Graveyards are designed to be a place of rest and are a way to pay tribute to the dead. Everything from headstones to the direction of the grave is attributed to some religious belief or funeral custom. This means that nothing in a graveyard is there by accident. You have probably seen graveyard trees many times, but are not aware of the meaning and significance that they hold. Graveyard trees and cemetery yews have an origin that can be traced.
Here is a closer look at the origin of graveyard trees and what beliefs they are rooted in:
Immortality of the Soul
Trees have been connected to the immortality of the soul since ancient times. Plato taught that of the young man that loved the god Apollo. The tale of this boy was that he accidentally killed his deer and asked Apollo to help him remember this animal forever. It is believed that the animal was turned into a cypress and this started the notion that trees are attached to death. The Romans were the first to use graveyard trees as a type of adornment. However, the meaning behind the significance of death, remembrance and trees can be linked to the teachings of Plato.
The significance behind the yew can be traced to Wales. In Wales it is known to be a symbol of immortality. This stems from Christian beliefs and customs. It is still known as a holy symbol to this day and yews are even planted in British graveyards to pay tribute to the souls buried there. Yews are known to grow incredibly slowly, but can live for hundreds and maybe thousands of years. Graveyards in the UK are filled primarily with yews, because they are the graveyard tree of choice in this region.
Yews can be poisonous and there is a bit of dispute on if they were planted in graveyards for a specific reason. Many were worried that animals would graze and eat the poisonous yews by accident, so many of them were planted in graveyards so that animals would stay away from them and would not stray toward them. However, the color of the yews in red and white are also said to symbolize the blood and body of Christ.
No matter what origin you believe, there is a lot of symbolism and meaning tied to graveyard trees and the immortality of the soul.