Junipers and humans have had a long history together, and it is likely to continue far into the future. This hardy evergreen has been used for medicinal purposes, as well as fuel and lumber since ancient times.
It can be found in several climates around the world and fulfils many ecological functions.
Juniper tree symbolism is steeped in antiquity and has long been associated with symbolism and a lot of meanings. Many cultures see the juniper as a tree of life, representing immortality and resurrection.
It is also seen as a symbol of protection, often used in talismans and amulets.
Cleansing, protection and humility
The spirit world
There are many names for this tree, including Cedar, Eastern red cedar, pencil cedar, chansha, Eastern juniper, or red juniper. While it is commonly called a cedar, it is a juniper. The two trees are very similar in appearance.
To bind the devil in 19th-century Austria, people were advised to tie juniper boughs around their hands and feet.
Deforestation was rampant during the Middle Ages, but one reason why junipers are now rare is that their acidic juice was discovered to be an effective contraceptive. The Church encouraged the felling of junipers to protect the birth rate.
About Juniper Trees
Juniperus is a member of the Cypress tree family (Cupressaceae) and is one of the most widespread coniferous plants in the world. Juniperus comprises about 70 species of evergreen trees or shrubs which can be found in subtropical areas as well as in northern hemisphere regions near the Arctic.
The leaves of Juniperus are needle- or scale-like and are usually spread out on young branchlets but appressed against older branches.
Male cones produced by Juniperus plants are yellow and catkin-like while female cones resemble berries with fleshy scales. Each cone produced by a Juniperus plant contains one to twelve seeds inside.
The red cedar, J. virginiana, is an important tree in North America characterized by adult scale-like leaves and purplish-blue-black glaucous cones. The tree gets its name from the fragrant red heartwood.
The most prevalent juniper in cooler sections of Europe is the common juniper (J. communis). It can grow as a low, spreading alpine plant; a dense, bushy shrub; or an erect small tree that reaches up to 30 feet (9 meters) high. The ternate leaves are linear and spread out with sharp points.
They have one white longitudinal band running down the center on the top side of the leaf and are weakly keeled below. Glaucous blue cones mature after three years and measure ¼ to ½ inches (0.7–1.2 centimeters) wide each.
The Phoenician juniper (J. phoenicea) is a tolerant tree that can withstand very dry conditions. It has scale-like leaves and yellow to red-brown fruits.
The prickly juniper (J. oxycedrus), on the other hand, rarely grows taller than 20 feet (6 meters). This species of juniper has linear leaves that are ½ to 1 inch (1.2–2.5 centimeters) long.
In the Mediterranean mountains, cedars and firs rarely grow taller than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters), but junipers have been found as high up as 8,850ft (2,700 meters) in the Antilebanon mountain range(Lebanon).
A tree J. turkistanicus discovered in Tajikistan in 1970 was determined to be 807 years old and growing at 11,480 feet (3,500 meters)–the highest altitude possible for trees. Like yews, no other tree grows as slowly if its growth is stunted by environmental conditions.
It took this Phoenician juniper from the Verdon Gorge in France more than 1,000 years to grow just 3 inches (8 centimeters) in radius. With such a slow radial growth of 0.06 mm/year, it is considered one of the slowest-growing plants on our planet.
The tall junipers of Greece and Asia Minor were important to the economies and building projects of ancient civilizations. The Syrian juniper (J. drupacea) grows in a narrow column up to 60ft (18m), but J. excelsa and J. fœtidissima are taller, reaching heights of up to 80ft (24m).
Cedars and junipers both towering evergreen trees were called the same name by Greeks and Romans (in Greek kedros; in Latin cedrus) because of how similar they resemble each other. Cedars and junipers can live up to 600 years old whereas most firs only last until around the 300-year mark before degrading.
Juniper wood shares many qualities with cedar: an aromatic scent, resistance to insects and rot, fine straight grain, and reddish-brown hue. Yew also shares these qualities except for the scent. All three genera were traded in the Old World as “cedar wood” because they shared so many similarities.
Cedar was especially desired due to its price and was only used for high-end purposes such as roofing temples and palaces or constructing clothes chests (because of the luxurious smell), coffins (sarcophagi), or burial chamber artefacts.
However, even citizens residing in Phoenicia who had no other choice but to use expensive cedar or cypress when building ships utilized them nonetheless.
Junipers also produce leaves that have medicinal purposes, and (except for J. fœtidissima) the berries are edible and give off a pleasing aroma. They can be dried out and used as either spices or medicine or Juniper Gin.
