Mother Tree

In no other place on earth were deities so closely associated with their trees as in ancient Egyptian mythology and eschatology, Trees of Life upon which an external god later attached “forbidden fruit” as his rationale for humanity’s exile from Eden. Trees in ancient Egypt were revered as sacred, and regarded as the organic dominion of ancient female sky deities whose role included facilitating the passage of the soul [ba] into the afterlife. The sycamore [nehet] became perhaps the most important of Egyptian sacred trees which include the date palm; acacia; and persea or ished tree. Although male deities were mythically connected to sacred trees and the wooden coffins that transported them to the afterlife, they were never identified with the trees themselves. Often planted near tombs, the sycamore represented the womb to which the departed were returned, sometimes in coffins made from the wood of this Mother Tree. Goddess Hathor and Nut in particular – as anthropomorphic Mother Trees – were depicted connecting the worlds: heaven/underworld… above/below… within/without… now/hereafter…

One ancient version of King Ausar’s mythology tells of his body becoming enclosed in the trunk of a sacred tree. Ausar had been tricked by his brother Set into entering a wooden chest which was promptly sealed and disposed of in the Nile River, becoming Ausar’s coffin. Set, who had been jealous of Ausar’s successful Heaven-on-Earth reign, thereafter usurped the Egyptian throne as Ausar’s coffin ran aground and became merged with the sacred tree at Byblos. The King of Byblos, not knowing that Ausar’s body was contained within, ordered that the tree be cut down and installed in his palace as a pillar. Upon learning of this outcome, Ausar’s widow – Throne Goddess, Queen Auset – gained permission from the King of Byblos to extract her deceased husband’s body from the heart of the sacred tree/pillar.

It’s been said that this version of the Ausar-Auset mythology and eschatology gave rise to the Egyptian concept of the Djed Pillar – a sacred symbol of strength that represents Ausar’s backbone. The Djed Pillar simultaneously epitomizes the powerful support by which the sky-goddess as Mother Tree operates by extending favor to her chosen, and providing them guidance on their destined path. Pyramid Text 825a-d states: “Thy mother Nut has spread over thee in order that she may protect thee from all evil. Nut has protected thee from all evil, because thou art the greatest among her children.” The tree which was said to be sacred to Heru is mentioned in Pyramid Text 436a-b: “Horus who comes forth from the acacia to whom it was commanded: ‘Beware of the lion’. May he come forth to whom it was commanded: ‘Beware of the lion’.” 

From the creation story of Heliopolis [called On in Lower Egypt], we learn that Nut is mother to Ausar, Auset, Set and Nephthys – each of whom represent different archetypical roles in the theater of human journeying and ascension. From the 18th Dynasty, Nut was portrayed on the inner ceiling and later on all sides of coffins, so the dead would rest in her complete embrace. Ausar, “the greatest among her children,” epitomizes the masculine archetype of the King, whereas Set represents the low-frequency shadow of chaos and oppression which Ausar must rise above in order to restore Heaven-on-Earth aka The Golden Era. Of Queen Auset it was written: “She brings him to the great throne which is made by the gods, which is made by Horus, which Thoth has produced. Isis has received him; Nephthys has taken care of him; he has taken his seat on the great throne which is made of the gods” [Pyramid Texts 1153b-1154b].

Commonly depicted as a mortuary goddess besides Nut was Goddess Hathor who was known as Lady of the Southern Sycamore… Mistress of the Necropolis… and Lady of the West [where the sun goes to rest before rising again in the east]. However, Hathor was often additionally portrayed as the Goose That Laid the Golden/Cosmic Egg with a lotus plant wrapped around Her neck. This associated Hathor with the older creation story of Hermopolis [called Khmunu in Upper Egypt, meaning “the city of eight” or Ogdoad – 4 goddesses and their male consorts] in which Amun-Re was the Bird of Light (Bennu or Phoenix in several interpretations) who emerged from the Golden Egg at the Nile River cradle to create the World as His Heaven-on-Earth. Hermopolis – “city of Hermes” (Greek god with mercurial trickster tendencies) – was a major cult center of God Djehuti/Thoth (Khemetic masculine archetype of the Magician… consort of Ma’at) who decreed of the Nile Valley Mysteries he’d helped conjure: “If the truth must be told, this land is indeed the Temple of the World.”

