Trees of Life and the stories they tell...
article excerpted with permission by author Judy King
For several hundred years, select groups of central Mexican artisans have been crafting stories following the prototype of ancient arboles de la vida (trees of life.) The symbolism in the Mexican clay sculpture blends European and indigenous Mexican cultures into figures that recount ancient biblical stories as well as tales of modern people and situations. Before the turn of the 20th century, the small primitive candleholders were focused on the central theme of the creation or depicting the Garden of Eden. Once considered a symbol of fertility, the clay figurines were also believed to bring blessings to their owners. The Nordic people, the Celts and the Jews all used the mystical symbol to teach man's relationship to the earth and heavens. The Mexican trees of life send roots into the past, the under-world and to mother earth. They show man living in the center trunk area and then branch out to the future, to the after life, heaven and additional influences. Some ancient cultures used the tree of life to teach that as individuals contact earthly forces represented by the roots, they are also in touch with the heavenly powers of the branches. The tree enabled them to demonstrate the necessity for perfect harmony with both the visible and invisible worlds. During the past century, trees of life have evolved from stark primitive pieces into colorful, whimsical, works of art with endless joy, humor and accurate historical vignettes. During Mexico's history, trees of life have been created in other media as well. Beautiful 16th century paintings in museums throughout the land feature painted versions.

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