The tree of life

Isfahan, 1st half of 20th c., Dywany perskie tudzież …

Qom (Qum), 1st half of 20th c., Dywany perskie tudzież…

The tree has been one of the best known and widespread Persian symbols. The motif occurs as often in the miniatures as in the mastepieces of palace weavings and the nomad crafts. too. In the symbolical conceptions of the tree, old Indoiranian and Zorostrian beliefs intermingle with the Muslim ones as well as with the animistic traditions of the nomads and local cults of nature. Babilonian low reliefs remind us that even before Iranians arrived to the Middle East, the tree has already symbolized axis mundi – the axis of the world.

In the mythical geography of Zoroastrianism, the main religion of pre-Islamic Iran, the center of the World was marked by the cosmic tree, growing out of the waters in the middle of the Vourukasha Ocean. This tree was believed to be the source of the seeds of all the healing plants, and as such, it turns up to be in fact the archetype of the world of plants. The mythical bird, Simorq, the embodiment of wisdom, was believed to shake the seeds down once a year, so they would fall dawn to the soil with rain. It was also next to the tree of life that the White Hom was growing, that is the sacred plant, the archetype of the sacred plant used by Indo-Iranians for ritual purposes (Avest. “Haoma”, Middle Pers. “Hom”, Ind. “Soma”).

Symbolically, the tree connects the three dimensions of existence: with its roots firm in the ground drawing the life-giving water, its superior position in the world of plants and its branches giving shelter to the birds, that is the animals of the supreme God – Ahura Mazda – that were once believed to intermediate between the world of men and gods.

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