The Axis Mundi
The Shamanic Tree of Life
By Roel Crabbé
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust
In shamanism, the journey to the three shamanic worlds is made along the Axis Mundi: the “Axis of the worlds”. This is the central axis that runs through the cosmos and which the shaman uses to travel to the 3 different worlds. By using the shaman drum or rattle, the practitioner will induce the shamanic trance and travel to the spirit worlds, often accompanied by his spirit helpers.
This central axis along which one travels to the 3 worlds can take many forms, depending on the tradition or the personal cosmology of the shaman. In many traditions, this axis is described as the world tree: a universal, mythical tree that connects all spiritual worlds. The underworld is located in the roots of this universal world tree. The shaman finds the upper world, the heavenly spheres, in the crown. The middle world, and therefore also our earthly world, is on the trunk.
When the practitioner makes a shamanic journey, he or she will first focus on the Axis Mundi. It is here that people gather strength before they start their journey and make a clear and powerful intention.
By practicing and under the guidance of his spirit helpers, the traveler can learn to develop an ever-growing source of power at the foot of this Axis Mundi, which will continue to work in the experience of the shamanic trance journey.
When he gathered enough power the shaman can begin his trance journey: along the trunk of the world tree he can travel to the upper, middle or underworld, to meet and work with the power animals and spirit helpers.
All over the world and also in contemporary shamanism, the trance journey is the most common way to make contact with the spirit world.
© Roel Crabbé – 2012