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UDC 101
Khudyaev A.S.
North (Arctic) federal university of M.V. Lomonosov
Arkhangelsk, Russia
[Образ arbor inversa в сакральных пространствах Северной Евразии]
The paper deals with the study of inverted tree image which may be found in some archaic cultures of the North.
There are descriptions of various approaches to interpretation of it and also author’s original point of view in the context of his research in the field of phenomenology and semiotics of sacred space. Rooting of cosmic tree in upper areas
of the Universe and mirror contraposition of its various parts are considered as crucial moments for possible interpretation of Arbor Inversa image. Author also tries to formulate additional hypothesis where attention is focused on a liminal moment of the reversing which play center-generating role in genesis of cosmic order from position of religiousmythological consciousness. In the context of author’s orientational model an inversion is considered as destruction of
vertical orientations (directions) and subsequent genesis of a new horizontal structures of landscape where inverted
shaman tree as a sign of outbreak of formless numinous principle generates central orientational point. This point is
not subordinated by order but generates it around itself.
Key words: inverted tree, phenomenology of religion, cosmology, sacred geography, sacred space, orientation,
traditional culture of people of Northern Eurasia
The image of the world tree being one of the crucial for most traditional cosmologies is far
seldom observed in its inverted variant. Hence there are quite rare attempts of its philosophic and
scientific interpretation in terms of humanistic knowledge. Among not numerous specialized works
on this topic E. G. Kagarov`s article, published in in the ASUSSR reports in 1928, can be considered to be basic ( pioneer). The significance of its national research experiment among all other is
proved by the fact that one of the Religion Studies classicist M. Eliade refers to the the translation
of the article, briefly touching on the inverted tree question in his monograph, dedicated to the phenomenon of shamanism.
Kagarov`s work begins with the description of the unique shaman tree ( having the inverted
form), found near the Botcha river. Then the researcher traces briefly the history of similar images
development in various traditions: from the sacred Indian manuscripts, Arabian references to Plato,
essays of Philo(of Alexandria), up to (finishing with) manichee and cabalic sources, Old Russian
literature and Great Russian incantations. Kagarov concludes that mythologic image of the inverted
tree takes 2 forms in certain culture-historical cycles: cosmologic principle ( the world tree), association of the tree with human body and humanlike spirit. As a consequence, the topic touched upon
by Kagarov was considered quite seldom in the national science. Among few and far between examples N. V Toporov`s article, included into fundamental encyclopedia “ Myths of the Worlds”,
and some other works, we refer to below, can be noted.
The main aim of the article is the consideration of possible approaches and ways of interpretation and exposure of phenomenal essence of the arbor inversa image, expressed in practical aspects
of different traditional cultures. In particular of those which until recently kept the most archaic elements on the territory of Noth Eurasia. We consider the rootedness of the tree in upper areas of
Исследование выполнено при финансовой поддержке Российского фонда фундаментальных исследований и
правительства Архангельской области (проект № 14-06-98809 р_север_а «Комплексное исследование культурной географии и этнокультурных ландшафтов прибрежных территорий Русского Севера»)
space by the way of one of the primary moments, on which hermeneutics of the image mentioned
can be based. Plato associated the man with a cosmic plant, his head-with the root, appended by
God from the pace where soul takes its origin. In terms of this metaphor the root of creation is associated with the divine world of ideas, while branches shows (demonstrate) their definite imperfect
embodiment. Such philosophic image and the concept of “man-tree”, taking root in upper worlds,
must have developed out of \ from a more archaic insight. Ethnographist N.N . Kharuzin, the author
of fundamental work on Sami ethnography ( not aware of Plato`s works), mentions that for the creation of The Thunderer image the Laplanders used always birch-trees, at that the body was made of
its trunk, and the head-out of its roots.
References to particular exposure of the inverted tree image in shaman traditions of indigenous north Siberian and Far East ethnies can be observed in works of V. Charnolussky, L .Y. Sternberg, Ch.M. Taksami and others. In terms of sheer descriptive character of reference and the absence of any significant attempts of interpretation in these works the ground of rootedness in upper
areas of the creation can be technically relegated to any of these cases and additionally proved by
some A. M. Sagalaev`s directions that the roots of the world tree in terms of the archaic Ural-Altaic
mindset could be localized and could coincide with the origin of world rivers, mountain peaks and
stars. René Guénon writes about tree inversion in his work “The Symbols of sacred science” the
following: “ It`s easy to understand, if so, so first of all because of the fact that the root symbolizes
alpha, while branches- the development of exposure ( survival) “. In this work Guenon studies the
inversion in the context of the above-space-tree symbol, having roots and rising above the water
surface, reflecting in them ( so in the manifested world) in an inverted way.
It should be mentioned that the inverted tree image interpretation, from the point of the moment of its rootedness in upper areas of the creation, can be obvious only when we consider arbor
inversa as a tree, having inherently roots and branches. At that it`s necessary to remember that archaic culture and in particular ritual-mythologic tradition of North Eurasia is aware of space inversion in relation to other objects, for instance, within the objective-space arrangement of burial customs. In the Nentsy burial( graving) description presented by Grachyova a special attention is called
to 2 artifacts: cast down pulk and a pierced enamel pan found in the same position\ state. It`s frequently marked that during burial the belongings of a deadman are subjected to a special spoiling.
