Axis Mundi – Cosmic Axis In Legends, Folklore And Myths

David Tee - AncientPages.com - There are many names that describe the nature and function of the axis mundi. It is known as the world pillar, cosmic axis, or more obviously the center of the world. These are but a few of the names that describe a belief that is found in all cultures around the world.

To keep the definition simple, axis mundi just means where heaven meets the earth. This idea that there is a place where heaven and earth meet is not limited by geography or religious beliefs.

Axis Mundi - Cosmic Axis In Legends, Folklore And Myths

The importance of the axis mundi is communication. It is this point where many humans think they can communicate directly with their celestial gods. It is also the point where humans can receive blessing from their gods.

The interesting fact about the axis mundi is that it is not restricted to just one point on earth. Multiple points can be seen as the axis mundi all at the same time. It is also not limited to one specific geographical point, or earthly design.

Mountains Can Be The Axis Mundi

Mountains are one of the more popular points where the ancients believed the earth connected to heaven. For the Sioux Indians in Dakota, the Black Hills were their center of the earth.

The Japanese held that Mt. Fuji was the actual connection. For the Chinese it was a mythical mountain called Mount Kunlun, while the Hindus of India believed that it was both Mount Meru and Mount Kailash. Mount Meru is located in India and Mount Kailash is found in Tibet.

The Greeks believed that Mt. Olympus was the connection between heaven and earth and they had other sacred places of earth's Omphalos (navel). However, they had other sacred sites of earth's omphalos (navel). These people maintained a belief in a cosmic world tree; Mt Olympus was the abode of the gods and as the oracle at Delphi, allowed direct communication with the gods

The Aztecs held that Machu Picchu was the spiritual center of the world and built their own village there for better access to their spiritual gods. Mountains come with a special quality all their own as they are perceived to be strong, majestic and their height makes them close to heaven.

Axis Mundi: The Legends, the Folklore & the Myths

Mount Kailash, depicting the holy family: Shiva and Parvati, cradling Skanda with Ganesha by Shiva's side. Credit: Public Domain

We can add the temple mount to this list due to the resurrection story in the Bible and Mohammad’s rise to heaven. The spiritual beliefs play a great role in how early civilizations viewed the axis mundi.

Geographical Locations Are Not Disqualified

Countries and cities were often depicted as axis mundi. Whether it is ego or religious belief is sometimes hard to tell. Both the Chinese and the ancient Egyptians felt that their kingdoms were the center of the earth and had special connections to the heavens.

On an early medieval map, the city of Jerusalem was placed in the center of the world with each continent coming out of it like a spoke in a wheel. The Muslims hold that the city of Mecca has the special connection to the celestial world.

Buildings Were Not Ignored

The flexibility of the axis mundi did not stop with natural  formations or geographical locations. The ancient Sumerians and Babylonians held that buildings could connect with the heavens and built ziggurats to prove their point. These artificial mountains were designed specifically for communication and attachment to the celestial world above.

The Khmer of early Cambodia built Angor Wat for the same reasons. The design of the temple mirrored mount Meru adding to the idea that Angor Wat was a special place to connect and communicate with the gods.

Axis Mundi: The Legends, the Folklore & the Myths

Mount Meru

It would seem that geography played a role in how an axis mundi was created. Cambodia, Sumer and Babylon are not known as mountainous countries or having very high mountains. Replacements had to be made to make up for this void of ownership of such an important part of human life and culture.

Nature Can Be Considered To Be An Axis Mundi

Norse mythology leads us to their belief that one tree, Yggdrasil holds 9 different worldly systems. Then the pathway could have no visible shape and Shamans were thought to have the power to travel to different worlds to learn how to heal, gain wisdom and retrieve souls.

Not to be left out, many people consider the human body to be able to have this special connection to the celestial realms. In the chakra traditions of both Hinduism and Buddhism the human body is seen as a pillar or temple.

This design enabled the adherents to conclude that meditation and prayer would allow a person to leave their bodies and commune with the spirits. The idea that the human body is an axis mundi can also be seen in the Christian faith.

Yggdrasil: Eternal And Sacred Tree Of Life In Norse Mythology

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The book of Hebrews, chapter 8 verse 10 says- For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people

The Christian does not leave their body, but they have a connection to God through God’s direct actions.  Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian man, yoga and even Tai Chi contribute to the idea that the human body is a conduit for communication with spiritual worlds that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

The Form Of The Axis Mundi

As can be seen it does not matter what form the axis mundi takes on. It also does not matter what name it is given. Whatever as considered to be the connection point between heaven and earth was elevated to a special status. This status led the ancient people to revere those points and elevate them to sacred nature.

See also:

Omphalos – Mysterious Ancient Sacred Object And Its Meaning

Towering Sacred Mt. Fuji: Abode Of The Immortals In Ancient Japanese Beliefs

Mysterious Mount Kailash: Secrets Of The Man-Made Pyramid And Entrance To The City Of The Gods

Legendary Mount Penglai Where The Eight Immortals Reside

More Myths And Legends

The axis mundi provided a purpose to their lives, one where they could go and reach out to the gods, communicate with them and learn more. The axis mundi helped define who they were as a person and as a group of people.

It helped them relate to the world around them when they came in contact with other nations. It gave them hope that there was something more than just a single life on earth.

Written by – David Tee AncientPages.com Staff Writer

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Expand for references

Frank Desmedt - The Cosmic Tree

Mircea Eliade - Symbolism of the Centre' in Images and Symbols