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The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols: The Ultimate A–Z Guide from Alchemy to the Zodiac Adele Nozedar Unlock the lost and hidden meanings of the world's ancient and modern signs and symbols with the latest in the hugely popular series of 'Element Encyclopedias'. This is the biggest A-Z reference book on symbolic objects you'll ever find.From the popular series of 'Element Encyclopedias', this is the largest, most definitive guide to the secret and ancient knowledge of signs and symbols, some of which has been lost over thousands of years.• Why is the eye believed to be a powerful symbol of protection by fishermen?• Why do Masonic Temples have a black and white chequered floor covering?• Why do Hindus use coloured rice powder to draw elaborate symbols in front of their homes, only to have these patterns destroyed every day by footprints?• What are the hidden meanings behind the symbols on the American dollar?• What is the most important symbol in the World?Divided into easy-to-follow A-Z themed sections, the book answers all these questions and more, from sections on Magic and Mystery, Deities and Rituals, the Animal and Plant Kingdom, Landscape and the Elements, to Food and Sacred Geometry.Find out about the secret Demonic alphabet and Script of the Magi, the Glastonbury Zodiac, the Masonic Compass, the Eye of Horus, Native American hunting symbols, the Caduceus and the Indian Diwali ritual.Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols is a fascinating compendium of the hidden meanings behind the most important visual symbols in the world. The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols The Ultimate A-Z Guide from Alchemy to the Zodiac Adele Nozedar For Adam and for the seven secrets ‘In every grain of sand there lies Hidden the soil of a star’ Arthur Machen ‘I do not need a leash or a tie To lead me astray In the land where dreams lie’ Yoav In Nature’s temple, living pillars rise Speaking sometimes in words of abstruse sense; Man walks through woods of symbols, dark and dense, Which gaze at him with fond familiar eyes. Like distant echoes blent in the beyond In unity, in a deep darksome way, Vast as black night and vast as splendent day, Perfumes and sounds and colors correspond. From “Correspondences,” Charles Baudelaire Table of Contents Cover Page (#u2b3378e5-1ab5-505f-a7d9-6b072539cb0c) Title Page (#u702f82a4-72da-57d4-9a5b-b903c3d26370) Epigraph (#uf7da0d1f-a441-5a2c-8885-f46aa63061c2) Introduction (#u58191e58-f994-5d17-9ea9-4dd5cd873776) Part One Signs and Symbols of Magic and Mystery (#u46ac4035-2143-5968-bda8-869395888048) Part Two Fauna (#litres_trial_promo) Part Three Flora (#litres_trial_promo) Part Four Flowers of the Underworld (#litres_trial_promo) Part Five Sacred Geometry and Places of Pilgrimage (#litres_trial_promo) Part Six Numbers (#litres_trial_promo) Part Seven Sacred Sounds, Secret Signs (#litres_trial_promo) Part Eight The Body as a Sacred Map (#litres_trial_promo) Part Nine Rites and Rituals, Customs and Observances (#litres_trial_promo) Part Ten The Nature of the Divine (#litres_trial_promo) Copyright (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) INTRODUCTION (#ulink_b083709e-327c-56d0-8ab8-b596bd45ce05) The aim of this book is to seek a true understanding of the secret signs, sacred symbols, and other indicators of the arcane, hidden world that are so thickly clustered around us. During this process, we’ll shed light on the cultural, psychological, and anthropological nature of our signs and symbols. We’ll also be surprised to discover that many of the everyday things we take for granted can hold hidden secrets, and by having the key to this knowledge we’ll gain an insight into the minds and concerns of our forbears who constructed these symbols. NO BEGINNING, NO END: ANATOMY OF A SIMPLE SYMBOL Rodin said, “Man never invented anything new, only discovered things.” While it’s true to say that some symbols have been man-made for a specific purpose, it’s equally accurate to argue that everything is inspired in some way by the natural world around us, by the forms of nature, plants, animals, the elements. Even a reaction against the fluid forms of nature is generally inspired by a desire to provide an alternative. Sometimes the revelation of a natural symbol is immediate; other such discoveries are the result of years of painstaking observation. One of our simplest symbols has elaborate and arcane origins. Here is a picture, not of a manmade or computer-generated pattern, but of the shape made in the sky by the Planet Venus. Venus is the only planet whose dance around the Sun in the depths of space describes such a definite and distinctive form, and we can only imagine the sense of wonder that must have been felt by the ancient Akkadians who first charted the design. They also realized that the Morning Star and the Evening Star, previously considered to be two separate celestial bodies, were one and the same. This discovery had a profound effect, which has cast such a long shadow over the archeology of symbols that we are still governed by it today. Here’s why. Because of Venus’s proximity to the Sun, its light is often obliterated, and so it is visible only in the early morning or in the evening, either just before sunrise or just after sun-set. The Greeks called the morning star Eosphoros, “bringer of the dawn” (later, the star would be called Lucifer, the brightest of the angels cast out of the Heavens). As the Evening Star, it was called Hesperos, “star of the evening” (which gives us the name of evening prayers, or vespers). It takes eight years and one day for the appearances of Venus to complete an entire pentagram. These days we can plot these movements relatively easily, but for our ancestors the process must have been elaborate and painstaking, as uncertain and laborious a voyage of discovery as the traversing of any great physical ocean. The Goddess that we know as Venus was, to the Akkadians, Ishtar/Inanna, divinity not only of love and harmony but also Goddess of war. Incidentally, Venus is the only major planet of our solar system, aside from the Earth itself, to be designated a feminine spirit. The Mayans determined their calendrical system from the movements of Venus, and chose propitious positions of the planet to determine the time of a war. The five-pointed star that is still used as a military symbol—stenciled onto tanks, for example, or used in insignia—derives from the stately movement of this great astral Goddess. Similarly, the apple given by Eve to Adam contained a hidden symbol within it; the pentagram created by the pattern of the pips. Eve offered Adam not only knowledge of the divine feminine—a holy grail indeed—but offered him a symbol of the true marriage of opposites, the feminine number two wedding to the masculine number three. Eve, therefore, personifies Ishtar/Venus/Aphrodite as the Goddess of sensual love (and Venus, incidentally, is the derivation of the word “venereal”). Further, Ishtar was demonized in the Bible as the Whore of Babylon. So, a seemingly simple thing such as the shape made in the sky by the path of a planet can be full of complexities and contradictions, which not only clarifies some aspects of the symbol but also poses further questions. The truth is that the quest to understand the meaning of a symbol is as much a personal voyage of discovery as a collective one, and it is in the spirit of exploration that I hope you will adventure into this book. THANKS There are several people without whom this book would never have been written. I’d like to thank Katy Carrington, Terence Caven, Jeannine Dillon, Chris Wold, Simon Gerratt, Graham Holmes, Kate Latham, Faith Booker, and Laura Summers at HarperCollins. Charlotte Ridings, Martin Noble, and Mark Bolland were the editors. I’d also like to thank Wanda Whiteley. Any book about symbols would be nothing without the illustrations. Paul Khera has done the bulk of these, with additional thanks to Anat Cederbaum, Myong Hwi Kim, Kruti Sanaija, and Yuki Nakamura for advice and help with some aspects of these pictures. I am also lucky enough to have Finlay Cowan contribute images to this book. Other illustrators include David Little, Lyndall Fernie, and Kalavathi Devi. I would also like to thank Willa and Milo Seary for their drawings. Thanks are also due to Gavin and Davina Hogg, Sigorour Atlason, Caroline Danby, Tania Ahsan, Hamraz Ahsan, Carla Edgley, Judy Roland, Theo Chalmers, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, Stuart Mitchell, and the good people of Raquetty Lodge, Hay on Wye. Most of all I have to thank starship commander Adam Fuest for putting up with my obsession about this book and my possible bouts of absent mindedness about anything else during the writing of it. FIRST SIGNS: THE BASIC SHAPES OF SYMBOLS There are certain elemental structures that occur repeatedly, not only as component parts of more elaborate symbols, but also with rich meanings of their own. In fact, it’s probably true to say that the simpler the symbol, the more scope there is for interpretation; ergo, the more meaningful it is and, paradoxically, the more complex it becomes. These primary shapes transcend barriers of time, geography, and cultural context, part of a universal language that goes before, and beyond, words. