Copyright © 2016 by Yehuda Rotblum
Paradise is not an earthly entity it is a concept that exists only in our imagination. It is a grand idea created by astute minds that invented a utopian final resting place. A paradise is a place of plentiful, a place where life is without any worries, a place that all your needs is provided. Does it exist? From the Egyptian, their scriptures and monuments we learn that they believed of such a place, that’s how they envisioned it.
Fig. 1 Pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu, the shafts directed toward the dwelling place of the gods in the sky.
At the Great Pyramid at Giza in Pharaoh Khufu’s burial site (Fig. 1), two shafts extend toward the North Star and Orion constellation. These ascending shafts are narrow channels from the burial chamber directed to the outside world. Their direction allows Pharaoh’s soul to rise directly from its burial site to the star regions of Orion and the North Star. This path maps the way that Pharaoh’s soul travels toward heaven. It starts from Earth, the burial place, and continues through the Underworld, Orion constellation, and finally reaches Heaven, which is in the location of the immortal stars, the stars that never sink, in sky center. These are the constellation in the vicinity of the North Star, see Fig. 2, that are always present above, always visible to mortals on earth. We can learn about this idea from the Egyptian Book of the Dead passage that describes Pharaoh’s rise to heaven:
Fig. 2 North star region
‘He joins Orion (Osiris) and his companion Sirius. They continue their way along the cosmic aisle… the dead souls are anxious to join the Immortal Stars’.
The North Star permanence represented a divine quality associated with eternity; for many, it signified the ultimate resting place or Paradise. It is a place of predictability and permanence that erases life’s mundane feeling. It is the opposite of our life, which is a succession of changes and constant adaptation to the inevitable end.
Where is Paradise? It exists only in our imagination; it is an inspirational spark that helps to accept our mundane reality until our physical clothing perishes. The ancients imagined Paradise and drew it. Fig. 3 illustrates versions of Paradise by various cultures. The tree of life dominates the scene with two branches, two hanging fruits, the coiling snake as if originating from the same master copy! A tree is a universal idea of immortality since it dies and rejuvenates every year. The fruits are a potent symbol of immortality, it is the natural organ that creates new life.
Fig. 3 Scenes of paradise in different cultures: The tree of life with the two hanging fruits of paradise
Its inspiration was the sky center where the immortal constellation is circling the North Star. The tree trunk represents the Milky Way extending up to the sky. Its top is reaching to the North Star area which is the place of eternity and its roots firmly held on earth. The two ‘Little Dipper’ stars are the fruits of paradise, hanging permanently from its branches. The tree connects the three worlds: the god’s world, the people’s world, and the dead world. The serpent represented by Draco constellation, encircling the tree and guards the Garden of Eden.
Fig. 4 shows symbolic Paradise scenes from Egypt, Negev Desert, and Sumer. The right drawing called the Newby Palette was found in a pre-dynastic Egyptian tomb. The left scene shows paradise from Sumer and the middle is a Negev rock art version. The likeness of Paradise abstractions is astonishing; they date about 3,000 BC. The little circle at the top symbolizes the North Star.
The central upright symbol, in each abstraction in Fig. 4, is a tree of life emanating from the earth and reaching heaven. In the night sky, we recognize it as the Milky Way. The two adjacent lines at the treetop symbolize the Fruits of Paradise, an abstraction of the two lonely stars hanging from Ursa Minor wagon. The snake, the Paradise guardian, wraps himself around the tree to protect this place, a rest for souls. He represents the constellation Draco winding through the center of Paradise between Ursa Major and Minor. The circle on top symbolizes the North Star – our Paradise!
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.