Axis Mundi

"Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all."

Mircea Eliade, 
Romanian historian of religion, writer, and university professor

"As above below"
Phrase above Penny Slinger's, the surrealist Tantra Artist, Ashram Home 
in California, where we had the pleasure to journey to August 2011.

Axis Mundi may be termed as also the cosmic world axis, world pillar, columna cerului,  navel of the world, center of the word, or world (axis) center.  Religion and ancient mythology describes the Axis Mundi as a connection with heaven and the Earth as celestial and/or geographic pole, expressing connection points between the sky and Earth inclusive of four compass directions.  Correspondence and travel between higher and lower, or above and below realms allow communication from the below to ascend to the above where blessings from the above or higher realms may, too, deescalate to the below realms for dissemination to all.  The navel functions may be termed as the  omphalos, the world's spot or point of all beginning.

The feminine depicts the umbilical chord for nourishment, opposing with the masculine phallus for insemination into a uterus.  The natural object for the phallic form involves a mountain, a tree, a vine, a stalk, a column of smoke or fire.  Also as a product of the human being, a staff, tower, ladder, staricase, maypole, cross, steeple, rope, totem pole, pillar, or a spire.  The proximity to heaven or the above carries religious implications such as the pagoda, temple mount, and church.  Secular implications may involve the obelisk, minaret, lighthouse, rocket, and skyscraper.  Although the Axis Mundi makes its appearances both in religious and secular contexts, the symbol itself is found in cultures utilizing shamanic practices or animist belief systems, in major world religions, even in technologically advanced urban situations and centers.

Symbolically, the Axis Mundi originated within a natural an universal psychological perception, meaning this space occupies and stands strong as "the center of the planetary world".  The spot exists as a microcosm or order remaining omniscient and settled in its state.  The microcosm has outside boundaries where foreign realms may be in various orders, often termed as unfamiliar, representing chaos, death, night.  The center of the microcosm allows one to venture into the four cardinal directions to discover and establish novice centers as new realms unfold into known and more settled states.  A "Middle Kingdom" known as China, the expression of ancient perception allows the Chinese polity, or group of polities to occupy a center on the planet.  Additional other lands in various directions remaining relative.  The central universe often depicts a mountain or such an elevated space, a place where earth and sky are close to status of the center, of the Axis Mundi.  Mountains, higher ones, can be regarded as sacred by the beings living amongst them.  Often shrines are erected from the base or summit.  

In Japanese culture the high mountain, Mount Fuji, symbolizes the world planetary axis.  Kun-Lun in China bears the same meaning in China, leaving Mount Zion for the ancient Hebrews, and the Black Hills as the Axis Mundi for the Sioux.  Mount Kailash in Hinduism and several cultures, often religious, in Tibet express the center in their symbols.  In central Australia the Pitjantjatjara beings have Uluru as the ancient Sumer and Babylon cultures in Mesopotamia created their erected and artificial mountain the ziggurats. Hindu temples in India strategically place temples on high mountains such as the Amarnath, Tirupati, and the Vaishno Devi.  Pre-Columbians of Teotihuacán in Mexico also erected their massive pyramids which feature staircases leading to a heaven.  There is the reference to Jacob's Ladder as an axis mundi visual at Temple Mount.  Christians refer to the Cross on Mount Calvary, and again Kun-Lun in middle kingdom ancient China as "the mountain at the middle of the world."

To go "into the mountains" is to dedicate one to a higher life, often spoken of as the spiritual life.  In monasteries of various faiths, shrines are placed at elevated places as wise teachers are often depicted in literary texts and in the arts bringing their revelations, such as Moses in Hebrew texts, atop mountains, trees, and temples.