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these basic shapes are as self-explanatory as to need no analysis. A true understanding of what they represent can only add to the comprehension of the more elaborate shapes and symbols that follow in this section. SPACE The elements of a symbol are defined only by the space that is a part of its construction. Like the wind, the effect of space is gauged by its effect on the things within it or surrounding it. The concept of space, the void, is a profound part of our experience. To reach a state of “emptiness” is, for many, the ultimate spiritual experience and a way of connecting to the Absolute. When John Lennon wrote “Imagine,” whose lyrics gradually strip away the trappings of the material world, it was this idea that inspired him. To be aware of the possibility of space within a flat, two-dimensional representation is to give that shape substance and a new kind of reality that lifts it off the page and makes it real. Space is not flat and cannot be confined by lines on a piece of paper. The page and the shape on it do not exist in isolation, but are a part of a greater cosmos. This book and you, the reader, are a part of this equation. The concept of zero is a space. Indeed, the realization that “nothing” can be “something” marked a profound leap forward in man’s development. All creation myths begin with a Void, symbolic of potential. Although attempts to explain the concept of space are inevitably faulty, it might help to think of a blank page. Before a mark is made upon the paper, the potential for what might appear there is so vast as to be unimaginable, a consideration which causes consternation for some artists and writers. Without this space, there is no arena for anything else to exist. This absence of any thing means that no thing is the most important symbol in the World. DOT A dot might seem to be an unassuming little thing, the first mark on the pristine sheet of paper. In this case, the dot is a beginning. But see what just happened there? The dot, an essential component in the structure of the sentence, closed it, making it a symbol of ending. Therefore, the dot is both an origination and a conclusion, encompassing all the possibilities of the Universe within it, a seed full of potential and a symbol of the Supreme Being. The dot is the point of creation, for example the place where the arms of the cross intersect. The dot is also called the bindhu, which means “drop.” The bindhu is a symbol of the Absolute, marked on the forehead at the position of the third eye in the place believed to be the seat of the soul. The presence of dots within a symbol can signify the presence of something else. A dot in the center of the Star of David marks the quintessence, or Fifth Element. It also acts as reminder of the concept of space. The decorated dots that surround the doorways of Eastern temples are not merely ornamental devices but have significance relevant to the worshippers. Dots frequently appear in this way, acting as a sort of shorthand for the tenets of a faith. In the Jain symbol, for example, the dots stand for the Three Jewels of Jainism. The dots in each half of the yin-yang symbol unify the two halves: one dot is “yin,” the other “yang.” Together they demonstrate the interdependence of opposing forces. CIRCLE The next logical magical symbol is the circle. Effectively an expansion of the dot, the circle represents the spirit and the cosmos. Further, the circle itself is constructed from “some thing” (the unbroken line) and “no thing” (the space inside and outside this line). Therefore, the circle unifies spirit and matter. The structure itself has great strength—think of the cylindrical shape of a lighthouse, built that way in order to withstand the fiercest attack by a stormy sea. The physical and spiritual strength of this symbol are there because the perfect circle has no beginning and no end; it is unassailable. This power is the reason why the circle is used in magical practices such as spell-casting. The magic circle creates a fortress of psychic protection, a physical and spiritual safe haven where unwanted or uninvited entities cannot enter. Hermes Trismegistus said of the circle: God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. Where would ancient man have seen the most important circles? Obviously, in the Sun and the Moon. As the Sun, the circle is masculine, but when it is the Moon, it is feminine. Because the passage of time is marked by the journey of the Sun, Moon and stars in orbit around our Earth, the circle is a symbol of the passage of time. In this form, it commonly appears as the wheel. Because the circle has no divisions and no sides, it is also a symbol of equality. King Arthur’s Round Table was the perfect piece of furniture for the fellowship of Knights who were each as important as each other. Similarly, the Dalai Lama has a “circular” Council. ARC Perhaps the most prominent arc of the natural world appears in the elusive form of the rainbow, which primitive man saw as a bridge between the Heavens and the Earth. As a part of a circle, the arc symbolizes potential spirit. The position of the arc is important. Upright, shaped like a cup or chalice, it implies the feminine principle, something that can contain the spirit. If the arc is inverted, then the opposite is true and it becomes a triumphal, victorious, masculine symbol. As such, the arc can take the form of an archway. The vaulted or arched shape of many holy buildings, from a great variety of different faiths, represents the vault of the Heavens. The arc shape often appears in planetary symbols. VERTICAL LINE Man, alone in the animal kingdom, stands upright, so the vertical line represents the physical symbol of the number One, man striving toward spirit. This simple line is the basic shape of the World Tree or Axis Mundi that connects the Heavens, the Earth and the lower regions. It is not only a basic phallic symbol but also signifies the soul that strives for union with the Divine. The upright line tells us where we are at a precise moment; think of the big hand of the clock, vertically oriented at 12 o’clock. HORIZONTAL LINE The opposite of the vertical line, the horizontal line represents matter, and the forward and backward movement of time. This line also signifies the skyline or horizon and man’s place on the Earth. CROSS Here, the vertical and horizontal lines come together to create a new symbol—the cross. There are of course countless different types of cross, a few of which are covered in this section of the book. Despite any embellishments or devices, however, the basic meaning of the cross stays the same. The earliest example of the cross comes from Crete and dates back to the fifteenth century BC although the sign is much older than this, ancient beyond proper reckoning. It is an incredibly versatile and useful sign with many interpretations. As the convergence of the vertical and horizontal lines, it symbolizes the union of the material and the spiritual (think of the sign of the cross given by Catholic priests). As a geometric tool, it has no equal; if you put the cross inside the circle, then you are able to divide the circle equally. Similarly, the cross is said to “give birth to” the square. Because of its four cardinal points, the cross represents the elements and the directions. In the West the cross equates with the number 4, but in China, it is associated with the number 5 since the “dot” in the middle of the cross, where the two arms intersect, is also included. The cross is sometimes disguised as another symbol, such as a four-petaled flower. All over the world, the cross is a symbol of protection. SQUARE Said to be the first shape invented by Man, the square represents the created Universe as opposed to the spiritual dimensions depicted by the circle. The square represents the Earth and the four elements. Plato described the square, like the circle, as being “absolutely beautiful in itself.” Like the cross, the square is associated with the number 4. A square has four corners; to speak of the “four corners of the Earth” is something of an anomaly since the Earth is round, without corners. All the symbolism of the number 4 is encompassed within the square, and it is interesting to note that, just as the square represents the created Universe, in the Hebrew faith the Holy Name of the Creator is comprised of four letters. The square gives man a safe, static reference point, and a stable, unmoving shape as opposed to the continual motion of the circle. Temples and holy buildings are often built in the form of a square, solidly designed to align with the four points of the compass. The Ka’aba at Mecca is a fine example, as is the base of the Buddhist Stupa. Altars, too, are square. Square shapes define limits and create boundaries; to speak of someone as being “square” means that they are fixed and unchangeable. LOZENGE A diamond shape often with rounded rather than pointed ends, the lozenge is often overlooked, but is actually a representation of the female genitalia. As such, its most popular appearance is probably as the vesica piscis, the sacred doorway through which spirit enters the world of matter. In heraldry, for example, the lozenge is used in place of the masculine shield, to denote a coat of arms belonging to a woman or a noncombative male, such as a member of the clergy. TRIANGLE The triangle shares all the symbolic significance of the number 3, as a shape, and therefore represents the many things that come in groups of three, from the Holy Trinity to the triple aspect of the Goddess. Triangles appear in lots of different signs and symbols. In ancient times, the triangle was considered synonymous with light, and the meanings of the triangle vary according to which way up it is. When it sits firmly on its base, then it is a masculine, virile symbol, representing fire. The other way up it becomes the water element, a chalice shape, emblematic of the feminine powers. Balanced on its point in this way the triangle also represents the yoni, further underpinning the Goddess aspect. The equilateral triangle is a harmonious form, used to indicate the Higher Powers, providing a framework, for example, for the All Seeing Eye of God. As a symbol of strength, the triangle reinforces the corners of the square, both physically and meta-physically. The solid shape of the triangle also makes its appearance in yogic positions, for example in the Trikona Asana or Triangle Posture. DIAGONAL The square can be divided into two diagonal triangles. Because the length of these shapes has no simple relationship to its sides, the Greeks concluded that the diagonal must be a symbol of the irrational. Therefore, the diagonal, or oblique, has come to be associated with the incomprehensible, occult world. In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Diagon Alley is the hidden part of London that is a magical high street full of occult devices. ZIG-ZAG However it is interpreted, the jagged shape of the zig-zag carries with it the idea of heat, energy, vitality, and movement, the archetypal sign for lightning or electricity. The double zig-zag that makes the astrological glyph for Aquarius could be water or it could be the life-force itself. The serpent that spirals up the Caduceus is a soft-ened zig-zag shape. There is an inherent danger in the zig-zag, and the deities that carry it in their hands do so as a sign of their own authority and power. Part One SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF