Signs & Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and MeaningsDK
From ancient hieroglyphs to modern-day graffiti, discover the secrets, origins and meanings of over 2,000 signs and symbols The world around us is filled with signs and symbols. Modern signs like alphabets and flags are universally recognisable, whereas many symbols of ancient derivation are hard to decipher. Explore the fascinating origins and meanings of the signs and symbols people have used over the centuries and discover how they have been interpreted in myth, religion, folklore, art and contemporary culture. Find out why a flag at half-mast is a symbol of mourning, why a heart pierced by an arrow is a symbol of love and the ancient roots of fertility symbols.
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AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THEIR ORIGINS AND MEANINGS CONTENTS 1–11 Prelims 12–13 THE COSMOS 14–15 Introduction 16–17 The Sun 18–19 The Moon 20–23 The night sky 24–27 The Earth 28–29 Mountains 30–31 Fire 32–33 Water 34–35 The weather 36–37 Rain & snow 38–39 Floods 40–41 The seasons 42–43 Precious stones 44–45 Gold 46–47 Precious matter 48–49 NATAA URAL WORLD 50–51 Introduction 52–55 Mammals 56–57 Cats 58–61 Birds 62–63 Eagles 64–65 Reptiles & amphibians 66–67 Snakes 68–71 Aquatic creatures 72–73 Creepy crawlies 74–77 Fabulous beasts 78–79 Dragons 80–81 Plants 82–85 Flowers 86–87 The lotus LONDON, NEW YORK, MUNICH, MELBOURNE, DELHI Project Editor Kathryn Wilkinson Senior Art Editor Vicky Short Editors Kim Dennis-Bryan, Nicola Hodgson, Neil Lockley Designer Tim Lane Jacket Designer Silke Spingies Editoral Consultant Miranda Bruce-Mitford Consultant Philip Wilkinson Contributors Ian Harrison, James Harrison, Sally Regan, Anna Southgate, Amber TokeleyTT Illustrator Debajyoti Dutta Picture Researchers Megan Jones, Roland Smithies, Sarah Smithies Production Editors Maria Elia, Sharon McGoldrick Production Controller Louise Minihane Managing Editor Julie Oughton Managing Art Editor Christine Keilty Art Director Bryn Walls Publisher Jonathan Metcalf First published in Great Britain in 2008 by Dorling Kindersley Limited 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL A Penguin Company 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1 Copyright © Dorling Kindersley Limited 2008 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: 978 1 4053 2539 4 Colour reproduction by Colourscan, Singapore Printed and bound in China by Sheck Wah Tong Printing Press Ltd.TT Discover more at www.dk.com 88–89 Herbs & spices 90–93 The forest 94–95 Trees 96–97 Sacred trees 98–99 Fruits of the earth 100–101 Foods of the earth 102–103 HUMAN LIFE 104–105 Introduction 106–109 The head 110–111 Head trophies 112–115 Human body 116–119 Hands & feet 120–123 Fertility & childbirth 124–125 Initiation rites 126–127 Love & marriage 128–131 Death & mourning 132–133 Vanitas 134–135 MYTHS & RELIGIONS 136–137 Introduction 138–139 Egyptian deities 140–141 Greek & Roman deities 142–143 Celtic & Nordic deities 144–145 Meso- & South American deities 146–147 Ancestors 148–149 Nature spirits 150–151 Tribal totems, heroes & tricksters 152–153 The Dreaming 154–155 Shamanism 156–157 Creation stories 158–163 Hinduism 164–169 Buddhism 170–171 Taoism & Shinto 172–173 Judaism 174–175 Kabbalah 176–179 Christianity 180–183 Islam 184–185 Sikhism 186–187 Voodoo 188–189 Angels 190–191 Satan & demons 192–193 Witches & wicca 194–195 Amulets 196–199 Divination 200– 203 Western astrology 204–205 Chinese horoscope 206–207 Numerology 208–209 The Holy Grail 210–211 Alchemy 212–213 SOCIETY & CULTULL RE 214–215 Introduction 216–217 Royalty 218–219 Trappings of royalty 220–221 Coronations 222–223 Nationality 224–225 Tools & weapons 226–227 Architecture 228–231 Religious architecture 232–233 Sacred places 234–235 Buildings 236–237 Steps to Heaven 238–241 The home 242–243 Ships & boats 244–247 Gardens 248–249 Clothing & costume 250–251 Headwear 252–253 Uniforms 254–255 Jewellery 256–257 Body adornment 258–259 Group affiliation 260–261 Freemasonry 262–267 Art 268–269 Dance & theatre 270–271 Masks 272–273 Fairy tales 274–275 Musical instruments 276–277 SYMBOL SYSTEMS 278–279 Introduction 280–283 Colours 284–289 Shapes 290–293 Patterns 294–299 Numbers 300–305 Picture writing 306–309 Alphabets 310–313 International signs 314–315 Professional signs 316–317 Brands & logos 318–323 Heraldic emblems 324–329 Flags 330–331 Sign languages & signals 334–337 Symbolic gestures 338–343 Glossary 344–345 Further reading 346–351 Index 352 Acknowledgments ne of our distinguishing features as Homo sapiens is our enquiring mind. We have always questioned things, not least our existence on Earth: why we are here, where we come from, what happens after death, and what is the meaning behind the natural phenomena around us. Over thousands of years we have created a framework of beliefs that allows us, to some extent, to answer these ancient questions. As part of this framework of beliefs, we have developed an extensive vocabulary of signs and symbols that remind us of our unity with the cosmos. Both signs and symbols are widely recognized, but the difference between the two is sometimes unclear. A sign is straightforward in its function: it may be a constituent part of a written or a visual language, a visual vocabulary of warnings about the road ahead, or a dramatic statement about a company’s product. Signs give us a simple message that is of immediate momentary relevance. A symbol, on the other hand, is a visual image or sign representing an idea – a deeper indicator of a universal truth. Fire, for example, symbolizes both the Sun and the masculine life-force that is all around us, while a Spring flower represents rebirth and new life. When viewed in the light of symbols, life becomes enriched and meaningful. From earliest times, symbols have related to the cosmos, fertility, death, and renewal, but the advent of psychoanalytical theory has caused ideas and objects to be examined in the light of the psyche and psychological needs. A dark shadow, for instance, can be seen as symbolic of inner insecurities. Many fairy stories, when analysed, relate to the process of growing up, encountering obstacles, and emerging as adults; for example Little Red Riding Hood. For the most part, however, the ancient and archetypal symbols relate to the Universe and our relationship with the cosmos. Some symbols, such as the circle and the bird in flight, are universally recognized. The first symbolizes, among other things, birth, rebirth, and the turning of the seasons, while the bird can represent the soul’s ascent to Heaven. Fabulous beasts, too, have appeared in art for millennia. These symbolize the joint qualities of the creatures they represent; a satyr, for example, is part-goat, part-man, indicating a human’s higher and lower self. The fact that some symbols appear in widely scattered parts of the world gives rise to debate on their origin. Did they occur spontaneously as a natural part of human’s unconscious urgings, or were they the result of a transfusion of ideas from one country to another? We are increasingly aware of the amount of travel that took place in the ancient world. SIGNS GIVE US A SIMPLE MESSAGE THAT IS OF IMMEDIATE MOMENTARY RELEVANCE. A SYMBOL... IS A VISUAL IMAGE OR SIGN Trade routes criss-crossed the globe and religious ideas, art styles, and even artists travelled with the traders. That is how Islam reached Southeast Asia, Buddhism extended to Japan, and Portuguese is spoken in the heart of South America. As goods and ideas were exchanged, so were symbols, which gained significance far from their place of origin. The dragon, a Chinese creation, is one such symbol. In China it represents the glory of both the Emperor and the Sun, but in European Christian art its symbolism is negative, representing humankind’s baser self. The image of the bird battling the serpent is found from New Guinea to the Americas and symbolizes the eternal struggle of the sky, Earth, and waters. Finally, the tao t’ieh, or highly stylized face that appears on the bronze vessels of Ancient China, re-emerges in the gargoyles of European cathedrals and in the motifs of cultures around the Pacific Rim. A universal symbol that probably developed in many places simultaneously is that of the goddess. Often depicted with a large belly and breasts, she represents fertility and abundance, and her image appears in prehistoric art from Malta to the Russian Steppes. She represents birth and, as the Earth Mother, renewal. Sometimes shown as a simple triangle, symbolic of female genitalia, the goddess is also depicted as a circle, representing the continuous cycle of birth and rebirth. Due to the passage of time and the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam the myth of the archetypal goddess has largely vanished from human consciousness; however, some still recognize her symbols, and the worship of the Virgin Mary remains a partial link with these beliefs. As people have become increasingly disengaged from the natural world, so the all-producing and all-nurturing goddess A UNIVERSAL SYMBOL THATAA PROBABLY DEVELOPED IN MAMM NY PLACES SIMULTATT NEOUSLY IS THAT OF THE GODDESS AA has been replaced by creator gods, or by a transcendent god who appears detached from the creative process. Male gods, unlike the Mother Goddess, control nature. The use and recognition of symbols enriches our lives. Once we see objects as representing truths or deeper issues, we begin to develop a realization of the dual nature of existence – the inner and outer life – all around us. A simple ladder, for example, serves both as a tool and a reminder of the spiritual climb towards self-awareness or a higher truth; a bowl can represent the receptive feminine principle and creation; a lily rising from the mud can be a reminder of purity of spirit; whilst a lamp may signify the light of truth. Seeing objects in this symbolic way allows us to live more “harmoniously” by increasing our awareness, not only of day-to-day living but also of the universal truths of existence. When used in art, symbolism serves as a visual language for interpreting a scene; however, symbols once routinely used in Renaissance art are no longer widely recognized, making it harder to understand the hidden meaning of ONCE WE SEE OBJECTS AS REPRESENTING TRUTHS OR DEEPER ISSUES, WE BEGIN TO DEVELOP AN AWARENESS OF THE DUAL a painting. In Christian art, for example, birds were a well known attribute of St. Francis, as was the wheel for St. Catherine. Early Buddhist art depicted the Buddha in aniconic form: his body was not shown, but his presence was symbolized by a throne or footprint. More generally, the portrayal of water in art might symbolize the unconscious mind or the Primordial waters, while Classical goddesses often represent specific virtues such as wisdom. In more modern art, objects included do not necessarily mean anything to the viewer but have deep resonance for the artist, such as a connection with childhood. Similarly, in the Australian Aboriginal Dreaming, a person’s life and surroundings make up his or her own unique “thumbprint”, often painted in the sand. Symbolism occurs in some famous literary works. