The desert-loving tamarisk, native to Africa and the Middle East, is presently a common sight in the dryer areas of the western United States. Every time I see one, I am reminded of the brief months I spent working off the grid at an all-but-forgotten hot springs in a desolate area of California’s vast central valley. The water in the hot springs was salty, which is why the tamarisks (Latin name Tamarix, also known as salt cedar) thrive there while very few other trees do. As I recharged and recalibrated after a particularly challenging time in my life, the tamarisks played a role in my much-needed emotional detoxification.
Connection Between Heaven and Earth
The Egyptian god Osiris was at one time hidden in a chest inside the trunk of a tamarisk tree, which was later cut down and transformed into a pillar that was hypothesized by many to be an archetypal “tree of life” or “axis mundi”—in other words, a connection between the realm of the earth and the divine, heavenly realm of the sky. Along similar lines, there’s a traditional belief that the “manna from heaven” in fact descended upon the Israelites from the branches of a tamarisk tree.
Spiritual and Emotional Purification
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Ninsun (Gilgamesh’s mother and “the great wild cow goddess”) purifies herself in a bath containing tamarisk and soapwort before petitioning Shamash, the sun god, to support and watch over her son. Indeed, the purifying properties of the tamarisk cannot be overstated. Like sea salt and searing sunlight on desert sand, tamarisks effectively dry out and disinfect any and all emotional and/or spiritual darkness, heaviness, and toxicity. This is mirrored in the physical realm by the way their long taproots find moisture hidden deep within the earth, as well as by their mechanism of dispersing salt through their leaves to the ground around their base, discouraging other plants from growing nearby.