There is a Great
Pole somewhere, a mighty trunk similar to the sacred sun dance pole, only
much, much bigger.
Pole is what holds up the Earth.
The Great White Grandfather Beaver
of the North is gnawing at that Great
He has been gnawing at the bottom of it for ages and
More than half of the Great Pole has already been gnawed
When the the Great White Grandfather Beaver of the North gets
angry, he gnaws faster and more
Once he has gnawed all the way through, the
Great Pole will topple, and the
Earth will crash into a bottomless nothing.
That will be the end of all
humans, of everything.
The end of all ends.
So we are careful
not to make the Great White Grandfather Beaver of the North angry.
That's why the Cheyenne never
eat beaver flesh, or even
touch a beaver skin.
We want the
Earth to last a little longer.
-told by the wife of Medicine
The axis mundi
offers a means of travel and correspondence between the two realms of
axis mundi is the place where the four compass directions unite,
allowing the Light of Heaven to
be disseminated throughout the
The axis mundi resides at
the center of the world: at its
omphalos, the source of emanation of
mundi appears in all cultures and takes many forms.
mundi symbolic image is both feminine - an umbilical providing
nourishment, and masculine, a phallus
The axis mundi may have the form of
a natural object (mountain,
tree, vine, stalk, column of smoke or fire) or a product of human
manufacture (staff, tower,
staircase, maypole (Irminsul),
cross, steeple, rope, totem pole, pillar,
mundi exists in the Hindu linga, or lingam, and is featured
prominently in the most technologically advanced cultures -
wherever the impulse persists to link a
tower with the idea of a "world center."
The proximity of
the axis mundi
to Heaven may carry implications that are
chiefly religious (pagoda,
or secular (obelisk,
of their own home, land,
place of worship as the center of the
world because they are designated as cultural
People think of themselves as the center of the
noumenon because that is
the vantage point from which they gaze out upon the
think of the Source of the
noumenon as residing in
the center of the noumenon.
In ancient Mesopotamia the cultures of ancient
Babylon erected artificial
mountains, or ziggurats, on the flat river plain with stairways leading to
temples, the axis mundi, at the top.
Judaism has Mount Sinai and Mount
Zion as the axis mundi.
Christianity has the Mount of
Olives and Calvary as the axis mundi.
Islam has the Temple Mount (Dome of
the Rock) and Mecca, said to be the place on Earth that was forged
Japan's highest mountain, Mount
Fuji, has long symbolized the axis mundi in
Kun-Lun is now the the axis mundi in China
while the ancient Chinese recognized four mountains, residing at the compass
points, as pillars holding up the heavens.
believe the Black Hills are the
Mount Kailash is holy as the axis mundi to several
religions in Tibet.
The pre-Columbian residents of Teotihuacán
in Mexico erected huge pyramids featuring stairways leading to temples at the
top - stairways to heaven.
The ancient Greeks regarded
several sites as places of earth's omphalos (navel) stone, notably the oracle at Delphi, while
still maintaining a belief in a cosmic
world tree and in Mount Olympus as the abode of the gods.
All sacred places
constitute reality centers (omphalos) with the
altar or place of prayer as the the
Altars, incense sticks, candles and torches help form the
axis mundi by sending a column of smoke, and prayer, toward heaven.
calumet, or sacred pipe, represents a column of smoke (the soul) rising form an
the axis mundi.
"Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness like
pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the
merchant?" - Song of Solomon 3:6
The architecture of sacred places often reflects the connection
between Heaven and Earth.
The stupa of Hinduism, and later
Buddhism, reflects Mount Meru.
Cathedrals are laid out in the
form of a cross, with the vertical bar representing the union of
Earth as the horizontal bars
represent union of people to one
another, with the altar at the intersection.
Pagoda structures in Asian temples take
the form of a stairway linking Heaven and
A steeple in a church or
a minaret in a mosque also serve as
Palaces and castles, unlike the
fortress, had towers serving the
axis mundi connection function.
Dwellings also serve as centers of reality - the axis mundi of
The hearth participates in the symbolism
of the altar and a central garden
partipates in the symbolism of a primordial garden paradise.
cultures dwellings were traditionally laid out in the form of a square oriented
toward the four compass directions - east, west, north and south.
traditional Asian home was oriented toward the heavens through Feng shui, a system of geomancy,
just as a palace would be.
Arab houses are also laid out as a square surrounding a central fountain that
evokes a primordial garden paradise.
common shamanic concept, and
a universally told story, is that of the
healer traversing the axis mundi, the connection between Heaven and Earth, to
bring back sacred mystical knowledge
The human form can function as an axis
Some of the more abstract
Tree of Life representations, such as
the Sefirot in Kabbalism and in the Chakra system recognized by
Buddhism, merge with the concept
of the human body as an axis mundi between Heaven and
Yoga and Tai Chi begin from the premise of the human body as axis mundi.
The Renaissance image known
as the Vitruvian Man represented a symbolic and mathematical exploration of the
human form as axis mundi.
Most world religions regard the body
itself as a temple and prayer as an axis mundi uniting Heaven and
serve as an axis mundi.
Many trees in legends serve this function
World Tree, Yggdrasil, World Ash,
Tree of Life,
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,
Bodhi Tree, Iboga tree, Thor's Oak ...
Siddhartha Guatama attained
the Bodhi Tree.
Polynesian cultures the
banyan tree, of which the Bodhi Tree is of the Sacred Fig variety, is the abode
of ancestor spirits.
or World Ash, functions in much the same way in Norse mythology; it is the site
where Odin found enlightenment as does
Jievaras in Lithuanian mythology.
Christmas tree, which can be traced in its origins back to pre-Christian
European beliefs, represents an axis mundi.
Oak Tree can serve as the axis
mundi as it did for pre-Christian Germanic peoples with Thor's Oak.
Great Tree provides an axis mundi that unites three planes:
branches reach for Heaven, its trunk meets
the Earth, and its roots reach
down to Hell.
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