Juniper berries can aid in nervous system function, help with appetite and digestion, and make an excellent urinary antiseptic. Because of the potent oils found within juniper berries, however, it is not recommended for pregnant women or those suffering from kidney disease to consume them.
When diluted, essential oils from this tree can act as a warming treatment for arthritis and gout. The oil is also effective when rubbed onto the chest and inhaled to help with respiratory congestion.
Inhaling the tree’s essence may also help us release old stresses so that we can move on from our past.
Folklore, Myth and Symbol of Juniper Trees
In Europe, the juniper was held in high regard. For example, Estonians used to worship a livestock god under the juniper tree. And there are various sayings in German-speaking regions that tell us to show respect when we pass by either a juniper or an elder tree.
Furthermore, many legends and folk tales involve the juniper as a portal to other dimensions – such as where fairies live or where giants reside.
There’s even a German tale called “The Juniper Tree”, which was collected by The Brothers Grimm, and tells how the soul of a deceased child is reborn as a bird through the junction of a juniper tree.
People would commonly leave offerings to the local nature spirits under a juniper tree as part of a practice that still exists today. The tree’s German name, Wacholder (Old High German wachal, “awake”, and tar, “tree”), literally translates to “the awake tree”, because it has been seen as a guardian always on watch. It is an intermediary between humankind and the spirit world that cannot be seen by human eyes.
Smoke has long been used as a means of communication with the spirit world, as it is believed to carry prayers and blessings up to higher or subtler dimensions. Juniper smoke specifically has played a role in rituals spanning across Eurasia among Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, Finno-Ugric and Asian cultures.
In the Native North American tradition, cedar, thuja and juniper are offered up in temples and smokehouses for the blessing of all.
Juniper Tree Symbolism and Meanings
The juniper tree has a lot of symbolism and meanings. Some of these are as follows:
Healing and Balance
The medical journal Diabetes Care has published an article discussing how some Navaho Indians use juniper to treat their diabetes. Juniper is known for its wisdom and healing properties, making it the perfect plant to sit in quiet contemplation when you are looking to balance your blood sugar or regulate your appetite.
Diffusing essential oil from juniper berries can also be helpful for these purposes.
Juniper is also known to help with digestive issues, water retention, and arthritis. Some people consume raisins soaked in gin (a beverage that contains and is named after juniper) as a home remedy for soothing arthritis.
Survival and Protection
Juniper has long been used for protection, including from negativity and stagnant energy, ghosts and demons, intruders, difficult childbirth experiences, animal attacks, and illnesses like the bubonic plague and leprosy. Juniper wasn’t just employed for “survival” but was also a key part of making human habitats livable throughout history.
Junipers are pretty tough plants: some species can grow in freezing weather, while others do just fine in hot deserts. They can live for a thousand years or more! And wherever they grow, they help the ecology by stopping erosion and providing food for birds and moth larvae.
Juniper’s alignment with survival and protection is further illustrated by the fact that the Chinese juniper is often used in the bonsai tradition and is associated with longevity. Additionally, juniper berries were found in King Tut’s tomb, possibly suggesting their use for promoting survival into the afterlife.
By planting juniper near your home, you will give everyone living there a chance at a longer, healthier life.
What does juniper mean in the Bible?
There is no definitive answer to this question; different people may interpret juniper’s biblical meaning in different ways. Some might say that the tree is a symbol of healing and balance, as mentioned above, while others might see it as a sign of protection from negativity and harm.
Still, others might interpret the juniper’s association with King Tut’s tomb as indicative of its role in promoting survival into the afterlife.
Why are juniper trees twisted?
Some plants grow in twisted shapes because it makes them stronger. The juniper tree’s unusual growth pattern is the result of its adaptation to some of the harshest growing conditions in the world.
In areas where the winters are cold and the summers are hot, and where there is little rainfall, a twisted tree will have a better chance of staying alive than a straight one.
According to ancient lore, the juniper tree has a variety of powers and abilities. These include: warding off demons and ghosts, balancing energy levels, protecting against negative forces, and aiding in difficult childbirth experiences and leprosy, among others.
Junipers are pretty tough plants: some species can grow in freezing weather while others do just fine in hot deserts. They can live for a thousand years or more! And wherever they grow, they help the ecology by stopping erosion and providing food for birds and moth larvae.
By planting juniper near your home, you will give everyone living there a chance at a longer, healthier life.”