Axis Mundi: The World Centre

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Sacred Spaces

I wear a Druids Cross made of fine pewter these days, a remnant from my summer travels in the Scottish Highlands.  It is said that in the times of the Druids, those who wore this symbol had been given the duty of protecting the sacred sites across the land. Rather than wear a pendant, the emblem was tattooed on their bodies so that all that came in their presence would recognize their sacred task.

Mythology speaks to humanity’s search for an axis mundi, which is defined as the world centre, the link that joins Heaven and Earth. This is the point where communication, and perhaps some form of travel, can occur between higher and lower realms.   Many of these places are found in mountains or high places where the earth and sky seem to reach out to each other.  They are usually marked with a mythical object to signify sacredness. Yggdrasil, an immense ash tree whose branches extend far into the heavens and supported by three roots burrowed into three levels of the universe, is fundamental within Norse mythology.  Ancient Greeks, believing that omphalos stones granted the power of direct communication with the gods, were erected throughout the Mediterranean world, the most notable being at Delphi.

The remarkable ability of the axis mundi is that there can be numerous spaces that serve as the centre of the world simultaneously.  They can be found in a natural setting or in a human construction such as a temple or palace.  Every generation has been engaged in creating or acknowledging a place that transcends the ordinary.  From the ziggurats of the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians to the totem poles of indigenous peoples of the Americas, to the modern day skyscraper such as the Eiffel Tower, we continue to look for ways to reach beyond our finite existence.

There are some who believe that the most important axis mundi is found within ourselves.  Thomas Merton once wrote, “What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.”

Perhaps our centre of the world is closer than we think.

49 thoughts on “Axis Mundi: The World Centre

  1. What a gift you have given us, in sharing the story you tell, linked to what you called a remnant from your travels to the Scottish Highlands. Though I rather think that beautiful fine pewter Druids Cross is more fitting on you, as a now protector of the sacred sites, than would have this emblem painfully tattooed directly on your fair skin. Do pardon my silly, but irresistible tongue-in-cheek thought, also making me envious of your Druids Cross ownership.
    As to the gift you have given us, I of course speak of the total content dealing with Axix Mundi, though I draw attention in particular, to what Thomas Merton wrote, referring to… “What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.” The purity of this expression, and most especially ” to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves” will be a constant reminder to me to continue to search, question, and attempt to discover every morsel of life I can find, and thus to live in my mind as long as I have breath. Thank you again, dear Rebecca.

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    • Thank you so very much, my dear friend, for your encouraging comments. I am enjoying my journey into the realm of mythology, for it has given me fresh insight into our current experience. Every generation has a touch of arrogance for there is a underlying belief that we continue to add knowledge as time moves forward. And yet, we still have the same issues – the search for food, shelter, wealth, position – nothing has changed. As I read the stories, I continually ask myself, “What can I learn?” Mythology has layers upon layers upon layers. And what I have found is that there is a strong reliance upon poetry and music. There is so much more to discover – it really is exciting. I agree – the purpose of our lives is to “search, question, and attempt to discover every morsel of life.” And therein is found pure joy….

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      • What a journey life on this planet, full of joys and wonders,risks and dangers, forcing us to keep our eyes open, to take it all in as you do, and that is what makes it worthwhile and has us wanting to cause it to slow down so as to stretch out the pleasure of living it. Thanks again Rebecca for your interesting subjects.

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      • What comes to mind is your poem “To Reinvent”

        “Hence without fuss
        Foster all ye must
        For one more time,
        thus so to reinvent!”

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      • It started when I was eleven, after I lost my father and turning twelve, first I suppose pretending of reinventing, until one day as it became real by necessity, and never stopped, even to this point in my life, and again when a new discovery makes it irresistible, save now with my life partner Marianne, who is as open to reinvention as I am. It makes life so interesting, and above all lets you feel you are living it fully and complete, with no precious time left to waste. JJ

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  2. What a wonderful piece. It’s so interesting that just the other day I read something about Druids and my mind went blank. I asked Terry about them. Now this from you. I put a lot of space around, “I don’t know’ when it comes to sacred places: my mind says oh that’s nonsense, all made up and my heart says, why not, anything is possible. This balance of opening/closing is like a flower; open to sun, closes to night. And the photo of nature, the tree, for which I give thanks to for oxygen to take my breath and I breath in life, once again. You inspire me. And fill me with awe. And, love.

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    • As I read your comments, my thoughts went immediately to Walden. I believe that the ultimate Axix Mundi is found when we are within nature. We belong to this world, just as all else that lives and breathes. After all, we are made of the same material as the earth. I love your words: “This balance of opening/closing is like a flower; open to sun, closes to night.” It goes so well with Henry David Thoreau:

      “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
      ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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  3. A profound post, and the second one from you in a week! (Though, sadly, it didn’t show up in my Reader. I only found it while doing my weekly manual check of blogs.)

