The Dragon and the World Tree – the basics of shamanic journeying

As many of you know, I write books on the Mysteries and shamanism.  But you may not know that I also train people in shamanic  techniques – which are many and various.

However, the basis of all those techniques is rooted in the World Tree.  So I’ve put together this video about the World Tree mainly for those adepts, to support them with some foundational, theoretical knowledge before they begin the practical work.

But of course, anyone and everyone is welcome to listen… or just carry on and read the article.

So what is the World Tree?

And where does it come from?

The motif of the World Tree is found in the oldest stories that were written by our ancestors in the stars, and that have come down to us today as myths. The purpose of those myths was to teach us universal truths through metaphors describing alchemical processes that support the spiritual evolution of life, based on a blueprint of astrology and sacred geometry.

Those myths were not composed to preserve for us the history of the human race.  But over time, the priests and scribes of various conquering kings and emperors have cobbled together those myths to give us a false backstory.

That’s why I always say that the only difference between history and mythology is that myths are true.

No, the purpose of these old, hoary sagas are to teach us who we are, our true nature, by reflecting back to us, mirror-like,  the processes of Nature, which the alchemists of ancient Alexandria based their Mystery Teachings upon. They were often called natural philosophers because they followed Mother Nature’s teachings to create the Philosopher’s Stone – which is the fully enlightened being.

At their core, these multi-layered tales teach us that we live not just in this one dimension on Earth, but that the Earth is just a tiny part of one of three worlds that are stretched along the trunk of the World Tree.

These three worlds are known as the Upper World, the Middle World and the Underworld or Lower World.

So how do we know all this?

Well in my own case, I know it through a combination of factors.

Firstly, I know it from spending most of my life reading the stories that were written in the stars of civilisations that go back to the last major Ice Age, which ended about 11,000 years ago.

I also know it from the guidance of my spirits who taught me how to read these stories in a more zoomed out way.   This aids the skill of pattern recognition and the ability to find the commonalities between them .

Shamanic trance and the Three Worlds

However, the nail on the head for me was when I read Professor Mircea Eliade’s book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, which he published on the year of my birth, 1951. Unfortunately for him, though, he was way ahead of his time.   He had managed to publish such red-pilling wisdom that he was instantly demonised by the usual suspects as a racist and a white supremacist. His work was crudely shoved down the memory hole and didn’t emerge again until decades later, when modern-day anthropologists went to study with indigenous tribes, and discovered more about the practises of the shamans that led them.

But in a nutshell, Eliade’s book was a compilation of much earlier anthropologists’ reports – from the end of the 19th century –  from all around the world, making it as clear as day what had been hidden from us … that our earliest ancestors lived in tribes led by shamans who all talked about journeying into the three dimensions of the World Tree, whether they came from Alaska or Australia … it made no difference … they all reported very similar experiences in the other worlds.

Of course, these mystic medicine men had different names – the term ‘shaman’ only existed in Siberia.   However, that is highly relevant to us …because if you are of European or Scandinavian stock, then your ancestors actually from those lands at the roof of the world.

This is important if you’re thinking of getting into shamanic practises, because part of the role of the shaman is the redemption of the ancestors.   So it helps to start out with some knowledge of who they were and how they lived.

Our earliest forefathers were nomadic reindeer herders who roamed the Russian and Ukraine steppes as far north-east as Siberia.  

And around their campfires at night, they told stories under the stars that were remarkably similar to those we hear from the Irish, the Welsh and the Scandinavians today.

The modern collective noun for those nomads, who trod the seas of grass of the Steppes, is Scythians.   But they were actually a huge patchwork quilt of different tribes, such as the Sarmatians, the Ossetians and the Alans.

After the melting of the glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age, their grasslands were flooded and their lakes turned into huge inland seas.   And so they were forced southwards through the Caucusus mountains, and that’s why today we’re called Caucasians.

There were waves of migrations over thousands of years of fierce, tattooed warriors with helmets emblazoned with serpents, on horseback, and horse-drawn carts carrying colourful felt tents and yurts. The various tribes spread all over Europe as far south as Greece, and as far west as Britain and as far north as Scandinavia. And with them they brought their stories in the stars.

Those stories had many motifs that we  recognise in the Arthurian literature that came out of Armorica in the 12th century.   Armorica is that  part of northern France we today call Britanny. Nobody knows if Armorica was named after Arthur, or if it was the other way round.  But certainly the Sarmatians and Alans who settled that land and eventually became influential with the Normans, already had stories about a cup like the Holy Grail, and a magical orchard of apples with a dragon, and a sword in a stone, and a lady of the lake.

These myths, which are many thousands of years older than the Norman conquest, feature a hero named Batraz who is at the centre of a circle or “round table” of 12 knights called the Narts. Apparently, Batraz owned a magical sword that could only be pulled out (from the roots of a tree) by a true king, just as Arthur had to pull the sword Excalibur from the stone as proof of his right to the throne.

