Ceiba – Change
Genus: Ceiba – Family: Malvaceae
The ceiba or kapok tree represents a turning point in the trajectory of our life. This can feel chaotic because our world may seem to be spinning out of control. In fact, this is an opportunity to reset and make positive changes.
In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, Ceiba pendantra is seen as the most sacred tree of the Mayan people. It is known as ya’axche or the “Green Tree”. The ceiba was honored as the “First Tree” and home of the “gods”. Its large buttressed roots reach out in the four directions (east, south, west, north) like a giant wheel, anchoring the tree to the underworld. The elongated, visible trunk stands tall in the middleworld connecting earth to the sky. The branches create an umbrella-like canopy that extends up to the world of the stars. The ceiba tree is seen as the axis mundi or world tree that runs through the center of our earth from the south to north poles.
The ceiba tree is thought to stabilize earth within the chaotic and circular energy of the universe.
In Trinidad and Tabago folklore, a large Ceiba tree lives deep in the forest. It is said that a carpenter carved seven rooms into this cieba tree to trick the devil, where it has been imprisoned ever since. By capturing Bazil, the demon of death, others would be free to live.
The ceiba tree is a deciduous tree native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas and West Africa. It’s pink and white flowers produce fruit that release silky seeds that float in the air. The silky fiber of the ceiba seeds are used to stuff pillows and life preservers. This aspect of the ceiba speaks to its gentle spirit during times of great change.
There are 18 species of ceiba trees. The Kapok, Ceiba pentandra, is the best known and most widely cultivated ceiba. It can grow to 230 feet tall with a straight, almost branchless trunk that culminates in a sprawling canopy. The trunk of a young ceiba tree is covered in thick conical thorns that grow in clusters. These thorns create a natural defense during the early, more vulnerable stages of the trees life, which lasts approximately seven years. Seven is seen as the organizing number in a world of chaos.
The Maya reproduced its thorns on cylindrical burial urns to aid the soul during its transition from life to death and back into rebirth.
Message: The spirit of ceiba reminds us that nothing is constant except change. Even the best made plans can change due to unforeseen circumstances. This may signal a turning point in our life that could bring unexpected news. By embracing this time of change, we learn how to best use what is being offered to us. This is a chance to turn things around and seek new opportunities.
Challenge: Fatalism, misunderstanding our purpose and or feeling like a victim caught in an endless loop of trauma. Work with ceiba to climb above the stories to see the bigger picture.
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