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, a Christian allegory, Pilgrim represents everyman, striving to attain union with God. In C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, Christian allegory also appears in the form of Aslan the lion, who represents Christ. The symbolic nature of dreams has long been recognized. Being chased or falling are commonly interpreted as symbolic of an individual’s fears of growing up and facing the responsibilities of adult life. However, it is not just in psychoanalysis that dream symbolism is interpreted as reflecting the ...DREAM SYMBOLISM IS INTERPRETED AS REFLECTING THE WORKINGS OF THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND workings of the unconscious mind: many societies also recognize its importance. The Semai of Malaysia, for example, believed in the importance of dream symbolism and trained themselves to confront symbolic fears while dreaming, so that they could then resolve the underlying fears in their waking life. While much symbolism has remained unchanged for millennia, a new form has developed. Today’s culture heroes, such as Superman and Spider-man, are similar to the heroes in ancient creation myths who performed some heroic deed, such as stealing fire for humankind or recreating the world after a flood. However, other modern culture heroes include celebrities, who appeal to us because of their looks, because they are universally admired, or because their luxurious lifestyle represents an ideal to which many people aspire. This attraction is presumably a response to the deep seated insecurities that we face today. Other symbols are doom-laden: for example, the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima that marked the advent of the atomic bomb, or the collapse of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center, both of which represent our worst fears of annihilation. Wherever we live, we are surrounded by symbols – if we choose to see them. We can go through life ignorant of this rich imagery, or we can open our eyes to the deeper truths inherent in much that surrounds us. For those interested in exploring the philosophical and the metaphysical, a world filled with symbols is infinitely rich and rewarding, leading us to a greater understanding of ourselves and bringing a fresh perspective to our lives. B y observing the movement of the Sun, the Moon, stars, and planets, and by noticing the changing seasons, humans have gradually developed a view of the natural rhythm of the Universe. Over milennia, we have constructed a cosmology that explained our observations and helped us fit into the natural order; we also assigned control of nature’s forces to gods whom we worshipped. This led to a widespread belief that in order to survive all the horrors that the gods could unleash, humans and deities needed to co- operate with one another. So, people made sacrifices and offerings to invoke cosmic harmony – gentle rain for the crops and fair winds for sailors – while natural disasters, such as devastating droughts, earthquakes, or floods, were invariably blamed on divine retribution. As a result, cosmic symbolism is closely bound with religion. The Sun, for example, is a universal cosmic symbol for divine power, while Buddhists regard fire as the wisdom that burns away all ignorance. To Christians and Hindus water is often symbolic of purification, and to all the great world religions the heavens are home to the divine. Indeed, the sky and everything in it, from the Moon and stars to thunder and lightning, is symbolically associated with the divine world. Mountains, too, have sacred status because of their proximity to the heavens. They each had their gods, goddesses, and supernatural representatives, which varied according to culture. Creation myths and myths concerning a global flood are common to all cultures and make use of cosmic symbolism as well as themes of divine retribution in order to explain the mysteries of the Universe. Such symbols were important to early societies because they helped people to live in a more harmonious way, and also to understand and strive towards their divine enlightenment. Early science tried to establish symbolic links with the four main constituents of the cosmos, namely earth, fire, water, and air. Air and fire were regarded as symbolically masculine and active, while earth and water were feminine and passive; achieving a balance between the elements was seen as the foundation for cosmic harmony. Signs and symbols have played a vital role in broadening our scientific understanding of the world in which we live: astronomy and astrology, for example, evolved from ancient times when people used cosmic symbolism to explain why planets moved across the sky, or why stars formed constellations. Seasonal and cosmic symbolism, too, are often intertwined, as measurements of time have always been based on the daily and seasonal movements of the Sun and the Moon. Despite the many discoveries of modern science, cosmic symbolism remains relevant to many people throughout the world and continues to colour our language. Celebrities are “stars”; many national flags bear cosmic symbols, such as the Sun and the Moon, indicating divine rule and power; precious stones, particularly birthstones, are still imbued with symbolic meaning; and astrology remains as popular as ever. Even today, we still try to find meaning in our world through signs and symbols. TO SURVIVE ALL THE HORRORS THAT THE GODS COULD UNLEASH, HUMANS AND DEITIES NEEDED TO CO-OPERATE WITH ONE ANOTHER Most cultures have at some time worshipped the Sun as the supreme cosmic power – the life-force that enables all things to thrive and grow. As the source of heat, the Sun symbolizes vitality, passion, and youth. As the source of light, it represents enlightenment. It is also an emblem of royalty and empire. In some traditions the Sun is the Universal Father. Its rising and settin symbolizes birth, death, and resurrec The winter and summer solstices mark the shortest and longest days of the year and have inspired myths and festivals worldwide. The winter solstice symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, or the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new cycle of light and growth. abundant peak, although it also marks the Sun’s waning power; druids welcomed the summer solstice at dawn. Both solstices are marked with fire, representing the Sun’s warmth and also fertility. The dawn Dawn is a symbol of hope, joy, and youth. It represents birth, new beginnings, and freshness. In Christianity it is a symbol of resurrection. Often it is used to symbolize the dawn of the world or humankind, and is therefore also associated with many creation myths. Eos The personification of youth, hope, and awakening, Eos, goddess of the dawn, was worshipped in Ancient Greece. Her fingers symbolized the pastel fingers of dawn stealing across the sky, and she was adorned with morning dew. Stonehenge solstice Britain’s most potent symbol of the summer solstice, Stonehenge in Wiltshire, has been a focus for pagan celebration for thousands of years. People gather there to greet the dawn as it rises over the Heel Stone on midsummer’s day. represents the Sun’s authority over the four compass points (north, south, east, and west) and was used ceremonially. It originates from the Bella Coola or Nuxalk tribe of British Columbia. THE SUN Vessels scattering sparks of fire to light the dawn The Sun has been portrayed as the symbolic centre of the cosmos. This most brilliant of the celestial bodies is a symbol of royalty and imperial splendour. The Chinese regard the Sun as an imperial Yang symbol. The Japanese use it as a national emblem, and believed their emperors were directly descended from the Sun goddess, Amaterasu. Much symbolism is associated with the Sun in cultures around the world. Usually personified as masculine, it was regarded as female in certain cultures, including Japan and some American Indian tribes. The most elaborate Sun cults were those of Egypt, Central America, and Peru. The Sun is seen as a benign, fertilizing force, as well as a fiery destroyer. Phoenix A universal symbol of death, rebirth, and the Sun, the mythological phoenix is usually portrayed as an eagle-like bird rising from the flames. Apollo The Greek god Apollo brought life- giving light to Earth. Portrayed as vigorously youthful and golden-haired, he was associated with Helios, the god who drove the Sun’s chariot across the sky. Phaeton In Greek mythology the journey of the Sun across the sky is represented as a chariot driven by the Sun god, Helios, travelling across the heavens. His son, Phaeton, drove the chariot recklessly and was only stopped when Helios threw a lightning bolt, killing Phaeton. Khepri The Ancient Egyptian god of the rising Sun, Khepri, was associated with the scarab beetle, which rolls its balls of dung, symbolizing the Sun’s journey across the sky. It is associated with new life and is a lucky charm. Icarus In Greek mythology Daedalus made artificial wings for his son, Icaurus. Despite his father’s warning, Icarus flew too near the Sun, and his wings melted. Symbolically, his pride and lack of respect for the gods resulted in his downfall. Surya A Vedic sun god, Surya, represents immortality, the flames of death and rebirth (sunset and sunrise); he crosses the heavens daily in a chariot drawn by seven fiery horses. Rahu The Hindu demon, Rahu, had no body and was believed to swallow the Sun, causing eclipses. It would reappear again, as the demon had no body to contain it. A similar story is known in Chinese mythology. Freemasonry In Freemasonry the Sun represents divine love, while gold signifies benificence of God, both of which are associated with Masonic beliefs about charity. The High Altar bears a red cloth emblazoned with solar symbols. This image shows a member of a Masonic lodge composed of the tools of his trade and is Sun King Louis XIV of France claimed the solar symbol as his emblem, and became known as the Sun King. He was famous for the splendour of his lifestyle. Japanese flag The Sun has been used as a symbol of power on several flags. Japan’s flag bears a red disc representing the rising Sun. SEE ALSO Gold pp.44–45 Egyptian deities pp.138–39 Greek & Roman deities pp.140–41 Hinduism pp.158–63 Sun-head, symbol of day Dung ball Key represents the heart Compasses Taoism & Shinto pp.170–71 Christianity pp.176–79 Freemasonry pp.260–61 Colours pp.280–83 Flags pp.324–29 The mysterious Moon has always captured the human imagination. Its luminous presence in the night sky made it a symbol of hope and enlightenment. Like the Sun, it is often associated with birth, death, and resurrection, but it also contro the waters and is a fertility symbol. Presiding over dreams, the Moon is linked with bemusement; its dark s relates to the occult. Its feminine qualities bind it to the Mother God The Moon’s cyclical journey through the heavens and its constantly evolving form provided early societies with a powerful symbol for the cycle of human life. From crescent to full Moon, its forms were each attributed a special significance, as were lunar eclipses. In addition to influencing the tides, weather, and life in general, the Moon was credited with ruling over human destiny. Lunar eclipse Worldwide, cultures have developed myths about eclipses. Many believe they are omens of natural disasters or a ruler’s death. Certain Asian cultures thought eclipses were caused by a demon or dragon swallowing the Moon. Waxing and waning The cyclical waxing and waning of the Moon is symbolic of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The crescent, waxing Moon represents growth, while the waning Moon is associated with death. The shadows created by craters on the surface of the Moon have fascinated people throughout history and have been the inspiration for myths and stories around the world. THE MOOTTTTTTTTTTTT Mayan calendars The Maya had a system of interlocking calendars tracking and combining the cycles of the Moon, Sun, Venus, and the Pleiades. Other calendars, including the Roman, Chinese, Jewish, Celtic, and Islamic, are based on the lunar cycles. HE FULL MOON The full Moon shares the symbolism of the circle as an image of wholeness and strength. The Chinese associate it with the essence of Yin and the fof Yin and the feminine; to Buddhists it represents spiritual power. The Harvest Moon a full Moon near th(a full Moon near the September equinox) mbolizes agricultural fertility. The word symbolizes agricultural fertility. The word ome“lunatic” comes from the Latin for moon, luna, lly meant “Moonstand originally meant “Moonstruck”. The full Moon was thought to worsen lunacy and is associated with urwild behaviour mals in animals humand humans. WOLF HOWLING AT THE MOON Images on the outer circle indicate the month Some cultures in Oceania and certain African tribes see the Moon as a fertilizing male god, but it is usually regarded as feminine. As the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary is associated with the Moon, and lunar deities range from protective mother figures to fierce virgin goddesses, such as the Roman hunter goddess, Diana. All Moon goddesses are seen as weavers of destiny and are often portrayed as a spider. Coyolxauhqui The Aztecs believed that the daily movements of the Sun and Moon symbolically re-enacted a battle between Moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui, and the Sun, resulting in her decapitation. Twin sister of the Greek Sun god, Apollo, Artemis merged with Moon goddesses, Selene and