    I like to believe all voyages are a voyages of the self, at least that’s what I’ve tried to make mine. Love the Druids cross pendant. That’s a souvenir of meaning, and you don’t need to have it tattooed to remember. 😉

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    • Every time the template changes it seems that posts do not show up in the reader until you “unfollow” and then “follow” again.

      I agree that all voyages are voyages of self – that, in the end, it is a solitary experience even though you walk with kindred spirits along the way. I was 8 years old when I read “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. It was science fiction with a mythological twist that involved three unusual strangers: Mrs Who, Mrs Which and Mrs. Whatsit.

      “Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. – Mrs. Whatsit” Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

      While there are times where our choices are indeed limited, it is still good to know that we can “write the sonnet” ourselves.

      As for tattoos – have you noticed the strong mythological ties? I’ll stick to the pendent! Thank you so much for your comments! 🙂

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      • I regret that I haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time, though I have been intrigued by it. It always seems to slip into out of my mind.

        So, do you mean when we change our blog template or when WP does a big update? I’ve noticed that visits really drop off when they do an “upgrade”. But it’s only some followers who don’t see the posts. Others continue to see them.

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      • The “Reader” is a fickle mystery to me. I have noticed that when people change their template, I lose them in my reader so I have taken the step of following by e-mail. I’m uncertain whether it happens with all templates, but I did lose your posts in the reader when you changed your template. I find that I need to “unfollow” and then “follow” again. Upgrades are also a “learning” opportunity…. 🙂

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      • Haha, that’s a positive way to look at it. Speaking of changing templates, I’m about to do it again. Could you do me a favor and let me know if my next post doesn’t show up? I’m planning on posting tomorrow. Thanks!!

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      • Looking forward to your post! Will let you know if it comes into my reader. You are certainly on my e-mail “favourite” blogs – so I will find you. Hugs coming across the waves…

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  4. A lovely and meaningful pendant, Rebecca. The Druids and their beliefs really fascinate me too. I think they must have been a very sophisticated and well educated society.

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    • Thank you so much for stopping by!! I have been enjoying this mini-research project, which I am finding is much bigger than I ever imagined. I have been looking into the Gaelic languages – there are four of them – Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton. They are making a comeback and are being taught in the school systems in the UK. Here is a link that I think you will like.

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    • I’m so sorry to hear that you were hacked! Have started following your new blog – looking forward to your posts. Take good care… 🙂 ❤

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  5. I think that will write about it in my first post, change is always good, this post help me a lot last night, outside circumstance are simply that but what lies withing us is more important (got that from rumi a couple of years ago) thank you for being my friend Rebecca and for following. Have a great day!

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    • I’m enjoying your new blog. You are absolutely right – change seems to challenge us to think deeper, more reflectively. Hugs coming your way. 🙂

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  6. The Reader is not always reliable, I find. I follow by email where that option is available but I still miss posts. Even in WordPress there are journeys to be negotiated between the lower and higher realms, we being the lower realms, WordPress developers being the higher realms. Where is the Axis Mundi in this WordPress world I wonder? Joking aside, your Druids cross and your post reminded me of this recent journey at Harvesting Hecate https://harvestinghecate.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/the-beckoning-of-the-earth/#comments I am sure the axis mundi is very close to us all the time; maybe just ‘a wrinkle in time’-close to us. 😉

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    • Oh, I have no doubt that we are “a wrinkle in time” away… I am enjoying following Harvesting Hecate and remember that specific post. Even in our most “crazy-busy” times, there is a deep understanding that we belong to the earth, and must reconnect from time to time to keep equilibrium.

      “We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.” Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist

      P.S. I know exactly what you mean by WordPress “lower and higher” realms. I continue to learn.

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  7. Very Interesting dialogue!. Enjoyed reading the most interesting comments. I didn’t find this post until this morning. Seems I have a lot to learn about all this. Thank you for this unusual post.

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    • We are all learning about WordPress! Glad that you were able to find this post. I enjoy reading your comments and appreciate your visits! Hugs!!! 🙂

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  8. “Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.” But here I am, again, visiting your blog.

    But my axel mundi and tree of life is personified in one man. Guess who?
    Un saludo cordial
    Lino

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  9. I have learnt about the axis mundi, which you define above as the world centre, the link that joins Heaven and Earth as I read Carl Jun’g books…
    You’ll smile at me, but when I first did I linked to the juntion point between the meridians of Ecuador and Greenwich… Geographically and strictly speaking that would be the Navel of the World.
    All the best to you… Great post!, Aquileana 😀

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    • Thank you for stopping by, Aquileana – I did smile when I read that you located the Navel of the World. I remember the first time I read “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” by Carl Jung. It opened a whole new way of thinking. I have come back to mythology to revisit all of the stories – there are so many hidden in the folds of history. And to see them afresh with the eyes of my current reality. I enjoy all of life’s transitions.

