Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tree of Life

The Sacred Grove by John Telford

This is a highly-stylized, abstract, minimalist tree. I wanted to buy green and brown tempera paint to create a tree-like background but the nearest craft store is 15 miles away and I have not able to use my car for awhile as it needs repairs and the local Target doesn’t sell any suitable paint…but there are trees composing the display board and in the paper that the images were printed on and the paradox of constructing a Tree of Life out of the death of so many trees saddens me which is why I have been an activist for the freedom to grow industrial hemp, in the past, and also worked for the East Bay Depot for Creative Re-use in Berkeley, which is where I would have obtained my materials had I been able to.


The roots of the tree are formed by pre-historic goddesses. They represent my ethnic roots in Europe, the Mediterranean, the Near East, and the Americas. From left to right:

Mexican Moon Goddess, Tlazolteotl giving birth to herself as “the old moon gives birth to the new.” Taken from Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor’s The Great Cosmic Mother, page 169.

Owl Goddess, grave stelae, Aveyron, France, from Sjoo/Mor, Great Cosmic Mother, page 83.

“Pregnant Goddess with Hands on Her Belly,” Achilleion, Thessaly, Greece. From Gimbutas’ Language of the Goddess, page 140, figure 218.

Inanna, from Wolkstein and Kramer’s Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer. Notice she is holding a leafy tree-branch.

Double Goddess with Egg-shaped Buttocks from Lespugue, France. From Gimbutas’ Language of the Goddess page 163, figure 252.

The Venus of Laussel, Dordogne, France. From Sjoo/Mor’s Great Cosmic Mother, page 83.

Mexican Winged Goddess. Terra Cotta from Pre-Columbian Colima culture. From Sjoo/Mor’s Great Cosmic Mother, page 224.

The trunk of the tree (from bottom to top) is composed of the following images:

“The Gumelnita Lovers,” conjoined female and male terra cotta statuette. According to Gimbutas, possibly portrays a sacred marriage. Gumelnita tell, lower Danube, Southern Romania, East Balkan Karanovo culture, circa 5000 B.C.E. From Gimbutas’ The Living Goddess, page 18.

“The Shiloh-Dynasty of the Holy Grail,” (Mormon artist) James C. Christensen, 2005, acrylic on board, taken from Dynasty of the Holy Grail by Vern G. Swanson.

Joseph and Emma Smith, founders of the Mormon tradition.

The canopy of foliage is composed of four of Mormonism’s sacred trees:

The grove of trees above Joseph and Emma (bottom-center of the tree canopy) is what Mormons term The Sacred Grove, where Joseph Smith experienced the initial theophany which launched the Mormon tradition. Photo of the same name by John Telford, taken from the Fall 2005 BYU Magazine.

The L.D.S. Church’s Oakland Temple, in the far upper-left, is a place where I have spent a great deal of time since I was born. The towers in the front are all adorned with the universal tree of life.

In the far upper-right, the painting of a family tree, “Genealogy,” by Mormon artist, Theodore Gorka. Taken from the Ensign, October 2006.

In the top-center, a painting based on an account of a vision of the Tree of Life in The Book of Mormon, “A Vision of the Tree of Life” by Carol Lind, watercolor on parchment. From the Ensign, January 2004.

Mormon scholar Daniel Peterson says that the tree represents the Goddess. See Nephi and his Asherah by Daniel C. Peterson

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