Along with myths describing the origin of the world, its schematic symbolic representation appears. Many nations, especially Indo-Europeans, have the notion of the World-Tree. Some nations call it the Cosmic Tree or the Life-Tree. The vertical structure of the World-Tree, and thence the world model, as represented in the Lithuanian folk painting, was analysed in detail by Dundulienò, and Vòlius. The World-Tree usually is shown as a powerful tree with wide spread branches, with its top reaching heaven and its roots going deep into the earth. The tree-top is the dwelling place of heavenly bodies and eagles, while in its branches other birds live; under the tree are men and animals and, still lower, is the dwelling place of snakes and other reptiles. From under the roots spurt springs of life and wisdom. Thus, the World-Tree represents the world as an indivisible entity, uniting the three spheres: the heaven, the earth and the underground. The mythical imagery of the Baltic World-Tree is probably a reflection of the holly oaks and ash-trees, as it may be concluded from the falk-tales.
The World-Tree is a widely spread image in the Lithuanian folk painting, and some hint of it is also found in the Lithuanian and Latvian folklore. It is frequently engraved or painted on the objects of daily use among peasants: dowry chests, cupboards, towel holders, distaffs, laundry beaters, crochet works, etc. Wood engravings of the World-Tree sometimes contain two segmental symbols of the Sun, surrounded by a circle of stroked squares, triangles and rhombs. The latter are symbolic imagery of tilled earth and sowed fields. The upper Sun shines in the daytime and gives warmths, while the lower one was believed to cross the underground lagoon from the west to the east in a small boat, bringing dew to grass and crops.
The oldest grave monuments in Lithuania are wooden kriktai, made from a board incised in the form of a tree. They used to be erected at the dead man's feet, perhaps in a hope to make his access to the heaven easier. To the World-Tree imagery belong Lithuanian memorial crosses and wooden roofed poles (chapels), also. Such roofed poles used to be (and still are to our day) erected at farm-steads, roadsides and cemeteries. They may have originated from the ancient ritual poles at which sacrifices were offered to gods. The idea of such sacral objects is to direct the path of the prayer towards the dwellings of gods. Very common are three-storied roofed poles, where each storey represents a separate sphere of the World-Tree.
Every pole has the following elements: (a) a metal top with the symbols of heavenly bodies; (b) a small chapel with a wooden statuette of a god; and (c) the lower part of the pole framed by snake-shaped supports. The dwellings for Samogitian (a Lithuanian ethnic group that lives in western Lithuania near the coast of the Baltic sea) gods used to be erected on top of a pile of stones or fixed to a separate huge round boulder. The stone was a symbolic border between the living world and the undeground world of the dead.
The upper part of every roofed pole is a filigree forge-work with symbols of heavenly bodies. In this symbolism we can distinguish the following ideas: the unity of the heavenly and earthly fire (the encircled cross); the ties between the Sun and vegetation (the sun rays ending in plant leaves); and the flow of time (the three phases of the Moon). Below the symbol of the Sun there is an image of the boat in which the Sun, having set in the Baltic sea in the evening, goes back from the west to the east, across the underground lagoon, in order to rise again in the morning for another day's journey across the sky.
Cosmology is the belief that of the structure of the universe and the system that compose creation words [sic], cosmology is the nature of the universe. One of the techniques shamans hold is to pass from one cosmic region to another -- from earth to the sky or from earth to the underworld. Shamans are able to break through the plane between different worlds, or cosmic zones. The Shaman believes that the universe is thought to have three levels: sky, earth, underworld, all of which are connected by a central axis. This type of symbolism shows the connection of the three worlds to be simple but the interconnection is very complex. It has a history, but due to modification and new symbolism it may have contradictions. However, the central idea remains the same. It still is composed of three worlds and a central axis which goes through an "opening" or hole. This "opening," the soul of the shaman is ecstasy, can fly either up or down during the course of his celestial journeys. The gods can either come down to the dead in the underworld or down to earth.
In many world tribes the people imagine the sky as a tent. The Yukat tribe believes the stars are the windows of the world which provide fresh air for all planets. The meteors are explained as a time when the gods open the tent to look at the earth. The sky is also seen as a lid. Sometimes the lid does not reach to all the corners of the earth and then the fret winds blow through the cracks. It is also thought that through this narrow crack that heroes and other important beings can make their way through to enter the sky.
In the middle of the sky shines the Polar Star which holds the celestial tent like a stake. The Samoyen tribe refers to it as the "Sky Nail." It has also been called the "Nail Star," "Iron Pillar," and "Solar Pillar." A similar and related mythical image is that the stars are linked invisibly to the Polar Star. The Buryat picture the stars as a herd of horses and the Polar Star, the "Pillar of the World," as the stake to which they are tethered. (Elaide 261)
The Cosmic Mountain is another mythical image of the center of the world. It is said that the first shaman, Bai Ulgan, is seated on top of the mountain. The mountain is also known as the Iron Mountain and is pictured to have seven stories. The Cosmic Mountain makes the connection between the earth and sky. When the Yukat shaman takes his mystical journey, he climbs the mountain. The Buyrat say that the Polar Star is fastened to its summit. The gods grasped this Cosmic Mountain and stirred the primordial ocean, giving birth to the universe.
A future shaman may climb the Cosmic Mountain during his initiatory sickness. Ascending the mountain always signifies a journey to the Central World. Another image is that of the Center of the World, which has been presented in many ways. One image is the World Tree.