Hecate. Artemis, virginal hunting goddess, is the New Moon, mature Selene is the full Moon, and mysterious Hecate the dark side of the Moon. Ixchel Ixchel is the Maya Moon goddess. A mother goddess who controls the life- giving rains, she has both nurturing and destructive qualities. Bastet The Egyptian goddess, Bastet, is sometimes referred to as a Moon goddess, possibly due to the fact that the Greeks identified her with Artemis, goddess of hunting and the Moon. She is associated with lunar fertility symbolism. Chang E The Chinese goddess, Chang E, is the Eastern version of the “Man in the Moon”. Offerings are made to her at the annual Moon Festival. SEE ALSO The night sky pp.20–23 The seasons pp.40–41 Mammals pp.52–55 Fertility & childbirth pp.120–23 Egyptian deities pp.138–39 HASHAPESHIFTERS Shapeshifting is a common theme in fShapeshifting is a common theme in folklore and many ultures tell stocultures tell stories of people turning into ferocious animals at nighat night, particularly during a full Moon. Symbolically these s can be associated with the Moon’s dark aspect and itsstories can be associated with the Moon’s dark aspect and its links with the occult. They also represent a fear that humanslinks with the occult. They also represent a fear that humans are easily overtaken by base animal instare easily overtaken by base animal instinct. Involuntary shapeshifting signifies confinement, while voluntary formsshapeshifting signifies confinement, while voluntary forms symbolize liberation. Were-wolfsymbolize liberation. Were-wolf hs wmyths were common in Europe, ut elsewhebut elsewhere animal shapeshifters included were-shapeshifters included were- aguars, were-tigers, were-jaguars, were-tigers, were- foxes, and were-badgers. Shamans and witches were credited with shapeshifting powers, travelling in this etween the hform between the human rldsand spirit worlds. WWEERREE-FOX WERE-WOLF WERE-JAGUAR Greek & Roman deities pp.140–41 Meso- & South American deities pp.144–45 Shamanism pp.154–55 1 5 4 3 2 6 The early astronomers noted that besides the Sun and the Moon, there were five small moving lights in the sky, which were only just visible to the naked eye. They called these lights planetes, meaning “wanderers”, and named them after the gods of Ancient Rome – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The invention of the telescope in the 15th century led to the discovery of more distant planets – Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. All the planets were given characteristics based on their colour, movement, and size. Planets were thought to have some sort of connection with people, and to influence a particular day of the week. In medieval times alchemists matched them with metals. Andreas Cellarius’s depiction of the cosmos, first published in the Harmonia Macrocosmica in 1660, is based on the system developed by the second-century astronomer Ptolemy that incorrectly placed the Earth at the centre of the cosmos. 1. Mercury Named after the messenger god, Mercury is linked to reason, commerce, Wednesday, and the metal quicksilver. 2. Venus Named after the goddess of love, Venus is associated with sexuality, desire, rebirth, and happiness. It is linked with Friday and copper. 3. Mars Personified by a forceful male, Mars symbolizes violence, passion, fire, and bravery. Its day is Tuesday, and its metal iron. 4. Jupiter Symbolic of balance and justice, Jupiter is associated with Thursday and the metal tin. 5. Saturn Represented by a bearded elderly man, Saturn is about morality, melancholy, and rigidity. It is symbolic of Saturday and lead. 6. Planets as signs As well as illustrating the planets as gods in his depiction of the cosmos, Cellarius also included the sign associated with each planet. Such signs are utilized in both astrology and alchemy. The awe-inspiring mystery and infinity of space has held sway over humans for thousands of years. Stars and planets – shining like beacons in the dark – were associated with supernatural forces symbolizing guidance, divine influence, and aspiration. Astronomy and astrology evolved from ancient times when observers noticed the wanderings of the planets across the night sky, and saw patterns (constellations) in the stars. Star symbols are used on flags, in religion, and to denote celebrity. Representing divine guidance, guardianship, and hope, stars are hugely important symbols. American Indians believed that they represented the campfires of their ancestors, and other cultures thought they were gateways to Heaven or angelic messengers of the gods. In Christianity the Star of Bethlehem heralded the birth of Christ, and some saints are depicted with a star in Christian art. In heraldry the star is the ensign of knightly rank. The zodiac is made up of 12 star signs. Hollywood stars The Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, sis embedded with more than 2,000 stars,more than 2,000 stars, bearing the nameeach bearing the name of a celebrity who has made an impact on the ainment industryentertainment industry. Five-pointed star Known as a pentagram, a five-pointed star drawn upwards symbolizes aspiration, the spiritual world, and education; Christians see it as a symbol of Christ as “Alpha and Omega” (first and last). When inverted, the pentagram signifies the devil. Constellations A constellation is a grouping of stars that forms a recognizable pattern. There are 88 known groups named after characters from classical mythology. THE NIGHTTTTT T SKY Six-pointed star Known as a hexagram or the Star of David in Judaism, this star is formed from two triangles, symbols of the male and female principles. It is a symbol for the link between Heaven and Earth and represents the union of opposites and creation. The symbol is also known as the Seal of Solomon, after a design on a ring owned by the prophet King Solomon. MODERN STARARSTT Today stars are often used to symbolize our hopes and wishes. They are also associated people are labellwith celebrity, and famous people are labelled uently used oas “stars”. Stars are frequently used on flags, k of qand rows of stars are a mark of quality. The first flag to use the five-poinfirst flag to use the five-pointed star was that f the newly formed USA inof the newly formed USA in 1777. TEXAS FLAG, THE LONE-STAR STT TATT TAA E AUSTRALIAN FLAG Shooting stars Representing sparks of heavenly fire, shooting stars were a sign of divinity. They acted as heavenly messengers, reminding people of the existence of a higher life. Seen as a good omen, they also signified birth. Female principle Male principle Scorpio Heavenly symbols are linked to royalty and governance and indicate the divine presence. Early cultures believed that the stars influenced human life, often as divinities. Many stories are told about the symbolism of stars and there are numerous gods and goddesses associated with them. Stars also formed the crowns of several of the world’s major fertility goddesses, including Ishtar from Babylon, and the Virgin Mary. Isis and Osiris The Egyptian goddess of fertility and motherhood, Isis, was the wife of Osiris, Lord of the Dead, whose soul inhabited the star Orion. She was symbolized by the star Sirius, which heralded the annual flooding of the Nile, bringing renewed prosperity and fertility to the country; Sirius’s appearance also marked the beginning of the new year. Virgin Mary As Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary is shown wearing a crown of stars. She is also associated with the six-pointed Marian Star. In primitive cultures sky-watching was an important part of life, and celestial phenomena were considered highly significant. When these coincided with events on Earth, they evolved into omens. Many myths and superstitions are associated with the aurora from which the dragon legends of the West and China are believed to have originated. St. Elmo’s Fire, a continuous electric spark that occurs during thunderstorms, was regarded by sailors as an omen of divine intervention. The Maya thought that the Milky Way was a great white serpent writhing across the night sky. Northern Lights The colourful, magical display of the Northern Lights is regarded as a sign of royal birth in some cultures. Elsewhere, it heralds war or the presence of ghosts. In Nordic mythology the aurora was seen as feminine. Milky Way The Aztecs called the Milky Way Mixcoatyl (Cloud Serpent) and ga its name to the god of the Pole S Many cultures believed that the Way was a road or river linking Earth and Heaven: to American Indians it was a pathway to the land of the dead, while the Inca imagined it was a heavenly river. Ishtar The five-pointed star was the emblem of the Sumerian fertility goddess, Ishtar, in her warrior aspect as the morning star. Star and crescent The crescent emblem of Islam signifies divine authority and resurrection and, in conjunction with a five-pointed star, Paradise. Maori doorway decoration According to Maori beliefs, the star warded off evil. It was also linked with going into battle. Pole Star In Ancient Egypt the soul of a dead pharaoh was thought to inhabit the Pole Star. It was also linked with the god Seth and the Phoenician god Baal Sapon. Isis Osiris SEE Egyptian deities Celtic & Nordic deities pp.142–43 Judaism pp.172–73 Christianity pp.176–79 Western astrology pp.200–01 Shapes pp.284–89 Flags pp.324–29 Our view of the Earth has changed from early beliefs that it was flat or supported by animals, to the iconic symbol of a blue planet spinning in space. This modern view of the Earth has come to represent global unity. But the ancient ideas of a fecund Earth Mother remain embedded in our psyche. Its landscapes, violent eruptions, and raw materials, including soil itself are all strongly linked to symbolism, religion, and rituals. Bryce Canyon In Bryce Canyon, Utah, erosion has created distinctive pillars and spires within a spectacular amphitheatre of red rock. The American Indian Paiute believed that these pinnacles were the Legend People, turned to stone by the trickster Coyote. Venus of Laussel This 21,000-year-old rock carving from the Dordogne, France, shows the Earth Mother holding a bison horn, signifying the crescent Moon and the Universal Vulva, or life source. THE EARTH Gaia The Universal Mother of Greek mythology, Gaia means “Earth”. The Earth can also be seen as the goddesses Persephone, Demeter, or Hecate. Here Gaia is emerging from the Earth and handing her son to Athena as King Kekrops looks on. Cihuacoatl The Aztec goddess of the Earth and childbirth, Cihuacoatl, devoured the dead to sustain the living. Her name means “Snake Woman” and she is sometimes depicted holding a child in her arms. Her roar signalled war. Demeter The Greek Earth goddess is associated with harvest, grain, and with teaching humans how to sow and plough. As a fertility goddess, Demeter is sometimes identified with Gaia. Mithra In Persia Mithra, god of light and the upper air, was born from a rock. He was usually portrayed slaying a bull, overcoming animal passions. C A goddess of nature and fertility, Cybele was worshipped in Rome in the form of a stone, having been born from a black rock hurled from the heavens. In early times the Earth was worshipped as the great Mother Goddess, a figure of sustenance and nurturing, and the source of all life. According to many creation myths, the first humans were made from clay, and coupling in furrows was a feature of some rural spring fertility festivals. The element Earth represents the feminine and passive, or the Yin of Chinese symbolism. It is traditionally portrayed by a circle. Signifying strength, integrity, and refuge, rock is also associated with divinity. In ancient cultures, rocks were given sacred significance in the form of standing stones. Among American Indians, rocks represented the bones of Mother Earth and served as a focus for burial. In Christianity rock represents both Christ and the Church. THE EARTH SEE ALSO Reptiles & amphibians pp.64–65 Aquatic creatures pp.68–71 Fertility & childbirth pp.120–23 Greek & Roman deities pp.140–41 Hinduism pp.158–63 Tribal totems, heroes & tricksters pp.150–51 Valley Representing fertility, the valley is where animals graze and people settle. Valleys signify a sheltering, feminine aspect. In Chinese symbolism the valley is the Yin, shadowy, gentle, feminine state, in contrast to the sunny Yang of the mountain. Valleys can also be seen as places of