The meaning of life is not to be discovered only after death in some hidden, mysterious realm; on the contrary, it can be found by eating the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life and by living in the here and now as fully and creatively as we can. Paul Kurtz
The Tree of Life image has been of inestimable value in ancestral healing workshops. It takes healing right back to the root, to the earliest Ancestors, and then forward into future generations. I also use the Celtic Tree image on a board for smaller grids.
“In Celtic creation stories, trees were the ancestors of mankind, elder beings of wisdom who provided the alphabet, the calendar, and entrance to the worlds of the gods.” … “Trees were a connection to the world of the spirits and the ancestors, living entities, and doorways into other worlds.”1Jennifer Emick
So, while browsing on a totally unrelated Stonehenge topic, I was delighted to come across images in The Modern Antiquarian that showed just how ancient, and how universal, this symbol is.
This Bronze Age art is high on the Yorkshire moors overlooking a fertile valley from what would have been a wild and desolate part of the world. A liminal space between the worlds. And the beginnings of the Celtic Tree of Life?
I really cannot better this Celtic Tree description:
According to Mara Freeman, author of Kindling the Celtic Spirit when a tribe cleared the land for a settlement in Ireland, they always left a great tree in the middle, known as the crann bethadh (krawn ba-huh), or Tree of Life, as the spiritual focus and source of well-being. They held assemblies and inaugurated their chieftains beneath it so that they could absorb power from above and below. One of the greatest triumphs over its enemies was to cut down their sacred tree, their foundation of strength and support.
The Irish people believed that the Celtic tree of life was rooted in Uisneach, the center of the Land. They believed the sacred tree of life sheltered all Life on Earth. According to folklore, the Celtic tree of life grew 26 miles high, provided nourishment to all the four corners of the Earth, and that it’s branches reached up into the heavens and touched every single star.
When people in ancient Celtic Ireland were building their stone circles, they would use the sacred tree as an axis to align the sun in the sky with their monuments. The point where the sun was aligned with the circle became the central source of spiritual connection between the Earth and the Heavens.
Trees also represented Mother Earth’s bounty and the eternal cycle of the seasons. The Celtic tree of life also is a symbol of the individual’s quest for spiritual fulfillment. The ancient Celts believed that at the center of each of us is a golden child, where we are worth more than gold. They knew that in order to find our “inner” golden child, we must first recognize our connection to the Earth to the four corners-North, South, East, and West.2
In Norse and Germanic culture, Yggdrasil is an immense mythical tree that connects the nine cosmological worlds.
But, as I said, the symbol is ubiquitous and worldwide, spread throughout all the ancient religions and deeply connected to the union of ‘above’ and ‘below’.
Cat knew she’d arrived in Gaia’s realm once she saw the Tree of Life, the foundation for all that was above and below…. The Tree of Life, no matter what religion one embraced, was a symbol of consanguinity. It was the universal representation of all that exists. Its network of connections matched that of a forest of aspen trees. Everything was interconnected and all of the roots led back to one source – the creators of all life.”
― Brynn Myers, The Echoed Life of Jorja Graham
When in Egypt you simply cannot help but notice the Tree. It’s on temple and tomb walls everywhere, accompanying the gods. The Book of the Dead describes two “sycamores of turquoise” growing at the point on the eastern horizon where Ra, the sun-god rose each morning. Here’s Pharaoh making an offering to the creator god Ptah and his wife Sekhmet (my favourite goddess and protector). The event is being recorded by Thoth, keeper of the Records.
Tomb of Inherkha: The sun-god Ra, in the form of a cat, ousting Apep, the serpent of chaos at the foot of the sacred Persea tree. The Persea tree (Mimusops laurifolia) was known to the ancient Egyptians as the “Tree of Life” and was revered for its sweet perfume and the exquisite fruit is often found as an offering in tombs.
And here, if I’m not mistaken the Tree has morphed into a symbol for the chakras in front of Osiris, fertility god and Overlord of the Dead.
TourEgypt.com suggests: ‘the identification of several maternal deities as tree goddesses meant that burial in a wooden coffin was viewed as a return to the womb of the mother goddess.’ An interesting thought given the Egyptian’s obsession with rebirth into the Afterlife.
Simo Parpola has postulated that the sacred tree epitomised on the palace walls of Ashurnasirpal II (993-859BCE) is an axis mundi representing connection of the visible and invisible worlds, with complex ideology encoded behind the façade. This Tree goes much further back into the cultural history of the area. Parpola views the Assyrian tree somewhat differently to other Assyriologists, relating it to a heaven-and-earth-bridging-tree planted by Inanna in her role as mother goddess.3 Imagery of the Assyrian cosmic tree served to underline the divine origin of the king who upheld the cosmos as the gods’ representative and was composed of ‘both matter and divine essence’ expressed through metaphors, allegories and symbolic imagery. This is metaphysical reality.
It is a reality that the early Jews carried with them into the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. More of that Tree in my forthcoming Crystal Grids book.
And in the ‘New World’
MesoAmerican culture carried the same notion of The World Tree:
World trees are a prevalent motif occurring in the mythical cosmologies, creation accounts, and iconographies of the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. In the Mesoamerican context, world trees embodied the four cardinal directions, which also serve to represent the fourfold nature of a central world tree, a symbolic axis mundi which connects the planes of the Underworld and the sky with that of the terrestrial realm.
Depictions of world trees, both in their directional and central aspects, are found in the art and mythological traditions of cultures such as the Maya, Aztec, Izapan, Mixtec, Olmec, and others’. [Wikipedea]
A tableau from the Western Mexico shaft tomb tradition, showing a multi-layered tree with birds. It has been proposed that the birds represent souls who have not yet descended into the underworld, while the central tree may represent the Mesoamerican world tree. [Wikipedia]
I use cloths printed in India for the ancestral work. And of course the Buddha found his enlightenment sitting under a tree. To read further on the Indian symbolism, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/The-tree-of-life/articleshow/6893805.cms
I’ve covered many more venerable trees in Crystals and Sacred Sites, but for now, here’s one of my local examples. Sited between The Dorset Cursus and Ackling Dyke, a major thoroughfare in ancient times and still a sacred site today.
1 Read Original Here: The Sacred Celtic Tree of Life : Fantasy-Ireland http://www.fantasy-ireland.com/Celtic-tree-of-life.html#ixzz4lUavt0ni
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Share Alike
Parpola, Simo, ‘Sons of God – the ideology of Assyrian Kingship’ Archaeology Odissy [sic] Archives, December l999 on http://www.gatewaytobabylon.com/intrlduction/sonsofgod.htm consulted 03.12.2006
Parpola states that this tree is the most common decorative motif in Assyrian royal iconography.
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