[i] “… tree of life….”
“Trees of life appear in folklore, culture and fiction, often relating to immortality. These often hold cultural and religious significance to the peoples for whom they appear.
The Sumerian (or Persian) Tree of Life was represented by a series of nodes and criss-crossing lines. It was an important religious symbol among these peoples, often attended to by Eagle Headed Gods & Priests, or the King himself.
- In Chinese mythology a carving of a Tree of Life depicts a phoenix and a dragon – in Chinese mythology the dragon often represents immortality. There is also the Taoist story of a tree that produces a peach every three thousand years. The one who eats the fruit receives immortality.
- An archaeological discovery in the 1990s was of a sacrificial pit at Sanxingdui in Sechuan, China. Dating from about 1200 BCE, it contained 3 bronze trees, one of them 4 meters high. At the base was a dragon, and fruit hanging from the lower branches. At the top is a strange bird-like (phoenix) creature with claws. Also from Sechuan, from the late Han dynasty (c 25 – 220 CE) is another tree of life. The ceramic base is guarded by a horned beast with wings. The leaves of the tree are coins and people.
- In Egyptian mythology, in the Ennead system of Heliopolis, the first couple, apart from Shu & Tefnut (moisture & dryness) and Geb & Nuit (earth & sky), are Isis & Osiris. They were said to have emerged from the acacia tree of Saosis, which the Egyptians considered the tree of life, referring to it as the “tree in which life and death are enclosed”.
- The Egyptian’s Holy Sycamore also stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the two worlds.
- In Germanic paganism, trees played a prominent role, appearing in various aspects of surviving texts and possibly in the name of gods.
- The tree of life appears in Norse religion as Yggdrasil, the world tree, a massive tree with extensive lore surrounding it. Perhaps related to the Yggdrasil, accounts have survived of Germanic Tribes honouring sacred trees within their societies.
- In Norse Mythology it is the golden apples from Iðunn’s tree that provides immortality for the gods.
- The Tree of Life is mentioned in the Books of Genesis, in which it has the potential to grant immortality to Adam and Eve. (However, it is not immediately obvious, nor is it universally accepted, that the Book of Genesis account and the Book of Revelation account speak of the same Tree of Life.)
- A Tree of Life, in the form of ten interconnected nodes, is an important part of the Kabbalah. As such, it resembles the ten Sephirot.
- The Tree of Life appears in the Book of Mormon in a revelation to Lehi (see 1 Nephi 8:10-12). It is symbolic of the love of God (see 1 Nephi 11:21-23), and sometimes understood as salvation and post-mortal existence.
- Etz Chaim, Hebrew for “Tree of Life”, is a common term used in Judaism. The expression, found in the Book of Proverbs, is figuratively applied to the Torah itself.
- Among pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, the concept of “world trees” is a prevalent motif in Mesoamerican mythical cosmologies and iconography. World trees embodied the four cardinal directions, which represented also the fourfold nature of a central world tree, a symbolic axis mundi connecting the planes of the Underworld and the sky with that of the terrestrial world.
- Depictions of world trees, both in their directional and central aspects, are found in the art and mythological traditions of cultures such as the Maya, Aztec, Izapan, Mixtec, Olmec, and others, dating to at least the Mid/Late Formative periods of Mesoamerican chronology.
- Directional world trees are also associated with the four Year bearers in Mesoamerican calendars, and the directional colors and deities.
- World trees are frequently depicted with birds in their branches, and their roots extending into earth or water (sometimes atop a “water-monster”, symbolic of the underworld).
- The central world tree has also been interpreted as a representation of the band of the Milky Way. Fragment of a bronze helmet from Urartu, with the “Tree of Life” depicted.
- In ancient Armrenia around 13th to 6th century BC, the Tree of Life was a religious symbol, drawn onto the exterior walls of fortresses and carved on the armour of warriors. The branches of the tree were equally divided on the right and left sides of the stem, with each branch having one leaf, and one leaf on the apex of the tree. Servants (some winged) stood on each side of the tree with one of their hands up as if they are taking care of it. This tree can be found on numerous Urartu artifacts, such as paintings on the walls of the Erebuni fortress in Yerevan, Armenia.
- The symbolism of the tree is mentioned in the 135th hymn of the 10th book of Rig-Veda, and in the 15th chapter of Bhagavad-gita (1-4).
- In the Japanese religion of Shinto, trees were marked with sacred paper symbolizing lightning bolts, as trees were thought to be sacred. This was propagated by the fact that after they passed (died), ancestors and animals were often portrayed as branches on the tree.