dread, such as the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Caves A primal symbol of shelter, caves symbolize the womb and are linked to birth, rebirth, and the centre of the universe. Darker interpretations of caves are associated with the Underworld, the gates of Hell, and the unconscious. Desert Desert landscapes symbolize barrenness, desolation, abandonment, and the battle for survival – often against temptation. In both the Christian and Islamic religions they signify a place of retreat, meditation, and enlightenment. Japanese earthquakes Some ancient cultures attributed violent earthquakes to the movements of the animals they thought supported the Earth. The Ainu of Japan believed their islands were supported by a giant catfish called Namazu who was restrained by Kashima with a stone. Volcano goddess The Ancient Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele, was volatile and capricious and lived in the craters of the Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano. She caused earthquakes by stamping her feet and volcanic eruptions by digging with her magic stick. Hindu earthquakes In one Hindu interpretation of the cosmos, the Earth was carried by four male elephants standing on a female tortoise, representing the two creative powers. It was their movement that set off earthquakes. Mount Fuji An iconic symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji is regarded as sacred in both Shinto and Buddhism. Thousands of people make an annual pilgrimage to its summit. One meaning of the name “Fuji” is “deity of fire”. Whatever our relationship with the land, it is bound up with identity, nationhood, and life itself. The Earth’s varied landscapes are rich in symbolism and meaning that reflect the origins, religious beliefs, and rituals of the people who live in them. Ancient stories often liken the violence of earthquakes and volcanoes to the awakening of a sleeping monster or the anger of the gods, and there is a rich vein of symbolism linked to the destructive power of the gods and the creative force. The Japanese thought the storm god, Susano-O, conjured up earthquakes, while the Greeks believed that Poseidon, the “Earth-shaker”, was the culprit. Sacrifices were made to appease the gods. Often seismic activity was regarded as an omen of great change in religion or politics; the Bible tells of earthquakes heralding Christ’s death. Stone 1 3 2 4 Chinese landscape painting has been a major art form since the T’ang dynasty (618–907CE). At a time of political unrest such paintings symbolized the peace and tranquillity of our union with nature, and a human figure is often set against the backdrop of mountains and water. Each element of the painting is symbolic and the whole signifies order and harmony. 1. & 2. Yin and Yang Yin (passive, cool, feminine) is found wherever there is fluidity and softness. It is symbolized here in the quiet valley, the water, and the graceful bending of bamboo. All forms of cloud and mist are symbols of Yin. Yang (active, warm, masculine) is represented as force and light. Here the thrusting mountains, hard rocks, sky, and the brightness of water are all Yang. 3. United elements Taoists believe in a mystic sense of cosmic brotherhood that unites all the elements. As the philosopher Chuang Tzu put it, “Heaven and Earth and I live together, and all things and I are one”. Here the dominant mountain is flanked by lesser mountains, and larger or smaller rocks and trees symbolize the belief that all elements within nature are related. 4. Human figure People are often included in Chinese landscapes. Their size emphasizes the fact that humans are a small part of a vast cosmic creation. The figure shown here could be meditating or thinking; if men and women do not follow their proper wisdom, the whole cosmic order is damaged. Shen Zhou, Figure Sitting on a Riverbank Mount Sumeru Hindus and Buddhists regard the mythological Mount Sumeru, or Meru, as representing the centre of the universe. It is often found, as above, in Tibetan mandalas, used to aid meditation. As near to Heaven as you can get on Earth, mountains are revered, sometimes feared, and regarded as sacred by the world’s religions. They are often associated with gods, spirits, and prophets. Mountains command attention. Towering over us, their peaks often wreathed in cloud, they stand apart from our daily existence: remote, challenging, and mysterious. Seen as the embodiment of cosmic forces and life, for early cultures mountains represented the Earth’s spiritual centre and axis at the point where it joins Heaven: a divine meeting place for God and humans in a space and time apart. Men built temples in the shape of mountains to represent the spiritual ascent of the soul. High places have always been associated with sacred quests and are a symbol of spiritual transcendence, purity, and even eternity. Climbing a mountain is arduous, the air becomes thinner, causing breathing difficulties and hallucinations. Conquering the summit is a supreme achievement, and the view from the top offers a fresh perspective. This can be likened to a spiritual journey, at the summit of which the pure- hearted attain enlightenment. Many mountains are considered sacred. In China there are nine sacred mountains that Buddhists venerate. Some mountains, such as Croag Patrick in Ireland or Mount Fuji in Japan, inspire people to climb them. Such sacred pilgrimages represent aspiration, renunciation of worldly desires, and enlightenment; spritually, mountain peaks are linked to the state of full consciousness. Mountains have long been associated with biblical revelations, prophets, gods (especially Sun and weather gods), and heroes. Mount Olympus was the home of the Classical Greek gods, from where they ruled the world and human affairs. Moses climbed to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Legend has it that the Prophet Muhammad turned the immutability of mountains into an allegory for humility when he ordered Mount Safa to move. The American Indian Navajo thought certain mountains embodied important nature spirits, while in Mexico Mount Tlaloc was thought to personify an Aztec fertility and rain god. For the Ancient Egyptians mountains represented Earth’s desire for sky. They showed the body of sky goddess, Nut, curved over that of her lover. The upward- thrusting mountain symbolizes this physical desire. This belief is similar to the Chinese idea that a mountain’s phallic shape makes it a masculine or Yang symbol signifying life. Temples built in the shape of mountains, such as those in Asia, Central America, and Mesopotamia, represent the cosmic centre. Their terraces are associated with both spiritual ascent and gateways to Heaven. The Egyptian pyramids have similar cosmological significance. Mountains with twin summits are regarded as either the seat of astral or solar divinities or, as in China, Sumeria, and the Hebrew mountains of Sinai and Horeb, the seat of the Sun and the Moon. Mountains of the Immortals his Chinese vessel shows the Taoist symbol f the Mountains of the Immortals. In China mountains are venerated and are the home f deities and spirits. MOUNTAINS SEE ALSO The Earth pp.24–25 Fertility & childbirth pp.120–23 Egyptian deities pp.138–39 Meso- & South American deities pp.144–45 Mount of Olives In the Bible Jesus was said to have ascended to Heaven from the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. Mexican temple These four-sided, mountain-like structures had stairs going up one or more sides, and flat tops where sacrifices took place. Old temples were not destroyed but simply built over so that they became many-layered. Buddhism pp.164–69 Taoism & Shinto pp.170–71 Sacred places pp.232–33 Patterns pp.290–93 Terrible and all-consuming, fire is the great destroyer. Symbolic of war and chaos, its qualities are active and masculine. It is also linked with the Sun. People or objects may be referred to as “fiery”, and extreme emotions are associated with the colour red. Fire has a dual personality as it also symbolizes purification and regeneration, home, hearth, and divine love. When people learned how to make fire, it was life- changing and all early cultures had fire gods and fire-making legends. Fire is associated with the space above us: it comes from the sky in the form of the Sun or lightning, and smoke drifts up to the heavens. It is easy to see why this all-powerful element, both violent and beneficent, was attributed to the gods. The worship or deification of fire is known from many religions and dates back to early humans. Fire gods feature in cultures around the globe. The Greeks and Romans had gods of both the forge and the hearth. FIREII Chantico The Aztec goddess of volcanoes and the hearth, Chantico had a tongue of fire. She was patroness of the goldsmiths. Sehkmet Often depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness, and carrying a fire-spitting cobra, this bloodthirsty Egyptian war goddess destroyed enemies with fire arrows; her body shimmered like the midday Sun. Chu Jung A Chinese fire god, Chu Jung punished those who broke the laws of Heaven. He is often l depicted wearing armour, and is most famous for fighting hism son to stop him from usurpinghhiiim the throne of Heaven.HHea Agni A Vedic god, Agni’s name means “fire” in Sanskrit. He is shown with either one or two heads, indicating both his destructive and merciful qualities, and is seen as the life force of trees and plants. Vulcan The Roman god, Vulcan, is associated with fire, volcanoes, and craftsmanship. He made weapons for gods and heroes in his forge beneath Mount Etna, and was celebrated at the August Vulcanalia festival. Huehueteotl An Aztec god of light and fire, Huehueteotl is often depicted as an old man with a red or yellow face and a censer (incense burner) on his head. Raging fire The height and glowing red colour of the flames of a forest fire emphasize its power. Fire can be a destructive or a creative force. When people learned to kindle a fire they had the means to cook, keep warm, deter wild beasts and, later, to smelt ore. Numerous legends about how humans learned to make fire also describe the earliest fire-making tools. For example, the legendary Iranian king, Hushang, realized that fire could be created by striking flints together after throwing a flint-axe at a snake; it struck a rock instead, igniting sparks. Maui The god Maui features in many Polynesian legends, especially those of the Maoris and the Hawaiians. In Hawaii the hawk is personified as Maui, who stole fire from the Earth Mother and was singed by the flames, which is why hawk feathers are brown. There is a similar Maori version of this story. SEE ALSO The Sun pp.16–17 Egyptian deities pp.138–39 Greek & Roman deities pp.140–41 Meso- & South American deities pp.144–45 Its associations with regeneration, purification, and the divine ensured that fire played a ceremonial part in many different cultures and religions. It had a central role in the sacrificial rites of the Aztecs, who ritually burned tobacco and incense, along with body parts. Among Zoroastrians, who traditionally worship in fire temples, it represents the energy of the Creator. Other cultures, such as the North American Indians, used fire in their purification ceremonies and vision quests. Zoroastrian Zoroastrian temples house Zoroastrian temples house the sacred fire, a symbol of the gods. This is kept constantly alight by priests; worshippers wear white linen masks to prevent their breath from contaminating it. Fire crackers In China the noise of fire crackers at New Year is designed to scare away evil spirits and misfortune. It also awakens the golden dragon so that it flies across the sky, bringing rain for the crops. Aztec AAztec priests heralded potential z world destruction every 52 years by dousing all fires and lighting a new fire within the chest cavity of a human sacrificial victim, symbolizing that out of sacrifice came life. Prometheus The Greek god, Prometheus, tricked Zeus into eating bones instead of meat. As a punishment for his treatment, Zeus retaliated by withholding fire from mortals, which Prometheus later stole. Hinduism pp.158–63 Colours pp.280–83 DIVINE FLAME mFire is an important feature in many religions. sociatedIn Christianity Hell is associated with fire and witsome saints are depicted with flaming hearts. n churches candIn Christian churches candles represent God’s