And I say the sacred hoop of my people
was one of the many hoops that made one circle,
wide as daylight and as starlight,
and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree
to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.
According to Greek mythology, Zeus wanted to locate the exact center of the world. To do this, he released two eagles from opposite ends of the earth. The eagles met at Delphi. Zeus marked the spot with a large, egg-shaped stone called the omphalos, meaning “navel.”
The temple at Delphi once belonged to Gaia, but when the Olympians came into power, Apollo took the temple. The temple was guarded by a great serpent, Pytho. Apollo killed Pytho and excised Gaia. In honor of his heroic deed, the priestess of Delphi was called Pythia. The temple was located at what was believed to be the center of world. And at the center of the temple was the omphalos, the stone Kronos swallowed in place of Zeus.
To consult the oracle, you approached with a question. Asking it of the Pythia, she would breathe in the intoxicating fumes from a fissure in the earth. She would, in this drug-induced state answer your question with what seemed to the patron to be nonsense. The real power laid with the priest who would interpret the Pythia’s words. The outcome often depended on how much tribute the patron had given.
The Pythia Greek: Πυθία , commonly known as the Oracle of Delphi, was the priestess at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. The Pythia was widely credited for her prophecies inspired by Apollo.
The Delphic Oracle was the most prestigious and authoritative oracle among the Greeks. The oracle is one of the best-documented religious institutions of the classical Greeks. Authors who mention the oracle include Aeschylus, Aristotle, Clement of Alexandria, Diodorus, Diogenes, Euripides, Herodotus, Julian, Justin, Livy, Lucan, Ovid, Pausanias, Pindar, Plato, Plutarch, Sophocles, Strabo, Thucydides, and Xenophon.
The name ‘Pythia’ derived from Pytho, which in myth was the original name of Delphi. The Greeks derived this place name from the verb, pythein (πύθειν, “to rot”), which refers to the decomposition of the body of the monstrous Python after she was slain by Apollo. The usual theory has been that the Pythia delivered oracles in a frenzied state induced by vapors rising from a chasm in the rock, and that she spoke gibberish which priests interpreted as the enigmatic prophecies preserved in Greek literature.
Consulting the Oracle. No one knows for certain how the process of consulting the Delphic oracle worked. However, over the years, a traditional account has been widely accepted. According to this description, a visitor who wanted to submit a question to the oracle would first make an appropriate offering and sacrifice a goat. Then a priestess known as the Pythia would take the visitor’s question into the inner part of Apollo’s temple, which contained the omphalos and a golden statue of Apollo. Seated on a three-legged stool, the priestess would fall into a trance.
After some time, the priestess would start to writhe around and foam at the mouth. In a frenzy, she would begin to voice strange words and sounds. Priests and interpreters would listen carefully and record her words in verse or in prose. The message was then passed on to the visitor who had posed the question. Some modern scholars believe that the priestess did not become delirious but rather sat quietly as she delivered her divine message.
Anyone could approach the oracle, whether king, public official, or private citizen. At first, a person could consult the oracle only once a year, but this restriction was later changed to once a month.
The ancient Greeks had complete faith in the oracle’s words, even though the meaning of the message was often unclear. As the oracle’s fame spread, people came from all over the Mediterranean region seeking advice. Numerous well-known figures of history and mythology visited Delphi, including Socrates and Oedipus.
Visitors would ask not only about private matters but also about affairs of state. As a result, the oracle at Delphi had great influence on political, economic, and religious events. Moreover, Delphi itself became rich from the gifts sent by many believers.
The axis mundi (also cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, columna cerului, center of the world), in religion or mythology, is the world center and/or the connection between Heaven and Earth. As the celestial pole and geographic pole, it expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet. At this point travel and correspondence is made between higher and lower realms.Communication from lower realms may ascend to higher ones and blessings from higher realms may descend to lower ones and be disseminated to all. The spot functions as the omphalos (navel), the world’s point of beginning.
The image is mostly viewed as feminine, as it relates to center of the earth (perhaps like an umbilical providing nourishment). It may have the form of a natural object (a mountain, a tree, a vine, a stalk, a column of smoke or fire) or a product of human manufacture (a staff, a tower, a ladder, a staircase, a maypole, a cross, a steeple, a rope, a totem pole, a pillar, a spire). Its proximity to heaven may carry implications that are chiefly religious (pagoda, temple mount, minaret, church) or secular (obelisk, lighthouse, rocket, skyscraper). The image appears in religious and secular contexts. The axis mundi symbol may be found in cultures utilizing shamanic practices or animist belief systems, in major world religions, and in technologically advanced “urban centers”. In Mircea Eliade’s opinion, “Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all.”
