The Mayan World Tree
The World Tree is a very widespread motif in the pre-Columbian Americas. It appears often in Creation myths, in the ancient cosmology and as an important iconographic element in the artwork of varied cultures across America. The use of the tree as a cosmic symbol exists on a wide and diverse scale in cultures from the Viking World Tree (Yggdrasill) - as well as in the Jewish Tree of Sephirot. The Mayan World Tree represents the four directions of the world, where the tree itself is the center -The Mondi axis is the point where earth and sky meet with the perpendicular and horizontal axis of the world.
The symbol originates from the world view that aspires toward logical order in the chaotic Universe. This understanding creates an ordered microcosmos where there is a defined center. From the center, we can turn to each of the cardinal directions in search of knowledge, wisdom and new discoveries. However, outside of this world, there is chaos, night and death. The image of the tree represents the symbolic axis that unites the three plains: The sky (branches), the earth (the trunk) and the lower world (the roots). Every object that is hanging on the tree represents the tension between the lower world and the upper world and in this way turns into a very strong symbol of the storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Often, in Mayan art, there are images of birds sitting on the tree representing an ancient father, while the tree's roots are in the water- a symbol of the underworld. In the Mayan culture, the world tree is represented by the Ceiba tree. This is a tree with a thorny trunk that resembles the skin of an alligator. In fact, the trunk of the tree is described as an alligator standing erect.
The Story Behind the Pendant
A few months ago, I took my family on a trip to the desert in the south of Israel. In order to avoid the banality of spending time in a hotel by the pool, I decided to take everyone on a night journey in the desert. We hired a guide with an old Landrover and we went out into the desert. We spent the first hours observing foxes, and desert rabbits, we spotted porcupine holes, and we took in the sparkling lights that we discovered were the eyes of the Trapdoor spider. At the end of the journey, we came to a valley, that received the name, “Valley of the Scorpions”.At the entrance, we all received ultraviolet flashlights. When we entered the valley, we discovered that the flashlight revealed countless luminous dots. These were scorpions. The body of the scorpion contains a little bit of phosphorous which causes it to glow in the dark and to attract moths and other insects which it feeds upon.
The thing that attracted my attention was the sky above me. The expanse of the milky way was spread out above me. In the urban environment with all the artificial lights, we are not able to observe this beauty, but here in the desert when we get some distance from areas that are settled, the gateway to the expanse of the Universe opens up. At the time of quietly observing the desert skies enveloped by the psychedelic experience of luminous scorpions surrounding me, the Milky Way above me, with my youngest child of two years sleeping deeply in my arms and my elder daughter who is six was explaining to me about the desert animals, it came to me that I had found a perfect symbol -The Mayan World Tree- the ancient symbol of the Universe and the Milky Way.
When we returned from the journey, my eldest daughter asked me,” what are all those strange trees that are growing near the house?.” “Which trees?”, I asked in reply. “Look, Dad” and she pointed at a row of trees with huge pink-white flowers, with a bottle-like trunk covered with thorns. This was the Crocodile Tree of the Maya-their ancient symbol of the universe and the Milky Way. The whole street and the whole area where I live is full of Ceiba trees... Cosmic perfection...
I wish for all of us a new age of cosmic perfection, self awareness and love.