According to Marie-Louise Buhl, The Papyrus of Ani confirms the original eastern horizon location of the sycamore[s] – the World Tree or Axis Mundi of Creation’s initial rising as the sun [Re] from the Golden/Cosmic Egg of the Goose [Hathor]. The Book of the Dead [Ch. 109] declares: “I know the two sycamores of turquoise between which Re comes forth, when he passes over the supports of Shu to the gate of the lord of the east from which Re comes forth.” The two sycamore Mother Trees are identified with Nut and/or Hathor: “Hail thou sycamore of Nut, give thou to me of (the water and of) the air which are in thee. I embrace this throne in Heliopolis. I guard the egg of the great cackler. It grows, I grow. It lives, I live. It snuffs the air, I snuff the air… I the Osiris Ani, triumphant.” [Ch. 59 – Book of the Dead]

Hathor’s name [Hwt.Hr] means the “House of Heru,” or “Mother of Heru” – i.e. mother as the house of her child. As Hwt.Hr, Hathor represents the divine feminine fertility aspect of Auset, which includes her nursing of the divine child – hence Her alternate depictions as divine cow [Milky Way… Nile waters… Maziwa Mkuu…]. Heru – whom Christianity’s Madonna-Child interpretation presents as Jesus – evolves to become the masculine archetype of the Warrior who avenges Set’s coffin-ment of his father Ausar. Heru eventually wins back the Heaven-on-Earth throne on behalf of a World that’s been disordered under Set‘s illegitimate, self-serving matrix system (slavery, colonialism, apartheid…). As “Lady of the Southern Sycamore” and “She who remembers Heru,” Hathor uses the milk from Her tree to restore sight to Heru after one of his bruising battles against Set, hence facilitating the restoration of Ma’at – truth, justice, balance, and divine order – and refinement of sight (Heru‘s “3rd-eye” vision) within Her organic/authentic dominion as the Mother Tree. “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set.” [Song of Songs 5:12 KJV]

“The high places bring him to the places of Seth and to that high sycamore of the eastern sky when it has bent down (its branches) on which the gods are.” [Pyramid Text 916a-b] Heaven-on-Earth is the collaborative universe that is in a process of ascension between divine feminine and masculine forces. The Mother Tree is nature’s connective structure, nurturing guide, and organic portal between worlds as the soul journeys through its human experience and challenge to rise above Set‘s low-frequency agendas. The Mother Tree herself is challenged in the latter-day Garden of Eden narrative, where her fruits were made symbolic of feminine “evil/guile/temptation,” while her sacred role in this patriarchal/homo-social rendering was turned into a sacrament of communion involving the flesh and blood of a male savior and self-declared portal: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the father but by me” [John 14:6 KJV]… the olive tree whose natural branches are said to represent Jewish people, as opposed to grafted-on “Gentile” branches [Romans 11: 11-24]. 

The ankh – ancient Egyptian ‘key of life’ – reminds us symbolically of the shared narrative between complementary forces, both divine in their masculine and feminine roles of begetting, caregiving, and awakening to truth. A proverb from the Luxor Temple says: The best and shortest road towards knowledge of truth is Nature. When departed souls show up in ancient Egyptian depictions as ba-birds who eat and drink of the Mother Tree’s bounty, they remain organically aligned with her natural sovereign role as divine feminine who brings seed [masculine] to life/resurrection and is its source of nourishment. “Hail thou Sycamore who protects the god under which the gods of the underworld are standing.” [Pyramid Text 1485a]

9 Comments on “Mother Tree

  1. One of the first (and last) trips I went on with a beloved was Memphis (TN) – and I read somewhere “Memphis” was also the location of the Auset – Ausar mythology too. Thank you for sharing this story. This is more complete version than the one I read.

    • Isn’t it interesting how ancient Egyptian “mysteries” show up in our modern-day? During my undergrad days, I went on a choir performance tour in Memphis (TN), but wasn’t woke enough then to make the connection to origins. I’m learning that creation stories & mythologies arose in different Nile Valley centers, including Memphis where Ptah (modern-day “Oscar” statue look-alike) was the god of artists, picture-makers & craftsmen. Things that make me go “hmmm…” 🤔 Nice to hear from you 🙂 Stay well. M

      • I think on some level the mythologies & figures must all interconnect, kind of like different characters & s/hero-villain roles that play out in the theater of life as on the silver screen. Maybe [in a higher universe] Ptah represents the “controlling narrative” in some way, while Ausar-Auset play a leading role as love-interests whose relationship has to overcome Set the antagonist’s challenges… Don’t let me get started 🤣😂

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