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Title: The Uniter of Worlds
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Autumn_Heather
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Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:01/25/2009 00:54 AM)
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The Uniter of Worlds

The Tree of Life is an important symbol in nearly every culture. With its branches reaching into the sky, and roots deep in the earth, it dwells in three worlds- a link between heaven, the earth, and the underworld, uniting above and below. It is both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance, and a masculine, visibly phallic symbol- another union.

In Jewish and Christian mythology, a tree sits at the center of both the Heavenly and Earthly Edens. The Norse cosmic World Ash, Ygdrassil, has its roots in the underworld while its branches support the abode of the Gods. The Egyptian's Holy Sycamore stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the worlds. To the Mayas, it is Yaxche, whose branches support the heavens.

The tree has other characteristics which lend easily to symbolism. Many trees take on the appearance of death in the winter- losing their leaves, only to sprout new growth with the return of spring. This aspect makes the tree a symbol of resurrection, and a stylized tree is the symbol of many resurrected Gods- Jesus, Attis, and Osirus all have crosses as their symbols. Most of these Gods are believed to have been crucified on trees, as well. The modern Christmas tree hearkens back to trees decorated to honor Attis, the crucified God of the Greeks.

A tree also bears seeds or fruits, which contain the essence of the tree, and this continuous regeneration is a potent symbol of immortality. It is the fruit of a tree that confers immortality in the Jewish creation story. In Taoist tradition, it is a divine peach that gives the gift of immortality. In ancient Persia, the fruit of the haoma bears this essence. The apples of Idun give the Norse gods their powers, much like the Gods of the Greek pantheon and their reliance on Ambrosia. This aspect of the tree as a giver of gifts and spiritual wisdom is also quite common. It is while meditating under a Bodhi tree that Buddha received his enlightenment; the Norse God Odin received the gift of language while suspended upside down in the World Ash (an interesting parallel is the hanged man of the tarot). In Judeo-Christian mythology, the Tree of heaven is the source of the primordial rivers that water the earth- similar to the Tooba Tree of the Koran, from whose roots spring milk, honey, and wine.

This tree and its gifts of immortality are not easy to discover. It is historically difficult to find, and almost invariably guarded. The tree of Life in the Jewish bible is guarded by a Seraph (an angel in the form of a fiery serpent) bearing a flaming sword. To steal the apples of knowledge, the Greek hero Hercules had to slay a many-headed dragon Ladon. In Mayan legends, it is a serpent in the roots that must be contended with. Similarly, the Naga, or divine serpent guards the Hindu Tree. The Serpent Nidhog lives under Ygdrassil, and gnaws at the roots.

The tree as the abode of the Gods is another feature common to many mythologies; in some, the tree itself is a God. The ancient Sumerian God Dammuzi was personified as a tree, as is the Hindu Brahman. The Byzantine World tree represents the omnipotence of the Christian god.

Another form, the inverted Tree, represents spiritual growth, as well as the human nervous system. This tree, with its roots in heaven, and its branches growing downward, is most commonly found in Kabbalistic imagery. A similar tree is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, "The banyan tree with its roots above, and its branches below, is imperishable." In Jewish Kabbalah, the inverted tree represents the nervous system as well- the 'root' in the cranial nerves, with the branches spreading throughout the body; it also represents the cosmic tree- rooted in heaven, the branches all of manifest creation

To the Celts, the tree was a source of basic sustenance- a bearer of food, a provider of shelter and fuel for cooking and warmth. Without trees, life would have been extraordinarily difficult.

Wood from sacred trees had magickal properties, which was reflected in the Celtic Ogham alphabet, wherein each letter represents a particular sacred tree (modern Ogham divination is based on the uses and importance of these sacred trees to the Celtic people). Some trees provided food, some wood for making hunting weapons; others were sacred to the fairy-folk or to the Gods. In Celtic creation stories, trees were the ancestors of mankind, elder beings of wisdom who provided the alphabet, the calendar, and entrance to the realms of the Gods.

Trees were also associated in the Shamanic beliefs of the Druids and other Celtic peoples with the supernatural world. Trees were a connection to the world of the spirits and the ancestors, living entities, and doorways into other worlds.

The most sacred tree of all was the Oak tree, which represented the axis mundi, the center of the world. The Celtic name for oak, daur, is the origin of the word door- the root of the oak was literally the doorway to the Otherworld, the realm of Fairy. The word Druid, the name of the Celtic Priestly class, is compounded from the words for oak and wise- a Druid was one who was "Oak Wise," meaning learned in Tree magick and guardian or the doorway.

Long after the Druids of old have vanished into the mists of time, the lore of trees continues as a vital part of Celtic myth and folklore. Countless Irish legends revolve around trees. One could fall asleep next to a particular tree and awake in the fairy realm. In Celtic legends of the Gods, trees guard sacred wells and provide healing, shelter, and wisdom. Trees carried messages to the other realm, and conferred blessings- to this day, trees can be seen in the Irish countryside festooned with ribbons and pleas for favors, love, healing, and prosperity.

The interlaced figures known popularly as Celtic knots represent sacred trees and plants, and the sacred animals of the forest. The Green Man or foliate god is the animus of nature; the spirit of the forest and of the hunt, and is pictured as a spirit face in the form of gathered leaves and sprouting tendrils

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