by Eric Whollem
earth paints in polvinyl resin on panel
3' x 4'
Collection of the artist
COPYRIGHT BY THE ARTIST
THE WORLD TREE
Yggdrasil is the name of the cosmic tree from Scandinavian
mythology. The 'world tree' is an international archetype. It appears
in many cultures with many variations across the globe. It is said
that the world tree concept as it appears in Hindu art may have
originated in the same Aryan cultural mileau as the arts of Scandinavia.
In fact one might conjecture that the origins of the world tree concept
go back at least as far as the Gilgamesh Epic from Mesopotamia.
In this ancient story Gilgamesh is a hero who descends to the bottom
of the sea to procure the Gaokerena, the sacred Oxhorn Tree, said to
have magical healing powers. Gaokerena became the Haoma of
Aryan mythology, which later appeared as the Soma of the Hindus.
Soma, was said to be a red creeper, a plant that grows today in the
Himalayas. A tea from this plant is lauded in the 'Rig Veda' as the source
of God realization.
Thus my image of a version of Yggdrasil as a tree that is reminiscent to
a degree of the palm trees of Sumeria is not too far afield. Were the
red leaves in the border of my painting a precognitive association to the
leaves of Soma? I was not consciously aware of the Mesopotamian and
Aryan roots of Yggdrasil at the time that I painted this work.
Some might say that Yggdrasil is an image from the collective unconscious
of humanity; this would be the Jungian view.
THE SCANDINAVIAN ICONOGRAPHY OF THE WORLD TREE
In the painting above I have taken many visual liberties with the
Scandinavian version of the story. I have made the Midgard Serpent
into a cadeucus, or dual coiled serpent. My version of the tree is wholly
fantastical in character, not based on any image from Nordic lore.
The border design is not derivative in any way from Scandinavian
sources; it is a creation of my own artistic imagination. In the original
story three stags are associated with the tree. In my image one sees
According to Norse legend the great tree is an ash tree. It is said
to have three huge roots; but the tree encompasses nine cosmic worlds.
The three Norns are seen watering the tree with their buckets.
In the branches of the tree are the animals of the world. An eagle
traditionally is seated at the top of the tree.
I have associated images of the Scandic Adam and Eve in a cameo
in the trunk of my Yggdrasil. Their names are Lif and Lifthrasir. They
are said in Icelandic lore to have been born on a beach at the beginning
Snorre was the great Icelandic poet who first wrote of Yggdrasil.
I have painted many paintings from earth and natural pigments gathered
in nature. The dark background color on this painting is from earth
gathered near Wagon Camp on the slopes of Mt. Shasta in northern
California. The beige pigment of the bark of the tree is volcanic pumice
The blue earth is from Butte County, California. It was procured from a
huge embankment near the Enterprise Bridge. The red leaves in the border
design are iron oxide paints from Butte County. The white leaves from the
crown of Yggdrasil are made from powdered white granite, gathered in
the Feather Falls area of Butte County.
Other pigments include pulverized sandstone from Pentz, California and gray
green earth from Forbestown Road not far from Feather Falls. Violet
pumice from Mt. Shasta colors the sacred serpent image in the center of
The links below may be helpful for those seeking more information on
Yggdrasil and on my earth painting process.
Readers may be interested in my posts on MYTHOLOGY:
See my articles on the COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS:
See my complete online image gallery of EARTH PAINTIGS:
CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE
by Eric Whollem
KING OF THE WOOD
by Eric Whollem
Learn more about YGGDRASIL:
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