The Cosmic Tree is essential to the shaman. He makes his ceremonial drum from the wood of the tree. Its branches reach to the palace of Bai Ulgan. In the legends of the Abakan Tatars, a white birch with seven branches grows on the summit of the Iron Mountain. The gods use the tree as a hitching post for their horses, as they do the Pillar of the World. (Elaide 270)
The tree also connects the three cosmic regions. The Lreibe, called the Vasyugan-Ostuyak, believe that its branches touch the sky and its roots go down into the world. According to Siberian Tartars, a replica of the celestial tree stands in the underworld. A fir tree stands before the palace of Irle Kan, the King of the Dead. The King's sons also hitch their horses to the trunk of the tree.
The World Tree represents many things. On one hand, it represents the universe in continual regeneration. The continual spring of cosmic life, and a reservoir for the saved. It also represents the sky or the heavens, which are very important to the Siberian shamans. The tree is also seen as the Tree of Life and Immortality.
The Tungus say that before birth, the souls of little children perch on the branches of the Cosmic Tree. The shamans go there to find them in their initiatory dreams.
There is disagreement as to whether the Balts pictured the world as consisting of two regions or of three. The two-region hypothesis seems to be more plausible and is supported by a dualism found frequently in the dainas: si saule (literally "this sun") and vina saule (literally "the other sun"). The metaphor si saule symbolizes ordinary everyday human life, while vina saule indicates the invisible world where the sun goes at night, which is also the abode of the dead.
The evidence does not show conclusively whether this world is located in the direction of the setting sun or under the earth, beneath which the sun travels back to the east. The sky is considered to be a mountain, sometimes of stone, and is the residence of the sky gods. Saule rides over the sky in a chariot drawn by a varying number of horses, Meness rides to be married, and Perkons (Latvian; Lithuanian Perkunas; "Thunderer") makes weapons and jewelry in the sky.
The concept that Saule, unseen during the night, makes her way from west to east under the earth so that she can start her course anew over the sky mountain is also familiar. It is also possible to see here the ancient idea of a world ocean on which the earth, as a round plate, swims, an idea that has disappeared under the influence of Christianity.
The notion of a sun tree, or world tree, is one of the most important concepts regarding the cosmos. This tree grows at the edge of the path of Saule, and the setting sun (Saule) hangs her belt on the tree in preparation for rest. It is usually considered to be an oak but is also described as a linden or some other kind of tree. The tree is said to be located in the middle of the world ocean or generally to the west.
The Baltic words Latvian dievs, Lithuanian dievas, and Old Prussian deivas are etymologically related to the Indo-European deiuos; among others, the Greek Zeus is derived from the same root. It originally meant the physical sky, but already in Old Indian and other religions the sky became personified as an anthropomorphic deity. Dievs, the pre-Christian Baltic name for God, was used by Christian missionaries (and still is) to denote the Christian God. The etymology of the word indicates that the Balts preserved its oldest forms, which is also true of the functions and attributes of the personified Baltic sky god Dievs, who lives on his farmstead on the sky mountain but does not participate in the work of the farm. Importantly, Dievs is a bridegroom who rides together with the other gods to a sky wedding in which his bride is Saule. Dievs' family is a later development; in the family, Dieva deli ("God's Sons") play the primary role. Thus Dievs is pictured as the father of a family of sky gods. Besides such anthropomorphic characteristics, another characteristic that gives Dievs a universal significance may be observed: he appears as the creator of order in the world on the one hand, and as the judge and guardian of moral law on the other. From time to time he leaves the sky mountain and actively takes part in the everyday life of the farmers below. His participation in various yearly festivals is vividly described. In spite of this, the Baltic Dievs is similar to the Old Indian Dyaus, the Greek Zeus, and other personifications of the sky. Such divinities have a tendency, in comparison with other gods of their religions, to recede into a secondary role.
The classic worldview of shamanism is found among the peoples of northern Asia. In their view the universe is full of heavenly bodies peopled by spiritual beings. Their own world is disk-shaped--saucerlike--with an opening in the middle leading into the Netherworld; the Upper World stands over the Central World, or Earth, this world having a manyfold vault. The Earth, or Central World, stands in water held on the back of a colossal monster that may be a turtle, a huge fish, a bull, or a mammoth. The movement of this animal causes earthquakes. The Earth is surrounded by an immense belt. It is connected with the Upper World by the Pillar of the World. The Upper World consists of several strata--3, 7, 9, or 17. On the navel of the Earth stands the Cosmic Tree, which reaches up to the dwelling of the upper gods.
The religious concepts of the Hungarians from the Time of the Conquest, which were formed during their long stay in the euro-asian Steppes, were not dogmatic in nature but had more to do with shamanic faiths. According to shamanism, the world is divided into three levels : the middle one corresponds to our world, the highest level is inhabited by the gods and the spirits which rule the universe, and the lower level consists of the obscure world of the dead and the kingdom of the evil spirits. These levels are connected to each other by a magic tree, the "Tree of Life" or "Cosmic Tree", whose roots descend into the inferior world and whose highest branches reach the superior world.
The shaman, who possessed special powers and knowledge useful in obtaining benevolance and assistance from the other world, assured communication between man and the gods (spirits).
Finally, here is a depiction from Baluchistan of their legend of The Cosmic Tree. Unfortunately, I did not think to save the exact URL. Compare the number of "steps" on the "Stairway To Heaven" here with those of the Korean Crown and the crude Mayan drawing pictured below. In the Baluchistan drawing there are 9, in the Korean Crown there are 7, and in the crude Mayan drawing there are 13. Why this difference in interpretation? It is impossible to know. Rob