For thousands of years there existed the sacred ritual focused on the myth of the Mother Goddess and her son-lover. In the Christian tradition that became solidified hundreds of years after Jesus' death, Mary was elevated to the ancient role of the Goddess. Strangely, the perennial mythic images of the dying, resurrected God also gathered around the figure of Jesus. This coincidence has made it impossible for many to distinguish between myth and reality.
With the exception of Dumuzi's lament in Sumeria, Jesus took on the first role of the "son-lover" whose voice has been transmitted via written scriptures. You can also see this ancient myth played out in the bridegroom's song in the biblical Song of Songs. However, it's in the story of Jesus that the "son-God" first teaches the meaning of his sacrifice, and it is also the first time that the son-God takes the sacrifice upon himself willingly. In the tradition that preceded him for thousands of years, the son-lovers
of the goddess of earlier times were not shown as consenting to their death or understanding it. Thus, in the story of the son-lover, or bridegroom, of Jesus we see a clear leap of consciousness to another level.
The question bemoans us to understand the parallels between Christianity and religious beliefs many thousands of years older than itself. We must also seek to understand why and how this myth came to surround itself in the life of someone called Jesus, who was a profound Messenger for humanity. Christians say it is because Jesus was the Son of God. However, one must know that this same story existed prior to Jesus in the story of Dumuzi in Sumeria, of Tammuz in Babylonia, of Attis in Phrygia, of Dionysus and Adonis of the Greeks, and of Horus or Osiris of the Egyptians. If one is not wholly aware of the existences of these ancient myths of the Goddess and her son-God as lover, then one cannot fully understand the similarities found within the Christian story that was formed to package the life of Jesus into this same cultural belief system.
Let's examine some similarities:
The cross upon which Christ hangs was often shown in early Christianity as two branches of a living tree. Often the tree was shown with all but the essential branches cut back to the stem, rendering the cross as the ever living Tree of Life. Let us review the symbolism of the Tree of Life to point out the universality of this image. Once the epiphany of the Mother Goddess came into the human psyche, the dramas of the Tree of Life followed within the cultural evolution of humanity. Trees were shown as giving birth to Gods and heroic redeemers. Then the gods began to be shown as embodied in the tree's rising sap and the dynamic and renewing phases of its growth. Dumuzi of Sumeria, the son-lover of Inanna, was called the "Son of the Abyss: Lord of the Tree of Life." In Egypt, the sun god was born variously from the heavenly cow, Hathor, the female body of Nut, the sky goddess, or from the highest branches of the tree of Isis. The brother-husband of Isis, Osiris, who as the setting sun, became the lord of the underworld, was reborn from a tree.
Additionally, there was a tree for Queen Maya to lean against when she gave birth to the Buddha. It was also beneath the boddhi tree that the mature Buddha sat until he reached enlightenment. In Ancient Greece, the myrtle tree gave birth to Adonis, who was the lover of Aphrodite. Adonis was also known as the God of regeneration, whose death and resurrection were mourned yearly in the springtime. In Persia & Rome, Mithras was the sun God who came forth from a tree (or sometimes a cave) and the winter solstice as the Sol Invictus. This title naturally fell to Jesus, who was "born" at the same time. Imaginal trees surround the life of Jesus as well. His earthly father was a carpenter, a fashioner of the cut tree. Furthermore, in the Rig Veda, the architect of the universe, Tvastri, is imagined as a carpenter, who fashions the world into being.
Doctrinally, the symbolism of the cross in the Christian Faith dismisses any reference to its universality as a symbol for believers of many creeds. In the Christian doctrine, the cross as the Tree of Life is positioned symbolically as counter to the Tree of Knowledge. This symbolism in the Christian doctrine purports that the cross is the image of final redemption of the original Fall of mankind. In art Christ was also shown as hanging on a tree of grapes, which linked his sacrifice with that of the dismembered God of the Greeks, Dionysus. This symbolism doctrinally linked itself to his statement: "I am the vine, ye are the branches" (John 15:5)
Sometimes as in the Byzantine mosaic on the Church of San Clemente, the death and resurrection of Christ are portrayed as one image. In this artistic representation, the spiraling Tree of Life takes back into itself the body of Jesus, the trunk of the tree serving as the cross upon which Christ hangs surrounded by doves. The Tree of Life in this imagery both contains and transforms the cross of its central branches, and the drama is one where the Lord of the Tree of Life is cut down for the birth of all.
In this you will find the symbolism of the Christian tradition of Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday ynsince the ashes placed on the foreheads of the faithful are the embers of last year's palm leaves, which have been blessed with holy water and the sign of the cross. This ceremony symbolically revives the life-force of the Tree of Life. The mass of Palm Sunday, which begins the Holy Week that ends in the resurrection of Christ at Easter, begins with a consecration of branches of Palm and olive, not the customary bread and wine. In fact, the whole aspect of the Holy Week in Christian tradition takes on the character of a Mystery drama, in which the events of the "passion" of Christ are re-enacted every year. This is the exact same ritual as was done in the Mysteries of Attis at Rome, or the Mystery of Osiris, which culminated in the raising of the wooden pillar of the Tree of Life, a symbol of resurrection: "Osiris is risen," the people cried!