iten

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

In the iconography and myth of religions from all over the world, the Tree of Life is always present, often at the center: the Axis Mundi linking the underworld, where ancestors dwell, with earth and sky, the connection between all forms of creation.

In ancient Egypt it depicts the hierarchical stages by which celestial energy descends into manifestation. The Tree of the ten Sephirot is a central religious symbol of the Jewish Kabbalah; in the book of Genesis, it stands in the garden of Eden, guarded by a cherubim with a flaming sword. Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree to obtain enlightenment and Krishna rested on the leaves of the Eternal Banyan Tree while the whole of creation was submerged  by a cyclic flood. In Mesoamerican cosmology world trees embody the four cardinal directions. And the map of Norse mythology is built around the powerful trunk of Yggdrasil, giant magical ash from which Odin hanged himself to obtain the knowledge of the runes.

At first, when I was presented with the opportunity to explore this ubiquitous symbol, I plunged into diverse cultural elaborations driven by intellectual voracity. Then I realized I better look at real trees to understand why they embody the balance of giving and receiving, the miracle of inter-connectedness. As I learned more about their physiology and reflected on what trees do for us, I finally started to thank them for being as they are, silent and solid witnesses standing beside us for centuries and millennia, giving us everything we need to sustain life.