Category Archives: Symbols Series

Symbols {111} ~ Sun Face

The Sun face is an important cultural symbol of the Zuni people and represents the Sun Father, one of their three main kachinas or deities. It is found in all sorts of Zuni art objects, from jewelry to fetishes to rugs to pottery. Practicing an agricultural lifestyle like the other Native American tribes, the Zuni had a keen understanding of the relationship between different crops and different seasons. They recognized the crucial impact of the Sun on the agricultural output.

For the Zuni, the Sun symbolized abundance, continuity, stability, positive energy, hope, happiness, and peace. They associated it with the warmth that made life and growth possible and believed it brought playfulness and joy to children and good fortune and prosperity to families. So, praying to the Sun was a critical part of Zuni culture.

The Zuni incorporated their respect for the Sun into their jewelry in form of the Sun face. The traditional Sunface represents the finest in Zuni inlay artistry and craftsmanship. It is typically made from turquoise, mother-of-pearl, red coral and jet. Turquoise is believed to be a spiritual stone of oneness and unity with self as well as the spiritual and physical realms; mother-of-pearl represents imagination, intuition, sensitivity, adaptability, and decision-making; coral is considered protective and soothing; while black jet (fossilized wood) is associated with stability and protection.

The Sunface is generally crafted as a circular motif and its center inlay represents the face of Sun. The forehead is normally divided into two sections that symbolize the existence of a person as a unique individual and also a part of the family. The two sections also represent the non-stop cycle of sunrise and sunset. The lower part of the Sunface contains rectangular eyes and around the mouth that again symbolizes the continuity of life. The face is surrounded by a feather-like design.

Symbols {110} ~ Labrys

Labrys is asymmetric double-headed ritual axe that is one of the holiest Cretan religious symbols. It is also known as Labyris, Sagarus, and Halbryce. The term ‘Labrys’ traces its roots to the Latin word ‘labus’, which means ‘lips’. So, the symbol is said to denote a part of the female genitalia, labia that is the entrance of womb. Its symbolism is also linked directly with the Labyrinth, which originally denotes the Palace of Knossos in the city of Crete. Alternately, Labrys is believed to have been derived from the Lydian word for axe.

The closest association of the Labrys is with the ancient Minoan civilization where it was used as a symbol of the Mother Goddess and was representative of authority. It was also seen as symbolic of a butterfly, signifying transformation and rebirth. This double axe was depicted mostly in the hands of women and came to be connected with the male gods long after the decline of Minoan civilization. In Greek mythology, the Labrys (also called Pelekys) appears as an ancient symbol linked with the Thunder God, Zeus who used the axe to invoke storms.

Symbols {109} ~ Golden Spiral

The entire universe is believed to be a huge spectrum of circles. All life is weaved around cycles – of breathing in and breathing out, birth and death, day and night and so on. Everything exists in one harmonious system and the key to realizing and appreciating this unity lies in nature itself in the form of the Golden Spiral, also known as the ‘Divine Proportion’.

The Golden Spiral is one of the logarithmic spirals and its distinctiveness lies in the fact that it has Phi (golden ratio) as its growth factor. This means that for each quarter turn the spiral makes, it gets wider or away from the origin by a factor of Phi. Two quantities are in golden ratio (which is equal to 1.618) when their ratio is equal to the ratio of their sum to the bigger quantity. The Golden Spiral is derived from the ‘golden rectangle’, which is a unique rectangle having the golden ratio.

Symbols {108} ~ Eye Of Providence

An ancient symbol of omniscience and divine providence, the Eye of Providence represents the eye of God, the singular divine power that has created the entire universe. The symbol shows a human eye enclosed in a triangle. In Christianity, the triangle represents the Holy Trinity and as such, the Eye of Providence symbolizes the divine entity looking over humankind and providing it benevolent guidance.

At times, the Eye is also depicted as surrounded by clouds or bursts of light. Both of these images are representative of holiness and divine glory and so, here too, the symbol signifies that the Almighty is keeping a watchful eye on His creation.