- The Book of One Thousand and One Nights has a story, ‘The Tale of Buluqiya’, in which the hero searches for immortality and finds a paradise with jewel-encrusted trees. Nearby is a Fountain of Youth guarded by Al-Khidr. Unable to defeat the guard, Buluqiya has to return empty-handed.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh is a similar quest for immortality. In Mesopotamian mythology, Etana searches for a ‘plant of birth’ to provide him with a son. This has a solid provenance of antiquity, being found in cylinder seals from Akkad (2390 – 2249 BCE).
- One of the earliest forms of ancient Greek religion has its origins associated with tree cults.
In mystical traditions of world religions, sacred texts are read for metaphorical content concerning the relationship between states of mind and the external experience of reality. As such, the tree is a manifestation/causal symbol – the Tree of Life representing the coveted state of eternal aliveness or fulfillment, not immortality of the body or soul. In such a state, physical death (which cannot be overcome) is nevertheless a choice, and direct experience of the perfect goodness/divine reality/god is not only possible, but ever present.
Once the ego (surface consciousness) experiences shame, having been tempted to absorb or believe in duality (such as eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), we are protected from living eternally in that limiting, fallen, experience by the cherubim guarding the gate of return to paradise. The cherubim are symbolic of the perfect knowledge of selfor true nature, with the power of purification and return to being.“
— Reference: Wikipedia.org
[ii] “… the carvings show cone-shaped instruments, and electronic detection devices which are stylized as baskets or water buckets, being carried by eagle headed, winged beings….”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Excellent photographs of these can be viewed at the following website:
[iii] “… faravahar…”
“The faravahar or farohar (transliteration varies) is one of the best-known symbols of Zoroastrianism.
The winged disc has a long history in the art and culture of the ancient Near and Middle East. Historically, the symbol is influenced by the “winged sun” hieroglyph appearing on Bronze Age royal seals. While the symbol is currently thought to represent a Fravashi (c. a guardian angel) and from which it derives its name, what it represented in the minds of those who adapted it from earlier Mesopotamian and Egyptian reliefs is unclear. Because the symbol first appears on royal inscriptions, it is also thought to represent the ‘Divine Royal Glory’ (khvarenah), or the Fravashi of the king, or represented the divine mandate that was the foundation of a king’s authority.
This relationship between the name of the symbol and the class of divine entities reflects the current belief that the symbol represents a Fravashi. However, there is no physical description of the Fravashis in the Avesta and in Avestan the entities are grammatically feminine.
Prior to the reign of Darius I, the symbol did not have a human form above the wings. In present-day Zoroastrianism, the faravahar is said to be a reminder of one’s purpose in life, which is to live in such a way that the soul progresses towards frasho-kereti, or union with Ahura Mazda.”
— Reference: Wikipedia.org
“Oannes was the name given by the Babylonian writer Berossus in the 3rd century BC to a mythical being who taught mankind wisdom. Berossus describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man. He is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences.
Once thought to be based on the ancient Babylonian god Ea, it is now known that Oannes is in fact based on Uan (Adapa) – the first of the seven antediluvian sages or Abgallu (in Sumerian Ab=water, Gal=Great, Lu=man), who were sent by Ea to deliver the arts of civilization to mankind in ancient Sumerian mythology, at Eridu, the oldest city of Sumer.”
— Reference: Wikipedia.org
[v] “Some members of the lost Battalion have been found in the oceans inhabiting the bodies of dolphins or whales.”
Dolphins have long played a role in human culture. Dolphins are common in Greek mythology and there are many coins from the time which feature a man or boy riding on the back of a dolphin. The Ancient Greeks treated them with welcome; a ship spotting dolphins riding in their wake was considered a good omen for a smooth voyage. Dolphins also seem to have been important to the Minoans, judging by artistic evidence from the ruined palace at Knossos. In Hindu mythology, the Ganges River Dolphin is associated with Ganga, the deity of the Ganges river
Dolphins are often regarded as one of Earth’s most intelligent animals, though it is hard to say just how intelligent dolphins are, as comparisons of species’ relative intelligence are complicated by differences in sensory apparatus, response modes, and nature of cognition. Furthermore, the difficulty and expense of doing experimental work with large aquatics means that some tests which could yield meaningful results still have not been carried out, or have been carried out with inadequate sample size and methodology. Dolphin behavior has been studied extensively by humans however, both in captivity and in the wild.”
— Reference: Wikipedia.org