The World Tree
The World Tree
(Originally published in Druid's Progress 14)
When our ancestors gathered in ancient circles, the center became a symbol of their interconnections. This concept was expressed in a number of ways. A stone was often placed in the center as a representation of the Omphalos, or navel of the world. A central post was venerated in many Indo-European cultures. The Anglo-Saxons called it Irsumal, the support of the heavens. The Norse Yggdrasil or World Tree provides us with the most detailed account of this ancient perception of our interconnectedness and cosmic center. This secure and mighty vertical column represents the need for structure to stop the sky from falling. It marked the primary origin of cosmic division and order. These objects represent the peoples' shared link in a world beyond comprehension. It gives the group its center and represents the process of gathering itself. It is the point of reference we need to come together as communities.
The cross entered Europe along with Christianity. The cross was a symbol so similar to the existing Pagan one that the transfer seemed natural. There can be no doubt that the church and its bell became the center of medieval social organization. The symbol of the world's center, the bridge between heaven and earth, our support, our security, our relationship to all that is, had been changed from a symbol of the world to a symbol of a man-like God and his son, a man, and that is a very different thing indeed.
When the peoples' symbol for all things good became a good God, the medieval mind needed a place to put the evil. Consequently the cross became a way to escape an evil world. After all, that was the route approved by God and used by his son.
As a modern Druid, I have the joy of admiring the intricate relationships of all things in the world. I find comfort and security in being part of the World Tree. I realize it's too vast and profound for me to understand completely. It's not in human form. It doesn't speak in a human voice. If something truly interconnects all things, then it must represent less favorable things as well. Monotheists, whether talking about God or Goddess or the Great Spirit, claim a primary relationship with the all in one, yet seem to find a human morality story at the center of the world. Humans aren't the center of my world, a great me is. It is not my God, but the home of my Gods and Goddesses as well as myself. It isn't all knowing and all perfect, but it is growing.