Terebinth tree symbolism is laden with multiple meanings and interpretations, each relating to a certain aspect of the human experience. Terebinth trees are known for their healing power and have been celebrated in many cultures for centuries, representing renewal and physical restoration.
Additionally, Terebinth tree symbolism is often co-opted for burial rites throughout the world, as a tribute to the life that was, and an acceptance of death as part of all life cycles.
Lastly, Terebinth tree symbolism may draw upon various interpretations of the sacred feminine component of humanity’s spiritual existence; signifying grace, abundance and fertility. Collectively speaking, Terebinth tree symbolism has an expansive place in our cultural lexicon.
Revelation, sacred feminine, acceptance
The Terebinth of Mamre was a huge, centuries-old tree that was the center of attraction for stalls and social events. According to Scottish scholar W R Smith, Jews, Christians and Muslims all revered the tree as a holy place where angels congregated. However, shortly after 324 CE, Constantine the Great replaced the tree with a Christian basilica.
About Terebinth Trees
The pistachio nuts we eat today come from the Pistacia genus of plants, which contains around ten species of deciduous or evergreen shrubs and small trees. One notable example is the Palestine terebinth (Pistacia palaestina), native to Israel.
The most common type of pistachio tree, however, is the pistacia nut tree (Pistacia vera), which grows in Iran and central Asia. This particular tree produces edible fruits that turn from red-brown to dark purple when ripe.
Tannins extracted from the terebinth tree are used in the leather industry, and turpentine is also derived from this tree.
Turpentine has numerous benefits and can be used for many purposes, such as a treatment for lice or an ointment to help with chest rubs for lung conditions.
Folklore, Myth and Symbol of the Terebinth Tree
The terebinth tree was held in high regard by ancient Near Eastern peoples, often being worshiped and deified. Terebinth sanctuaries served as sites for religious ceremonies, incense-burning and burial places. Even now, terebinth trees can be found at Islamic pilgrimage sites in Arabia.
The Hebrew word for the terebinth, elah (alah), which has a feminine ending, has been confused with allon (elon), meaning “oak”, which has a masculine ending in all Bible translations to date.
Consequently, many of the tree names mentioned in the Bible have been mistranslated. For example, the “oaks” of Moreh (Deuteronomy 11:29), Shechem (Genesis 35:4), and Mamre’s sacred grove where Abraham received his calling from God (Genesis 18:1) were not oaks at all, but terebinths.
It’s possible that some of the mistranslations occurred because of another interpretation of elah and elon (and their variations) that has been overlooked until now: “sacred tree.” This is very important because it suggests that any type of tree could be represented by elah (alah) as a female “tree of God” or by elon (allon) as a male sacred tree.
The terebinth tree has long been a symbol of protection and healing. In different cultures, the terebinth tree was seen as a refuge from danger or a place of strength in times of trouble.
Today, the terebinth tree still stands as a symbol of hope and resilience. When you see a terebinth tree, remember that no matter what challenges you face in life, you too can overcome them with time and patience.