The Mayas believed in a world of three layers: Heaven, the middle world, and underworld. Its roots were in the underworld, its trunk in the middle world, and its branches in the highest layer of the other world. The tree represents the Milky Way.
To the Maya, the universe created in this order:
First came the earth and the seas, then animals. Then there were experimental people of mud who were destroyed because they could not stand up or worship properly.
The next people were made of wood, but they came to an end because they were willful and did not worship properly. Finally, because the gods built with corn, a successful human was made.
The Milky Way itself was celebrated by the Maya. They called it the World Tree, which was represented by a tall and majestic flowering tree, the Ceiba.
The Milky Way was also called the Wakah Chan. Wak means “Six” or “Erect”. Chan or K’an means “Four”, “Serpent” or “Sky”. The World Tree was erect when Sagittarius was well over the horizon.
The Milky Way rose up from the horizon and climbed overhead into the North.
The star clouds that form the Milky Way were seen as a place where all life began. During the months of winter, when the so-called “Winter” Milky Way dominates the sky, it was called the “White Boned Serpent.” This part of the Milky Way passed overhead at night during the winter months.
“The Sacred Tree was known to the ancient K’iché simply as “Crossroads.” It seems that when a planet, the sun, or the moon entered the dark cleft of the Milky Way in Sagittarius (which happens to be the exact center of the Milky Way, the Galactic Equator), entrance to the underworld road was possible, which could then take the journeyer up to the Heart of Sky. On December 21, 2012 the earth’s equator, the sun and the equator of the milky way align perfectly, creating a long awaited celestial event.
The star clouds that form the Milky Way were seen as the tree of life, where all life came from. Near Sagittarius, the center of our galaxy, where the World Tree meets the Ecliptic was given special attention by the Maya. A major element of the World Tree include the K’awak Monster, a giant head with a kin in its forehead. This monster was also a mountain or Witz monster.
A sacrificial bowl on its head contains a flint blade representing sacrifice, and the Kimi glyph that represents death. The Ecliptic is sometimes represented as a bar crossing the major axis of the world tree, making a form that is similar to the Christian Cross. On top of the World Tree we find a bird that has been called, the Principal Bird deity, or Itzam Ye. There is also evidence that shows the Sun on the World Tree as it appeared to the Maya at Winter Solstice.
In the Mayan sacred book — the Popol Vuh — they speak of the World Tree, a magical tree that generates the four sacred directions moving out from the sacred center — Yaxkin — a system for humans, that shapes and accesses, the spiritual worlds. According to mythology, the World Tree was the first creation in the universe and then everything emanated (and continues to emanate) from it.
Sacred Cultures have always used trees to organize the Earth’s intelligence and shamans have always traveled in them to visit many worlds. What do I really mean by “sacred cultures”? Sacred cultures believe the material world emanates from the spiritual world, and they use key symbols to show how the spiritual world is organized, such as Sacred Trees. In Celtic culture they honor the Oak Tree, in Indian spirituality it is the Banyan tree under which the Buddha experienced enlightenment, in Norse mythology Yggdrasil is a giant ash tree that links and shelters all the worlds and the Kabbalah has its Sacred Tree of Life.
Sacred trees all have certain things in common — roots that reach down into the underworld, a great trunk in the middle world, and branches and leaves that reach the upper world — the cosmos. We can travel them to access worlds because, sacred trees are the living structures of all the world.
Regardless of the heritage, all sacred science in ancient cultures thought of these trees as circulation systems for human consciousness. The truth members of still intact sacred cultures, continue to access knowledge from these many dimensions. Whereas contemporary Westerners have often forgotten almost everything except what they can see everyday. This huge perceptual loss makes the present/agreed upon world into an unnecessary and limiting prison. I cannot imagine being in this reality without orienting myself by this multi-dimensional enfoldmen. I refer to this concept as the multiverse, offering 90% more than what I perceive in the material world.
Mayan believed the dual spiritual dimensions of the lower and upper worlds completely surround and enfold our world of normal space and time. For me, this idea of the lower and upper worlds is real, experiential and all these levels of consciousness are completely accessible to anyone.
In Mesoamerican theology, the world tree grew at the locus of creation, all things flowing out from that spot into four directions. The tree thus forms part of what Mircea Eliade refers to as the “symbolism of the center.” The center is, first and foremost, the point of “absolute beginning,” where the latent energies of the sacred world first came into being. This source of all creation was often seen as a vertical axis, or axis mundi, which stands at the center of the cosmos and passes through each of the three major layers of existence—underworld, terrestrial plane, and sky. As the symbolic expression of this axis mundi, the world tree at once connected and supported heaven and earth while firmly fixed in the world below. In addition to serving as the vertical pivot point of the cosmos, the world tree also oriented the horizontal plane of the world by extending its branches outward toward the four cardinal directions.
In ancient Maya inscriptions, the human soul was called sak nik’ nal (“white flower thing”), referring to the white flowers of the ceiba tree. The implication is that the soul first came into being as a sacred flower on the branches of the world tree, thence to be clothed with flesh at birth.
The Maya saw a world axis in the ceiba tree. A gigantic ceiba is supposed to stand at the center of the world, where it connects heaven and the underworld with the earth. Souls of the dead ancestors rise through the roots and ascend via its trunk and branches into the celestial realms. The sacred ceiba tree stands for the fifth world direction–up/down–and is the roost of Seven Macaw, the Big Dipper bird. This connection with the Big Dipper supports the idea that the Maya world tree was aligned with the north polar axis.