Yaagchei: tree of life

Size: 80x150cm; 2.6x5ft 

Materials ans methods: criollo sheep wool hand dyed with aniline dyes. Handwoven on a Zapotec style loom of the 16th century adapted from European styles. Woven using a 7 threads per inch reed. 

Rug traded from vendors from San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca. Unknown weaver. 

This rug is inspired in the ancient understanding of the tree of life common to many cultures around the world. The ancient cosmology of the Anawak people teaches that the universe was split in two parts to create the current world, the goddess Cipactli was pulled by the brothers Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca to make the earth and the sky and in order to keep them from collapsing again they planted four trees in each corner of the world with a central tree in the middle.
For the Mayans, this tree is called Ya'ax'che which is a ceiba tree that has nine levels in the branches of the sky, four levels in the existential plane of the earth (as in the four directions) and nine levels in the underworld; the total number of realms is thirteen. 
In Benizaa culture we have also have a Ceiba species of tree from which our spirit is tethered to in the sky before we are born and under which we are buried to start our journey back to the sky after our mortal dream. My grandfather used to say that on the earth we should walk the path of the warrior, always doing our best to uplift our spirit and transform the earthly matter into beautiful art. The only true time to rest is when we are resting under the shade of the Yaag Chei (tree of life).
The tree of life was represented in Ancient times with a cosmic bird sitting on top of it and a snake or crocodile in its roots at the base of the trunk. This duality represents the original two aspects of creation, the sky energy and the earthly one. In his book the Cosmic Tree, Frank Desmedt describes the 'Astronical' explanation of this duality. The Mayans made precise observations of how the galaxy appeared in the Sky, to the south it points to the Serpent constellation and to the north to the Canis Major which in our cultures has the shape of a Macaw bird.
Native cultures have developed a fine understanding of Bird language to communicate with the spirit world and also to read their landscape in fine ways. In our cosmology it is a Macaw bird that guide our people to a perfect land where we have settled now, the  village is situated at the foothills of the Northern Mother Sierra that provides access to the forest and its riches but also protects from hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, the elders describe certain birds as having the function of "gathering clouds" as the rainy season approaches. We have had birdwatchers stay at our home and go on hikes to count more than 200 species of birds. Our ecosystems attract hundreds of species of migratory birds from all over the northern hemisphere all the way from Alaska. It wouldn't be a surprise if through bird watching and understanding birdlanguage one could figure out the migration routes that our ancestors took, I would love to retrace their steps one day. I got inspired by the tales an instructor told us about the San Bush people being able to tell that there was a Lion walking towards the southwest just by paying attention to bird language. 
Our grandparents always also oberved ans studied the night sky. I remember, my grandmother always making predictions about the rain pattern by looking at the position of the stars and the tilt of the milky way. In fact, the word for Milky way in Benizaa language is the same word for corn plant, this is because the growth of our corn plants is intimately joined with the subtle astronomical phenomena in the sky.
So in this light, we cannot ever just talk about the earth alone, we must remember that the tree of life has its branches in the heavens and roots in the underworld. When you see the Serpent descending on the steps of the Chichen Itza sacred site, it is announcing the beginning of the rainy season, just like the snake like lightning storms that prelude the big rains. The rains permeate the earth and sprout the seeds of life and this water will travel to the depth of underground rivers and water tables only to evaporate again and complete the water cycle. Every aspect of the ancient world was cyclical and had a reason to be; from the heavens, the surface world and the underworld. With respects to the current world situation, we have come at a time in history where we need to radically transform our way of life to respect and restore the life support systems of the earth. What aspects of our live need to be buried underground and be transformed into a new way of life? May we transition from an ecocidal modernity to a restorative society that seeks the elevation of the human spirit and needs to focus more on the immaterial aspects of life that make our lives more worth living. During this great slowdown of the industrial and economic machinery we are turning back to slow, small and sustainable living. We are seeing a great rebalancing of nature's energy flows. This virus doing some work for the underworld, like the great crocodile monster that takes our dead bodies to the lord and lady of the underworld. Like the composting of nutrients that will allow other seeds to be reborn. May the earth heal and may the cosmic awareness of our higher purpose in life transforms our society towards the great rebalancing of the forces of life so that the tree of life can sustain the sky world and the underworld and prevent them from collapsing. 


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