If there is one unifying theme and motif across cultures, religions, states and languages it will have to be the Tree of Life.
Right from Christianity to Buddhism and Islam, from Egypt to Europe, from the past to the present day there are numerous references to this mystical tree of life in various scriptures, monuments and manuscripts.
The Tree of life depicts roots that delve deep into the nether world; the branches reach upwards towards heaven and the trunk is the means of ascending to reach the beyond, thereby connecting the three worlds.
Among the Bhil tribes in Western India, a dead ancestor’s soul is appeased as it climbs the steps cut into the tree or a pole. The tree is seen as the medium, which reaches out to the afterlife.
The presence of a tree signifies water, growth, and fecundity – hence it is seen as the Tree of Life. It is associated with the vast abundance of life, immortal and also cyclical. In many cultures, specific trees are worshipped;
The Cyprus is sacred in Iran, the Peepal in India, the Bodhi in Buddhist countries, the Baobab in West Africa, the Ficus in Ethiopia, Oak in Celtic tradition, Ash in Scandinavia, the Lime Tree in Germany and the Laurel in Greece.
These trees became associated with myths and gods; and soon rituals evolved around them, worshipping them and associating them with various miraculous qualities.
The Tree of Life was incorporated by Emperor Ashoka in the form of pillars, on which his edicts were inscribed. This became the code of conduct that listed the principles of dharma required for evolving people from the material and physical way of life to a more spiritual and righteous path.
In Egyptian mythology, the first couple are called Isis and Osiris. They were said to have emerged from the Acacia tree of Iusaaset, which the Egyptians referring to it as the “tree in which life and death are enclosed.”
In Chinese mythology, a carving of a Tree of Life depicts a Phoenix and a Dragon; the Dragon often represents immortality. The tree of life is symbolically described in the Book of Revelation as having healing properties: “the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2). Etz Chaim, Hebrew for “tree of life,” is a common term used in Judaism.
In Catholic Christianity, the Tree of Life represents the immaculate state of humanity free from corruption and Original Sin before the Fall. Antoine-Joseph Pernety, a famous alchemist, identified the Tree of Life with the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The tree of life appears in Norse religion as Ygdrasil, the world tree, a massive tree (sometimes considered a yew or ash tree) with extensive folk lore surrounding it.
The Tree of Life is woven on the shawls of Kashmir and is embroidered/painted on Kutch textiles, it is depicted in beautiful murals and stone carvings like the famous palm tree created by the Siddhis of Africa, in the Siddhi Sayyed Jalli in Ahmedabad.
With so many references and visual depictions, is it possible that this symbol is indicative of the fact that we were all connected in some way in the past? Did our common origins result in the imprints we have represented across ages and cultures?
Whatever it is, it is always considered auspicious, positive and abundant. A symbol of growth and prosperity. So, if you wish to have a part of this beautiful, eternal symbology, then go looking for an art or artifact that denotes the eternal Tree of Life. Place one in your house- it can only be bringing in beauty and goodness!