Kailash is a mountain located in Ngari prefecture in Tibet . The mountain is sacred to the four Asian religions, Buddhism , Hinduism , Bön (Local Shamanistic Religion of Tibet before Buddhism) and Jainism . It was here that the god Shiva descended to earth. Manasarovar called a sacred lake just beyond. The four rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra , Sutlej and Indus have their sources around the mountain. Some believe that Kailash is the mountain Meru from where the Aryans came. In Sultejdalen near Kailash low silver palace with Bönpo -religion’s holy kingdom. This was destroyed by the nykonverterade Buddhists in Lhasa as before spared this country in their conquests.
Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. The peregrination is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists. Followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. The path around Mount Kailash is 52 km (32 mi) long.
Some pilgrims believe that the entire walk around Kailash should be made in a single day, which is not considered an easy task. A person in good shape walking fast would take perhaps 15 hours to complete the 52 km trek. Some of the devout do accomplish this feat, little daunted by the uneven terrain,altitude sickness and harsh conditions faced in the process. Indeed, other pilgrims venture a much more demanding regimen, performing body-length prostrations over the entire length of the circumambulation: The pilgrim bends down, kneels, prostrates full-length, makes a mark with his fingers, rises to his knees, prays, and then crawls forward on hands and knees to the mark made by his/her fingers before repeating the process. It requires at least four weeks of physical endurance to perform the circumambulation while following this regimen. The mountain is located in a particularly remote and inhospitable area of the Tibetan Himalayas. A few modern amenities, such as benches, resting places and refreshment kiosks, exist to aid the pilgrims in their devotions. According to all religions that revere the mountain, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. It is claimed that many people who ventured to defy the taboo have died in the process. It is a popular belief that the stairways on Mount Kailash lead to heaven.
The Tibetan name for the mountain is Gangs Rin-po-che. Gangs or Kang is the Tibetan word for snow peak analogous to alp or himal; rinpoche is an honorific meaning “precious one” so the combined term can be translated “precious jewel of snows”.
“Tibetan Buddhists call it Kangri Rinpoche; ‘Precious Snow Mountain’. Bon texts have many names: Water’s Flower, Mountain of Sea Water, Nine Stacked Swastika Mountain. For Hindus, it is the home of the mountain god Shiva and a symbol of his power symbol om; for Jains it is where their first leader was enlightened; for Buddhists, the navel of the universe; and for adherents of Bon, the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.”[
Another local name for the mountain is Tisé (Tibetan: ཏི་སེ་) mountain, which derives from ti tse in the Zhang-Zhung language, meaning “water peak” or “river peak”, connoting the mountain’s status as the source of the mythical Lion, Horse, Peacock and Elephant Rivers, and in fact the Indus, Yarlung Tsangpo/Dihang/Brahmaputra, Karnali and Sutlej all begin in the Kailash-Lake Manasarovar region.
The Bön, a religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet, maintain that the entire mystical region and the nine-story Swastika Mountain are the seat of all spiritual power.
According to Hinduism, Lord Shiva, the destroyer of ignorance and illusion, resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kailāsa, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Pārvatī. In the Vishnu Purana of the mountain states that its four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. It is a pillar of the world and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus.
In Jainism, Kailash is also known as Meru Parvat or Sumeru. Ashtapada, the mountain next to Mt.Kailash is the site where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, attained Nirvana/moksa (liberation).(The authenticity of Mount Kailash being Mount Ashtapada is highly debated.)
Tantric Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok (also known as Demchog or Chakrasamvara),who represents supreme bliss.
There are numerous sites in the region associated with Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), whose tantric practices in holy sites around Tibet are credited with finally establishing Buddhism as the main religion of the country in the 7th–8th century CE.
