World Tree and the Tree of Life among Old Slavs

Tommy_Rau (CC0), Pixabay

World Tree, the tree of life – in Slavic mythology this plant represents the world axis, the center of the world and the incarnation of the universe as a whole. Crown of the world tree reaching the sky, roots dwelling in the underworld. World tree is typical for Russian, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Polish, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian and Bulgarian national folk mystery tales. This image combines different – vertical (a tree from the ground to the heavens) and horizontal (road) – the coordinates of the world. The Belarusian folklore image of the world tree is directly related to the wedding ceremony: “the bride should not put her horses at the “unhappy tree”, but should put it where the bees bring honey that in turns flows down to the roots.”

On the World Tree in tales is the place where Slavic gods and saints dwell – while at the roots of the world tree – demonic creature, a snake which is often a metamorphism of the god Veles dwell. In Slavic wedding folklore the image of the world tree usually embodied the fertility of nature as the tree of life.

The traditional culture seen the success of any ritual made ​​depending on how well did the performed ritual correspond to the overall mythological picture of the world: hence the importance of the image of the world tree. Upon Christianity arrival it replaced the pagan world tree with Christmas tree.

On the symbolism of the World Tree, in addition to the ceremonial trees, they are associated with numerous ritual objects – Christmas log – also called “badnjak” among southern Slavs. Every rite that has the roots with mythological World Tree repeated the act of creation, renovation of space (in the New Year and others. calendar holidays), renovation of social life (wedding etc. family rituals), etc.

Next Christmas when you will be decorating your Christmas tree, know that you are actually performing an ancient pagan ritual of worshiping the world tree!

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