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Notes on The tree of Life

The cypress tree’s mythology is extensive; from Japan and China across Europe and over to the Americas from Oregon to Costa Rica. It is thought to have originated from either Persia or Syria. There is apparently a tree near the Iranian village Shiraz believed to be around 5,000 years old, which has led to speculation that this might have been where the Garden of Eden was situated. Greek mythology tells us their gods specially created the cypress tree. Both the ancient Egyptians and Greeks used cypress wood for coffins, perhaps because the natural aroma would disguise the smell of the corpse. Could this be the reason many people today associate this tree with death and cemeteries?

In fact, the cypress tree features in several Greek mythological stories, a couple of which feature Apollo. One legend tells of a deer Apollo cared for, and would feed by hand. One day he accidentally shot and killed the deer, and so intense was his grief the gods felt sorry for him and turned him into a cypress tree. Another legend tells of a tall and very handsome young man named Cyparissus, who was one of Apollo’s attendants.

In Islam, Christianity and Judaism the Tree of Life holds an esteemed place in creation because it represents life given by God. It sits in a central position in both Heavenly and Earthly worlds. The origins of the sacred tree are also reflected in the Garden of Eden, and the so-called “forbidden fruit” of a tree that may represent good and evil. A cypress tree was sometimes planted next to the tomb of someone considered holy, so the deceased spirit could live on in the tree. In days gone by people would tie ribbons to sacred trees, attached to prayers asking to be granted the gift of a child, or relief from suffering or a painful ailment. In Judeo-Christian mythology states the Tree of Heaven is the source of the primordial rivers supply the earth with water, similar to the Tooba Tree of the Koran, from whose roots spring milk, honey and wine.

Many mythologies feature the tree as the home of the Gods, and in some legends 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.

The Scandinavian ash tree, also known as Ygdrassil, is said to have roots in the underworld while supporting the world of the gods with its branches. In fact the Norse god Obin is said to have received the gift of language while hanging upside in a form of self-sacrifice in the ash tree.

Egypt’s sycamore stands on the threshold between life and death, connecting both worlds at the trunk of the tree.

The Mayan culture’s tree is called Yaxche, with branches to support the heavens. This “world tree” also represents the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west, and was a feature of several Mesoamerican cultures.

Buddha received his enlightenment during his meditations under a sacred fig tree called “the bodhi tree”. Afterwards it is said he stood in front of the tree for one week, gazing at it unblinkingly in gratitude.

The olive tree features in the Bible, the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon. Greek mythology claims the goddess Athena’s gift of the olive tree to the people of Attica won her the patronage of the city of Athens over the god of the sea, Poseidon.

The fruit of the different trees is an important feature of the tree of life. In the Jewish story of creation the fruit of a tree conveys immortality, while the Taoist culture credits a divine peach with providing the gift of eternal life. An essence gathered from the fruit of the haoma plant earned Vivahngvant, the first man to collect this extract, the gift of a son named Jamshid ~ Persian mythology states this essence purifies water. Idun’s apples give the Norse gods their powers, much like the Greek gods’ reliance upon “ambrosia”, although it’s likely ambrosia was derived from honey rather than from a tree.

Naturally the Tree of Life is not easy to discover and even if one is fortunate enough to find it it’s usually guarded. The Tree of Life in the Jewish Bible is guarded by a Seraph (an angel in the shape of a fiery serpent) bearing a flaming sword. A serpent dwelling in the roots, while a divine serpent known as the Naga guards the Hindu tree, protects the Mayan Tree of Life. The Scandinavian Ygdrassil is protecting by a serpent named Nidhog, who also feeds upon its roots. In order to steal the apples of knowledge Greek hero Hercules had to kill a many headed dragon named Ladon.

The Inverted Tree represents spiritual growth and the human nervous system. The Kabala Faith depicts this tree with its roots in heaven and its branches growing downward. The “roots” are the cranial nerves, with the branches spreading throughout the body. The Inverted Tree symbolizes the Cosmic Tree, rooted in heaven with the branches all of manifest creation. A similar tree is mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gita Gita: “The banyan tree with its roots above, and its branches below, is imperishable.”

To close I quote stanzas 19 and 20 from “Völuspá”, the first poem of the Poetic Edda. This is one of Norse mythology’s most important references, where the Norse god Odin learns of the creation and end of the world through the völva – a seer who features prominently in Nordic mythology.

Excerpt of an article found in Writing.com

Notes on The tree of Life

chord0

Lawndale, United States

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Artist's Description

excerpt of an article found in Writing.com about The tree of Life which covers various religious ideas, as well as mythologies regarding this Tree.

Artwork Comments

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