The Sumerian Tree of Life – Ancient Mesopotamian Religion With a Tree at the Center

Published Categorized as Tree Symbolism

People feel drawn to trees since the beginning of our civilization. (I am not an exception as well)

In ancient Mesopotamia, trees were the symbol of spiritual connection between the heavens, earth, and underworld.

Sumerian Tree of Life

The Tree of Life was a multifaceted symbol for the ancient Sumerians. It was seen as a bridge between all forms of creation, a source of spiritual guidance, a representation of life, immortality, and rebirth, a source of nourishment, protection from storms and wild animals, a place of worship or sacrifice offering, a healer of physical ailments, and an aid in navigation.

What is the Sumerian religion?

Historians have studied the Sumerian religion, an ancient belief system which originated in Mesopotamia around 5000 BC. (For your information: Sumer is located in an area that is known as Babylon, and it is a part of Mesopotamia.) This religion venerated the Tree of Life, viewed as a bridge between heaven and earth. It provided humans with sustenance, shelter, clothing, and protection.

It was also seen as the dwelling of important deities, such as Anu and Enlil. To ensure prosperity and blessings, Sumerians would hold rituals around the tree. Additionally, they believed that after death one could be reincarnated into a new form such as a bird or a fish, depending on their conduct in life.

How did the Sumerians visualize Tree of Life?

The Sumerian Tree of Life was distinct from other cultures’ depictions of a Tree of Life. The icon of the Tree of Life was visualized as a sacred tree placed between two figures, and protected by two more on either side with a winged disk icon hovering above. Unlike other cultures, the Sumerian Tree of Life was not associated with fertility or a male and female god, but merely with protection and sanctity. There was no connection to life and death, unlike the Egyptian acacia tree.

Mesopotamian tree of life

Historians have noted the presence of a Sumerian Tree of Life in the earliest writings of Mesopotamia, which is often depicted with religious and symbolic significance. Represented by a winged disk icon, two protectors, and crisscrossing lines, this potent symbol was associated with fertility, goddesses and gods, life, death, and serpents or plants that could bring eternal life. It has also been found drawn on the walls of fortresses in ancient Armenia, as well as on the armor of warriors during that time period. The Tree of Life is a venerated symbol that predates the Judeo-Christian tradition and has been observed in many cultures around the world.

The tree of life served as a symbol for divine knowledge and creation.

Historians view the Tree of Life in ancient Mesopotamia as representing the spiritual connection between heaven, earth, and the underworld. It was believed to sustain all forms of creation and bestow life-giving energy.

These beliefs have been captured in artwork, often showing a series of flowering nodes and crisscrossing vines attended to by human or eagle-headed winged genies or the King. The concept of the sacred tree is seen in many cultures around the world, and continues to be used in modern times as a symbol of inspiration and environmental protection.

The tree of life represented the divine authority of kings and rulers.

Represented by a flowering node and crisscrossing vines, it symbolized fertility and abundance, and was closely related to the concept of the sacred tree, which united heaven, earth, and all forms of creation.

Assyrian reliefs often portray the king offering a blessing from his bucket and cone before attending genies, human or eagle-headed and winged, at the Tree of Life. These scenes were also embroidered on royal garments as symbols of authority and affluence. The name “Tree of Life” has been applied to this symbol by modern scholars, though no textual evidence that confirms this meaning exists.

The tree of life was used in rituals and ceremonies to connect with the gods.

In ancient Mesopotamia, the Tree of Life was a symbol of spiritual connection between the heavens, earth, and underworld. Representations of this sacred tree can be seen in palace reliefs, often depicted with flowering nodes surrounded by crisscrossing vines. Scholars have not found any written evidence about the ritual of the Assyrian King blessing or fertilizing the Tree of Life with a bucket and cone.

Akkadian Empire

The Akkadian Empire as one of the world’s earliest empires. It was founded by Sargon of Akkad around 2300 BCE, and flourished until the 21st century BCE. Sargon established a system of governors to rule different regions, as well as conquering lands like Sumer and Elam in order to form an expansive trading network, increasing wealth and prosperity in the empire.

Construction projects such as temples, walls, canals, and dams were also undertaken. Additionally, laws were codified into written form for easier enforcement. Writing systems such as cuneiform script were used for administrative purposes, and elements of neighboring cultures were adopted or adapted by the Akkadian Empire, such as religion from Babylonia.

What are the main elements of the Sumerian religion?

Tree of Life

Historians believe that the Tree of Life, a symbol representing the connection between humanity and divinity, was first seen in ancient Sumerian religion. It was often depicted in art and literature, and believed to provide eternal life to those who consumed its fruit or embodied its symbolic qualities.

