- Anni Saijonkivi
Mythical Yggdrasil in digital age
Updated: May 18, 2022
Inspiration: the myth about a tree
The world tree is a significant element in many mythologies, manifesting itself in various ways as part of the world view. The world tree resembles various myths about the world pillar, with the key difference that the tree is emphasised as a living and changing, active element full of life.
There are versions of the tree in all the major narratives. Vasjugan's rubrics believe that the tree has seven layers. In many other stories, the tree passes through the layers of the world, drilling its roots deep and lifting its branches through the clouds. The world tree usually provides a kind of centre for the world. The description of the tree varies depending on where the story of the tree is told. For the Mordvans of Eastern Europe, the tree was the birch, with leaves as big as palm of the hand. In India, the tree was said to grow edible fruit. In ancient Egypt, the tree was the date palm. The Scandinavian Yggdrasil was an ash tree.
The tree is described as having supernatural powers, some of which can be acquired by ingesting the fruit of the tree or the water, sap or milk that flows from its roots. The tree may confer immortality or cure miraculous ailments. The age of the tree is described in euphemisms that suggest that the tree has always existed, 'for longer than you can imagine'.
The Yakuts believed that their ancestor Äräidäh-buruidah-ar-soghotoh lived at the foot of the world tree:
"When he steps from the east-facing porch of his dwelling to look out over the landscape, there before him is a king of trees growing among the grass. This tree, above which the blue air shimmers, is so old that its centuries cannot be counted. Its roots reach through the underworld and its canopy rises through nine heavens. Each leaf is seven fathoms long and each pine cone nine fathoms long. From beneath the roots of the tree 'everlasting waters' gush forth. When its aged, starved and exhausted, white or dark cattle, flying or running game drink or lick the sap and resin that flows from the branches and cones of this tree, gathering and forming a roaring stream, it regains its former youth and abundance."
The Scandinavian myth of the world tree is assumed to be an amalgamation of these many world stories. It is likely that many of the stories have interacted with each other from the beginning and have separated into their own myths over a long period of time. Descriptions of the creatures living at the base of the tree, their numbers and the tree's powers, among other things, seem to indicate that the parts of the story went in many directions, changing as they went.
Act of summoning
I’ve been recently creating some kind of synthetic godlike beings to summon forth our remaining relationship towards nature. We have grown apart and became cyborgs with our external memory banks and endless representations of realities that we enjoy from safety of home trough our screens. Yet there is a thirst for connection, togetherness and belonging. For these needs I’m becoming a techno shaman and calling upon our old forms of togetherness. I become a conduit and bring sublime beings to reality. Or "reality".
I feel the need to carry our oldest mythologies onward to our newest digital platforms.
about my medium: Sculpting without a material
My roots in all my artistic practice are in the field of sculpture and I still love to push my hands into literal clay. I am used to a creative process that resides in the body, movement and being with the material. As I try to transfer my processes to digital mediums, I make clumsy efforts to include the possibility of spatial working with my hands. A lot happens, when we cant anymore feel the substance of a thing we perceive.
Yggdrasil will be a digital sculpture, to be viewed via an app or other virtual reality interface. Yggrasil is a reincarnation, a version, a meme or an illusion- depending of a spectators worldview. It will be located somewhere in the real world, yet it transcendens the material reality. You will need a gateway to acces it. Due it’s immaterial nature the artwork could easily be exhibited in a museum exhibition and in a carefully picked location in our finnish archipelago in the same time.
Mythos exists as a tool to carry on believes and hopes in form of a story. I believe that chanting these ancient myths again and again helps us keep our core humanity together and helps us carry more human values forward in post-human era. I simply seek to add my song to the chorus while the instrument that I choose to play is one that holds endless possibilities to evolve forward.