Contrary to these beliefs, there are some people who believe the symbol to represent the eye of Lucifer or Satan whose supernatural powers influence what happens in the world.

Besides being prevalent in Christianity, this concept of ‘All-seeing eye’ can be found in several other religions and cultures. For instance, the Buddhists refer to it as the ‘Eye of the World’; in Caodaism, it represents the image of God; and the Egyptian revere the Eye of Horus as a symbol of power and protection.

Symbols {107} ~ Heart

The Heart symbol is universally seen as a quintessential representation of love, especially (though not solely) of romantic love. It signifies both physical and eternal love. Various cultures through the ages have associated the symbol with affection, compassion, joy, and charity. It has also found ritualistic use in ceremonies of yore performed for strengthening relationships.

The use of the symbol goes far back in history and has even been found on ancient Roman coins. There is a lot of ambiguity about the origin of the Heart symbol as it has only a remote resemblance to the human body organ it represents. In fact, it is largely believed to have been derived from the shape of the seedpod of silphium, an herb popular among the Romans as a contraceptive. Another belief has the symbol originating from the shape of leaves, typically ivy leaves. The Greeks associated ivy with God Dionysus, the god of passion, wine, and other sensual things. Perhaps, this later led the Heart symbol to be connected with romantic love. The longevity and resilience of the ivy vine are also seen as symbolic of eternal love.

Some people link the Heart symbol with an upside-down triangle and associate it with the divine feminine power. The inverted triangle also symbolizes the Water element, which makes the Heart a sign of intuition, psychic perception, emotion, transition, and motion.

Symbols {106} ~ Cross Of Tau

The Cross of Tau symbol derives its name from the Greek letter that it resembles. Its T shape was believed to represent an ancient form of the crucifix. The Cross of Tau was also regarded as a symbol of salvation due to the connection between the tau and the Biblical mark placed on the forehead of the people destined to be saved, as mentioned in Ezekiel 9:4 (וְהִתְוִיתָ תָּו עַל־מִצְחֹות הָאֲנָשִׁי “set a mark on the forehead of the men”). A related theory compares the tau with the shape formed by the hands of Moses in Exodus 17:11.

Also known as St. Anthony’s Cross, the Advent Cross, and Saint Francis’ Cross, the Cross of Tau are associated with the most prominent saints in the Catholic faith. St. Anthony wore a tau-shaped cross on his cloak. St. Francis of Assisi adopted it as a personal emblem and used the tau to decorate the doors and walls of whatever home he was staying at. He also used it as his signature.

Outside of Christianity, the Cross of Tau is a symbol of immortality. The Chaldeans and Egyptians viewed it as a representation of Tammuz, the Sumerian god of death and resurrection. During baptism ceremonies, it was marked on the recipient’s forehead by the pagan priest.

Symbols {105} ~ Kartika

In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Kartika is a small, crescent-shaped knife used in burial ceremonies. As a symbol, it represents the cutting away of all material and worldly aspects of one’s existence, including the human body, which is why it is often depicted in the right hand of Yamantaka, the destroyer of death.

The Kartika is crowned with a vajra (a club with a spherical head), which demolishes ignorance and ushers in enlightenment. The hook incorporated into the design traditionally represents the hook of compassion from Tibetan Buddhist imagery: it pulls the soul out of the endless cycles of transmigration. The crescent-shaped knife slashes apart the ego, allowing one to access and appreciate the clarity and insights symbolized by the Vajra. The goddess of trauma, Vajrayogini, is depicted in traditional iconography with a Kartika in one hand and the kapala, or ‘skull cup’ in the other. In this context, the curved knife represents the way that the ultimate insight cuts away the ignorance of conventional wisdom, while the skull-cup, which is full of wisdom nectar, reminds mankind of its impermanence. In the Tibetan practice of Chöd, the practitioner uses the Kartika as an implement in a ceremony that seeks to understand the infinite. It is also an important component in the Tibetan sky burial ritual, which cuts the body of a deceased person into small pieces and leaves it on top of specially designed burial platforms. The message is that the body is inconsequential in the general scheme of things.

