The Myth of the Tree of Life

Uffe Elbæk, political leader of the Danish Alternative Party, has found inspiration in the great European mythology to create this myth about collaboration in a time of climate crisis:

Zeus, The Greek god of the heavens, had a dilemma. Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of fertility, war and love, who Zeus had always admired, was in a terrible situation and asked Zeus for help. Hurricanes and floods had left Mesopotamia unrecognizable, and people were beginning to flee this country that had been so beautiful.

Ishtar wanted to help her people rebuild Mesopotamia, but wasn’t strong enough to carry out the task. There was a constant danger of new hurricanes and floods, so you had to be able to run fast and have enough strength to escape in case you were buried by logs or bricks.

There was also a great lack of food, so only the rich who were able to hoard food when times were good had the strength needed to clear the city of rubble and rebuild. What Ishtar asked of Zeus was to take care of families with young children and weak family members, while the remaining strong people could work to rebuild Mesopotamia as the beautiful city it once was.

It was a big request, and Zeus didn’t know what to do. In order to comply with Ishtar’s request, Zeus asked for assistance from the Nordic god of thunder, Thor. In Valhalla, they had Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, which had green leaves that could feed everyone in the world.

Yet Zeus was in debt to Thor, who didn’t want to hear about sharing the green leaves once again. When Zeus’ people needed help in the past, Thor gave them one of Yggdrasil’s branches, with instructions to plant it in the ground in order that it could grow and feed the entire Greek population.

However, the branch was sold to the highest bidder, who had eaten all the leaves himself, and the branch subsequently wilted. That’s why Thor didn’t want to share the Tree of Life any longer. Zeus was in a dilemma: Should he refuse Ishtar’s request for help and let down the people of Mesopotamia, or should he try to convince Thor to help – with the risk of damaging their relationship further?

Zeus pondered for a while about what he should do. The people of Mesopotamia had already begun to take to the choppy seas to seek refuge among Zeus’ people, when the Nordic goddess of love and fertility, Freia, revealed herself to Zeus. She had with her two small seeds that she had plucked from Yggdrasil’s branches.

The seeds were worthless in the North, where the cold prevented them sprouting from the earth, yet with warmth they could very quickly become beautiful new Trees of Life. Zeus was to plant one of the seeds in Athens so there was enough food to satiate the Greek people and feed the needy families who came from Mesopotamia, while the other seed was to be planted in Mesopotamia so Ishtar’s hard-working people could maintain their strength.

Zeus thanked Freia from his heart for her beautiful and creative initiative, which would help both Zeus’ and Ishtar’s people. Freia turned to him and said, “It is I who should thank you and the Greek people, because you have taught me how to come up with good ideas.”

 

The Wear and Tear of Time

The myth of the City of Vineta and the redeeming word

Ole Fogh Kirkeby has found inspiration in Selma Lagerlöf with this beautiful myth:

It is said that in the early Middle Ages there was a large wealthy city in the Southern Baltic, named “Vineta,” perhaps belonging to Rügen, which sank into the sea. The cause could have been anything from a tsunami to a displacement of tectonic plates, yet legend says that it was a punishment for the depraved behavior of its inhabitants. The legend also says that on rare occasions a lucky sailor can see it lying on the bottom of the sea, and that once a century it’s given permission to rise to the surface. If a traveler passes by, walks through the city, and using a small coin buys a single object at one of its many markets, he or she can remain in the world of living.

However, it’s rarely the case that a traveler has the coin that Niels Holgersen lacked when he unavoidably had to walk through the city, but instead find a solution by saying the redeeming words that will protect us from the curse of the water. Yet however this word – this audible coin – sounds, thwarting the triumph of the sea, it’s the task of every human being to find out and, in faithfulness to life on Earth, whisper it to each other.

Selma Lagerløf

Ole explains his choice of myth:

I have chosen the myth because so many people seem unaffected by the message about the dangers encompassing the earth. Like the use of “word” or “kerygma” or “proclamation” in Christianity, there may be a word that goes straight to our hearts and we thereby understand its meaning, causing us to change our ways.