The Tree of Life was associated with the World Tree, a bridge connecting physical and spiritual worlds, which humans desired to reconnect to nature and divinity by consuming its life-giving fruits. As such, the Tree of Life was seen as a symbol of eternal life for those who embodied its symbolism.


Historians have identified numerous gods and minor spirits in the Sumerian religion. The most prominent gods are An, the god of Heaven; Utu, the god of the Sun; and Inanna, the goddess of Love and Fertility. Enlil, who controls the wind and the air; Nanna-Sin, associated with knowledge and wisdom; Nergal, the god of War; Ninhursag, or Ninmah, symbolizing motherhood; Shamash, or Utu-Shamash, a deity of justice and truth; Dumuzi, or Tammuz, the shepherd god associated with springtime renewal; Ishtar, or Astarte, goddess of fertility and sex; and Adad, also known as Ishkur or Hadad, the storm deity in charge of rainstorms are also important deities. Additionally, many minor spirits inhabit natural objects, such as rivers and mountains.

Creation Story

The creation story of the Sumerian religion is a narrative that chronologically explains the world’s origin. According to the story, the gods Anu and Antu created heaven and earth. Enlil was the god of air, wind, water and fertility, and Enki was the god of wisdom. Ninhursag, the goddess of creation, fashioned humans from clay to assist with farming.

However, these humans were without souls, so Enki gave them life from his own flesh and Ninhursag’s clay, creating two distinct races. The first were ‘Adapa’, named after their creator Adapa, and characterized by dark skin and black hair. The second race were referred to as ‘Ab Adam’, meaning ‘from earth’, and were observed to have light skin and white hair. Both races lived in harmony until a great flood forced them to migrate northward.


The Sumerian religion contains an underworld element which suggests that souls would travel to an afterlife upon death. It is believed that each individual had two souls – one that remained on earth and the other that followed them into the underworld.

This underworld was seen as a dark place, where the souls awaited judgement at the hands of the gods. Those who were deemed innocent were allowed to return home or continue their journey into paradise, while those who were guilty were destined to hard labor. Nergal was associated with death and the underworld, as the god was known to preside over punishments in the afterlife.


The Sumerian religion held the belief that heaven was a paradise-like realm, where humans could join the gods in eternal peace and harmony. This realm was said to be full of grand gardens, rivers, and palaces made of gold and other luxurious materials.

It was thought that those who attained entrance to this heavenly realm would be granted eternal life and abundant prosperity, free from disease and hunger.


The elements of a kingdom in Sumerian religion included a divinely-selected king who had been granted authority by the gods, protective spirits to watch over him, advisors to provide counsel, laws to maintain order, resources such as land and livestock to provide for the people’s needs, and infrastructure like roads to facilitate safe travel.

Sun and Moon

Historians believe that the Sumerian religion viewed the sun and moon as deities that represented order, justice, and fertility. The sun was seen as a god of justice and order while the moon was regarded as a goddess of fertility. Both were worshipped for their role in providing light to grow crops and sustain life. They were seen to symbolize order through their cyclical nature, with the sun rising every day and setting every night.


The Sumerian deities were believed to control aspects of nature, such as the weather and fertility, as well as influence the fortunes of humans. The Sumerians believed that the stars in the night sky were divine beings with supernatural powers and worshipped them through offerings and rituals.

These deities were often depicted as humans with wings or horns who lived among the stars. Furthermore, the Sumerians developed astrological systems to predict future events based on the movements of celestial bodies.

Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Mesopotamian epic poem which tells the story of Gilgamesh, the legendary king of Uruk, and his quest to discover the secret of eternal life. Spanning twelve tablets, the poem follows a mystical path through the Tree of Life from bottom to top where it culminates in the acquisition of superior esoteric knowledge.

The Epic of Gilgamesh dives into many complex themes such as friendship, love, loyalty and betrayal. Each tablet contains clues which help historians to penetrate its secret; for instance, Tablet IX deals with spiritual awakening in contrast to Tablet XII which corresponds to Anu (Heaven) on the psychological Tree, thus representing knowledge or wisdom associated with death and rebirth according to Kabbalistic tradition.


What is the significance of the tree in Sumerian religion?

Historians have found that the tree has been a significant symbol in Sumerian religion for centuries. It is associated with the goddess Ishtar, the goddess of fertility and the harvest of dates. Images of the sacred tree have evolved over time – early depictions were naturalistic, while later artwork exhibited more ornamental forms. The palmette at the top of the tree is thought to represent either a frond or a large date palm leaf, both of which symbolize fertility in ancient Near Eastern art. Trees and their symbolism continue to be an important part of religious expression today, not just in Sumerian culture but in many cultures around the world.