Sometimes it`s explained by that another world is shown inversely opposite to the world of mankind. But the spoiling primarily act as a structure destruction. And here it can be upfront marked
that the coincidence of the object inverted with its meaningful destruction\crashing is to push into
thinking about another meaning of burial inversion phenomena, excluding the variant of a merely
urge to technically iterate the mirror opposition to another world.
Terebikhin`s speculation on this matter are of great interest. Terebikhin basing on some V.N .
Toporov`s ideas and studying mythologic-ritual Saami system, binds the meaning of space inversion with a general eschatological orientation of Lappish culture. The latter according to Terebikhin
determined the inversion of its sacral nucleus \core- a religious- mythologic model of the world.
Owing to the inversion,a paradoxical situation, turning the ordered space into the world turned inside out, enters the world order. The paradoxical situation introduction following Toporov is considered as one of the ways to preserve traditions. Besides, the author marks that Saami idea is familiar to Russian( Christian) one (idea), accounting for a religious leap and leaving this world, conceiving a new transfigured lower world and a sky border.
Similar understanding may be found in works of American Religious Studies researcher G.A
Smith. He studies the problem of sacred space basing on the materials of Ancient Judaic, Early
Christian and gnostic traditions. In one of his essays the scientist deals with The Apostle Peter crucifixion symbol, which is cognate to the inverted tree image. The official ecclesiastic doctrine interprets the inverted cross as a sign of that Saint Peter, thinking himself not to be deserving execution
like that Jesus was subjected to, willingly desired to be crucified head over heels. J.Smith basing
on a series of apocriphal texts presupposes that Saint Peter had a different ground for it. “ Saint Peter`s request to be crucified in such a way was an urge to be set free and dehumanized, it pursued a
goal to invert a natural order and to turn death into the act of uprising against human nature and
cosmicality. It is paradoxical, but it was also the act of birth. Smith says that an archetype of a cosmic act of joining, adjusting and expressing a gnostic attitude towards space structures and human
position within space. Greek apocriphal texts attribute several variants of revelation to Peter`s
near-death talks, in which stress is laid on the inversion of spatial parts : until you turn your underside into aboveside, and the upperside into the lowerside,the left side into the right side, and the
right side into the left side – you won`t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Back to the shaman trees of North Eurasia. Inversion phenomenology unfolds as a changing
of existing spatial relations and traditional culture fundamental archetypes connected with them into
diametrically opposite. From the one hand, we observe that the structure of the opposition is stable\fixed itself and on the basis of this observation we would be likely to interpret the inverted tree
image from the point of rootedness in celestial regions or from the point of the mirror opposition of
another world. From the other hand, directing conscience to the moment of inverting and taking already inverted tree as a sign of this moment, we are ready to see in its essence a certain way of spatial elements depreciating, liberating from spatial structures and meanings. At that this process can
coincide with the ambivalent world unity postulating by means of formal leveling of its constituent
parts. The inversion is considered as a way of transiting into marginal state, nothing else but a manifestation imperceptible for mind structures of numinous origin. This origin being an ultimate reality
isn`t subjected to the order relations, but it becomes a condition and potentcy for a new
cosmogenesis, within which it plays a central role. In sacred space of shaman rituals the moment of
inverting is a hierophany, and the tree inverted is its sign, forming a sacral center, around which all
the rest landscape hierotopy is organized. From the point of orientation model, within which the direction is a minimum and the basic element, constituting sacral space, arbor versa presents a mechanism of vertical orientation sacrifice and emerging of new horizontal spatial relations and intentions( from a human being ( subject) to sacred locus or to an object (tree) ; from the pathway start
up to its target and v.v) . Here there is a semantic content, common for up and down ( underside and
lowerside), transfers\transits and is preserved in the internal semantics of horizontal directions.
Making use of this approach, paying attention namely to the moment of inverting, and allowing for that shaman trees don’t get back to normal position in systems of sacral locuses, a certain
contradiction b\n systems described and (in general holding an important methodological meaning
for the author) classical traditionalism positions, where inverting of symbols is connected with a
meaningful destruction and corruption of a normal world order, appears to be obvious. Paying attention to this fact, we should mention that: Guenon says himself that the symbol inversion question
is quite difficult and quite subtle, since to know what one really deals with in one case or another, it
is necessary to study not so much images taken in material form, as the interpretations which they
are accompanied by and with the use of which one explains the intention, preceding its practice. In
this case a direct access to such interpretations and intentions is fairly limited and they are possible
just as an object of reconstruction. At that we observe a solution for the contradiction that inverted
tree, located in the sacred locus, is not so far considered by the bearer of traditions as space in its
integral vertical projection ( being broken and depreciated while inverting), but it becomes a definite center of a renewed world order, developing in horizontal structures of landscape. We suppose
mechanisms of inverted transitions (from horizontal to vertical) to exist. The tree inversion in actual
fact ceases being entirely the inversion-destruction, but develops as a space renewal, its transfiguring in a fundamentally different dimension.
In conclusion it can be marked that phenomenology of inversion as a marginal and at the
same time basic moment, having a sacral point of Mysterium Tremendum, can be observed in some
oracle practice spread among people of the North . In terms of oracle practice a prophecy is accomplished by throwing up an object ( for instance a shaman stick . The Keths) .The result of prediction
is defined depending on what side the object thrown falls(what side falls up, what side-down).
Timely numinous experience should be, by our reckoning, referred to that moment when the object
is in suspended indefinite state. The result perceived forms a definite ordered knowledge system, as
if ranging around the moment pointed out.
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May, 14, 2014
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