In many traditions there is a cosmology of the “World Tree.” In this belief system, the World Tree creates and maintains the directions. The World Tree imparts structure and order to the world. It provides rhythm and sets the pulse of time.
In most traditions there is also a correlation between the World Tree and divinatory/oracular gifts of the medicine people. The diviners are in intimate relationship to this World Tree entity, listening and transmitting information through the dimensional fields of time.
In Scandinavia, the World Tree is an ash tree called Yggdrasil (igg-drah-sill). The yew is the Celtic Tree of Life. In the Christian tradition, the Garden of Eden has a fig tree in the middle of it. The Buddhists and Hindus have the banyan tree. Italians honored the oak trees as The Goddess Diana. Egyptians had the sycamore, which is the Goddess Hathor. On the isle of Avalon is an apple tree.
In the image pictured below from Minoan Crete (1450 BCE) one can clearly see how the tree is portrayed as separating the world into 4 directions.
The World Tree organizes earth’s intelligence into three worlds. The roots reach down into the lower world; the great trunk is the middle world; the branches and leaves are the upper world, the cosmos. Shamans and Priestesses of all traditions eventually learn to travel all the worlds for healing and medicines for their communities. Thus it is also called a “medicine wheel” or mandala.
In the book, Mandala, Jose Arguelles explains how “The Sioux Indian Sun Lodge is built with 28 poles …there is an all-sustaining ridge pole at the center. Often this is a tree, symbolizing the axis of the world. The Sioux holy men say that this pole or tree represents Wakan Tanka, the spirit which sustains the universe.”*
The World Tree is a living energetic structure in all worlds. Pre-Christian crosses, often painted green, were all symbols of the World Tree. The World Tree is the center. Everything else emanates out from its trunk.
Losing touch with this sacred entity leaves humans in a state of disorientation. Medicine people must connect once again with this organizing structure and offer this stabilizing energy to our communities.
~Theresa C. Dintino
*Josè and Miriam Argüelles, Mandala (Berkeley: Shambala, 1972)66.