The Tree of Life is a clean, compact symbol for the process of creation. The geometric representation we use lays it all out beautifully.
Our version dates to the 17th century and of course the Tree of Life is much older than that. It has been revised and redesigned many times in its 5,000-year history, but one basic thing has stayed the same about its illustration: there are spheres on the Tree of Life now because it started out as a real tree with real fruit. The Tree of Knowledge in the bible is an apple tree so that is what a lot of people think of first, but the pomegranate tree is a much older and much more widespread symbol.
Both the apple and pomegranate trees were used historically as multi-layered symbols to express … so many things that we can explore. It’s only recently that scholars have started to consider the two trees in the Garden of Eden — the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life — and wonder if they might actually be two aspects of the same tree. The Tree of Life was for food and the Tree of Knowledge was … forbidden. That’s a whole other post, so for now let’s call that the spiritual Tree – the Tree of awakening. Then I would ask, Why do that? Why take such an old tradition and split it up like that? If we look at the text that gives us two trees instead of one, and think about who put it together and why, we get an idea.
We can put that Garden of Eden Tree back together, now that we know how to look at the information we have. We can re-empower ourselves and have the delicious fruit of the pomegranate Tree of Life to nourish our bodies, and also nourish our souls with the spirit of its seeds. There’s a lot to pomegranate seeds! The first image that comes to mind is fertility and by that I mean fertility in its entirety: the ability to have children and also the ability to control when you have them and how many. No wonder there is still a tradition in middle eastern countries to give a new bride a pomegranate before her wedding. And there is so much more. What about Persephone and Innana and their visits to the Underworld?
The pomegranate tree and its fruit is such a powerful image, but so is the geometric shape to our Tree of Life, with its blessings of lightning, mirror reflections, and Kundalini serpent (more about the serpent later). It feels like we have to choose one — that in order to make sense of the Tree of Life, we can’t have both Trees. Or can we?
Let’s put these Trees back together, the way scholars are now putting the biblical Trees in the Garden of Eden back together. Let’s work with the geometric Tree of Life while bearing in mind where it came from, and what energies that origin gives it, and see what happens.
We have a tendency to split things up in order to understand them. It’s a useful approach. When I was a child learning the piano, the way I was taught was to learn the right hand first, then the left hand. And then you put them together … which is when the magic happens. Not only do you have the complete piece of music which is so beautiful, but extra magic is created along the way. It’s like the 2 of Cups in Tarot — two separate entities coming together and creating something new and blessed between them.
The Tree of Life is more than the sum of its parts. On its own, the whole geometric Tree hums with life and the magic of divinity and the the Pomegranate Tree bursts with the fruit of knowledge and love. How much more wonderful will it be if we bring them back together?
Let’s find out. And let’s do it using mythology and legend plus spirituality and history, and we can bring all those things together with Tarot. We can use the geometric structure to gauge relationships and movement and we can look behind it to see the deeper, and much older meanings of those connections. Ready? Get your fruit basket and let’s start collecting pomegranates!
Image at top: Inanna receiving offerings of pomegranates and wheat | the Uruk Vase, circa 3200-3000 BC | photo by