Mourning, Death and the Cypress Tree

Have you ever wondered why you often find cypress trees planted near cemeteries? Certainly they are beautiful trees. Unfortunately these evergreen trees have been associated with death and mourning for over two thousand years. The cypress has a sad history.

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the cypress tree was the first tree the dead would see when they arrived to the Underworld. This tree was associated with death. It was a symbol of eternal death; because once the cypress tree was cut it would never grow again.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used the wood to make coffins. The ancient Egyptians also used the wood from the cypress tree to make wooden cases for the mummies and coffins. It was told the wood from this tree was not liable for insect attacks.

In the ancient world they believed the tree had a powerful protective force. The cypress was planted near graves to protect the deceased from evil powers. As the soul was considered to be immortal, it was quite important to protect the souls of the dead from wicked spells of potential revenge seekers.

Mourners at funerals of the ancient world would always carry branches of the cypress tree to show their grief. In mythology, the goddess of love named Aphrodite carried a branch from the tree to show she was in mourning when her beloved Andonis died.

The story of how the cypress tree became the tree of death is told in Greek and Roman mythology. It started with a young man named Cyparissus and the god Apollo. They were close friends, some say lovers. Apollo gave Cyparissus a beautiful stag. Cyparissus accidentally killed the stag. He was so devastated and full of remorse, he begged the gods to let his grief endure for all eternity. The gods grew tired of his weeping and granted him that last wish. The gods transformed Cyparissus into a cypress. This tree would always be associated with mourning and eternal death, but also of the immortal soul.

If this is getting too sad and gloomy, you may want to turn to Asia. In the West the tree represents mourning and death. In China the cypress tree symbolizes good health and a long life.