world tree

world tree

Centre of the world, a widespread motif in myths and folktales among various peoples, especially in Asia, Australia, and North America. There are two main forms. In the vertical tradition, the tree extends between and connects earth, heaven, and the underworld; oracles, judgments, and other prophetic activities are performed at its base. In the horizontal tradition, the tree is planted at the centre of the world and is protected by supernatural guardians; it is the source of terrestrial fertility and life.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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