Mt. Kailash, pictured below depicting the family of Shiva and Parvati cradling 
Skanda with Ganesha, is often associated with Axis Mundi.
Axis Mundi

The Axis Mundi remains an idea attached to concrete visuals referencing the "center of the world".  Symbols are in various locations on the planet.  In the Caananite traditions, Mount Hermon in Lebanon was a space where sons of god were introducd descending in 1 Enoch (1En6:6).  Ancient Greeks sited the places of earth's omphalos, again navel, stone such as the oracle at Delphi containing their beliefs in the cosmic world tree and in Mount Olympus the adobe of the gods.  Temple Mount and Mount Sinai in Judaism, Mount of Olives and Calvary in Christianity, Mecca for Islam, as well as the Temple Mount known also as Dome of the Rock have been related to places on earth with first creations.  Hinduism has Mount Kailash, again defined alongside mythical Mount Meru as the home of Shiva and Buddhism has Vajrayana.  Kailash is mentioned multiple times due to its recognition as the most sacred center where dragon currents converge providing a gateway to Shambhala. The Shinto, have the Isle Shrine as the omphalos.  Folk religion for the Chinese recognize four mountains as pillars in the world.  The Kun Lun Mountains, there is believed to be a peach tree of immortality. Mormonism hold the omphalos Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA.  

World centers of sacredness, omphalos usually will have an altar or space for prayer as the center axis.  It is common to have incense sticks, candles, torches, and altars forming the axis through smoke and prayer to bring the center from heaven. Architecture of symbols forming the axis mundi reflect this role, showing each center to be sacred at the center.  This is seen in stupas, the Cathedras and their laid out cross representative of the union of earth and heaven bridging the union of one being to another, also with an altar at the center intersection.  Asian temples such as pagoda structures contain their stairways (to heaven) such as the steeple in a church or mosque, and even the maypole or totem pole of indigenous peoples of the Americas.  Smoke columns may also represent a spirit or soul rising from a world center, through a pipe.  Examples include the calumet sacred pipe, also a mandala creates a world center given boundaries of dimensional space.


The Cosmic Tree houses an axis mundi symbol uniting the sky as branches, earth as trunk, and underworld as its roots, on all three dimensional planes.  Additional cultures include the Pacific Island banyan tree, Bodhi tree, and the Sacred Fig as abode of ancestor spirits.  Hindu religion supports the banyan tree as sacred "Ashwath Vriksha" meaning "I am Banyan tree among trees" in the Bhagavad Gita.  Eternal life is represented given its eternal expanding branches.  Bodhi Tree is the tree where the known Gautama Siddhartha, Buddha, sat attaining enlightenment.  World Ash or the Yggdrasil in Norse mythology depicts the spot where Odin found enlightenment.  Again additional examples may include Jievaras in Lithuanian mythology, Thor's Oak tree in pre-Christian Germanic myths, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis, and each said to be standing at the core center of Paradise garden. The paradise garden allows four rivers flowing to nourish the entire world.  The bamboo plan where Asian calligraphy pens stem from is representative of knowledge, often found on Asian university campuses.  Pre-Christian European beliefs represent the axis mundi in the Christmas tree, Entheogens often are relatable to world axes, as these psychoactive substances (entheogens) such as the Fly Agaric mushroom amongst the Evenks of Russia are often depicted.

In Beings

The physical body carries the symbol of the world axis such as the abstract Tree of Life.  Additional representations include the Sefirot in Kabbalism, and also depictions in Chakra systems, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the physical corporeal body concept of a human being pillar bridging heaven and earth together.  These are depicted in disciplines such as Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Martial Arts, and various Yoga practices.  The Buddha represented the axis mundi as a world center in the human physical form.  Statues of meditating buddhas and figurines uniting the human figure in a symbolic fashion such as a temple or tower.  Astrological settings most often depict a correlation uniting the health of a human and relationships with their celestial bodies.  Religions in world dynamics suggest the physical body as a temple itself with prayer bridging the union from the planet earth towards heaven.  Colossus of Rhodes is an ancient example of a beings physical figure united with a portal and skyscraper.  A being here suspended upon a tree or a cross also placed the being itself at the axis mundi in between heaven and the planet earth.  This meeting, amongst the Renaissance, has also been depicted as the Vitruvian Man representing mathematical explorations of the being in a physical form in a world axis.