ife.presence, hope, and life. O sld Testament stories stell of the burning bush. e worEnlightening the world On Ellis Island in New York City, the Statue of Liberty holds holds her torch aloft, a symbol m from oppressionof freedom from oppression. FLAMAMING HEART BBURNING BUSHSH FLAMETERNAL FLAME An eternal flame is a light that is always kept burning. In ancient times they were fuelled by olive oil or wood; modern versions use propane or natural gas. Eternal flames symbolize a person, group, or event of international significance, or even a noble goal such as world peace. The Olympic torch is lit in Greece, carried to the host city and kept alight during the Games. Many churches have an eternal flame on or above the altar. Water constantly changes shape and transforms. Symbolically it is feminine and associated with the Moon and, as the origin of all life, with fertility. It may appear as rain or snow, as a raging torrent or placid lake. It also has various states, such as running, stagnant, stormy, or deep, each with its own symbolism. Although water is passive, it is influenced by the weather and can destroy, dissolve, wash away, or regenerate. It is also a source of purification and healing in many religions. WATER Regarded as symbolically maternal, the sea’s depths represent the Earth’s womb. All life sprang from its primordial waters, as reflected in the creation myths of numerous cultures. Often seen as mysterious, the sea also represents the unconscious mind, while deep waters have a symbolism related to the dead and the supernatural. There are many gods, spirits, and monsters associated with the sea and with natural phenomena such as whirlpools and tsunamis. Nun The most ancient of the Ancient Egyptian gods, Nun’s name means “water”. He represented the primeval water of chaos from which emerged creation. His qualities were darkness, boundlessness, and turbulence. WATER ANDWATER AND WORSHIP Water is central to manyWater is central to many of the world’s religions. In Christian baptism, cpictured here, it symbolizes purificapurification and the waswashing away of original sin. In Horiginal sin. In Hinduism watewater is also used to babathe and purify ritual maimages of the divine. Sedna In Inuit mythology, Sedna was a sea goddess and guardian of ocean animals. She ruled the Inuit underworld, Adlivun. Different Inuit groups call Sedna by different names. She was worshipped by those who hunted the waters, who relied on her goodwill to supply food. Waves Constantly driving forward through peaks and troughs, waves represent both constancy and changeability; people speak of waves of joy or sadness. Tidal waves symbolize destruction and regeneration; in dreams they may mean a fear of change. Neptune The Roman name for the Greek god Poseidon, Neptune was the god of the sea. He was depicted as a bearded man holding a trident and sitting in a seashell accompanied by dolphins. His fiery temper supposedly manifested itself in storms and earthquakes. Charybdis The daughter of Poseidon, Charybdis became a sea monster when Zeus stole her body, leaving only a mouth that became a whirlpool. In mythology Charybdis occupied one side of a narrow strait, while Scylla, another sea monster, took the other. Sailors navigating the strait too close to one side or the other risked death. Delta A delta is symbolic of death and journey’s end, marking a river’s long meanderings from its source all the way down to where it spills into the sea. SEE ALSO Egyptian deities pp.138–39 Greek & Roman deities pp.140–41 Hinduism pp.158–63 Buddhism pp.164–69 Taoism & Shinto pp.170–71 Witches & wicca pp.192–93 Traditionally a lake represents peace and contemplation. Since its surface presents a reflection, there is also a strong link to mirror symbolism: in Greek legend Narcissus drowned while admiring his reflection in a lake. In China lakes signify wisdom, absorption, and passivity. In Hinduism and Buddhism lakes attached to temples represent creation and the transition to the next life. River symbolism is based around running water and reflects the creative power of nature and time. It signifies fertility and soil irrigation, giving life along its banks, yet is also a metaphor for the passage of time – a river flows from its source to the sea, as life flows from birth to death. A river can also symbolize a barrier between two realms, Life and Death. Great rivers are given personalities and many are considered sacred. Numerous cultures have river gods and spirits. WAWATER AND EVIL tIn past centuries, women suspected of being witches were thrown into deep water. If they drowned, they were presumed innocent, but were presumed innocent, but if the water rwater rejected them and they floated, they could be cofloated, they could be condemned for witchcrfor witchcraft. Spring Springs like this one in Bali are often attributed with healing or magical powers. Often towns were built around springs and their name may reflect this. Bath, in England, is one example of a town that grew around a hot spring. Hapi The Egyptian god of the Nile floods, Hapi, was portrayed as a man with a prominent belly, indicating the fertility of the land through flooding. Styx In Greek mythology the River Styx formed the boundary between Earth and Hades. Legends feature the ferryman, Charon, who took the dead across the River Acheron, which flowed into the Styx. Four rivers of Paradise The Bible’s Rivers of Paradise flowed out in the cardinal directions from the roots of the Tree of Life. Their waters symbolized life and nourishment. Ganga Representing the sacred water of the River Ganges, the Hindu goddess, Ganga, is shown sitting on a makara, a combination of fish and crocodile, denoting fertility and the wisdom of land and sea. Waterfall Buddhists believe that waterfalls represent the “permanent impermanence” of the universe, which is partly why they play an important role in Chinese and Japanese landscape painting. In Shinto waterfalls are held sacred and standing under one is thought to purify the soul. Sacred lake A sacred lake was central to most Ancient Egyptian temples. Pictured is the Temple of Amon at Karnak. The sacred lake was used for a daily ritual during which a goose, symbol of Amon himself, was freed at sunrise. Changes in the weather have a fundamental impact on humans and can sometimes create life or death situations. People have long associated these vagaries with the whims of the THE WEATHER Storms are often associated with warrior gods and supreme deities. Thunder was seen in many cultures as the creative power and harbinger of vital, fertilizing rain. In Bible stories it represented God’s voice, while lightning delivered fecundity and illumination. A thunderbolt was the weapon of choice for the Greek god, Zeus, and the Hindu god of war, Indra. The Thunderbird of American Indian belief represents the Universal Spirit and is linked with war. Ryujin Ryujin is the most important of the Rajin, Japanese weather gods. He is usually portrayed as a demon, forming mists and black rain clouds, and beating drums to create thunder. He also devours children’s bellybuttons. Shango Sacred to Nigeria’s Yoruba people, Shango is a god of thunder and lightning. His symbol is the oshe, a double- headed axe representing the stone thunderbolts he hurls from the sky. Shiva In Hinduism lightning or destructive fire is the third eye on the forehead of Shiva. It symbolizes divine force, cosmic intelligence, enlightenment, and the forces of destruction and regeneration. One of his weapons is a trident, representing lightning. Thor Thor is the red-haired and bearded god of thunder and war in Nordic mythology. Often portrayed wielding a hammer or thunderbolt, his chariot was pulled across the sky by two goats with the unlikely names of Tooth-grinder and Tooth-gnasher. Rudra The Vedic forerunner of the Hindu god, Shiva, Rudra was a god of storms and lightning who fired arrows of disease, but who also brought good health and performed good deeds. His name means “Howler” or “Red One” and he personifies untamed nature. Marduk Marduk, the Babylonian creator god, placed the Mesopotamian god, Enlil, in the air and gave him the power to induce storms and spring breezes with his breath. Tala wipiki This kachina, or spirit doll, represents lightning. It was made by the American Indian Hopis who lived in the desert lands of New Mexico. Due to its associations with rain, the tala wipiki kachina is considered benevolent today. gods, and blamed folklore personifications such as the North Wind for cold weather. As well as being linked with divine retribution and supernatural powers, the weather is also associated with benign forces and creativity. This female figurine balances the symbol of lightning and is used in a dance to Shango, god of thunder and lightning Cherub These winged celestial beings (also known as “putti”) are often portrayed as chubby- cheeked children, and in western art were used to represent wind, perhaps blowing a boat. Whirlwind Symbolizing circular, solar, and creative movement, whirlwinds are often seen as a vehicle for divinity: in the Bible God spoke to Job from a whirlwind. In witchcraft evil spirits rode on whirlwinds. Vayu From the Sanskrit “blow”, Vayu is the god of the winds in India; as one of the five elements, he is one of the most important deities in the Vedas (Hindu Fujin The Japanese Shinto god, Fujin, was portrayed as a fearsome-looking deity sitting on or traversing the clouds and carrying a sack containing The symbolism of weather conditions from wispy mists to brooding storm banks can be varied. Rain clouds are linked with fecundity, hence the reference “pregnant with rain”. In Judeo-Christian tradition they can indicate God’s presence, while in China pink clouds symbolize In modern times wind has become a symbol of change and freedom, but traditionally it is linked with the four compass points, the gods, and even demons. Its role in pollination also makes wind a sexual symbol. The Apache American Indians believed that the whorls on the fingertips represented the wind’s path as it entered the body at creation. In China wind is associated with rumour, a symbolism linked to hunting and “getting wind” of a scent. good luck and happiness. In some cultures clouds are associated with gloom; people also link being out of touch with reality as having one’s head “in the clouds”. Mist is often associated with supernatural intervention, especially in Chinese landscape painting. The indeterminate Fog and mist are commonly used to symbolize the indeterminate, or the state that comes before revelation. Taoists link fog to the state humans must pass through before enlightenment, like the mental fog that precedes clarity of thought. The steeds of Valkyrie In Greek mythology clouds represented the flocks of the god Apollo. In Nordic legend, however, they are the steeds of the Valkyrie, the god Odin’s handmaidens who hovered over battlefields, escorting the slain to Valhalla (Paradise). Divine presence Their heavenly associations have symbolically linked clouds to divine presence; in Christian iconography God is often shown as a hand emerging from a cloud. Greek wind gods In Greek myth Aeolus, chief god of the directional winds, kept the winds in a cave and ruled over the four gods. Often shown as winged men with puffed cheeks, each wind brought different weather conditions, from light spring breezes to cold winter winds. SEE ALSO Fertility & childbirth pp.120–23 Celtic & Nordic deities pp.142–43 Nature spirits pp.148–49 Creation stories pp.156–57 Christianity pp.176–79 Angels pp.188–89 ZEPHYRUS (WEST WIND) EURUS (EAST WIND) NOTUS (SOUTH WIND) BOREAS (NORTH WIND) All precipitation, whether it comes as rain, hail, snow, or dew, is associated with water symbolism, and both life and death. It can result in destruction or generation. As rain, it represents fertility, while dew signifies a blessing. As ice and snow, its links with cold and impermanence are reflected in folklore RAIN & SNOW Rain has always been an important symbol of fecundity and in certain primitive cultures it is linked with divine semen. It is also associated with purification. For thousands of years people believed that the sky gods determined whether to withhold rain, unleash it with terrifying force, or release a gentle shower. Various rituals were carried out to invoke rainfall, and rain was associated with certain animals such as dragons, dogs, and