MAGIC AND MYSTERY (#ulink_e347063b-feb7-5ad4-a2e6-d276be0267cb) AASKOUANDY Ironically, the first entry in this encyclopedia is a symbol that is impossible to illustrate because it takes various different forms. An Aaskouandy charm is any object that is unusual in some way, which appears unexpectedly or is somehow out of place in its surroundings. For example, if a stone is found in the entrails of an animal that was particularly hard to hunt, then this stone is perceived to be the object that gave the animal its power, and so is eligible for Aaskouandy status. The Iriquois believe that the Aaskouandy, a magical charm of considerable power, has a mind of its own, so much so that if it is neglected it can even turn against its owner. They also believe that the Aaskouandy has trickster ten-dencies and can change shape at will, so confusingly it may metamorphose into another object altogether. Because the Aaskouandy is an independent being, the owner is careful to stay on the right side of it, keeping it happy with gifts and feasts. If an Aaskouandy appears in the shape of a fish or serpent, then this is particularly potent because of the inherent power of these creatures. In this case, the Aaskouandy changes its name, too, and becomes an Onniont. ABRAXAS Depending on your point of view, Abraxas is either an Egyptian Sun God who was adopted by the early Christian Gnostics, or a demon from Hell who is closely associated with Lucifer, although there is a case for the former, since he was not demoted to the ranks of a demon until the Middle Ages. Abraxas was no ordinary god, however. As Ruler of the First Heaven he had dominion over the cycles of birth, death, and resurrection. Whatever the case, the symbol for Abraxas is a very unusual one. He has the head of a chicken, the torso of a man, and two serpents for legs. He holds a shield in one hand and a flail-like instrument in the other. The image of Abraxas was carved onto stones (called Abraxas Stones) and the stone used as a magical amulet. Occasionally Abraxas will appear driving a chariot drawn by four horses; these horses represent the elements. This Abraxas symbol was adopted by the Knights Templar, who used it on their seals. No one knows precisely why this symbol was of particular significance, but a hidden secret within the name “Abraxas” may provide a clue. In Greek, the 7 letters are the initials of the first 7 planets in the Solar System. Further, if we apply numerology to the name then it adds up to 365, not only the number of days in a year but also the number of the spirits that those same early Gnostics believed were emanations from God. Added to the mix is the speculation that the supreme magical word, “Abracadabra,” may derive from the name Abraxas, which means “harm me not.” ADRINKA SYMBOLS Originating in Ghana, Adrinka symbols are now related, in general, to the Ashanti people. There are hundreds of these signs, which were originally printed on the cloth that was used in sacred ceremonies and rituals, funerals in particular. “Adrinka” means “goodbye.” The patterns are created using a block printing method. The symbols are cut into a calabash gourd, and then stamped onto the cloth in ink or paint. The language of Adrinka is rich and varied, embracing philosophical concepts and sociological ideas as well as straightforward words. The symbols take their influence from plants, animals, the landscape, and the natural world, as well as manmade objects. There is a vast Adrinka vocabulary, with complex meanings attached to what might appear, at first glance, to be simple little doodles. AESCLEPIUS WAND Often confused with the Caduceus, the Wand or Rod of Aesclepius is the true symbol of the medical profession. The symbol belongs to the Greek God of Healing whose name it bears. Although the origins of many symbols are indeterminate, there is a theory that the Aesclepius Wand came about due to the method of removal of a certain parasite that was drawn gradually from the body by winding it around a stick. However, the serpent is a powerful symbol of healing, despite its toxic nature. In general, the symbol of the serpent rising up toward the top of a pole or tree is representative of matter transforming into spirit and of enlightenment. AGNUS DEI Agnus Dei translates as the “Lamb of God,” and is also known as the Paschal Lamb. It is symbolized pictorially as a lamb with a halo, proudly trotting along, carrying a banner and a cross. Lambs were commonly sacrificed during the time of the Passover, the blood sprinkled in the doorway or rubbed onto the lintel, so the connection was made because of the sacrifice of Christ. Part of the Catholic mass includes the plea, repeated three times: Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. AKHET In Egyptian, Akhet means “dawn.” This symbol—often made into an amulet by the Ancient Egyptians—symbolized the new Sun rising over the sacred mountain. The symbol sometimes features the double-headed lion, or Aker, that guards it, and is also related to the glyph used to denote the astrological sign of Libra. AKWABA This is an African fertility symbol belonging to the Ashanti tribe. The Akwaba is a doll, usually carved of wood, which commands the same attention as a real infant. It is dressed, washed, and even “fed” until the human child is actually born, an example of sympathetic magic believed to ensure the arrival of the true baby. ALCHEMY Alchemy is an ancient art, at the heart of which lies the manufacture of a mysterious substance called the Philosopher’s Stone, the highly desirable and legendary object that is said to transform base metals—such as lead—into gold. However, the gold in this instance symbolizes not just the valuable metal, but enlightenment and eternal life, and Alchemists are concerned with their own spiritual and personal development as well as the pursuit of the seemingly unattainable goal. The Chinese differentiate these different kinds of alchemy as nei-tan (the alchemy of spiritual transformation) and waitan (the straightforward “lead-into-gold” type). The motto of the Alchemists is Solve et Coagula, meaning “Solution and Coagulation.” The work of the early Alchemists was necessarily a secretive and clandestine matter, and its secrets are still held within a rich encrustation of symbols, pictures, oblique references, double meanings, and riddles. Alchemical symbolism features animals, birds, colors, and parables as well as archetypal symbols such as the Cosmic Egg. The key tenets of alchemy are encompassed in something called the Smaragdina Tablet, or the Emerald Tablet, which is said to have been found by Alexander the Great in the tomb of Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes the Thrice Great) who is the founder of all things alchemical. The Alchemical Tradition exists/existed in Ancient Egypt, China, and India, but its most recent incarnation was in medieval Europe. Those who dabbled in alchemy include the famous and the infamous, such as John Dee (astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I), Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, Christian Rosenkreuz, Nicholas Flamel, and Isaac Newton. Some of the chemical treatises are befuddling to even the most learned of scholars, but the very word “alchemy” is almost in itself a symbol, conjuring up images that are magical, mystical, and marvelous. ALCHEMICAL SYMBOLS Although some of the alchemical symbols occasionally varied a little between practitioners, the following lists show the most commonly used interpretations. This list is by no means comprehensive but gives a good cross-section of the “feel” of these mysterious signs. It is interesting to see how many of these alchemical symbols have survived to the present day, and how the meanings of the simpler symbols are so universal that they extend well beyond the reaches of this one system. The four basic elements Air Water Fire Earth The four seasons Spring Summer Fall Winter The seven planetary metals Sun gold Moon silver Mercury mercury or quicksilver Venus copper Mars iron Jupiter tin Saturn lead The alchemical spirits The World Spirit The Spirit of Silver The Spirit of Mercury The Spirit of Copper The Spirit of Tin ALL SEEING EYE Probably the best-known use of the All Seeing Eye symbol is as a part of the design of the Great Seal of the United States of America, which appears on the US dollar bill. Set within a triangle, a single eye is surrounded by rays of light; on the Seal, the whole rests on top of an unfinished pyramid. There is something quite sinister about this disembodied, ever-watchful eye, although its symbolic meaning is simple; it represents God watching over humankind, and is also known as the Eye of Providence. The eye itself is a powerful and popular symbol, and the All Seeing Eye has its roots in the Egyptian Eye of Horus. The addition of the triangle represents all the different aspects of the shape, including the Christian Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The fact that the Great Seal was a symbol that belonged to Freemasonry and alchemy prior to its adoption as part of the Great Seal of the USA has given rise to many conspiracy theories. That the All Seeing Eye is also the symbol of the Illuminati, a secretive organization within the Catholic Church, has further bolstered these theories. In Freemasonry, God is known as the Architect of the Universe. The first reference to the All Seeing Eye as a Masonic symbol appeared in 1797, although the Great Seal was designed in 1776 and first used in 1782. It is whispered that Masonic influences must have been at work when the Seal was designed; no one will ever know for sure, although those magical symbols that encrust the Seal must have been put there for a reason. What is certain is that when the Eye was adopted as part of the design of the Dollar in 1935, it was as a direct result of the influence of the President, Franklin Roosevelt, who had no reason to conceal his Masonic affiliations. ALMADEL This is a particular kind of magical amulet, made of wax so that the secret names of demons can be written or engraved upon it. The whole is then melted so that its creator need never reveal the secret. The color of the almadel should correspond to its magical intention. ALTAR The root of the word “Altar” means “high” or “high place,” and therefore the altar is symbolic of the Holy Mountain, given that it is raised above its immediate surroundings and is used as a focus for