Symbols {104} ~ Day & Night

Through the ages, celestial happenings and natural phenomenon have been used to symbolize important thoughts and concepts. The cyclical occurrence of day and night was one of the things occurring in nature that was believed to hold specific meaning. While different civilizations had different day & night symbols to record the passage of time, Day and Night, by themselves, were thought to have strong symbolic meanings.

The recurring phenomenon of day and night was always considered very meaningful as it was believed that the survival of human species depended majorly on synchronizing the bodily and mental functions with the peculiar demands of day & night.

The Day and the Night seem to present two entirely different worlds. Day and night changes even seem to have biological effects on mankind. The creatures that are aggressive, alert and seeking in the day become quiet and inactive at night. The dramatic contrast presented by Day and Night is equated with the disparity between life and death, light and darkness, consciousness and unconsciousness.

Day and Night symbolize, respectively, the birth of the Sun and its death. With the rising Sun, the Day is considered representative of new life, and fresh beginnings, possibilities, hopes, and opportunities. It also symbolizes the active, masculine principle and the rise of consciousness.

Symbols {103} ~ Rub El Hizb

Rub El Hizb is essentially the Islamic version of the eight-pointed star, an icon that is found in several spiritual traditions all over the world. The Rub el Hizb is formed by two overlapping squares with one square titled over the other to make an eight-vertex, star-shaped geometrical figure. The symbol often has a small circle in the middle.

According to some historians, the origin of Rub el Hizb can be traced to Tartessos, which was a civilization that existed in Andalusia (a region in Spain) around the 11th century BCE to 6th century BCE. The region was ruled for about eight centuries by Islamic dynasties and it had the eight-pointed star as its unofficial symbol.

The Rub el Hizb symbol is used in Arabic calligraphy to mark the end of a chapter. Its most familiar use is found within the Muslims’ holy book, the Quran, where the symbol is used for the division of the text into passages. Coming from the Arabic terms, ‘rub’ that means a quarter/one-fourth and ‘Hizb’ that means a group/party, ‘Rub el Hizb’ can be translated to denote ‘divided into quarters’.

Symbols {102} ~ Theosophy

Theosophy refers to the ancient, esoteric knowledge that seeks to answer the biggest questions in life. Sometimes called ‘ageless wisdom’, it offers an insight into the mysteries of the origin of this universe and purpose of all creation in the world. It helps in comprehension of the concepts of humanity and divinity and assists in understanding the ties that inter-connect everything in the universe and unite humanity with the divine.

The term ‘theosophy’ is derived from the Greek words ‘Theos’ and ‘Sophia’, which literally translate into ‘God’s wisdom’. So, theosophy means knowledge and understanding of the divine matters. Theosophists dedicate their energies towards examining and analyzing the universe, nature, divinity, and humanity as well as their reciprocal effects on each other. By doing so, they strive to discover the divine truths and experience self-realization.

The use of the term ‘theosophy’ as a synonym for theology (the rational study of the concepts related to God) has been seen as far back as the third century. Modern theosophy began in the sixteenth century in Germany. Interest in it grew stronger and spread far and wide over the centuries. The late nineteenth century saw the emergence of theosophical initiate societies such as The Theosophical Society founded in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky and others, and The Esoteric Society founded by Helena Blavatsky.

The popularity of Blavatsky’s ideas spawned several organizations that came to be regarded as new religious movements. However, theosophy is believed to present only the perennial wisdom that underlies all the philosophies, religions and sciences in the world. Its basic premise is that everything originates from the same eternal source; all mankind is one spiritual family and a compassionate way of living, free of religious and other antagonisms, can ensure a glorious future for humanity.