Eastern Red Cedar Trees: Spiritual Meaning, Significance, and Symbol
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The Cedar is an important tree for many reasons, not only in North America but around the world. There are only four "true" Cedar species and many false Cedars. However, in the ways these trees are honored and respected, they carry similar significance.
The Cherokee people believe that the Eastern Red Cedar is one of their ancestors. It is one of the most important ceremonial plants, used as incense and for purification. It was often used for healing, prayers, dreams, and protection (particularly from disease). Cedar is one of the four medicine plants used by many First Nation cultures, along with tobacco, sage, and sweetgrass.
The Eastern Red Cedar is actually a species of juniper (Juniperus virginiana) and is also known as "The Tree of Life" or the Holy Tree by some North American Indigenous tribes. In addition to it's powerful spirit medicine, it provides many physical benefits as well. It provides the cedarwood oil, habitat for wildlife, and soil protection. It's very resilient and the seedlings are bound to pop up all over the place, making it a tree to keep an eye on if you want to host it on your land but manage it. Trust me: we have 10 seedlings in our landscaping right now just waiting for me to transplant them to more appropriate places.
Scottish folklore also associated the tree with protection and Ozarkian folk medicine includes the Eastern Red Cedar as an analgesic and antiseptic in the form of tinctures, teas, infusions, and breathing the smoke to treat chest congestion. Be cautious if you're interested in trying this medicinal plant: some people are very allergic to it and can have severe reactions. For more information, check out the book "Ozark Folk Magic," by Brandon Weston.
The dense thickets of Eastern Red Cedars and their abundant foliage provides protective habitat for many species of birds and even deer bed beneath them. The blue-colored berries provide emergency food for many animals as well when an abundance of other food sources is unavailable. One of the notable birds I've seen regularly roosting in these trees is the Barred Owl.
I use Eastern Red Cedar foliage as part of my fire ceremonies and yule logs/wreaths. Please remember, anytime there is something in Nature that you wish to harvest for ceremony or to transplant for growing that you 1) ask permission of the land owner, 2) ask permission of the land and Earth, 3) give great reverence and gratitude as you harvest, 4) leave the area better than you found it (Leave No Trace practices), and 5) use what you harvest with respect and honor. If you get any answer in your senses when asking permission from the land/Earth that's not a strong YES, then leave it, let it be, and trust that the right source will come to you at the right time.
Also, include the cultures and the ancestry of the land you're on in your gratitude and prayers. For an extensive look at the sacred beliefs about Cedar around the world, check out this website!
Finally, if you'd like to find different types of Cedar items for ceremonial use, check out Shaman's Market - they are Green America Certified and sustainably sourced. (This is an affiliate link - I received a small commission from your purchase at not cost to you. I only share products from places that I use myself!).