Sacred spaces for where a being houses oneself is representative of one's own planetary center.  Mountains, altars, gardens, and variations of one's created paradise, such as in Asian cultures, utilize the home or house with a square layout, oriented towards the four compass directions.  Traditional homes in Asian culture orient towards the sky through Feng shui, systems of geomancy, as well as Arab traditions including square surroundings with a central focus such as a fountain evoking primordial paradise, often in a garden layout.  These symbolic fields originate from the acxis mundi, as Mircea Eliade has stated.  Dwellings and archaic central situations utilizing a pillar can be useful as a means for communication within a community, mirroring the heavens and the sky.  Nomads in Mongolia as well as the Americas traditionally lived in structures of a circular nature.  The poles on the planet are also reflected in central poles of tents with the axis at the center and a focus on the four compass points surrounding to be of lesser importance.  

Shamanistic functions

Concepts in Shamanic tradition tells of a story of a healer involving traversing through the axis mundi to collect and bring forth knowledge from one pole to another.  Odin stories as well as the World Ash Tree, as well as Garden of Eden, Jacob's Ladder, Rapunzel and even Jack and the Beanstalk depict similar knowledge being brought back from other planets and worlds.  Journeys in The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri carry a similar essence.  Epic poems allow the hero's ascent and descent through spiral structures in a series guiding one from and through cores of the earth, from the abyss of Hell to the pristine Paradise.  This also is the central idea in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.  One suspended amongst the axis of heaven and earth may transform and become themselves a form of knowledge.  The serpent, suspended hanging involving a fruit or crucifixion, or in some cases by mistletoe, involves the idea in Rod of Asclepius, the medical profession often uses this emblem.  The caduceus, the corresponding and commercial professions emblem, and additional emblems representative of the axis mundi always including serpents behaviors as those which guard or guide one to knowledge.  

Modern tales, myths, and folklore include the axis mundi in fiction as well.  The ash tree in Hunding's room from a Norse legend.  The sphinx in the science fiction novel The Time Machine (1895) by H.G. Wells was a center for the worlds distant future structuring human being society.  The Wizard of Oz depicted Emerald City as a center of four directions.  Stephen Kings The Dark Tower also may stand for the center or axis of all universes in his novel series.  Orodruin in The Lord of the Rings by J.R. R. Tolkein serves as the center location for creation and destruction of the One Ring.  Tolkein's Middle-earth with its Supreme God light depicted Two Trees of Valinor as a central axis.  Children travel to a central spot termed the wardrobe lamppost in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, where one world and the world adjacent to it begins and ends.  Steven Spielberg incorporates an ark of the covenant in his film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Bernardo Bertolucci depicts a hill topi with a safe tree in the film Stealing Beauty, and various other filmmakers have used the axis mundi symbols such as in Bob Kane's Gotham City, in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, again using the symbolic skyscraper.   Tim Burton's cathedral remains an example of a steeple, skyscraper, staircase, rope and ladder. ABC had a hit series drama called Lost where the maypole is incorporated into a song, generating the axis mundi idea.  The ABC drama also has its location, the island, as its own axis mundi.  Literal forms of the axis mundi include separating the planet from Hades in God of War: Chains of Olympus where Persephone's mission is to destroy life, where Atlas is the one punished for replacing the axis mundi, the pillar.  World pillars, such as the Cataclysm in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm mirrors the axis mundi in its literal form as a world pillar.  This meaning involves a broken Azeroth and Deepholme collapsing on to another leaving Thrall and Earthen ring separating the worlds, and here players literally are attempting to repair the axis mundi.  AND who could forget the beloved Harry Potter movie and legible book series.  There is a bridge between the magical world of the wizards and oppose world of the muggles.  Youthful magical beings in the first legible book Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone, including Harry Potter, cross platforms, the axis mundi, to the magical world of Hogwarts.