holy rites and sacred practices. Altars, as such, exist in all religions and cultures, the symbolic meaning remaining unchanged across diverse belief systems. Altars certainly provide the main focus within churches, but they are not confined to large public buildings; many faiths have a small domestic altar in the home. AMULET Although it is worn on the body as a piece of jewelry, the amulet is different from “normal” jewelry in that it holds a magical significance that is peculiar to its owner or wearer. Generally, the powers of the amulet fall into two specific categories, either to bring luck or to avert evil; either of these qualities arguably reflect a positive or negative attitude on the part of the owner. The talisman is effectively the same thing as an amulet although its name derives from an Arabic word meaning “magic picture.” Therefore a charm made specifically and inscribed with the names of the spirits, the Seal of Solomon, and other mystical symbols is more likely to be referred to as a talisman. Significant symbols for use as amulets include birthstones (or other gems according to their magical powers), astrological signs, specific symbols such as the Hand of Fatima or the cornus, and symbols specific to the religious and spiritual beliefs of the wearer, such as the cross, the star, words, names, and numbers. Incidentally, both amulets and talismans are referred to as “charms;” the origin of this word has the same root as the Latin word for “song,” indicating the link between a magical sound and a magical intention. ANKH Essentially the tau cross surmounted by a loop or circle, the ankh is a prominent feature of Ancient Egyptian reliefs, artworks, and funerary paraphernalia. Like the tau, the ankh is a letter; specifically, it is a hieroglyph meaning “life.” The volume of meaning that can be squeezed from such a simple symbol is awe-inspiring. The ankh represents the male and female genitalia, the Sun coming over the horizon, and the union of Heaven and Earth. This association with the Sun means that the ankh is traditionally drawn in gold—the color of the Sun—and never in silver, which relates to the Moon. Putting aside the complexities of these separate elements, though, what does the ankh look like? Its resemblance to a key gives a clue to another meaning of this magical symbol. The Egyptians believed that the Afterlife was as meaningful as the present one, and the ankh provided the key to the gates of death and what lay beyond. Powerful symbols frequently stray across into other cultures despite their origins, and the ankh is no exception. Because it symbolizes immortality and the Universe, it was initially borrowed by the fourth-century Coptic Christians who used it as a symbol to reinforce Christ’s message that there is life after death. The ankh is used by the Rosicrucians too. Even though its actual invention is shrouded in thousands of years of mystery, the ankh symbol can be bought in any high street jewelry store anywhere in the world. When Elvis Presley was criticized for wearing the “pagan” ankh among his many other crosses, he commented, “I don’t want to miss out on Heaven because of a technicality.” ANTIMONY See Gray Wolf. APHRODISIACS The Pomegranate Badge of Katherine of Aragon The Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, lends her name to an extensive list of foods and other weird and wonderful items that are supposed to increase the libido and enhance the chances of seduction and therefore fecundity. The issue of fertility has always been an overriding concern for humankind, and any substance that either enhances sexual prowess or increases the chance of conception has always been highly sought after. Ancient man had a limited seasonal diet, and a bad hunt or the failure of a crop could literally be a life-or-death matter. Getting enough food to eat was an overriding concern. Chances of fertility are restricted if nourishment is poor, and so certain foods were given magical powers in the hopes that they might increase both male and female potency despite the limited diet. There is a marked differentiation between the foods that increase fertility versus the ones that enhance sex drive, and given that early man did not know about the chemical constituents of food, many aphrodisiacs were chosen as such primarily because of their symbolic significance. The Doctrine of Signatures—the notion that a plant or a feature of an animal that is similar in appearance or quality to a body part could be beneficial to the organ it resembles—had an important part to play in deciding which foods had aphrodisiac qualities. Rhinoceros horn, for example, still carries a frisson as a stimulant to sexual appetites, as does Spanish Fly. Both these ingredients, sort of mystical precursors to Viagra, were ingested by men in eager anticipation of increased virility. Pliny the Elder and Dioscordes documented many of these aphrodisiacs as far back as the first century, and it is likely that they would have been regarded as such for some time prior to this. The behavior and lifestyle of certain animals made them fertility symbols, too. For example, the sparrow, a prolific breeder, was sacred to Aphrodite and its blood was a popular ingredient in love potions. Steak was thought to contain all the virility of the animal it came from, the bloodier the better. Ground rhinoceros horn is symbolic of the libido but the power of the rhino is also perceived as the ultimate in male sexual energy. This ancient, visceral belief in the power of appearances has meant that many of the original foods that were considered to have aphrodisiac powers by ancient man still carry the same meanings today, despite their actual chemical constituents. It is true to say that certain foods actually do have aphrodisiac powers purely because of these old beliefs, and generally owe more to folklore and symbolism than to fact; however, a symbol is a potent force and often the association alone is enough to bring about the desired effect. For example, a dinner date where oysters and strawberries are on the menu will leave no doubt about the intended conclusion to the evening. To our ancestors, any kind of food that resembled the penis, the vagina, or constituent parts thereof, carried powerful suggestive meanings, although latterly our ability to analyze certain minerals and trace elements has proven that some supposedly aphrodisiac foods may actually deserve their reputation. For example, the fifty oysters that Casanova reputedly managed to swallow every day for breakfast not only resemble the female sexual parts in scent, texture, and form, but it has also been discovered that their high zinc content may indeed help enhance the libido; a large proportion of zinc is spent when men ejaculate. For ancient man it was not always necessary for the foods to be eaten for them to have the desired effect. Some of the weird and wonderful things considered to have aphrodisiac qualities were toxic, but could work their magic simply by close proximity. The berries of mistletoe, for example, were a reminder of the semen of the Gods and the little crosses on the undersides were kisses, but it would be unwise to eat them. Seeds, nuts, bulbs, and eggs, because they are full of potential new life, were considered as aids to fertility; snails, too, were considered to enhance sexual appetites because of the viscous fluid of the trails they leave behind, although slugs are not considered to have any aphrodisiac qualities whatsoever. Here is a brief list of some of the foods that have been considered, at some time or other, to have aphrodisiac qualities. NUTS, SEEDS, AND BULBS Aniseed Falls into the category of seeds. Also aids digestion and sweetens the breath which could explain why the Romans considered it a useful ingredient for seduction. Star anise Because of its shape, the star anise was sacred to the Goddess and therefore a potent fertility symbol. FRUITS In general, all seed-bearing fruits are aphrodisiacs. Their numerous seeds, their texture, scent, and color make them a naturally sexy foodstuff. Apple Infamous as the fruit that Eve gave to Adam, a symbol of sexual awakening. Cherry Sensuously red and juicy, and containing a potent symbol of new life inside the stone. “Popping the cherry” is a slang term for losing one’s virginity. Raspberries and strawberries Libido enhancing because of their color, their many tiny seeds, and their resemblance to nipples. Tomato The tomato is also called the “Love Apple” and is regarded as an aphrodisiac, because of the prolific number of seeds contained within it. However, the name itself is the result of an accidental misinterpretation. Because they were originally a yellow color they were called “Pomo D’or” in Italy, the Apple of Gold. It was also called the “Pomo d’Moro”—the apple of the Moors, referring to its Spanish origins. From here, it was just a slip of the tongue to the French, “Pomme d’Amour,” or Love Apple. MALE GENITALIA Many of these are self-explanatory, all considered powerful simply because of their shape. Asparagus, carrots, and cucumber are just a few of the “phallic vegetables.” Avocado The Mexicans called the avocado tree the “testicle tree,” since the fruit dangles down in pairs. The sensual texture of avocado adds to its reputation. Banana The banana flower resembles the phallus. Islamic tales say that Adam and Eve covered their sexual parts with banana leaves rather than the more common fig leaves. Cloves Because they resemble little phalluses, cloves were considered to enhance male potency. The clove tree was planted to signify the birth of a baby boy in certain parts of Indonesia, the health of the tree reflecting the health of the child as it grew up. FEMALE GENITALIA Almond As well as being the same shape as the vesica piscis, the sacred doorway through which matter emerges into spirit, the almond is a nut and therefore carries the potential for new life. Fig The plethora of tiny seeds inside the fig is symbolic of fertility, and the moist plumpness of the fruit has a very sensual, feminine element to it. Oyster The oyster’s resemblance in form, scent, and texture to the female genitalia is renowned. Oysters have had a long history as an aphrodisiac and their reputation is well known. The pearl that is sometimes found inside the oyster was said to increase the powers of arousal, because it resembles the clitoris. Other shellfish, such as mussels, fall into this same category. SPICES