      “Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day.” C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

      I do enjoy our dialogues…. 🙂 Hugs

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  10. Dear Rebecca, to read your post about mythology and in particular about the Druids makes me immerse again into the world of the Druids, their society and Gods. Two witches have the following project in regard to the battle of Mag Tured:
    Auf Deutsch:
    “Wir wollen die Bäume, die Sträucher und die Erdschollen verzaubern, so dass sie wie ein bewaffnetes Heer aussehen, die Feinde in Furcht und Schrecken versetzen und sie in die Flucht schlagen.
    I’m trying in English:
    ” We shall bewitch trees, shrubberies and clods, so that they seem to be armed to the teeth and terrify the enemies and offset fear and horror so as to put them to rout.
    This shows also from which tradition Shakespeare had the idea when he made the witches attack the forest in Macbeth.
    I thank you and your readers for these wonderful thoughts:)

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    • What a wonderfully profound thought – humanity’s connection to the earth, to nature. There has always been a uneasy connection because it is very difficult to harness the elements and control our environment. I think of JRR Tolkien’s Treebeard when he said: “Side? I am on nobody’s side because nobody is on my side, little orc. Nobody cares for the woods anymore.”

      By the way, you may be interested to know that I am going to take a beginner’s Gaelic Language course. There seems to be a connection between language and mythology that I would like to explore further.

      Again, thank you for adding depth to this conversation. You comments are very much appreciated. 🙂

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      • You are so right when you say that human beings don’t care about the woods anymore, which is really tragic. An American Indian told me that for them they roof of the wood represents the sky.
        I wish you really good luck with your Gaelic Language course and I appreciate our conversations very much 🙂

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      • I will let you know how the course goes. It is supposed to start in the new year. Every year needs a challenge. Sometimes even more than just one. It keeps us looking forward to the next horizon where the earth meets the sky… 🙂

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  11. Ein sehr informativer und perfekter Bericht über die nordische Mythologie, über das Druidenkreuz und über den Glauben unserer Vorfahren. Gefällt mir.

    Mein Zentrum der Welt kann nur in mir liegen! Ein armenisches Sprichwort sagt : *** Was hilft mir die Weite des Weltalls, wenn meine Schuhe zu eng sind?
    Ich wünsche dir einen besinnlichen Advent. Liebe Grüsse Ernst

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    • Ich schätze Ihre durchdachte und mitfühlende Kommentare. Vielen Dank für das Angebot – Ich habe es aufgeschrieben. So sehr wahr. Alles Gute dieser speziellen Jahreszeit, um Sie und Ihre Familie. Wir in Kürze beginnen ein neues Jahr und ein neues Abenteuer …

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  12. I enjoyed this part of your blog again this morning. I always like to read the comments from so many thoughtful writers. Always a learning experience. I am impressed reading the comments–always. Always learning!

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    • Thank you for your comments on the first day of a new year! I agree – the discussions add so much to my understanding. I too, am always learning. Looking forward to 2015!!! 🙂

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  13. I’ve never been a person who wears jewellery in the belief of it bringing protection or luck. I prefer to believe those things we need are already within us and it’s a matter of discovering them – which often takes an entire lifetime! I do think some of these symbols are very attractive though. But if it causes the mind to believe you have what you need, then maybe there is no harm in that at all. We all need reminders and encouragement along the way. Beautiful piece of jewellery Rebecca!! 🙂

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    • A very insightful comment, Suzy! It is all about the action of discovery, of an inner journey. Symbolism is a reflection of our memory, of belonging, of participating within the story of humanity. I hold a mother’s day card that I received from my son (when he was four) as a reminder to cherish the present moments. On my piano, I have a photo of my father as a young man on a cattle drive in the 1940’s. While he has passed, to me he remains as vibrant and alive as when he was that young man standing beside a chuck-wagon. I keep a quote on my computer that was given to me by a friend many years ago. It is all within me, but I still enjoy the outward symbols as a reflection of the time that was well-spent. I especially appreciated your words: “We all need reminders and encouragement along the way.” So very, very true.

      I think that you will appreciate this quote by Joseph Campbell: “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”

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      • I love that quote, absolutely true!♥ The outside does seem to try dominate most of the time, but the inside is what matters most. I guess it’s because we can’t see it, and what we can’t see with our eyes we tend to ignore or count as irrelevant, but it’s all relevant and is the truth of being alive. You always come up with such good quotes Rebecca – thank you for that!! 😀

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  14. Oh how beautiful, both in terms of the post theme and how you explain it. When we are true to ourselves, we stand a little more firmly in that ‘center’ space. ❤

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    • Oh, how very insightful, Christy. Your poetry comes from that inner “center” space, which gives energy to the message. I am convinced the inner journey brings meaning to our existence. And in so doing, we are able to participate fully and joyfully within the story of humanity.

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