During ancient times, people used symbols, markings, and signs to communicate with each other. Many of these essential emblems and images, particularly those that have obtained deep spiritual or cultural meanings, have surpassed the test of times. They’re still relevant even at present. Some symbols have been passed on from one generation to the next, and other cultures and various countries as well.
Below are seven of the most famous historical symbols that are still widely used today and their respective significance.
The Ankh is one of the earliest and most recognizable symbols of Ancient Egypt. It’s depicted as a cross with a figure of a loop on top. Many consider the Ankh symbol meaning as a Key of Life. Not only does it look like a key, but it also represents the fusion of the female and male reproductive organs, which are both needed to bring forth life.
In Ancient Egypt, the Ankh depicted the divinity of the Pharaohs and represented their life-giving powers. During that time, the emblem was engraved in the sarcophagi of ancient Egyptian leaders to symbolize resurrection. Apart from the Egyptians, the Coptic Christians also use a cross that resembles the Ankh. These days, the Ankh is used in Gothic jewelry or as an amulet to ward off evil, decay, degeneration, and even death.
2. Trinity Knots
This Celtic symbol, which is also called the Triquetra, is depicted as three interlocking pointed ovals. This emblem, which dates back to around 500 BC, was used as protective runes of the Triple Goddess. It symbolizes the circle of life—birth, death, rebirth—and also water, air, and earth elements.
When Christianity became popular in Ireland, the Triquetra soon became a symbol of the Holy Trinity. These days, the Trinity Knot has become a trendy design for engagement and wedding jewelry because it has also been interpreted to represent the three wedding vows, namely to love, honor, and protect.
3. Yin And Yang
The Yin and Yang is probably one of the most popular and widely used historical symbols of China. This symbol appears in jewelry, home décor, clothing, and tattoos all over the world. Its fame can be attributed to the increasing popularity of Feng Shui in architecture and interior design. Feng Shui is a Chinese form of geomancy that promotes the natural harmony of individuals with their environment.
The Yin and Yang is depicted as a circle split by an S-shaped line in the middle. The black half of the circle represents the Yin or the feminine energy, while the white half embodies the Yang or the masculine energy. The symbol signifies the balance of these two energies, which make up the source of all life and existence. To achieve internal peace and harmony with your surroundings, you should continue to aspire to balance these two forces in your life.
Among all the historical symbols listed in this article, Mjolnir is probably the most recognizable among kids and young adults from all over the world. Its current popularity has come in the wake of Hollywood blockbuster movies that feature the superhero Thor, a comic book character based on the Norse god of thunder.
Also known as Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir is an enormously powerful weapon with immense destructive capability. But, it’s only effective when used for the good of all and to fight evil. During the time of the Vikings, the Mjolnir wasn’t only used as an amulet for safety and healing, but also to sanctify sacred rituals for births, weddings, and funerals.
5. All-Seeing Eye
The Eye of Providence, commonly known as the All-Seeing Eye, is a symbol used in many cultures. It continues to be relevant to this day. In Ancient Egypt, the symbol was used to represent the sky god, Horus. The Early Christians believed that the eye in the symbol depicted God’s omniscience, while the pyramid or triangle was a representation of the Holy Trinity.
Because of this symbol’s significance and its foreboding nature, many prominent writers have used it in their works. Two of the famous novels that contain references to the All-Seeing Eye are The Lord of the Rings by J. R.R. Tolkien and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you’re an American, you’ve probably first seen this symbol at the back of the one-dollar bill.
The mathematical symbol representing an infinity is believed to have been inspired by Ouroboros, a mystical emblem showing a serpent eating its tail. Although the name Ouroboros is Greek in origin, the symbol first appeared in Ancient Egypt, dating back to 1600 BC. This emblem’s deep philosophical significance is probably why it has been adopted by many religions and societies, including Phoenicians, Greeks, Gnostics, and even Masonic organizations.
Although each culture that adopted the Ouroboros has bestowed upon it their own interpretations, its meaning generally signifies the universe’s cyclic nature of life and death.
The dragon is another historical symbol that has inspired countless stories, myths, and legends across different cultures. It’s typically portrayed as a flying serpentine or reptilian creature. The word dragon comes from Drakon, a Greek word meaning a giant serpent or sea fish.
There are generally two types of dragons. One is the Chinese dragon, which is a benevolent astrological animal that symbolizes good fortune and wealth. The other is the European dragon, which is often a vicious mythical creature that loves gold and is feared by people. Many legendary heroes in Western literature became famous by slaying a dragon and freeing their communities from the creature’s wrath.
The dragon symbol is still present today. In Asia, the creature is ubiquitous. You can see dragon-inspired jewelry, home décor, and even car ornaments. The sign is incorporated in architectural designs used in buildings and landscapes. In fact, many Asian companies use dragons in their names and logos to attract luck and prosperity.
Many ancient symbols continue to be relevant today because their meanings and importance transcend time, culture, and language. For the most part, these symbols owe their popularity to religions, folklore, and traditions. These emblems are significant parts of human history, and it would be a shame if they disappear from the consciousness of future generations.
To ensure that these symbols maintain their relevance and continue to exist, people should incorporate them in as many items, logos, movies, and stories as possible. Only by constant use can these symbols retain their meanings and expand their cultural reach further into the future.