AND HERBS Anything sharp tasting or pungent is believed to stimulate the senses, so spices are often used as libidoenhancing ingredients. Asafetida This is the ground root of a fennellike plant. It has a powerful odor, and despite its folk name, Devil’s Dung, it is used as a sexual stimulant in Ayurvedic medicine. Cinnamon The glorious scent of cinnamon was reputedly used as oil by the Queen of Sheba to help her capture the attention of King Solomon. Coriander Also comes under the category of seeds. Reputed to stimulate appetites of all kinds. Fennel The Egyptians who used this as a sexual stimulant cannot have known that it contains plant estrogens that can help balance female hormones. These estrogens also enhance the breasts. Ginger and ginseng Considered to have aphrodisiac powers because of their sharp sensual taste, and because their roots resemble the human form. Mint A Greek legend says that Menthe, a beautiful nymph, was transformed into the herb because Persephone was jealous of the beautiful scent that captivated her husband, Pluto. HONEY The sweetness of honey made it a rarity for ancient man. It is likely to have given humankind its first instance of alcohol in the form of mead, and its intoxicating effect has distinct aphrodisiac qualities. Bees are themselves symbols of fertility, and honey gives its name to the honeymoon period spent by newlyweds immediately after their marriage. CHOCOLATE The melting point of chocolate is the same as that of blood temperature, and so its mouthfeel alone is a sensual experience. Added to this, chocolate contains mood-lifting substances, including phenylethylamine which, when released into the bloodstream, induce feelings of euphoria. Still arguably the most popular food given as a gesture of love. When the sixteenth-century Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés heard about its reputation as an aphrodisiac, he planted two thousand trees. APOTROPE This is a word of Greek origin meaning to “turn away,” and refers to a specific kind of amulet designed to ward off evil of some kind. The amulet therefore features a protective symbol, such as an eye (which wards off the evil eye, by staring right back at it), or the Hand of Fatima. ARC See First signs: Arc. ARK There are two famous arks, Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant. Both held extremely valuable objects, and so the ark symbolizes a treasure chest, a secure repository for items of secret or sacred significance. The word comes from the Latin, arca. The Greeks described the same item as a chest. There are also two Hebrew definitions for the ark. One explains it as a wooden chest, the other as a flat-roofed building twice as long as it was high and wide. The ark could also float, and the same word is used to describe the casket that the baby Moses was found in, floating in the reeds. In the Bible, the Ark that God commands Noah to build has a very specific set of instructions as to size, measurements, and materials used. The momentous treasure contained in this “box” was a breeding pair of every animal in the world, a genetic repository to safeguard the future of all creatures on Earth after the Deluge had washed everything else away. The Ark was God’s promise of protection to His chosen people. However, as Barbara G. Walker points out in her Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, the scale of the Ark must have been mind-boggling if its purpose as outlined in the Bible were to be taken literally, since it would have had to hold 7,000 species of worms, 80,000 species of molluscs, 30,000 species of crustaceans, 50,000 species of arachnids, 900,000 species of insects, 2,500 species of amphibians, 6,000 species of reptiles, 8,600 species of birds, and 3,500 species of mammals, as well as food for one and all. The Ark of the Covenant, similarly, had to be made to strictly detailed plans, as was the building that should house it. Shittim wood—the timber from the incorruptible acacia tree—was specified for the basic construction. The Book of Exodus also describes the other materials that had to be used; gold and silver, brass, blue, red, and purple silk, fine linen, goats’ hair, spices, various precious gems, red rams’ skins, and “the skins of badgers.” Inside the Ark were stored the two Books of the Law, Aaron’s Rod, and a pot of the manna that the Children of Israel lived on during their time in the wilderness. There is speculation about what actually happened to the Ark when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple of David in the sixth century BC. However, Jewish faith decrees that the Ark will be restored to its rightful place with the coming of the Messiah. ARROW Symbol of flight, penetration, and direction. As a weapon, the arrow is a symbol of the power of the person who carries it, along with the bow. As a sacred symbol, it is the attribute of the Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis/Diana, as well as of Eros, who uses his arrows to pierce the people’s hearts with love. Here, the arrow also serves as a phallic symbol and an emblem of masculine power. The symbol of the heart pierced with an arrow, popular on Valentine’s Day cards, is a covert symbol of sexual union. The arrow as a symbol of direction works on a physical level and a metaphorical level. The arrow that shoots high up into the sky is an emblem of the link between Earth and Heaven, a symbol of an idea, or of a message being carried directly to the Gods. The arrow is used, too, as an analogy for swiftness and sureness, since the arrow travels in the direction in which it is shot. The astrological sign of Sagittarius, the hybrid creature that is always depicted in the process of shooting an arrow from his bow, has a Latin root, sagitta; this means “arrow” and is derived from a verb, sagire, that means “to perceive keenly or quickly.” Therefore, the arrow is symbolic of quick-wittedness and intuition. Arrows were used by the ancient Arabians, Chaldeans, Greeks, and Tibetans in a form of divination called Belomancy. This was practiced by shooting arrows in the air and reading a meaning from the direction of the arrows or their positions in relation to each other. For example, crossed or touching arrows meant “no.” Later, the arrows had words written on them to make any answers even more definitive. ASHTAMANGALA In Sanskrit, Ashta means “eight” and Mangala “auspicious,” and the word refers to the eight auspicious symbols of Himalayan Buddhism, although the relevance of eight sacred objects is important in the Hindu faith, too, and also in China. The Ashtamangala of the Tibetan system are, in no particular order, the Vase of Treasure, the Two Golden Fish, the Dharma Wheel, the Conch Shell, the Endless Knot, the Victory Banner, the Lotus Flower, and the Parasol. These symbols are used both in the home and in public areas and the hidden meanings of the objects are far more significant than their surface value. THE PARASOL Represents the sky, and is not only a symbol of protection but a sign of expansion and learning. THE TWO GOLDEN FISH These are also a symbol of the eyes of the Buddha, and act as a reminder to be fearless no matter what fate brings. THE TREASURE VASE Any representation of a vessel is as important for the space it contains as well as for any material objects it might be able to hold. The spiritual treasures within this vase include good health and a long life, good luck, wisdom, and prosperity. THE LOTUS FLOWER Symbolizes purity of mind, body, action, and speech. The lotus flower rises above the metaphorical “muddy water” of attachment and desire. THE CONCH SHELL Because this shell can be used as a sounding horn, it acts as a reminder that followers need to be open to the sound of the Buddha’s teachings and that they need to stay awake (in a metaphorical sense), remaining aware and alert. THE ENDLESS KNOT Symbolizes compassion and wisdom combined, and the need to unite spiritual and material matters. THE VICTORY BANNER Represents the triumph of a positive mind over seemingly negative obstacles. THE DHARMA WHEEL Represents the teachings of the Buddha. It is also a Mandala or Sun symbol. ASSON For practitioners of Voudon, the asson is a sacred rattle, made from a large dried-out gourd with seeds inside, and covered with beads and snake bones. It is used in important rites and ceremonies and is itself a symbol of the authority of the Houngan, the Voudon priest who is considered the Chief of the Spirits. The asson is the equivalent of the scepter. It is a larger object than the musical instrument called the cha cha, although they do have a similar appearance. ASTRUM ARGENTUM SEAL This is the seal that was designed by Aleister Crowley as the emblem of his Esoterical Magickal Order, the Astrum Argentum, or “Silver Star.” The seal uses a seven-pointed star as the basis of its design. See also Cancellarius seal. ATHAME This is the ceremonial knife used by a witch. It generally has a black handle, and is used to mark a magical circle, for example, or to direct energy, but is never used to cut anything. For physical cutting, a boline is used. The pointed shape of the blade of the athame suggests the element of fire, which it also symbolizes. The athame is balanced by the chalice, which represents water. ATHANOR A key symbol of alchemy, the Athanor is the furnace of the Alchemists. However, as with everything else in alchemy, the Athanor is no simple piece of laboratory equipment. Regarded as the vessel in which transmutation takes place, the Athanor exists on a metaphysical level, too, as the Orphic Egg or as a place of ultimate creation, a kind of universal womb. ATHEIST SYMBOL Based on the atomic swirl, this is the symbol of the American Atheist Association, although it is used by other such organizations too. It represents the idea that science is the only thing that can show the way forward to a better life for everyone. The broken loop at the bottom of the symbol represents the idea that there are questions yet to be asked and yet to be answered. ATLANTIS CROSS This symbol, comprised of a cross intersected by three circles, is a sign of recognition among groups who claim an Atlantean descent; that is to say, people who believe that they are descended, literally or spiritually, from inhabitants of the lost island of Atlantis. The crossed circle that forms a main feature of this symbol represents the four elements and the four directions. AWEN The Awen is related