The Tree of Life

23 03 2008

Today is Easter, the resurrection of Christ. Also: Ostara, a pagan festival of awakening nature and fertility. I find it very cheerful. Especially as there is a lot of chocolate going around in the shape of chocolate eggs. Eggs are also painted and decorated as the Iranians do for Nowrooz.

It’s another festival where some people put trees up: in the case of Easter usually twisted branches in a vase, that will start sprouting leaves in a few days, and the branches are decorated with eggs and hares and birds.

This symbolises the Tree of Life. A universal symbol. The middle eastern image of The Tree of Life, as a simplified tree with two figures, or animals at either side is well-known.



What I hope interests you, my friends is; that this image is very popular in the north of the Netherlands!

Dutch doors have a window above the door, to let in the light. These doorlights are very often decorated with a stylised Tree of Life. The idea is, that every time you come in through the door, you get blessed. Many of these have been removed, and they are still disappearing, which I think is a pity, so I photographed a few for you. These are all from the city of Groningen. Most are made from cast iron.

This is a very elaborate one from the 17th century


The 18th century had more stylised ones.


The early nineteenth century’s ones are similar. This one is merged with a ”horn of plenty” grapes and flowers are dripping down.



Later on the Tree of Life, became more simplified,


And this is the most common form to be seen.


And, of course, I have one myself. It is very close to the middle eastern examples like this shell-carving.


Only mine is in the kitchen, because I live in a thirties house, with no door-light. There are no trees after 1900. Don’t know why.




10 responses

23 03 2008

I think i have to travel to netherland, at least just for taking foto of its beautiful doors πŸ˜›

23 03 2008

They also often have very nice little peepholes, or cast-iron decorations, through which you can look out to see who’s at the door without being visible yourselve!

Just tell me when you’re coming! πŸ˜€

24 03 2008

Great post, and great photos! It is interesting how people, of many varying backgrounds and beliefs (and often in differing, but very similar ways) observe the same rituals and ceremonies. Not claiming any particular meaning, other than to show that perhaps we’re not as different as many would have us to believe.
Beautiful door dressings… they should continue making them! πŸ˜€
Thanks for sharing!

24 03 2008

What incredible looking door windows, why would anyone in there right mind remove one of those from there home??? I’d love one above my door, simply beautiful.

24 03 2008

Very very interesting! I have seen these on some doors in Glasgow but I didn’t know what they meant. I am wiser thanks to you πŸ™‚

24 03 2008

I enjoyed reading this post. Very interesting and beautiful pictures.
And yes, it is amazing how similar people and traditions can be, though many now like to dwell on the differences.

24 03 2008

Well, everybody, we are descended from the same woman who left Africa a very long time ago. We are much more similar than the warmongers want us to believe. we are so similar, we share the same stories, we have the same dreams, and almost all religions share the same basics.
This is the reasons we like each others art, the reason we get the same ideas, and how ideas travel around the world, not just now with the internet and other media, but it was the same 10.000 years ago.

People have always travelled, and met, and exchanged ideas.
Flint mined in the south of the Netherlands was traded for Amber from the Baltic coast.
I’m not going on; I discern a good future post!

24 03 2008

Aafke, your photos are enlightening as well as lovely. I add myself to the list of those who prefer to focus on human similarities rather than differences.

28 03 2008
Susie of Arabia

Don’t know how I missed this post a few days ago, but I LOVE these photos. The door decors are absolutely beautiful. I remember when I was in Ireland years ago, one of my favorite souvenirs was a poster that I bought there called “The Doors of Dublin.” This post reminds me of that poster. I would love to see more “Dutch Doors!”

28 03 2008

Susie: I will comply!
I have a door-fetish!

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