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29 November, 2012

T is for the Tree Goddess

One of the things about gods is that they have theophanies, particular appearances and mysteries tied to that appearance.  (I know several people for whom the question "Which Brighid do you get?" is a sensical question.)

And life can get interesting when multiple gods have the same theophany.

So consider the Tree Goddess.  She appears in a number of mortuary texts as a shelter for the dead and source of food for the spirit.  Sometimes she turns up in vignettes as a tree with a woman's head and breasts (and the sycamore fig, the relevant tree, produced sap referred to as milk, so those breasts are rather more literal a figurative than many).  She was a manifestation of the only large tree that grew in pharaonic Egypt, a source of food and shelter and timber.  The gate of dawn was a pair of sycamore figs made of precious turquoise, and the sun passed out between them in the morning.

The Lady of the Sycamore, Hetheru, can be assumed to have the fig as one of her theophanies.  And she brings herself to sweep through that filter: the lady of joy and wealth, perhaps her intoxication coming in the form of a fig wine, the stately lady who is Queen of Heaven.  She comes as the healer of Heru's wounded eyes, and she comes as the Lady of the West who shelters and welcomes the spirits of those who go forth upon their mooring day.  The Tree Goddess is therefore filled with regenerating life, the magnetic draw towards joy that characterises being and creation.

Nut also appears as the Tree Goddess, as lady of the coffin and womb of the dreaming dead, extending her shelter and protection to those beneath her branches as well as those she conceals within her body.  She comes as starry heaven, mother of all things manifest including her grandfather the sun, and perhaps those twin sycamores from which he emerges at dawn are her thighs as she births him.  The Tree Goddess is therefore filled with the power of manifestation and eternity, the light of the unwearying stars, and the birth of reality.

And also, the Tree Goddess is Aset, whose shapeshifting might shall not be limited to merely animal forms.  She comes as the lady of the throne, the one who establishes and nurtures power, whose standards are high and whose glory is great.  She comes great of magic, whose words are underlaid with the ultimate power of the name of the Creator.  She comes as the mourner of the dead, who throws open the coffin and pleads with eternity for the return of temporality.  The Tree Goddess is therefore filled with power and dedication, with yearning and with continuity, the power that takes what is ancestral and makes it live in the now.

Here she is, the great tree: her roots sink deep into the earth, twining with her (Nut's) husband Geb in eternal aching, separated save for this touch at the horizon.  Here she is, the great tree: branches embracing heaven, reaching to mingle with her (Hetharu's) husband Heru in eternal celebration, a house great enough to hold him.  Here she is, the great tree, cradling each star as she cradles her (Aset's) husband Wesir in his eternal reign in the lands of twilight and dawn, standing at the boundary between worlds.  Here she is, the great tree, offering food and drink, offering shelter and healing, her strength an eternity and her trunk reaching across even the horizons between all worlds.

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