It is common to see the use of sacred symbols in decoration, jewellery, paintings, objects and tattoos; however, we may not know exactly how they originated and what their true meaning is. How do they fit into modern society and why are people fascinated with them? Below is a list of some of some well-known symbols and perhaps some less well-known ones.
OM is a Hindu and Buddhist sacred symbol and sound. It comprises of the letter sounds “a” and “m;” and when the “a” and “u” sound are put together in Sanskrit, they make the “o” sound. The three sounds have the following meanings:
The three realms – Earth, atmosphere and heaven
The three Hindu gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Siva
The three sacred Vedic scriptures – Rg, Yajur and sama.
It is said that God created sound first and the world arose from the sound. Therefore the sound of OM represents the whole universe and the act of creation.
The written symbol of OM consists of three curves. The largest curve which is situated at the bottom represents the waking state, it is large to symbolise that this is the most common of our consciousnesses. The second curve which is at the upper end, symbolises the unconscious where the sleeper beholds nothing not even dreams. The third curve sits between wake and sleep and symbolises the dream state where the individual is focusing inwards. The dot you see on the symbol relates to the consciousness and neither looks outwards or inwards. The semi-circle divides the curves from the dot
The OM sound is often used at the beginning of a yoga or meditation session. It is a vibration or mantra that can cause a calming effect and help you to connect with your inward and outward self to awaken your conscious.
The Christian cross is used to symbolise the instrument on which Jesus was crucified. The sacred symbol can be seen in every Christian church and is related to the crucifix and the form of Jesus’s body. The cross came into use during the second century and was used as a marking across the forehead or chest to warn of the devil.
In modern day Christianity the cross reminds people of God’s love for his people by sacrificing his son for the good of humanity. Often Christians will make the sign of the cross when entering a church or passing it. This is to show respect for Christ and god’s sacrifice. Jehovah’s witnesses do not use the cross in their worship as they believe it idolatry and believe Jesus died on a singular upright stake.
Crosses now come in many forms and with colors and designs that appeal to the masses. You can wear a cross that fits in with your style and buy crosses that fit into your taste within your home.
Star of David
The star of David or the Shield of David is commonly recognised as the sacred symbol for Judaism. The shape is a hexagram which dates back to the 17th century and only in the 19th century did the symbol start to be used by the Jewish communities. The star has been associated with the number seven since the 20th century and some associate it with the six directions of space plus the centre; symbolising, up, down, east, west, north, south and the centre. Some say that one of the triangles represents the ruling tribe of Judah and the other triangle the ruling tribe of Benjamin.
Today we might associate the symbol with the holocaust as it was so famously used by the Nazis during world war two to identify the Jewish community. If a Jew was caught not wearing the armband of the Star of David they could be subjected to serious punishment.
In Chinese philosophy, Yin Yang is the sacred symbol for when two contrary or opposite forces come together they can actually complement one another. Many dualities such as light and dark, fire and water and expanding and contracting are known to dualities found in Yin and Yang.
Yin and Yang are considered to be complementary forces working together to create something more powerful together than apart. Yin is the negative, passive, female principle of nature whereas Yang is the positive, active, male principle of nature. Yin is the white side with the black dot inside it and Yang is the black side with the white dot inside it. They are often known as sunny and shady or as explained light and dark working together.
Hamsa is the sacred symbol for protection and to ward off evil used throughout Middle East and Africa. It is an open palm of the right hand facing downwards. You may have seen it in popular jewellery or wall hangings.
This sacred symbol is used to protect against the evil eye which may bring on illness or death. The silver jewellery is meant to represent purity and hold magical powers. Some may paint the hamsa on their walls in red to protect expectant mothers or a new baby. The fingers can be closed for good luck or open for protection.
The Flower of Life
The Flower of life is a geometric symbol made up of overlapping circles found from historic artefacts and named in the 1990’s by author Drunvalo Melchizedek. Since then the symbol has made its way into modern jewellery, paintings, fashion and tattoos.
The Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci also drew many sketches that included symbols of overlapping circles very much like that of the Flower of Life.