The words Batraz speaks on his death bed are almost identical to those spoken by Arthur in the 15th century tale by Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur, which means The Death of Arthur.

Scythian warrior kings rode under the banner of the serpent, which they also wore on their helmets. So did Arthur.

The Scythians had a goddess named Satana who bestowed on the brave hero an apple of immortality from her orchard. In the Scandinavian sagas of the Eddas, which began life just beyond the Caucasus, we find a similar goddess called Idun, who grants an apple of immortality to the brave warrior heroes from the Garden of Idun, which is guarded by a serpent or dragon.

The meaning of the dragon

As I’m sure you know, the motif of the dragon, leviathan or sea serpent abounds in all the ancient myths that have come to us from the Scythians, and it can be compared to the serpentine kundalini force that rises up the body as we begin the path towards spiritual enlightenment. 

So what does the metaphor of the  serpent or dragon, in this context, really mean? Why did they have serpents on their helmets.

Well, a fire-breathing serpent or dragon is one whose consciousness disturbs the energetic creatures of the astral swamp which form and stagnate around ignorance … and this fiery force can often create something of an explosion. It uses its flames to burn to ash all the parasitic pondlife that has buried itself … sometimes for hundreds of years …in the weave of our multi-dimensional bodies. It is an act of purification which, once completed, gets the rivers of change and growth flowing quickly again. In other words, its burning is the catalyst for fertility as much as the ash of a forest fire is the catalyst for fresh and verdant growth.

Once you have faced the challenge of your dragon and come through it, he becomes your best friend and reveals to you the treasure of wisdom he has been guarding for you in his den …in his garden.

So these are just a few of the common motifs from stories that are all depicting one Mystery teaching – although told in as many different ways and with as many different names as there were many different tribes of Scythians.

But it is all, at its core, star lore….

Arthur’s round table, for instance, is the circle of the 12 constellations that the hero treads on his journey towards enlightenment.

The following is written in La Queste del Saint Graal, The Search for the Holy Grail, which is part of the Lancelot-Grail cycle composed in the 13th century.

"The Round Table was constructed, not without great significance, upon the advice of Merlin.   By its name, the Round Table is meant to signify the round world and round canopy of our planets and the elements in the firmament, where are to be seen the stars and many other things."

You can learn much more about all that in Chapter 6, Camelot of the Polar Stars, in my book Stories in the Stars.

But rising up through the centre of that round table is the World Tree, with its three levels or dimensions of Upper, Middle and Lower.

The Three Worlds of the World Tree and Zodiac, by Yuri Leitch

There is an enormous amount to learn about these three different levels of the World Tree, and most of it has to be done in the shamanic trance state, in which we are guided by our spirits towards the right information and that brings these myths into blazing technicolour life.

The Lower World and Hell

When people come to me for training who have had no experience, so far, in shamanism, the first place I teach them to journey to is the Lower World or Underworld, so that they can find there, their personal power animal spirit guides. These are the guides who are always with us, whether we recognise them or not, and without whose guidance we cannot progress towards enlightenment.

Now I know many of us are still conditioned by Christianity to want to go up to the heavens… to ascend … and not go down… definitely not go down! We can see that as total failure … or even a spiritual demotion. But let me reassure you that that is really not the case, and that there are no devils with pitchforks or demons plunging sinners into lakes of fire in the shaman’s Lower World.

The Scandinavian World Tree is called Yggdrasil, and each of its three stratas contain three worlds, making nine worlds altogether. One of the worlds of the Lower World is called Hel or Helheim.

Worlds of Yggdrasil by MOMopJonny on Deviant Art

When the Roman Christians started driving shamanic practices underground, they took that Hel or Helheim and made it Hell with two LLs, and then came up with that cock ‘n bull story to put people off from trying to journey into it! But I promise you, it’s a beautiful, healing and nurturing realm, and no harm can come to you there.

The Middle World, Midgard – meaning Middle Garden – contains Earth and also the Astral Plains, which I will have to make the topic of  a future video.

The Upper World, Asgard – meaning Upper Garden – is where the hero meets Idun, in her Garden of Idun, for her to bestow on him the apple of immortality… if he can get past the fire-breathing serpent.

Those gardens are always guarded by a dragon or serpent, like the one on the banners of the Sarmatian kings, and also Arthur… and now we know why.   Arthur was really just a Christianised version of Batraz.

But there is also a chapter in Stories in the Stars entitled The Serpent and the World Tree, and you can get a lot more esoteric information on the meaning of this imagery there.

So this has just been a very brief, introductory, whistlestop tour to the three dimensions of the World Tree, just to demonstrate how those three dimensions fit into shamanic practices.

 If you’d like to be taught how to journey into the World Tree, please do get in touch.