even parrots. Torrential rain When cold, penetrating rain pours down in torrents, it can bring misery and suffering as well as being a divine blessing. Heavy rain shares its symbolism with that of storms and the wrath of the gods. Rain dances Different interpretations of rain dances can be found in many cultures throughout the world. The American Indian Cherokee tribe, for example, performed rain dances to invoke rain and to banish evil spirits. The stamping of feet imitates the patter of rain on hard ground. Indra The Hindu god of thunder, rain, fertility, and war, Indra, is often shown seated in his heavenly court, Svarga, in the clouds wreathing sacred Mount Meru. Indra is shown wielding a thunderbolt in one hand, symbolizing enlightenment, destruction, and regeneration. Zeus and Danaë This painting illustrates a story from Greek mythology in which Danaë, the human mother of the hero, Perseus, is impregnated by the god, Zeus, in the form of a shower of coins. It is an erotic symbol of the divine fertility of rain. Tlaloc Tlaloc is the Aztec god of rain and fertility. He was often depicted wearing a crown of heron feathers, symbolic of the waters, carrying a rattle to create thunder, and holding brimming water pots. Dragon In China dragons were associated with the weather and were thought to be rain-bringers; some of the country’s worst floods were attributed to humans upsetting a dragon. Chinese dragons were believed to control water, vital for crops. In contrast, western dragons control fire. and myth, while rainbows combine both solar and water symbolism. Due to its heavenly origin, precipitation is associated with gods of the sky. Human survival depended on cooperation between gods and humans, so that the weather’s unpredictable and often violent power could be controlled. Not surprisingly, snow and ice symbolism is almost entirely associated with themes of coldness and hardness. There are also references to purity and white, pristine beauty. Emotionally, snow and ice are linked with rigidity, frigidity, brittleness, impermanence, and a general absence of love; expressions such as “icily polite” are widely used. In contrast, melting ice represents a hard heart softening. Elusive, ethereal, and transient, the rainbow has a wide range of symbolic meanings. It has been seen as a sign of hope, peace, and divine covenant, an omen of war, an object of worship, and even fear. Rainbow legends and customs are widespread. The rainbow is a bridge to the heavens and wisdom is said to lie at its end. Snow queen This western fairytale symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. It tells the tale of two children who are parted when the Snow Queen kidnaps the boy, and how the girl risks everything to rescue him. Glacier As a huge mass of perennial land ice that moves forward under its own weight, a glacier is symbolic of slow, relentless change. In common with ice, it is also associated with the polluted waters of Earth rather than the fresh waters of Paradise. Navajo rainbow The rainbow on the Navajo flag symbolizes sovereignty and the joining together of all the tribes into the Rainbow Nation. The copper outline represents their borders and the jagged shapes the sacred mountains. Crock of gold In Irish folklore the leprechaun stores a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; in the West the end of the rainbow is linked to finding one’s fortune. Noah’s rainbow covenant After the biblical Flood, when God had safely delivered Noah and his ark, He sent a rainbow as a sign of His promise not to destroy humanity. Kahukura The Maori rainbow god, Kahukura, is invoked in war. It is also a Rainbow serpent The rainbow serpent of Australian Aboriginal myth is linked to seasonal shifts and human reliance on water. The monstrous serpent inhabits the permanent water holes and therefore controls life’s most precious resource. Rainbow body In Tibetan tantric Buddhism the rainbow body is the transitional state of enlightenment in which the practitioner’s body literally disappears and is transformed into pure light. This usually happens after death. Iris Goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the Olympian gods, Iris is often portrayed as a young woman with golden wings and a herald’s rod. The rainbow represents her path between Earth and Heaven. Snowflakes The fragile beauty of the snowflake is symbolic of impermanence, wisdom, truth, hardness, and purity. It also represents individuality because no two snowflakes are alike. SEE ALSO Mammals pp.52–55 Dragons pp.78–79 Greek & Roman deities pp.140–41 Meso- & South American deities pp.144–45 The Dreaming pp.152–53 Hinduism pp.158–63 Buddhism pp.164–69 Fairy tales pp.272–73 Flags pp.324–29 Noah’s Ark The biblical story of Noah describes the Flood as God’s punishment for human sin. Noah, a devout man, was instructed by God to build an ark, which ultimately survived, and he and his family went on toe repopulate the world. Symbolically, floods represent death and regeneration – the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. They are associated with the lunar powers of the waters, fertility, and new life. They also have links with the washing away of sin and the purification of humanity. Global flood stories are common to almost every civilization around the world, from China and Russia to Sumatra and Peru. In general terms, they represent the chaos that results when humans are out of harmony with nature and the gods. Many are similar to the famous biblical flood story about Noah’s ark: they include themes such as divine retribution, advance warning of a flood, the building of a boat to house family and animals, and the release of birds to determine whether the flood waters had receded. The stories of Matsya in the Purana scripturesa of Hinduism, and Utnapishtim in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh are the most familiar of these myths. Theories abound about the origins of the biblical flood story. However, it may have originated in Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq) where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers join. This fertile region is prone to severe flooding, and geological evidence indicates floods may have caused significant disruption of several human settlements. To ancient cultures, a flood that swamped them would have appeared global, and spawned explanatory myths. Areas where ancient cultures benefited from annual flooding, such as the Amazon and the Nile, do not have apocalyptical flood stories. In Egypt the annual Nile floods made the surrounding land extremely fertile, providing food for the people. The floods were so significant that they created a god, Hapi, a positive figure who, together with the pharaoh, was believed to control the rise and fall of the water, bringing fertility to the region. Without the use of the Nile’s waters for irrigation, Egypt’s civilization would probably never have developed in the sophisticated way that it did. SEE ALSO Water pp.32–33 Fertility & childbirth pp.120–23 Egyptian deities pp.138–39 Hinduism pp.158–63 Christianity pp.176–79 The story of a Great Flood sent by God, or the gods, to destroy civilization in an act of divine retribution is a widespread theme in mythology from cultures around the world. FLOODS Nile inundation The Nile attracted valuable game and this 2nd-century BCE detail of a Nile mosaic shows a rhinocerous stranded on a rock during the annual flood. Aztec creator god Meso-American beliefs include world cycles, each destroyed by natural disasters such as floods. Aztec weather and creator god, Quetzalcoatl, repopulated the world after one such event. Matsya myth In this Hindu myth, Manu saved Vishnu in the form of fish called Matsya, which later warned him of a coming flood; Manu built a boat, survived, and re-established life on Earth. The seasons are universally seen as symbols of birth, growth, death, and rebirth, and therefore the passing of time. Humans have always reckoned time by the Sun and the lunar cycle, so the Sun and Moon feature in seasonal symbolism. Each season has its associated gods, animals, colours, and even emotions. In some cultures the seasons are symbolized by specific flowers, such as China’s autumnal chrysanthemums. THE SEASONS Fresh, verdant, and full of promise, spring represents rebirth and new life. Essentially it is nature unfolding. Baby animals, children, young women, and flowers are all recurring symbols of the season, signifying spring’s youth, beauty, and heart- breaking brevity. In China and Japan the cherry blossom is an important seasonal symbol. In Celtic mythology the Green Man is connected with spring regeneration. Summer is the season of ripening maturity, when the Sun is at its height. The Classical world associated summer with the Greek god, Apollo, and goddess Demeter (known to the Romans as Ceres). Its animals were the golden lion and the dragon. In China summer is symbolized by the lotus and peony. Allegory of spring In western art spring is traditionally represented by a beautiful young woman (symbolic of fertility) crowned in seasonal flowers and set in a soft, pastoral landscape. She may be seen accompanied by young children. Spring lamb A symbol of springtime, the lamb represents Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection; this links it with Easter, which falls on the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the spring equinox. Flora In Roman mythology Flora was goddess of springtime and flowers. Her festival, the Floralia, was held in April or early May and signified the renewal of the cycle of life. Ceres The Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility, Ceres, was credited with teaching humans how to grow and use grain. She is often shown garlanded with corn ears and holding a basket of fruit. Symbol of summer This Classical figure represents summer, and shows a woman crowned in ears of corn, and carrying a sheaf of corn and a scythe. Grain symbolizes rebirth, growth, and fertility. HARVEST HARVEST FESTIVAL est thanksgiving festivals areHarvest thanksgiving festivals are common arian societies Tto all agrarian societies. They unite the unity in ritual at a timcommunity in ritual at a time when nature’s d ancestbounty is celebrated and ancestors are embered. Special food and dremembered. Special food and drink, ed are consumed andusually harvest related are consumed and tiespeople join in the festivities. SEE ALSO The Moon pp.18–19 Mammals pp.52–55 Birds pp.58–61 Fertility & childbirth pp.120–23 Egyptian deities pp.138–39 Autumn is traditionally depicted as either a child or a woman bearing a baskets of grapes, which symbolize hospitality and the abundance of the season. The seasonal animal is the hare. In western art the cornucopia (horn of plenty), overflowing with fruit, flowers, and grain, is an ancient symbol of autumnal bounty; it has long-standing links with fertility. Winter is the dead time when cold winds howl, many trees are leafless, and the Earth appears hard and barren. Many cultures have their own stories to explain the changing of the seasons. In Ancient Greek mythology phone was abducted and taken to the Underworld, ng which time the Ear hing would grow. Eve des forced her to retur derworld for several m every year when the E became barren again. This period became winter. Duck The duck is associated with Isis, Egyptian goddess of the dead, and is also traditionally linked with winter. The wild duck is also a popular winter game bird. Winter personified This Ancient Roman statuette shows a traditional interpretation of winter portrayed as an elderly man or woman, wrapped in a cloak to keep out the cold. Often the figure is shown hunched over, struggling against inclement weather. Boreas The bringer of the cold North Wind and winter, in Classical mythology Boreas was feared due to his destructive potential. The him and held a festival, Boreasmi, in his honour. The Ancient Roman writer, Pliny, said of salamanders,“This animal is so intensely cold as to extinguish fire ... as ice does.” Hare The hare is a fertility symbol in many cultures – hence its link to the bounty of autumn. In Greco-Roman myth the hare symbolizes the abundance of the season; it also represents fertility in the autumn Chinese Moon festivals. Persephone The goddess Persephone symbolizes the grain, which comes up each year before returning to the Earth, in a constant cycle of