What is the Ain Soph?

Historians note that the concept of the Ain Soph is an integral part of Kabbalah. This term is used to refer to a divine and transcendent God that exists beyond all physical creation. Based on this idea, it is believed that an infinite amount of light and goodness exists which is unknowable and cannot be limited by any physical constructions or concepts. Representing perfect unity without separation from anything else in existence, the Ain Soph is seen as a representation of this infinite light.

What is the role of the serpent in the Sumerian Tree of Life?

Scholars have noted that the serpent is often seen as a symbol of both life and death, as it can both give and take away life. This is illustrated in the Inanna and the Huluppu Tree story, where Ishtar/Inanna is guarded by a “snake which knows no charm”. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, a serpent steals an immortality-giving plant from underneath the sea.

The Assyrian Tree of Life was also often accompanied by Eagle-Headed gods or priests, or even the King himself, thought to be due to its association with serpents.

Armenians were seen to have bronze helmet decorations picturing serpents from around the 12th century B.C., while Egyptian mythology also has Isis and Osiris linked to acacia trees from which serpents emerge at their birth.

How does the Sumerian Tree of Life relate to other Mesopotamian religions?

The Sumerian Tree of Life is similar to other Mesopotamian religions in its sacred representation of a tree. This concept of a tree of life is also seen in Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures, although none of these use the term “tree of life” in their ancient writings.

What sets the Sumerian Tree of Life apart from other sacred trees is its inclusion of a winged disc icon above, as well as two protectors on either side bringing water for nourishment. This added symbol of power and life makes the Sumerian Tree of Life even more significant.

What are the main symbols associated with the Sumerian Tree of Life?

Historians view the Sumerian Tree of Life as a symbol that has strong links to fertility, male and female deities, serpents, birds, water, branches, leaves and protection or good luck.

Ancient Mesopotamian and Canaanite traditions associate the tree with fertility and life, while in Assyrian depictions, it features nodes that represent life energy and crisscrossing lines for protection and luck.

Eagle-Headed gods and priests or the king were often depicted attending to the tree. This symbol is much older than the Judeo-Christian tradition and is widely seen in many cultures around the world.

How did the Sumerian Tree of Life influence later cultures?

The Sumerian Tree of Life has significantly impacted later cultures by providing the foundations for various myths, stories and religions. In ancient Mesopotamia and Canaanite cultures, this tree was regularly linked to a goddess or god. The story of Inanna and the Huluppu Tree is an example of this, featuring a serpent who guards the sacred tree and Gilgamesh searching for the plant of immortality at the bottom of the sea.

The Assyrian Tree of Life is a popular religious symbol which demonstrates the intersection of various nodes. Moreover, the Tree of Life was seen throughout Armenia in the 12th century B.C, as it was depicted on fortress walls and carved onto armor. In Egyptian mythology, the Tree of Life is represented by the acacia tree of Saosis, and the sycamore fig is seen as a sacred tree which is the bridge between life and death.

What is the significance of the Sun Disk in Sumerian religion?

Historians have long studied the Sun Disk, which is also commonly referred to as the Winged Disk. This emblem was a significant symbol of power and authority in the ancient Sumerian religion. It represented the highest god, Assur, and was thought to be his chariot, taking him through the skies.

The Sun Disk was usually depicted as a circle with wings and radiating beams of light from the middle. It was often seen alongside other spiritual symbols, like tree trunks and pillars.

The number 30 often appeared in conjunction with the Sun Disk, which could be due to its association with the sexagesimal system (base 60) that was used by ancient civilizations like the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.

It is speculated that this special number was connected to Assur’s role as ruler of the heavens, as it is equivalent to one third of 360 degrees which is considered to be one full rotation around the Earth’s axis. Additionally, Kabbalah tradition, which started in Jewish mysticism, sees this sign as signifying Ain Soph, a boundless divine power that permeates existence.

What is the Tree of Enlightenment?

The concept of the Tree of Enlightenment is believed to have originated in antiquity, when trees were thought to hold special powers and provide insight into spiritual matters.

In Buddhist thought, for instance, the Bodhi tree symbolizes self-realization through meditation and other spiritual practices.

The Book of Mormon mentions a sacred tree that provides nourishment for both physical and spiritual needs (1 Nephi 8:10).

Christianity has also incorporated the imagery of the “tree of life” in the Gospel According to John (14:6). Consequently, trees continue to serve as symbols of enlightenment in many religious contexts.


By leslieszabo

I like silence. I like balance.