it, the evergreen tree as known in our modern culture can be very inspiring, without even knowing the ancient roots. The warmth of a lighted tree decorated with ornaments, special items, small gift cards, and an assortment of things that are meaningful to our families and us can be a centerpiece in the living room for all to enjoy. Gifts are placed under the tree, so it represents a very special place of giving and love between family and friends. It is like an altar for the sacred season and can be like an object of worship for what it represents. Almost everyone loves having an evergreen tree in the living room.

However, just as holiday trees are cut and separated from their roots to be placed in a living room, has our culture been cut off from the ancient symbols of the evergreen tree? Have we been cut off from a connection to the roots and the living energy of the Earth?

Ancient Roots of Tree Symbolism
Pre-Christian roots of tree symbolism, especially at the start of Winter connect with the Winter Solstice celebrations and traditions that are thousands of years old. These roots are still active in the astronomical and astrological significance of the Winter Solstice date, on December 21-22. In the Southern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is precisely the opposite and occurs on June 21-22. The Summer Solstice in the Southern hemisphere occurs on December 21-22. The Earth has both going on at the same time, as opposites, similar to the balance of the circular Yin-Yang symbol. Just like a full moon, the solstices represent a powerful shift in astronomical energy, the darkest or lightest day of the year, depending on which hemisphere you are in.

When we connect with ancient traditions and symbolism of anything sacred, it can empower us to feel inspired that we are connected with the stories, the myths, the metaphors, and the archetypes of ancient tree wisdom in our DNA, our bones, our collective memory, and our souls.The redwoods are the most ancient of evergreen trees and can live for an average of 500-700 years and as long as 2000 years. While visiting an ancient redwood forest I had some unique experiences and I published a separate blog post about it. It is also the title of a book that I published that has a collection of inspirational blogs. The story is below the photo:

The Ancient Redwoods Spoke to Me

"On a second journey to the redwood forest at Jedediah Smith State Park in
California, I was shown something that was so sublime and beautiful that the image of it is embedded in my memory and my soul.

If you love trees and nature, then the Redwoods is a must-visit to experience their majesty, beauty, and subtle energies. These are ancient trees that can reach the height of a thirty-story building. Their trunks can be as wide as twenty-seven feet. They are old in that their age can be as long as two thousand years.

  "Awe" is one of the keywords in my book 333 Keywords to Change Your Life. I was in a state of awe during the entire time with the Redwoods but also especially during two experiences.

The first experience was in the early morning. There is a one-lane dirt road that goes through the park, and if you get there early enough before any other cars or people, you have the experience of being alone with this forest without other human distractions. At one point on the road, I had to pull over and walk towards one particular tree on the side of the road. The sunlight was coming through the upper canopy of the trees as rays of light that seemed like divine light. The experience was like I was in an ancient primeval forest, and I felt the presence of the trees in silence, and some unique energies that I have never felt before that cannot be described in words. It was a stunning experience.

  The second experience happened on the "Boy Scout Trail," a hike on what has been called one of the most pristine old-growth hiking trails on the planet. At one point, my attention was drawn to a tree off of the path. The trunk of the tree had a shape that was a profile of a Native American, and upon seeing it, I could not help but feel a whole range of mixed emotions. It was not carved by human hands, as it was an integrated part of the thick bark that the Redwoods are known for, which also takes various shapes with burls and natural changes. The eyes and eyelids, nose, mouth, and chin, are all there. It is an amazing display of nature that has a message for anyone who sees it. That message may vary for each person. For me, it was in retrospect the deep connections that we have to both ancient trees and ancient humanity, and in this area, in particular, it is sacred, and a reminder of the love and respect that we have for the Earth. The ancient Redwoods spoke to me in the deep and profound silence. And I am still listening."

Brainard Lake, Colorado

What is the symbolism of evergreen trees during the Winter Solstice season that can provide us with reflection and inspiration?

> The evergreens represent eternal life, that goes on even in the midst of Winter when all the other trees seem "dead." Egyptians viewed evergreens as a sign of victory over death and brought greens into their homes during the Winter Solstice.

> The evergreen trees also are connected to the Green Man mythology and archetype, which honors the Earth, especially the plant kingdom.

> Trees in general and evergreens during the Winter Solstice season not only are symbols but contain their spirit connected to the Divine Spirit within all things.

> Holly and mistletoe are also evergreens that thrive in Winter, have their traditions, and are associated with using evergreen trees during the season.

Beyond symbolism, evergreen pines have been used as sacred medicine for thousands of years by indigenous tribes. In an article titled "A Winter Shrine to the Sacred Pine," different parts of the tree are described as having medicinal properties and provides some basic recipes such as pine needle tea. 

In this sacred season, it is important to acknowledge the deeper symbolism and meaning of various traditions. 

Especially at the Winter Solstice, the symbolism of evergreen trees can remind us to celebrate life, with inspiration, love, and gratitude within this season and all seasons.