to many new Druid movements. The actual word, which is Welsh, means “inspiration” or “essence.” Related to the Breton symbol called the Triban and with a nod to the Trishul, the trident held by the Hindu deity, Shiva, the Awen is composed of three convergent rays, like paths, leading to a high point, a dot (or three dots) similar to the bindhu. Each ray carries various meanings, which are equally significant and come in sets of three. They stand for past, present, and future: love, knowledge, and truth: male and female energy and the balance between the two, or the three pillars of wisdom. Another interpretation of the symbol is of the three fundamental letters of the name of God, I, O, and U, which, when pronounced contribute to the actual word “Awen,” which can be intoned in much the same way as the Aum of Eastern tradition, used as a meditative focus. The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids places the three lines and the three dots within three concentric rings, further amplifying the meaning of the symbol as well as placing it within protective, magical circles. AXIS MUNDI Quite literally, the Axis Mundi translates as the “World Axis,” the axis around which the world revolves and which links the Heavens to the Earth and the dominions below. It is a universal concept, often defined symbolically as a tree or standing stone, a mountain, the omphalos, the lingam, the Vajra, and the Pole Star. The solstices represent the World Axis in terms of time. BA For the Ancient Egyptians, the Ba was the symbolic representation of the soul. It takes the form of a small bird with the head of a human being. The Ba could fly between its owner and the Gods for as long as the body was intact. The Ba is twinned with the Ka. If the Ba represented the soul, then the Ka was the “life-force,” the spark of life that animated the body and whose departure resulted in death. The Ka was sustained with offerings of food and drink, although it was the “ka” or spirit of the food and drink that was consumed. In the Afterlife, the Ba and the Ka would be reunited to form one single entity. BAPHOMET The Baphomet we recognize today is a winged goat with a masculine torso and breasts; he has a blazing torch between his horns, and cloven feet. Adding to the confusion, one arm is male and the other is female, and all in all this has become a real bogeyman of a symbol, inspiring fright and terror. The image made its first appearance relatively recently, in Eliphas Levi’s Dogma and Rituals of High Magic (1854). Although Levi intended the creature (also called the Goat of Mendes) to be an idealized symbolic form, an amalgam of images from all disciplines including the Kabbalah, he actually created something that looks far more terrifying than he may have originally intended. The picture influenced illustrations of the Devil, not only in Tarot card illustrations but also among latter-day rock bands and, as already mentioned, among Satanists. Baphomet himself was first described at the trials of the Knights Templar, centuries before Levi’s interpretation. When the Order began in the twelfth century, it was designed to protect pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. Because the Knights were exempt from taxation, they amassed a huge amount of wealth and, consequently, power. When they became a threat to the establishment, they were persecuted, and part of this persecution included accusations of heresy including the worship of a peculiar looking goat-headed creature. BECKONING CAT A friendly little statuette with a warm welcome found all over Japan and China. What the cat is doing with his paws carries a secret message. The cute little Maneki Neko or beckoning cat is ubiquitous in Japan and China where he appears in both homes and offices. This friendly-looking china cat can also be seen in Oriental restaurants all over the world and is for many people the ultimate symbol of prosperity and good luck. The Maneki Neko comes in different colors, each of which signifies a different meaning. For example, a red cat will protect from illness, and a black one will ward off evil. The position of the paws also carries a message. With the right paw raised the cat will bring money and happiness to home and workplace. A cat raising its left paw (like the one illustrated here) will attract new customers for a business. And a cat with both paws raised hits the jackpot; both home and business will be happy and profitable, attracting good luck, friends, prosperity, and new clients. This cat is also the symbol of the small Buddhist temple in Tokyo, where the original incident that shot the cat to fame is said to have happened. Originally the temple was a lowly place, whose impoverished priest would regularly share what little food he had with his pet cat. One day some Samurai were passing and noticed this cat, who had one paw raised as though to say hello. The warriors stopped, intrigued by the beckoning cat, and went into the temple just as a horrendous rain storm started. They believed that paying attention to the cat’s invitation had prevented them being struck by lightning. Thereafter, the fortunes of the priest, the temple, and of course the cat, started to change for the better. BELL There is a mysticism surrounding the bell that far transcends its mundane use as a way of getting attention in the schoolroom, for example. The sound of the bell is universally accepted as a way of communicating with the spirits, or as a herald for the arrival of a supernatural, holy power. The analogy of the bell occurs in language, too, used to symbolize something of sacred origin. In Islam, the “reverberation of the bell” is used to describe the sound of the revelations of the Qu’ran, and in Buddhism, the “sound of the golden bell” is an analogy for heavenly voices. The sound of a bell is a reminder that, like the sound, the world may be experienced, but not possessed. Pagoda roofs sometimes have hundreds of tiny bells hanging from them, symbolizing, in sound, the concepts of the Buddhist laws as well as frightening away any malicious entities. For the same reason, the church bells of Christian churches, at one time, were peeled not only during processions or as a notice of a ceremony or service, but also during thunderstorms to chase away demons. The bell is also a sacred object. In the form of the Buddhist Drilbu, or the Hindu Ghanta, it symbolizes the illusory world, because of the fleetingly resonant nature of its sound. It is the feminine principle paired up with the masculine vajra. The use of these oriental bells largely influenced their European symbolism and use. The sweet reverberation of a bell, rung three times in the silence of a large stone church or cathedral, has a quality of calming the atmosphere, attracting the attention of the worshippers, welcoming in the spirits, and setting the scene for the ritual that follows. The power of the bell as a way of spiritual communication is carried one step further in the magical bell made of an amalgam of the seven sacred metals that are ruled by the planets. This bell, engraved with the Tetragrammaton and the planetary seals from alchemy, allegedly has the power to summon the spirits of the dead. However, this spell calls for the bell to be put into a grave for seven days and seven nights before it will work properly. BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE Singly, these items all have mystical significance. When grouped together, they have a certain frisson, somehow seeming to resonate with dark forces, pagan ideals, and witchcraft in particular. However, this sinister grouping actually comes from the rites of excommunication or anathema in the Roman Catholic Church. Effectively a powerful curse, this ritual is taken very seriously, reserved only for those whose transgressions against the Church are deemed unforgivable. After the officiating cleric has verbally declared the excommunication, he declares it symbolically with three actions; he shuts the Bible, sounds the bell, and then snuffs out the candle. These actions are clear. Closing the Bible tells the excommunicant that he is no longer privy to the Word of God. Ringing the bell is symbolic of mourning for the “departed,” the excommunicant, who is now effectively spiritually dead to the Church. Snuffing the candle is a universal sign of the “snuffing out” of the soul, now doomed because of its banishment from the faith. BESOM See Broomstick. BINDHU See First Signs: Dot. BLACK SUN The notion of the Sun being black runs completely counter to what is generally accepted about it; the simplest explanation for a Black Sun is that it describes what happens at night, when the Sun is casting its light on another part of the planet. However, the Black Sun more sinisterly denotes the idea of the world going wrong, destructive forces, disaster, and even death. Whether the Nazis were aware of this aspect of the Black Sun is open to conjecture. The symbol reproduced for this entry was also called the “Sonnenrad” or Sun Wheel and was based on the design of early medieval brooches, some of which had a swastika in the center. The “rays” numbered between five and twelve, with the twelve-rayed symbol denoting the passage of the Sun through the months of the year. The rays bear a great deal of resemblance to the swastika and to the lightning flash symbols used by the SS, themselves the same as a rune known as “Sig,” meaning “Sun” or “Victory.” The symbol, used by wartime German occult mystics and still employed by some neo-Nazis, is based on a mosaic set into the floor of the early seventeenth-century castle of Wewelsburg in Germany. Himmler decided that the site of the castle would be the center of the proposed “New World” once victory was achieved. However, the extensive building works planned for the castle were never completed; the ambitious “New World” failed to materialize and the building work that had been started was blasted to the ground in 1945. The mosaic remains, although there is no concrete evidence as to who put it there. The mosaic is of dark green marble, set into a cream-colored marble floor. For neo-Nazis, the symbol has proved a useful one. The single swastika is banned in Germany, and yet the Black Sun symbol hides three swastikas within it. Further significance is accorded the symbol since it contains twelve of the aforementioned Sig runes from the Futhark runic system. The circular shape of the symbol implies protection