renewal. Bacchus The Greek god of wine and excess, Bacchus (also known as Dionysus), is associated with the celebrations of the autumn grape harvest. Dewi Sri The annual rice fefestival in Bali and vJava is dedicated to gothe goddess Dewi S weShe wears a crown a mesometimes holds a l bolizingsymbolizing resurrec C A figure made by plaiting wheat, the corn dolly is associated with Ancient European harvest customs and was used in Celtic fertility rites. mooncake Chinese mooncakes enMooncakes are eaten stival to during a Chinese festival to elebrate the harvest. Theycelebrate the harvest. They may contain egg yolkmay contain egg yolks, a symbol of the Moosymbol of the Moon. Yaeyama dancer On the Yaeyama islands tof Japan traditional edances are performed to ng about a successfbring about a successful he danceharvest. The dances reflect activities. Hereeveryday activities. Here obbythe dancer rides a hobby- to a mock batthorse into a mock battle. Greek & Roman deities pp.140–41 Christianity pp.176–79 Precious and semi-precious stones flash with colou light. The fact that they come from the Earth links with divine energy as symbols of spiritual power a purity; some were credited with powers of healing and protection. They have been used for centuries to signify status. Transparent stones are linked with divination, while red ones indicate ardour and vitality. Some stones are linked to birth months and some have their own associations. PRECIOUS STONES Agate Ancient cultures believed that agate rendered the wearer invisible. It represents courage, longevity, and prosperity; in the past, agate stones were tied to oxen horns to promote a good harvest. Topaz Reputed to be an empathetic stone, topaz symbolizes faithfulness, divine goodness, friendship, forgiveness, and love. Medicinally topaz was traditionally thought to banish nervous exhaustion and stimulate the appetite. Ruby This gem symbolizes love, courage, and vitality. It has been linked with Saturn and Mars, the planet of passions. Royalty wore rubies as they were thought to temporarily darken when danger approached. Bloodstone Regarded as a healing stone, bloodstone revitalizes relationships and purifies. It is sometimes seen as a warrior stone for overcoming obstacles and giving courage. Bloodstone was used to combat blood disorders and stop bleeding. Emerald Its colour associates the emerald with fertility, immortality, spring, and youth. The Egyptians buried an emerald with their dead to represent eternal youth. A Christian symbol of faith, emeralds also feature in folklore as a healing stone. Sapphire Sapphires are a symbol of celestial harmony, peace, and truth. In Hindu tradition they were associated with Saturn and self-control. In some quarters they were thought to ward off evil. To the Chinese, jade is the Stone of Heaven and represents purity. A solar and Yang emblem, it also symbolizes justice, courage, harmony, and moral purity. Considered lucky, smooth jade also has sexual connotations. Diamond Symbolic of purity, truth, and fidelity, the diamond is popular for engagement rings. Its radiance links it to the Sun. Diamonds are also believed to absorb the wearer’s emotions and cleanse the soul. Dragon protection This 14th-century carving from China shows a dragon protecting hidden treasure. Traditionally, in Chinese culture, the Earth dragons guarded precious objects and jewels buried deep in the Earth. Such hidden treasure symbolized knowledge or truth. SEE ALSO Dragons pp.78–79 Love & marriage pp.126–27 Amulets pp.194–95 Royalty pp.216–17 Jewellery pp.254–55 Opal The opal symbolizes divine insight, religious devotion, and fidelity. The Romans thought that opals fell from Heaven in a flash of lightning. Some cultures called the opal the “Eye Stone”, believing it watched over royalty. Amethyst The amethyst is a protective and spiritual stone and amethyst rings are worn by bishops in the Christian Church. It is also thought to give peace of mind and protect the wearer against drunkeness. Turquoise Long seen as a talisman against evil, turquoise is symbolic of courage, success, and fulfilment. In Mexico it is a solar and fire symbol, and Tibetans regard it as a holy gemstone. Cornelian Revered for its healing, spiritual, and creative qualities, cornelian is closely bound to religious symbolism. The Prophet Muhammad’s seal comprised engraved cornelian set in a silver ring. Cat’s Eye Also known as Tiger’s Eye, this stone symbolizes insight and mental clarity, and is therefore associated with meditation. It is thought to invoke good luck and protect the wearer against evil. Lapis lazuli A blue stone with celestial symbolism, lapis lazuli represents power, wisdom, and inner strength. It was believed to enhance psychic abilities and insight. It is also a friendship stone. Onyx Black stones are reputed to have protective energies. Onyx was traditionally worn to deflect negativity and symbolizes heightened senses, self-confidence, and spiritual strength. It is also linked with conjugal happiness and sincerity. Moonstone With its pale iridescence, the moonstone has long been associated with the Moon and lovers. Its links with fertility induced Arabian women to sew them into their robes. Moonstones are also reputed to balance menstrual cycles. Crystal Symbolic of purity, traditionally, crystals are important in magic – hence crystal balls and folk tales of magical crystal slippers. Their reputed ability to store and transmit energy makes them a healing and meditation tool. A popular gemstone since the Bronze Age, the garnet is protective, repelling negativity, guarding against depression, and inspiring courage. It is also traditionally thought to symbolize energy, devotion, and fidelity. Aquamarine The ancients believed that the energy of the sea was contained within the aquamarine so sailors wore the stones to protect them in heavy seas. Aquamarine is associated with creativity, communication, self-awareness, and confidence. Inner radiance Cut and faceted gemstones, such as this topaz, reveal their inner beauty and radiance. Symbolically, the process of working the stone reflects the gradual perfection of the spirits and progress towards divine wisdom, and represents the soul released from the base confines of the human body. Peridot An emblem of fame, strength, and energy, the peridot is the birthstone for those born in August. In Hawaiian mythology peridot represents the tears of Pele, their volcano goddess. Tur Turquoise necklace TurquoTurquoise (December) is natraditionally associated with good luck and the promotion of friendship. Its ur isbright colour is also thought to enhance self-confidence. BBIRTHSTONES Certain stones are associated with different months of the year and are thought to bring luck or influence to those born in those e semonths. The selection varies, but a popular version is: Garnet (January); Amethyst (February); A amarquamarine (March); Diamond (April);pril); EEmerald (May); Moonstone (June);merald (May); Moonstone (June); (July); PerRuby (July); Peridot (August); Sapphire er);(September); OO alpal (OOctobectober); Topaz (November); and Turquoise (December). The gilded idol The Adoration of the Golden Calf serves as a symbol of idolatry and revolt against God. It relates to the Bible story in which the Israelites worshipped a golden calf. Object of worship Like the Mayans and Incas, the Aztecs worshipped gold and reserved it for high-ranking people and ritualistic use. To the Aztecs, gold represented the faeces of the Sun god, Huitzilopochtli. Gold is the perfect metal: it has a brilliant sheen and is durable, malleable, and rust- proof. Its glorious colour links it symbolically with the masculine Sun, perfection, and the heart. By association, it signifies the highest aspirations of the spirit, incorruptibility, and purity. Across the world gold has traditionally featured in the regalia of high office and monarchy. In the Inca empire new rulers were ceremonially covered in resin sprayed with gold dust, the historical origin of the mythical El Dorado (gilded man). Today gold is a symbol of the highest achievement or honour. Because of its qualities it has long had commercial value and has been used as currency and tribute since earliest times. Gold is symbolically associated with various deities and religions. Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology represents a search for spiritual illumination. In Christianity gold is an ambivalent symbol that can represent corruption, as in the story of the golden calf (left), or divinity. During coronations Christian medieval kings were given a golden crown, signifying Heaven’s eternal light and divinely inspired authority. Divinity is represented by the gilding on the icons of Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the gold-leaf work in medieval art. In both Buddhism and Christianity gold is a symbol of enlightenment. In Hindu belief it is regarded as a mineral form of light, a residue of the Sun itself. To the Egyptians gold formed the flesh of the most powerful of the gods, Re, known as the Mountain of Gold. The ancient art of attempting to turn base metal into gold evolved into an allegory of spiritual purification becoming the alchemical Great Work. Chinese alchemists saw gold as the essence of the heavens, the harmonious Yang. American Indian Sioux called gold “the yellow metal that makes the white man crazy”, and it has attracted a certain level of negative symbolism. It was scorned in Communist Russia, where the “class enemy” was symbolized by a gold pocketwatch, traditionally worn by those of higher rank. Some cultures feared gold, believing it to have malignant supernatural powers. Many traditional tales about gold serve as a warning against greed and temptation. The famous Greek myth about Midas, who came to regret asking the gods to grant him the gift of turning everything he touched into gold, is one such example. SEE ALSO The Sun pp.16–17 Precious matter pp.46–47 Egyptian deities pp.138–39 Buddhism pp.164–69 Christianity pp.176–79 As lustrous and bright as the shining Sun, gold has excited passions since earliest times. As a result it is a powerful symbol of nobility, illumination, and sacredness. GOLD Mark of enlightenment Images of the Buddha are often gilded as a sign of enlightenment. Gold is valued for its purity and Buddhists earn merit by placing it on to sacred objects. Sign of excellence Universally recognized as a symbol of great human achievement, gold is often awarded in the form of medals, such as this Olympic medal, decorations, cups, and even entertainment awards. Alchemy pp.210–11 Trappings of royalty pp.218–19 Jewellery pp.254–55 Colours pp.280–83 In ancient times precious metal was thought to be solidified cosmic energy: it represented an earthly object with celestial potential. This belief led to the development of a cosmic hierarchy in which metals were paired with the seven known planets. Precious metals were also used both as sacred objects to symbolize divinity and as tools and weapons. Along with other precious commodities, including amber and pearl, precious metals were valued for their beauty and rarity and were often seen as status symbols. PRECIOUS MATTERPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c1665 66 Pearls Pearls are among the gemstones embellishing this 12th-century Byzantine crown, below. Symbolizing royalty, justice, wisdom, and purity, they were once exclusive to royalty. Representing perfection in Islamic and Hindu philosophies, pearls have long been a status symbol and have adorned rulers throughout the world. Johannes Vermeer’s portrait, Girl with a Pearl Earring, (right), perfectly illustrates this ) luminous symbol of purity. Much prized as a sign of wealth, the pearl also represents the Moon, femininity, and spiritual wisdom. To the Chinese, pearls symbolically combine fire and water. SEE ALSO The Moon pp.18–19 Death & mourning pp.128–31 Christianity pp.176–79 Amulets pp.194–95 Colours pp.280–83 Je An ancient fossilized wood, jet was regarded as a talisman against illness. It has been used as a treatment for migraines, stomach pains, and colds. Due to its colour, it was often used in mourning jewellery in the West. This incense burner is made of copper, which is associated with Venus and is a symbol of the female. In West Africa copper served as a status symbol, as well as an object of cult and magic. Copper is also linked with healing; even today