3000 BCE – The Ankh, referred to as the “Key of Life,” is associated with eternal life. Its design symbolizes the morning sun joining with the male and female principles of the heavens and earth. In carrying the ankh, one held the key to the Tree of Life (the immortal soul.)
Heliopolis Creation Story – Atum/Amum/RA (Sun God) emerged from the watery world of Nu/Mut/Naumet (Primordial Mother Goddess) on a mound called Benben (Rock). As Benben grew within the empty space Atum/Ra (Sun God), Shu (God of Air) and Tefnut (Goddess of Water) were created. Shu and Tefnut created Nut (Goddess of Sky/Tree of Life) and Geb (God of Earth.) Nut defined the limits of the world as her arms and legs touched the earth in the four directions (symbolic of a trees roots). Nut mated with Geb and gave birth to Isis (Goddess of Motherhood), Osiris (God of Fertility), Set (God of Chaos) and Nephthys (Goddess of Chaos.) Nut was both a Sky Goddess and an Earth Mother who symbolized the duality and oneness of the Tree of Life.
2400 BCE – Heliopolis’s Egyptian name is Iunu, meaning “pillar/tree.” An Obelisk is a tapered four-sided column with a square base, topped with a Benben stone (four-sided pyramid) designed to catch the first rays of dawn. (obelisk’s are symbolic of trees and function as sundials)
The Sun temple in Heliopolis was called “On.” In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, there is a reference to the Benben stone, which says: ‘O Atum-Khoprer, you became high on the height, you rose up as the benben-stone in the Mansion of the Phoenix at On’.
The Greeks interpret the word “On” as “being.” The self-creation myth of Heliopolis is both male and female. The Gods Ra and Nu were self-created and subsequently created life. The Benben stone is also referred to as the creation mound. The self-resurrecting Phoenix is its symbol. The Phoenix is often depicted as sitting in a tree. Thus an obelisk represents the Tree of Life and the Benben is the Phoenix that rises within it.
In the above image the God Thoth (God of Wisdom and Heavenly Scribe) holds an engraved fruit from the Ished Tree (Tree of Life.) The Ished was associated with the following trees; Persea, Leebek, Sycamore, Tamarisk and Acacia.
Fruit from the Tree of Life gave eternal life and knowledge of the divine plan, or map of destiny. The fruit from the Tree of Life was not available to mortals, only in the rituals relating to eternity in which the gods refreshed aging Pharaohs, which further symbolized the Pharaohs unity with the gods. Thoth was the representative of RA, (Sun God.) Thoth’s symbol was the Moon. Thoth’s female counterpart was Seshat, who’s symbol was the stars.
The Djed Pillar is also symbolic of the Tree of Life, used in Architecture. It is associated with the Osirian resurrection story. Osiris (God of Fertility) was seduced by his brother Set (God of Chaos) to lie down in a beautiful wooden chest. Set immediately closed it and threw it into the Nile. It floated down the Nile and across the sea until it was deposited at the foot of a Sycamore, Tamarisk or Acacia tree. As the tree grew, it enclosed Osiris within its trunk. The tree was cut down and used as a pillar in the palace of the King of Byblos in Syria.
Isis, (Goddess of magic, creation and fertility) retrieved the pillar and with the help of Thoth (God of Wisdom) she was able to breathe life into her brother/husband Osiris. Isis magically became pregnant by Osiris and bore their son Horus (God of the Horizon, the All Seeing Eye, the right eye is the Sun, the left eye is the moon.) After the birth of Horus, Set cut Osiris’s body into many pieces which where spread across Egypt. Isis gathered all of the pieces together and again with the help of Thoth she brought Osiris’s soul back to his dead body. The Djed Pillar is a symbol of Osiris as a Pillar/Tree of Life. The Djed Pillar was used in architecture and as an amulet representing Osiris’s backbone or spine.
This myth of resurrection and rebirth made Osiris the Egyptian God of Resurrection and the Underworld. Thoth became the wise scribe who held the keys to the Tree of Life.
Hathor, Nut and Isis were all given the name, “Lady of the Sycamore Tree.” All three are seen as a mother Goddess. The Sycamore provides a milky substance that can sustain life, which is also given to the dead in the afterlife.
Nut/Nu was later depicted as the Tree of Life swallowing RA (Sun) and protecting the earth from chaos during the night to rebirth RA in the morning. Her back created a barrier from chaos that protected earth. Ra is the Solar Disk.
Nut provided life in the form of milk from her breasts and fruit and sap from her body. Later Nut was assimilated with the Goddess Mut, Isis and Hathor as the World Mother and Eye of RA. “She who gives birth but was not herself born of any.” Her symbols were; a tree, a cow (Hathor), a vulture and the moon. Eventually Isis became the name that represented the mothering essence of wisdom and creation that spread out to the world.
70 BCE – Cleopatra VII ruled ancient Egypt as co-regent for almost three decades. She became the last in a dynasty of Macedonian rulers founded by Ptolemy, who served as general under Alexander the Great during his conquest of Egypt in 332 B.C. Well-educated and clever, Cleopatra could speak various languages and served as the dominant ruler in all three of her co-regencies. Her romantic liaisons and military alliances with the Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, as well as her supposed exotic beauty and powers of seduction, earned her an enduring place in history and popular myth. Cleopatra saw herself as the embodiment of Isis.
On August 12, 30 B.C., after burying Mark Antony, Cleopatra closed herself in her chamber with two of her female servants. Plutarch and other writers advanced the theory that she used a poisonous snake known as an asp, a symbol of divine royalty. According to her wishes, Cleopatra’s body was buried with Antony’s. Octavian/Augustus Caesar, celebrates his conquest of Egypt and the consolidation of power in Rome.
Cleopatra’s Needle is the name shared by three ancient Egyptian obelisks – one in New York City, one in London, and one in Paris. However, each comes from a different Egyptian site and none may have been built in honor of Cleopatra. The obelisks were constructed in 1450 BC in the city of Heliopolis for the Pharoah Thutmose III (1481-1425 BC). They are 68 feet (21m) tall. All three obelisks are inscribed with hieroglyphs glorifying Ramses II.
The Tree of Life is interwoven within Egyptian history, mythology, art and architecture. It represents the oneness of our personal and collective soul.
The Tree of Life has forever been in plain sight for all to see and know.