Jiroft candelabrum tree b
Motifs on chlorite artifacts from the ‘Jiroft’ Culture (3rd millennium BCE). Images: Top – iranicaonline.org. Bottom – iranicaonline.org.

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The ‘candelabrum’ tree (see figures c., d. and e. above) featured on chlorite stone vessels[1] (c. 2500 BCE) from the ‘Jiroft’ Culture (3rd millennium BCE) on the Iranian plateau looks very much like the Jewish menorah. I also wonder if this Jiroft depiction is a symbolically stylized olive tree; this would make sense considering that the original and traditional oil used with the menorah—when functioning as a lighted lamp—was olive oil.

In the opening image, figure d. is clearly a symbolic representation. Although there is a lack of context, the present writer would speculate that it might be a symbolic depiction of the summer solstice in the Constellation of the Lion[2]: the sun at its seasonal zenith—the peak and pivot point of the ascending and descending solar force symbolized here by the symmetrical conjoining of two lions. If that interpretation were to hold true, then the upside-down bull at the base of the ‘Olive’ Tree might represent the ‘germination’, regeneration or ‘branching out’ of the solar force in its ascendance at the vernal equinox, which at the time (c. 2500 BCE) occurred in the Constellation of the Bull. Keep in mind that the vernal equinox in the annual course of the sun is the seasonal complement to the time of sunrise in the daily course of the sun, and as such will share much of the same symbolism related to the concepts of germination, daybreak, springing forth, branching out or rising/ascending upwards (ultimately culminating in the full-bodied splendour of the summer solstice).

From the perspective of comparative typology and comparative mythology, note that the solar Horus in Ancient Egypt was called “the child of the Olive tree” in reference to the sun’s ‘birthing’ or rising from the ‘tree’ of dawn upon the ‘mount’ of the horizon to the east. In this mythos, Bākhū was the Land of the Sunrise in the east, and Bāqt was the mythical Olive Tree in Heliopolis (the City of the Sun). Moreover, bākh and beq denote ‘light, bright’; beqt is an olive tree; bāq and beq are olive oil; and the ‘mount’ of the eastern horizon of beqū (olives) can be said to be a type of solar “Mount of Olives”. Recall the more familiar “Mount of Olives” הַר הַזֵּיתִים Har ha-Zeitim which is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City.

In closing, here is an excerpt from Asphodel Long’s lecture, Asherah, the Tree of Life and the Menorah : Continuity of a Goddess symbol in Judaism?

When she [Carol Meyers, in her publication, The Tabernacle Menorah, Scholars Press Missoula, 1976] turns to the Menorah of Exodus, the Tabernacle Menorah, she examines in detail its relation to the iconography and texts concerning sacred trees in the Ancient Near East. She writes that her study “has shown that the tabernacle menorah in form and detail belongs to the conventional way for the sanctity of vegetable life to be depicted.” (1974: 133). She declares that it has long been recognised that because of the language employed to describe the Menorah and because of its appearance as a thickened stem or shaft from which its branches project that the whole shape strongly resembles a stylised tree. Meyers cites S.A. Cook (1974) who pointed out this some time ago, largely on the basis of its representation in later Jewish art. He would, she says, have laid it down that the candlestick and the tree inevitably tend to merge into one another. Goodenough also suggests this, pointing out that the vision of Zachariah (4:1-14) with trees flanking the Menorah perhaps preserves the original meaning of plant form imbued with sanctity.” (Men 84) She argues: “A consideration of some of the details of such forms has revealed that there is a close morphological connection between arboreal expressions on ancient seals and monuments and the branched form assumed by the superstructure, as it were, of the tabernacle Menorah (whose form) is exactly (that) taken by the quintessential stylised tree or branch in the Mesopotamian, Aegean, and Syro-Palestinian religions. Whereas there are various modes for expressing stylised plant life throughout Mesopotamian history, it is precisely in the Late Bronze Age that a specific six plus one axis form not only comes to dominate but is also disseminated throughout the Eastern Mediterranean island and coastal areas”. (1974: 118/119) Referring to the sanctity of the vegetable and plant life symbolised, she declares that it “involves both the fertility theme of the tree and the immortality concept”.

Endnotes:

[1] For more details on these and other iconography from the Jiroft culture, see Jean Perrot’s article Iconography of Chlorite Artifacts in “Jiroft,” Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. XIV/6, ISFAHAN IX – JOBBĀʾI, 2008, pp. 656-664.
[2] It could be argued, and it has by some (e.g. Gerald Massey), that the extant Leo constellation was first set on the zodiac during the time when the summer solstice was positioned in that constellation—the full solar force corresponding to the lion force, hence both the solar lion and the constellation of the lion.

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