It is said that Milarepa (c. 1052-c. 1135 CE), champion of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro Bön-chung, champion of the Bön religion of Tibet. The two magicians engaged in a terrifying sorcerers’ battle, but neither was able to gain a decisive advantage. Finally, it was agreed that whoever could reach the summit of Kailash most rapidly would be the victor. While Naro Bön-chung sat on a magic drum and soared up the slope, Milarepa’s followers were dumbfounded to see him sitting still and meditating. Yet when Naro Bön-chung was nearly at the top, Milarepa suddenly moved into action and overtook him by riding on the rays of the sun, thus winning the contest. He did, however, fling a handful of snow on to the top of a nearby mountain, since known as Bönri, bequeathing it to the Bönpo and thereby ensuring continued Bönpo connections with the region.
Sacred Tree of Life
The concept of a tree of life has been used in science, religion, philosophy, and mythology. A tree of life is a common motif in various world theologies, mythologies, and philosophies. A mystical concept alluding to the interconnection of all life on our planet; and a metaphor for common descent in the evolutionary sense. The term tree of life may also be used as a synonym for sacred tree.
The tree of knowledge, connecting to heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree, and according to some , that are portrayed in various religions and philosophies as the same tree.
The Tree of Life is an important symbol in nearly every culture. In Jewish and Christian mythology, a tree sits at the center of both the Heavenly and Earthly Edens. The Norse cosmic World Ash, Ygdrassil, has its roots in the underworld while its branches support the abode of the Gods. The Egyptian’s Holy Sycamore stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the worlds. To the Mayas, it is Yaxche, whose branches support the heavens.
The Ceiba Tree was the sacred tree of the Mayans, and it had many representations and significances. “The ancient Maya of Central America believed that a great Ceiba tree stood at the center of the earth, connecting the terrestrial world to the spirit-world above. The long thick vines hanging down from its spreading limbs provided a connection to the heavens for the souls that ascended them.”
The Archetypal Symbolism of Trees Trees have long held a literal and symbolic fascination for humanity. Their source as a deep archetype of absorption begins with the earliest epic in the Western World, the story of Gilgamesh and his quest for the plant of life (a symbolic tree) that is snatched away by a serpent, thus illustrating that the use of the tree as a universal religious symbol is incredibly ancient; such utilization can be dated to at least the third millennium B.C.E. as a symbol of a rich cultural mythos, the major archetype being that of the center, the beginning where sacred powers first originated. The tree is the navel of the world, the “cosmic axis” (Axis mundi) standing at the universe’s center where it passes through the middle and unites the three great cosmic domains: the underworld, earth, and sky.
With its branches reaching into the sky, and roots deep in the earth, the Tree of Life dwells in three worlds—a link between heaven, the earth, and the underworld, uniting above and below. It is both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance, and a masculine, visibly phallic symbol—another union. The tree has other characteristics which easily lend themselves to symbolism. Many trees take on the appearance of death in the winter—losing their leaves, only to sprout new growth with the return of spring. This aspect makes the tree a symbol of resurrection, and a stylized tree is the symbol of many resurrected gods. Most of these gods are believed to have been crucified on trees as well. A tree also bears seeds or fruits, which contain the essence of the tree, and this continuous regeneration is a potent symbol of immortality. Trees seen as givers of gifts and spiritual wisdom are quite common. It was while meditating under a Bodhi tree that Buddha received his enlightenment; the Norse God Odin received the gift of language while suspended upside down in the World Ash.
In Celtic creation stories, trees were the ancestors of mankind, elder beings of wisdom who provided the alphabet, the calendar, and entrance to the realms of the Gods.Trees were also associated in the Shamanic beliefs of the Druids and other Celtic peoples with the supernatural world. Trees were a connection to the world of the spirits and the ancestors, living entities, and doorways into other worlds. The most sacred tree of all was the Oak tree, which represented the axis mundi, the center of the world. The Celtic name for oak, daur or duir, is the origin of the word door; the root of the oak was literally the doorway to the Otherworld; the realm of Fairy.
The tree of life (Heb. עץ החיים Etz haChayim) in the Book of Genesis is a tree planted by the Abrahamic God in midst of the Garden of Eden (Paradise), whose fruit gives everlasting life, i.e. immortality. Together with the tree of life, God planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). According to some scholars, however, these are in fact two names for the same tree.
In the biblical story, the serpent, who is regarded as Satan in Christianity but not in Judaism, tempted Eve into eating a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve and Adam both ate the fruit, despite God’s warning to Adam that “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). As a consequence of their transgression, the land, the Serpent, Adam, and Eve were each cursed by God. To prevent them access to the tree of life, God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden:
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22)