and magical powers. Secret signs, indeed. BLACK SUN IN ALCHEMY Alchemists and hermeticists believe that there are two Suns; one of the pure “philosophical gold” that implies the highest attainment of the Spirit, and the other of the baser “material gold.” The Black Sun is the symbol of this material form of the Sun, and symbolizes the unworked, primal matter that needs to be developed. BLAZING STAR See Pentagram and Freemasonry. BOLINE The boline is a knife in the Druid and Wiccan tradition. Its specific symbolism is held within its blade, which is shaped like the crescent Moon and is silver in color. The boline usually has a white handle, also in deference to the Moon. This boline is a practical, ceremonial tool often used for cutting herbs either for magical uses or simply for cooking. In the case of the druid, it is also used for cutting mistletoe directly from the tree. BOOK It might seem as though the book is such a commonplace object that it should not really have much significance as a secret symbol. However, this isn’t the case. Take, for example, the High Priestess card in the Tarot. The Priestess holds a book or scroll, half concealed within the folds of her robe. Here, the book symbolizes knowledge and hidden secrets, and in a wider sense the book symbolizes the very Universe itself. There are also parallels with the book and the Tree of Life; like a tree, the book has “leaves” that represent individual ideas and concepts and that collectively represent the sum total of all knowledge, occult or otherwise. If we delve into word meanings, we find more analogies between books and trees. The etymology of “book” comes from the Old English bokiz, or the Germanic buche, meaning beech. This is likely to be because runes were initially inscribed on beechwood tablets. Similarly, the word “library,” originally meant the “inner bark of trees.” A book that is closed is a book that conceals its secrets; sometimes we refer to an inscrutable person as a “closed book.” An open book is the opposite, ready to share its information with all and sundry. The Book of the Dead, for the Ancient Egyptians, was the series of magical charms that were interred with the dead in order that they might journey safely into the next world, and that would provide answers to the questions posed by those casting judgement on the soul. This book, effectively, symbolizes the secrets of the divine that are revealed only to those who have undergone the ultimate initiation: death. The Book of Shadows is a sort of recipe book of spells, charms, and rituals, generally belonging to the Wiccan practitioner, written by hand and often in code. This book is the personal property of its owner, and can be a series of traditional texts as well as a personal journal, containing secrets that are passed down from generation to generation. BRIGHIDS CROSS Corn dollies are frequently constructed in the shape of Brighids Cross, and although the symbol itself predates Christianity, it was given the name of the saint in order to ease the passage of acceptance of the new religion. The symbol is reminiscent of the ancient Sun symbol, the swastika, its four arms pointing to the cardinal points of the compass. They also represent the Elements, with the point at the center indicating the fifth element or quintessence. BROOMSTICK The hard and polished elm wood that is traditionally believed to make the handle of the witch’s broomstick would help to make it more aerodynamic. The broomstick, at first, appears to be a simple piece of household equipment. Its form may have changed over the centuries from the traditional dried branch of the broom plant (hence the name) but its use seems to have remained unchanged. However, there’s far more to it than that. The very act of sweeping was a sacred task in temples, since to be able to clean something properly the person doing the cleaning must himself be both clean and pure. As well as sweeping away dust and dirt, symbolically the besom or broomstick sweeps away other things too; in parts of France, for example, it’s considered bad form to sweep up after dark in case good luck is swept away with the dirt. In Ancient Rome special broomsticks were used by sacred “midwives” or wise women to symbolically sweep away any negative influences from a house in which a baby had just been born. These broom-wielding midwives are the precursor to the witch that popularly flies about on a broomstick, which has to be the ultimate carbon-neutral vehicle. The broomstick of the female witch is a very handy object to have around. It is often seen as a phallic symbol, and in pre-Christian societies marriages were often validated by the happy couple leaping together, hand in hand, over the broomstick. It is also a symbol of the liberation of the woman away from domestic drudgery; with her magical broomstick, the witch can fly anywhere, wield her power, and disclose her true identity. Incidentally, the broomstick is sometimes called a “besom;” this word originates from the old English besema, meaning “woman,” and has the same root as the word “bosom.” BULL ROARER An important ritual object for Native Americans, Eskimos, Africans, and the Australian Aborigines, for whom the object is associated with the Churinga. The Bull Roarer is a long, narrow piece of wood with tapering ends that, when attached to a cord and whirled around the head, produces a sound very much like thunder or the bellowing of a bull. It was taboo for woman to see this sacred object, which was used in initiation ceremonies and was regarded as carrying the actual voices of the Spirits. The Bull Roarer was thought to make men invincible and indeed the noise it produces is quite terrifying, especially if it is not expected. It was also used in fertility rites and as a way of calling for rain. BULLA This is a special charm or amulet that was given to Roman children when they were born. A sealed locket, the bulla (meaning “bubble” or “knob”) contained magical spells specific to the child in question, such as symbols of protection, or wishes for wealth. The bulla was constructed of different materials depending on the wealth of the family, leather for the poorest families and gold or other precious metals for the wealthiest. Roman boys put aside their bullae when they reached puberty, and the object was offered to the Gods. Girls wore theirs until the eve of their wedding. In either case it was considered that the bulla belonged to the child, as part and parcel of their personality. The bulla is the origin of the name of the Papal Bull, the special edict that hails from the Vatican, which is fastened with an oval seal of the same shape as the bulla. CADUCEUS A rod, staff, or wand generally surmounted with wings. Two serpents entwine about the staff, forming a figure-of-eight shape. The key elements of the construction of this ancient sign are the serpent, the spiral, the infinity sign, the circle, wings, and the wand. The Caduceus is an extremely ancient symbol, and its earliest recorded appearance is on the goblet of the King of Lagash, dating back some 2600 years BC. The Caduceus is the emblem of Mercury/Hermes and is incredibly rich in meanings: first, the staff or wand is a symbol of power and authority, of magical and supernatural forces, and is the tool of all magicians, medicine men, and shamans. It also represents the Tree of Life or World Axis. Then there are the wings on top of the wand. Wings signify flight (both physical and metaphorical), intuition, the spiritual, and communication from the Heavens or the Gods. Mercury is the Messenger of the Gods. The two serpents, twining in opposite directions, represent opposition and equilibrium. They also signify opposites—male and female, day and night, good and evil, and so represent balance. Serpents also remind us of hidden knowledge. As the serpents scroll around the wand, they form the figure-of-eight shape, or infinity symbol, which stands for completeness and perfection. Part of the infinity symbol is the circle, ultimately representing the cosmos, the spirit, and unity. All these elements combined make for a powerful symbol that has altered very little over the millennia. Together, they add up to supernatural power and hidden wisdom, messages from the spiritual realms, authority, the cosmos and infinity, and the pairing of opposites in harmony and unity. Perhaps the most common use of the Caduceus, both today and since its earliest appearance, is as a symbol of healing and medicine. Aesclepius, the first physician and the God of medicine, had the Caduceus as one of his attributes because he had the power and the intuition (the wand and the wings) to be able to use potentially poisonous or corruptive substances (the serpents) to restore health and, reputedly, to bring the dead back to life. The Caduceus was not only the instrument of Aesclepius, but of the healing God Ningishzida of Mesopotamia (whose symbol is intertwining snakes), and of the Egyptians Ba’al, Isis and Ishtar. It is also found in India where it carries the same meaning. CAGLIOSTRO SEAL This curious sigil, the image of a snake, impaled by an arrow but with an apple in its mouth, presses all sorts of symbolic buttons; all three elements of the seal are powerful emblems in themselves. Is this the snake that tempted Eve with the apple, being punished for its transgressions? The snake also makes a curious S shape; is this significant, and if so, how? In addition, the union of the line of the arrow and the serpent seems to make a lemniscate, or figure-of-eight, symbol, meaning infinity. Unfortunately, it seems as though the precise meaning of the seal died with its namesake. Cagliostro himself seems to be as mysterious as his seal. The self-styled Count Alessandro di Cagliostro was actually born as the much less grand-sounding Guiseppe Balsamo, and lived in Italy in the eighteenth century. The rumors surrounding his life and adventures come thick and fast and there is very little that is known for certain, due in no small part to the dense forest of fantastical stories that Cagliostro seems to have hidden himself within. He said that he had been born into the nobility but for some reason was abandoned on Malta, whereupon he wandered, as a child, throughout Morocco and Egypt where he learned many arcane mysteries, including those of the Kabbalah and alchemical magic. Whatever the truth, he certainly had skills as a pharmacist. It seems that the secure advantages of