The almond is one of the first trees to flower in the Spring and is therefore the sign of the rebirth of nature and of careful watching for the first signs of Spring. It is also the symbol of transience, since its blossom comes out so early that it is susceptible to late frosts. It is the symbol of Attis, born of a virgin who conceived him from an almond.
This legend is perhaps the original of the connection of Our Lady with the almond-tree. However, the symbol depends for its validity upon the meaning of almond itself.
To the Hebrews the almond-tree was the symbol of a new life. It is the first tree to come into flower in the Spring.
In Jewish folklore, furthermore, it is at the foot of an almond-tree (luz) that access can be obtained to the mysterious city of Luz, which is one of the ‘Seats of the Immortals’. It is also the name of the town close to which Jacob had his vision and which he named Beith-el, or ‘House of God'. The connection between the almond-tree and the idea of immortality may be explained yet again by the symbolism of the almond - also called luz. However, if the symbolism of the almond is female, that of the almond-tree is male.
The Greeks compared the milk of the almond as a creative force with the seminal ejaculation of Zeus. Pausanias tells how a dream caused a nocturnal emission. Zeus’ seed fell to Earth and from it sprang a hermaphrodite, Agdistis, whom Dionysos castrated. His sexual organs fell to the ground and from them grew an almond-tree. The daughter of the river-god, Sangarius, became pregnant when she placed a fruit from this tree between her breasts.
The theme of these legends is that the almond-tree derives directly from Zeus, through the blood of a hermaphrodite, and that its fruit can unaided make a virgin pregnant, the particular nuance of phallic symbolism being that its powers are exercised independently of sexual intercourse. A folk belief, still current in Europe, has it that the girl who falls asleep under an almond-tree and dreams of her lover will wake up pregnant.