Mesoamerican world tree
World trees are a prevalent motif occurring in the mythical cosmologies, creation accounts, and iconographies of the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. In the Mesoamerican context, world trees embodied the four cardinal directions, which also serve to represent the fourfold nature of a central world tree, a symbolic axis mundi which connects the planes of the Underworld and the sky with that of the terrestrial realm.
Depictions of world trees, both in their directional and central aspects, are found in the art and mythological traditions of cultures such as the Maya, Aztec, Izapan, Mixtec, Olmec, and others, dating to at least the Mid/Late Formative periods of Mesoamerican chronology. Among the Maya, the central world tree was conceived as or represented by a ceiba tree, and is known variously as a wacah chan[pronunciation?] or yax imix che[pronunciation?], depending on the Mayan language. The trunk of the tree could also be represented by an upright caiman, whose skin evokes the tree's spiny trunk.
Directional world trees are also associated with the four Yearbearers in Mesoamerican calendars, and the directional colors and deities. Mesoamerican codices which have this association outlined include the Dresden, Borgia and Fejérváry-Mayer codices. It is supposed that Mesoamerican sites and ceremonial centers frequently had actual trees planted at each of the four cardinal directions, representing the quadripartite concept.
World trees are frequently depicted with birds in their branches, and their roots extending into earth or water (sometimes atop a "water-monster", symbolic of the underworld).
- AMNH, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2008-04-23. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), which further cites Butterwick, Kristi (2004) Heritage of Power: Ancient Sculpture from West Mexico, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Miller and Taube (1993), p.186.
- Finlay (2003)
- Miller and Taube, loc. cit.
- Schele, Linda; Mathews, Peter (1998). The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 113–114. ISBN 0684852098.
- Freidel, et al. (1993)
- Adkinson, Robert (Ed.) (1996). The Maya: Sacred Symbols (Sacred Symbols Series). London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-06022-3.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Finley, Michael (2003). "Raising the sky: The Maya creation myth and the Milky Way". The Real Maya Prophecies: Astronomy in the Inscriptions and Codices. Maya Astronomy. Archived from the original on 2006-12-25. Retrieved 2007-01-04. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Freidel, David A.; Linda Schele; Joy Parker (1993). Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path. New York: William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-10081-3.
- Kappelman, Julia "Art 347L Mesoamerican Art Syllabus: West Mexico", accessed April 2008.
- Miller, Mary; Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6.