The Emerald Forest as axis mundi symbol from the Wizard of OZ

Axis Mundi Expressive Symbols in Asia

Boddhi Tree - where Gautama Buddha came in contact with Enlightenment
Stupa - Buddhist and Hinduism
Mount Meru - Hinduism
Mount Fuji - Japan
Mount Kailash - Hindiusm and Tibet
Jambudweep - Hinduism and Jainism as actual navel in human form of universe
Kailasa - India as Shivas abode
Mandara - India
Kunlun Mountains - China where Immortals reside at the site of the immortality offering peach tree
Human Being figure - yogic, tai chi, Buddha in meditation sacred visuals and images
Ise Shrine - Shinto
Courtyards in traditional Asian homes
Bamboo stalk - associated with learning and knowledge

Axis Mundi Expressive Symbols in the Middle East

Garden of Eden - usually with four rivers
Tree of Life & Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Mt. Ararat - Noah's ark destination and Armenian god court
Ziggurat Tower of Babel
Jacob's Ladder
Jerusalem - itself and the Holy Temple within where Abraham bound Isaac in a Jewish prayer
Cross of the Crucifixion
Mecca - Ka'aba where Adam descends from heavan in a Muslim prayer
Dome of the Rock - where Muhammad ascends to heaven
Garizim - Samaria
Hara Berezaiti - Persia

Axis Mundi Expressive Symbols in Africa

Meskel - a bonfire
Stelae - Aksumite Empire
Pyramids - Egypt
Osun-Osogbo - Nigerian sacred grove
Jebel Barkal - Sudan
Idafe of prehispanic La Palma
Mt Kenya - Kenya
Mount Kilimanjaro

Axis Mundi Expressive Symbols in Europe

Yggdrasil - Norse cosmology World Ash Tree
Irminsul - Germanic paganism World Pilar
Mount Olympus - Greece and court of gods in Greek mythology 
Sampo - Baltic-Finnic mythology
Delphi - Greek mythology and home of Oracle of Delphi
Colossus of Rhodes - Greek mythology
Maypole - Eastern Europe and Germanic paganism
Christmas tree - paganism and Roman-Catholic 
Jack's Beanstalk - English fairy tale
Rapunzel's Tower - German fairy tale
Central pillar of peasant homes
Virtuvian Man
Hagia Sophia
St. Peter's Basilica
Umbilicus urbis Romae - Roman Forum structure where Roman roads parted

Axis Mundi Expressive Symbols in Americas

Totem Pole
Black Hills - Sioux
Calumet - sacred pipe
Bamboo - Hopi
Southeastern Ceremonial Complex
Medicine wheels - Northern Great Plains
Temple Lot - Mormonism
Cuzco - Quechua for the Incas standing for navel
Chicago Spire
CN Tower - Toronto 
Space Needle - Seattle

Axis Mundi Expressive Symbols in Australia

Rainbow Snake

Axis Mundi Expressive Symbols in Modern Societies

The idea of axis mundi is depicted in modern architecture, capitol buildings, direct descendents of palaces, and commemorative structures such as the Washington Monument in America.  Skyscrapers are themselves in the word an example of axis mundi and as well in their structure prime examples of axis mundi.  The term skyscraper itself is suggestive of a bridge between the sky and the earth.  Spire buildings of all variations exist as similar examples.  Centers such as spires and skyscrapers are usually known in their community or world as centers, serving as icons.  The Torre Eiffel or Eiffel Tower erected in 1889 in Paris, France, as a skyscraper below.  As a symbol for the world center and Exposition Universelle centerpiece, it remains a landmark.

Skyscraper designs in moder day incorporate axis mundi symbolism.  Taiwan has the Taipei 101 using bamboo stalk, pagoda, pillar, torch, and staircase.  United Arab Emirated designed the Burj Khalifa presenting plants from the desert and traditional Arab spires.  One designer of the Burj Dubai (Burj Khalifa) states the goal was to embody the world's highest aspirations - William F, Smith.   Additional examples include the twin towers, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the past Manhattan World Trade Center.  Symbols such as the axis are found in pillars of such structures. 

Axis Mundi Expressions in the World

The Colonne sans fin - The Endless Column sky pilar upholding the heavens 
Corner of Haight and Ashbury - San Francisco, California
Folsom Street - San Francisco, California
Christopher Street - Manhattan, New York
Apollo 13 insignia - stating 'Ex luna scientia' meaning 'from the moon, knowledge'

Shamanic Music Group led by Stuart Sovatsky, PhD.
Music Link          More INfo

Heaven to Earth by our partner Jacqueline Ripstein

and never forget you center!  "As above below"