The Goddess in the Tree

Artist rendering by Martin Rudolph
Artist rendering by Martin Rudolph
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.
Proverbs 3:18

Trees are very important in our human mythos. In many societies, the tree is actually considered to be the ancestor of humankind with a mythological forerunner related to or born from the cosmic tree. Certain cultures had connections with specific trees. The Norse’s tree of life, named Yggdrasil, was a yew tree. The Druids were known for their oaks, the Mayans for the ceiba tree, and the Chinese for the pear and mulberry trees.   This notion was so common that still today we still speak about our ancestors as being “the roots” of our “family tree” of which there are many “branches.”

Along with this theme of ancestral trees, it was also quite common to find goddesses in trees, as trees or part of a tree. Above is an image from an Egyptian tomb (from a man named Pashedu) which has been dated from about 1314-1200 BCE.   Notice the goddess in the tree is literally providing fruit and drink to the petitioner.   The goddess has been identified as Isis.

Isis didn’t only provide nourishment from her tree but her nourishment is actually depicted as an extension of her own body.  Here is Isis as tree goddess actually suckling a young boy.   The boy has been identified as the future pharaoh, Tuthmosis III (18th dynasty, ruled from 1504-1450 BCE).

Isis in tree

What does it mean to have a goddess residing in a tree?  Why is this theme so common in ancient cultures?  Is this theme of goddesses and trees found in the Bible? (hint: yes) In this thread I will be exploring these questions.  Next blog post:  Another Goddess in the Tree from another cultural tradition.

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