Axis Mundi goes to the Rod of Asclepius or Rod of Hermes, the symbol of medicine. The similar caduceus or staff is the axis itself, and the serpent (or serpents) are the guardians or guides to the other realm. It is a common shamanic concept, the healer traversing the axis mundi to bring back knowledge from the other world.
The axis mundi connects heaven and earth as well as providing a path between the two. The axis mundi is commonly represented as a rope, tree, vine, ladder, pillar or staff, among other things. In addition to the caduceus, the yin-yang descends from this idea. Sometimes, depending on representation and belief system, the axis mundi is considered explicitly male or even phallic.
Many cultures consider a specific place, almost always a hill, a mountain or a pyramid to be the axis mundi. For example, the Sioux consider the Black Hills to be the axis mundi, while Mount Kailash is holy to several religions in Tibet.
Often, within the same belief system, several places may be considered the axis mundi; in Islam Mecca is said to be the place which was made first on earth.
The Temple Mount, site of the Dome of the Rock, is also holy to Judaism and Christianity. Other nearby sites that are considered sacred and are on hills include the Mount of Olives and Calvary.
The ancient Greeks had several sites that were considered places of the omphalos (navel) stone, such as the oracle at Delphi, while also maintaining a belief in a world tree and Mount Olympus as the abode of the gods.
Many religious structures explicitly mimic axis mundi.
The stupa of Hinduism, and later Buddhism, reflects Mount Meru. The upright bar of the cross is sometimes seen as representing a world axis, while the steeple of a church or minaret of a mosque indicates a place where the earthly and the divine meet.
In Mesopotamian civilizations, the ziggurat works as an axis mundi.
Structures such as maypoles in pre-Christian Europe, linked to the Saxons' Irminsul, and totem poles among Pacific Northwest Native Americans also formed local or temporary world axes.
Other times a specific plant is considered the axis mundi.
In some Pacific island cultures the banyan tree, of which the Bodhi tree is of the Sacred Fig variety, is the abode of ancestor spirits. The Bodhi Tree is also the name given to the tree under which Gautama Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, sat on the night he attained enlightenment.
Other corrolaries include Yggdrasil of Norse mythology, Jievaras of Lithuanian mythology, the pre-Christian Germanic peoples' Thor's Oak, the Sefirot of Judaism, the Chakras common to many Eastern religions, and the Trees of Life and Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.
Entheogens are often considered to be the axis mundi, such as the Fly Agaric mushroom among the Evenks of Russia.
Examples of Axis Mundi
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