people wear copper bracelets to combat arthritis. durability. Many cultures regarded iron smelting as spiritual, the forming of a object through smelting l to a symbolic birth. Mother-of-pearl Early societies valued mother- of-pearl more highly than actual pearls. Its iridescence symbolizes faith, charity, and innocence; it is also said to enhance focus. C Coral symbolism due to its watery origins. The Ancient Greeks linked it to rebirth; the Chinese with status and luck; and Christians, with Christ’s blood. Ivory Its colour links ivory with purity, while its hardness signifies incorruptibility. The ivory tower represents the inaccessible; in Christianity, it symbolizes the Virgin Mary. In alchemy lead represents the heavy, “sick” state of human existence or the soul. I is an attribute of Saturn, sette of boundaries. As the base metal it symbolizes the lowest level from which spiritual development is possible. The magnetic properties of lodestone linked it with magic. Those who carried a lodestone were said to be able to pass safely among reptiles and see into the future. Amber Actually a fossilized sap from prehistoric trees, amber was traditionally regarded as a talisman for travellers. To early Christians it represented divine presence, while in China amber symbolizes courage or the soul of the tiger. It was also used to combat ailments such as arthritis. Silver This Byzantine cup is made silver, which is linked to the Moon, Moon goddesses suc Diana, and queens. It signifi chastity, purity, wisdom, and light of hope. In Ancient Egy people thought that the god were made of silver. Used a it also symbolizes wealth. F rom soaring eagles to murky swamps, the natural world has fed our imagination ever since the first humans lived in caves. Literally and symbolically, plants and animals have fundamentally influenced the way we view the world. We have depended on both for sustenance and have always co-existed with animals, using them not just for food but also for clothing, labour, protection, and even tools. Consequently, all aspects of their lives have been imbued with symbolic significance, from the snake shedding its skin (rebirth) to a fish’s watery habitat (life and fertility). Animals – and even some plants – feature in creation stories, as ancestor figures, or are associated with gods, while earthly rulers used majestic species, such as the lion, to reflect their own glory. A common belief was that animals’ highly tuned physical and sensory abilities associated them with supernatural powers that could be harnessed through shamanistic ritual. Some beliefs, such as birds being celestial messengers or souls, were so strongly held that they were incorporated into the major religions. Animal species are infinitely varied and sometimes mirror our own behaviour. Like humans, some are feared or revered; others simply amuse us as clowns or tricksters. Mythological hybrids and monsters were created, often representing complex psychological challenges; hence, “slaying the dragon” is a metaphor for good conquering evil, or mastering one’s inner demons. In common with animals, plants and trees are also a food source, which associates them with abundance, fertility, and the eternal cycle of life, death, and regeneration. Staple crops are especially important symbolically, and often feature in creation myths. Other foods, such as tea and coffee, are connected to hospitality and ritual. Fruit – the culmination of a plant’s productive powers – is associated with immortality because, although it has reached the end of one cycle, it contains the seeds for eternal renewal. A vast number of plants are used in healing, while others are hallucinogens, poisons, or stimulants, which early societies regarded as magical, and which have a marked effect on our mental and physical well-being. Many plants are also fragrant or colourful, giving them an emotional resonance. The fleeting beauty of flowers symbolizes the glory and brevity of youth and there has also evolved a “language of flowers”, which survives today; red roses, for example, remain a widely recognized symbol of love and passion. In common with other plant life, trees are associated with fertility and the cycle of life, but their large size and longevity inspire additional themes of shelter, permanence, and immortality. Many were worshipped and the vast cosmic tree was thought to link Earth, Heaven, and the underworld; other sacred trees are usually regionally significant, such as the life-sustaining date palm in the Middle East. Most plant symbolism is positive but where nature appears “untamed”, as in woods and forests, psychological elements come into play that spawn a darker symbolism. As a dark and dangerous place in which one can easily get lost, the forest serves as a powerful metaphor for the transition to adulthood. Even today, we still try to find meaning in our world through signs and symbols. LITERALLY AND SYMBOLICALLY, PLANTS AND ANIMALS HAVE FUNDAMENTALLY INFLUENCED THE WAY WE VIEW THE WORLD Fox Smooth-talking, sly, and treacherous, the fox embodies s of a trickster. ter in American Eastern cultures, ears in disguise nd literature, too. manistic traditions the bear d with medicine, healing, and nerally, it symbolizes strength and d is linked with warlike divinities. y As a carrion-eater, the hyena is regarded as unclean, cowardly, and greedy. Due to an early belief that it could change gender, it came to symbolize sexual deviance. Wolf In Ancient Rome the wolf was a symbol of maternal care, courage, cunning cruelty Jackal The scavenging jackal represents destructiveness or evil in India, but in Ancient Egypt it was worshipped as Anubis, who received the dead on their way to the next world. In the Old Testament the jackal is a symbol of desolation. Racoon A favourite in American Indian folklore, the racoon is a trickst and symbolizes mischief, dexte and adaptability. Its mask-like face represents an ability to assume disguise. Coyote In American Indian culture the wily coyote, shown here as a warrior’s mask, is seen as a tric tea bot bet Since earliest times the lives of humans and animals have been intertwined, providing a rich source of symbolism. Animals have been worshipped as gods, linked with good luck, and seen as sources of power an wisdom. Many are symbolically assoc with a human quality. Hunter-gatherers respected and sometimes revered animals as being part of the natural world, which they sacred. To access their instinctual ecific animals were adopted as MAMMALS ALSO d trees pp.96–97 ead pp.106–09 ty & childbirth pp.120–23 totems, heroes cksters pp.150–51 Kan An em forwar its cou ability water a energy shama represe to the A the kan and a t Cerberus AAs guardias guardian of the way to the spgateway to the spirit s, theworld, Cerberus, the rthree-headed watchdog of Greek myth, symbolizes guardianship of the secret secret knowledge of death and resurrection. mbstoneTombstone Many cultures regard dogs as hful companions, evefaithful companions, even in death. ey are often carved inThey are often carved in postures of bs.steadfast watchfulness on tombs. Coat of arms Depicted on a coat of arms, the dog symbolizes courage, evigilance, and loyalty. Commonly featured breeds are he greyhoundthe greyhound and mastiff. Th lin an de tim th sy hu Mouse Although generally associated with timidity, Christians saw the mouse as the Devil, gnawing at the roots of the Tree of Life. Elsewhere, it is associated rugality. An important animal in American Indian myth, this master builder signifies industry and perseverance, as well as home and family. In Christian symbolism the beaver represents chastit In the West the bat is linked with vampires, the devil, and witchcraft. Seen as part bird, part rat, it symbolizes duplicity. A i I di d it Hedgehog The hedgehog was an American Indian symbol of self-preservation. However, Christians associated it with evil an witches took on hedgehog form to suckle mil ar symbol, the rabbit ncient links with fertility birth. Its alertness, , and timidity made it stian symbol of vigilance, g temptation. In medieval times, the red squirrel symbolized the devil because of its alertness and colour. It was the emblem of Irish goddess, Medb. Hare The hare is a trickster, hero, or fertility symbol associated with the Moon. In Europe it was a witch’s companion; in the East, it was a previous incarnation of the Buddha. Flying fox In Samoan folklore the flying fox, a fruit bat, is seen as a guardian of the forest, while in New Guinea it is a head- hunting symbol, often carved on war sh a symbol of good luck and wealth. However, it is more commonly associated with death, decay, and destruction. THE DOG ce ancient times the dog has beenSince ancient times the dog has been seen as a companion animal symbolizing loyalty, protection, aand hunting. Early societies associated it with the spspirit world. African and American Indian cultures saw the dog saw the dog as a master of fire and a rain-maker. However, Muslims regaHowever, Muslims regard the dog as unclean and gatory term for ause it as a derogatory term for an unbeliever. The dreaming pp.152–53 Shamanism pp.154–55 Chinese horoscope pp.204–05 y of prayer. Goat A masculine symbol associated with lust and fertility, the goat also represents agility; the climbing goat signifies determination. The goat is linked to the Ancient Greek gods, Pan, Dionysus, and Zeus. Cow A symbol of maternal nourishment, the cow is seen as a personification of Mother Earth. Both lunar and astral, its crescent horns represent the Moon, and its milk the stars of the Milky Way. The cow is Hinduism’s most sacred animal. Pig The pig is associated with the Mother Goddess, representing fertility and prosperity, but is also associated with selfishness and ignorance. Jews and Muslims regard the pig as an unclean scavenger. Christians link its gluttony to Satan. Hippopotamus In Ancient Egypt, where it wallowed in the fertile mud of the Nile, the hippopotamus symbolized rebirth and rejuvenation. Tawaret, goddess of childbirth and protection, was shown as a pregnant hippo, while the red hippo was associated with disharmony and the god, Seth. Ox The ox, shown here being ridden by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, represents toil, strength, and wealth. To Christians it is the yoke of Christ, while Buddhists see the white ox as a symbol of contemplative wisdom. Galloping horse Traditionally representing speed and vitality, the horse iatinsymbolically gallops “as fast as the wind”, associating it with en aelemental power and freedom; it is also seen as a messenger. n, e, s. ods. t Cave art The spotted horse appears in the 20,000-year-old cave paintings aat Pech Merle, France. An ancient symbol, the horse represents ain, storm, fire, running wwind, rain, storm, fire, running water, and waves. THE HORSE A symbol of nobility, speed, freedom, and beauty, the horse is widely associated with conquering power, as represented by Classical equestrian statues. In the Ancient world the horse was an emblem of the life-force and was linked to Sun and sky gods. Different symbolism was attributed to white, black, or golden horses. Pegasus In common with the white horse, the winged horse is a solar or spiritual symbol. egasus was the legendPegasus was the legendary winged horse of Greek mythology and often represents speed of thought. SEE ALSO The night sky pp.20–23 Fertility & childbirth pp.120–23 Hinduism pp.158–63 Buddhism pp.164–69 Ram A fire symbol and emblem of solar energy, the ram is associated with Sun and sky gods and also masculine virility. The spiral of the ram’s horns represents thunder. Black sheep Sheep symbolize meekness and, as part of a flock, require direction; the black sheep stands out as a non-conformist, hence the expression describing a maverick family member. Donkey A donkey represents fertility, lewdness, obstinacy, humility, and patience. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespearem gave a comic character called Bottom a donkey’s head. Wild ass In the West the ass is a symbol of stupidity and stubbornness, but in the East it symbolizes intelligence and strength. In Egypt the desert ass represents loneliness and isolation. Elephant Long associated with sovereign power in Africa and Asia, the elephant symbolizes strength, stability, and wisdom. Th elephan is worsh Lamb The lamb is a universal symbol of innocence, gentleness, and meeknes