Tree of Life

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The Tree of Life is one of the most unique and interesting of Navajo myths and legends. It is an interpretation of where the people came from, their beliefs in the progression and movement of life, connections with their surroundings and the involvement of their deities. It is a metaphor for who they are and the life they lead. At the base of the corn plant there is a symbol for the emergence or center of all things. This represents the birth of the Earth Surface people and their appearance into this, the fifth world. The rainbow is a guardian figure, guarding both the lower worlds and the upper or present world. It also shows the presence and blessings of the super naturals. The eagle feathers at the ends of the rainbow are considered symbols of communication with the spirit world. Emergence from the lower worlds came about when it was flooded by Water Creature, due to Coyote's theft of his children and withdrew only when his youngsters were returned. The corn plant itself is symbolic in that it represents the upward moving way of the Navajo. The roots of the plant reflect a connection to the lower worlds, the knowledge gained from the experience and the respect for the forefathers. The stalk is reaching upward, looking to the future, strong and supple due to the care and nourishment given by her people through Changing Woman. The fruit of the plant is the people, Navajo people believe they were created of corn, (White; male and yellow; female), with the aid of Wind and the four directional Yei-be-chei they were given life. Proof of the creation of humans resides in the spirals of ones fingertips and the swirl of hair at the top - back of the head. The tassel at the top of the plant and silk on the corn, along with pollen represents prayer and the sacredness of life. When Talking God and Calling God left the people, they said; This is the last time you have seen the diyin, (Holy beings) and you shall not see them again....But when you hear the twitter and chatter of small birds, you will know that we are nearby. Large birds, like hawks and eagles are powerful fliers and have the ability to carry messages to the sky worlds, they act as intermediaries between the real and spirit worlds. Often the four sacred mountains of the Dine are portrayed, they are territory markers, dwelling places of sacred beings, holy ground and sanctuaries for plants and animals. Mountains were given to the Navajo to provide protection, the outside world is believed to be held at bay and as long as the people reside within this sacred universe, they will grow as people both physically and emotionally. The promise of prosperity will also be granted as long as respect, proper treatment and honor are given the land. Above all things are the sky worlds, showing room for further growth and upward movement. The Sun provides essential light and energy while the Moon softly nourishes and the stars reflect the past. In its entirety the story told by The Tree of Life is rich with Navajo culture and tradition and gives a rare insight into its nuances.

The Tree-of-Life is a metaphorical interpretation of where the Navajo people came from, their evolution, movement of life, connections with natural surroundings and involvement of the deities.  It stands for who the Navajo believe they are and the life they intend to lead.  At the base of the tree there are roots, which symbolize the emergence or center of all things.  These roots reflect a connection to the lower worlds, the knowledge gained from the experience and the respect for the forefathers.  The roots also represent the birth of the Earth Surface People and their appearance into this, the fifth world.  Emergence from the lower world came about when Water Creature flooded it, due to Coyote's theft of his children.  The water withdrew only when his youngsters were returned.  Those same waters, along with the creation tales, feed and nourish the Tree-of-Life.   

 

The trunk of the tree is symbolic in that it represents the Upward Moving Way of the Navajo.  It is strong and supple due to ceremonial practice and the intervention of Changing Woman, the deity who cares for all green and growing plant life.  The upper branches of the tree spread out in a protective manner.  The limbs and leaves represent the chant ways and life ways the people have come to know, respect and live by.  As a whole, the tree suggests a progressive, adaptive nature; one willing to learn, assimilate and even divests itself of cultural implications no longer viable.  Navajo land is sacred ground to her people.  It provides sanctuary to The People, providing protection from the outside world.  Through an abiding honor and respect of the ancient culture and the accompanying deities, The People are promised health and prosperity.  Above all things, Elsie explained, are the sky worlds, showing room for further growth and upward movement.  The Sun provides essential light and energy, while the Moon softly nourishes.  The stars reflect the past.  In its entirety, the story told by the Tree-of-Life is rich with Navajo culture and tradition and gives rare insight into its nuances.

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This site was last updated on October 23, 2014

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