regular employment held no attraction for the Count, his attention being much more drawn to magical and mystical matters. He became a maker and vendor of magical amulets and talismans, and later, forgeries, including letters, certificates, and a myriad of official documents. He also offered the sexual favors of his beautiful young wife as trade for instruction in forgery. Cagliostro’s seal has been the result of much analysis and conjecture, its appearance so convincing that it was even incorporated into an early Masonic-style organization called The Brotherhood of Luxor. CALUMET For the Plains Indians, the pipe, also called the calumet, is one of the most important and recognizable symbols. Although it is sometimes referred to as the Peace Pipe, shared ceremonially as part of a unifying ritual, the pipe was just as valid a symbol during times of war. The tobacco used in the pipe is also a powerful magical substance originally intended for ritual use only. The smoke rising from the pipe signifies a prayer traveling toward the Gods and symbolizes the sacred breath, source of all life. The fire that lights the pipe symbolizes the Sun and the male element. The pipe itself is equivalent to the prayer that is offered up from it. The calumet is considered so important that in Native American tradition it is described as though it were a person, and each of its components has the name of a body part. In addition, the bowl is described as an altar, and the stem, the passage of the breath extending from the human body. CANCELLARIUS SEAL This is one of the symbolic seals of Aleister Crowley’s Astrum Argentum, or Silver Star order. As the name suggests, it indicates the position of Chancellor. The symbol shows an Eye of Horus at the center of rays that are set in 12 groups of 3. The Astrum Argentum was started by Crowley in 1907 as an alternative to MacGregor Mathers’ Golden Dawn. Although he had initially been enamored of the Golden Dawn and its charismatic leader, it is fair to say that Crowley liked to do things his own way, resulting in his expulsion from the Golden Dawn. Crowley believed that his own personal angel, Aiwaz, approved of his decision to supplant Mathers’ brotherhood. The unusual structure of the Astrum Argentum was typical of Crowley’s desire to be different. Each member was supposed to know only his immediate superior and anyone he introduced into the Order. For Crowley, the sole purpose of the Astrum Argentum was to disseminate his own teachings and mystical beliefs. It was assumed that anyone introduced into the Astrum Argentum would already have had a great degree of magical training, in contrast to the Golden Dawn, which was dedicated to teaching. CANDLE A candle symbolizes light in the darkness in a way that a light-bulb simply cannot do. A candle represents the element of fire as a benevolent force, made even more powerful if the candle is made of wax, a substance made by a magical creature, the bee. The colors of candles are significant in magical practices: for example, pink is said to attract love. Black candles are used in dark magic. CAULDRON In understanding symbols, sometimes it is useful to simply look at the shape and see what it resembles. The traditional cauldron represents nothing so much as the belly of a pregnant woman and, unsurprisingly, the cauldron is an important female symbol all over the world. The circular shape of the cauldron gives another clue; the circle is a symbol of never-ending life and regeneration, and these themes recur repeatedly in stories containing cauldron symbolism. The way the cauldron is used also gives a hint about its symbolic meaning. Things are put into the cauldron, heated, and something different is taken out; the basic ingredients are transformed. Therefore, the cauldron also symbolizes germination and transformation. Traditionally, cauldrons have three legs. The number 3 in this instance represents the triple aspect of the Great Goddess, or the three fates. Shakespeare alludes to this when the three Weird Sisters—arguably the most famous witches in literature—cook up trouble at the beginning of Macbeth. In pre-Christian literature, there are countless legends featuring magical cauldrons, and it may be because of this that the cauldron has its witchy associations. Celtic tales tell of cauldrons that contain an unending supply of food or of knowledge. The dead are frequently thrown into a magical Cauldron of Rebirth and climb out the next day, alive once more. Mythical warriors and heroes who died in battle are restored to life in this way. Ceridwen had a cauldron full of inspiration and magical powers. In India, a magic life-giving food, called Soma, was brewed in three huge bottomless cauldrons. In Greece, there are tales in which an ordeal of initiation involves the person boiling in a cauldron, but after the rite, the initiate emerges with magical powers, including the gift of immortality. CELTIC CROSS AND SUN CROSS SYMBOL In the Celtic Cross or Ring Cross symbol, a cross is contained within a circle. Very early versions of this cross, found in Ireland, do not show the arms of the cross protruding beyond the circle; the whole symbol is encompassed inside the circle and in this case it becomes the ancient, universal symbol called the Sun Cross, the Wheel Cross, or Odin’s Cross. This sign first appears at the very start of the Bronze Age. Among other things, it symbolizes the wheel and in China represents thunder, power, and energy. It also appears in the seal of the Babylonian Sun God, Shamash. The Sun Cross symbol also appears in ancient astrology. In modern astrology it still signifies the planet, and element of, Earth; the cross represents the four corners of the planet, the elements, and the directions, and the circle is the planet itself. Because it was the symbol of the Sun, the King and the highest temporal and spiritual powers, it was easy for the early Christians to adopt this pagan sign and incorporate it into the Latin Cross. It is still used by Bishops to “bless” a new church, drawn onto the walls in sanctified water or oils, at twelve different places around the church. The Celtic Cross is frequently used as a grave marker, or as a war memorial, particularly in Celtic countries. Incidentally, the Hot Cross Bun, eaten specifically at Easter and popularly believed to represent the Christian Cross, is actually of pre-Christian origin. The Greeks, Romans, and Ancient Egyptians all ate wheat cakes to celebrate the coming of spring. These cakes were circular (representing the Moon or Sun) with a cross that divided the cake into the four lunar quarters or the four seasons. CELTIC KNOTWORK One of the most distinctive decorative features of Celtic artwork and architecture are the beautiful constructions of Celtic knotwork. It adorns stonework, illuminated manuscripts, and jewelry; the knotwork has left a distinctive trail that clearly shows all the places in the world that were visited at some point by the Celts. The knotwork itself would appear to be a purely decorative device. If at one time there were specific symbolic meanings attached, then these have been lost over the centuries. Intertwining shapes and lines, however, generally point toward ideas of connectedness and the harmonious convergence of opposites, male and female, fire and water, Heaven and Earth, for example. In addition, any sign that can be made without the pen leaving the paper tends to have strong protective associations, and knotwork, with its continual looping and spiraling, could have been used in this way, perhaps used for amulets and talismans. Existing symbols—such as a heart, or birds and animals—are often rendered in Celtic knotwork. In this case, the form of the underlying shape carries the symbolic meaning. The Celtic Knot that is square in form is a protective symbol, called a shield knot. CHA CHA In Haiti, there are certain seed pods called cha cha that are used to make rattles for ceremonial musicmaking in Voudon rituals. The rattle is called a cha cha, too, and the dance of the same name also comes from the name of the seedpod. See also Asson. CHALICE This is a cup or grail that is generally used in rituals. No matter what the religious or spiritual persuasion of the celebrant, a chalice of some form is used, whether it be the highly ornamented vessel of the Catholic Church or the simpler wooden cup favored by some pagan groups. The chalice itself is symbolic of water or of the Spirit, and is used as such in the suit of Cups in the Tarot, for example. The chalice is also a universal symbol of the feminine aspect because of its shape, its use as a vessel, and its link with water. Eastern religions use a kind of bell, called a Drilbu, in the place of a chalice. CHAOS WHEEL The Chaos Wheel, or Chaos Star, is a wheel constructed from eight arrow-headed spokes. Representing the notion of infinite possibilities, the symbol is a recent addition to a veritable galaxy of meaningful shapes. Designed by science fiction writer Michael Moorcock, it has been adopted as an emblem by exponents of Chaos Magic, the contemporary branch of magic inspired by the works of Austin Osman Spare. CHESS Chess originated in India. The checkerboard that chess is played on is, in itself, a secret symbol. It is symbolic of the world that we understand, that is composed of opposing forces. Also, the black and white colors of the symmetrically arranged squares stand for male/female, light/dark, positive/negative, good/evil in much the same way as the yin-yang sign does. It is no accident that the floor of the Freemason temple has the same construction as the chessboard, a constant reminder of both the harmony and tension between opposites. The pieces, too, are black and white, reinforcing this idea. The chessboard has a further mystery that can be revealed in the number of the squares. Each side has eight squares. Eight is the number of infinity and of completion, and eight times eight makes 64, the number of cosmic unity. This is the magical number that, in sacred geometry, is the basis of temple construction. The square shape of the board symbolizes the stability of the Earth and its four corners, the directions and the elements. Superficially, chess might seem to be a relatively straightforward game, a simple series of different moves ascribed to each of the pieces. However, its complexities are only really revealed when the player is so familiar with the rules that he or she can carry them out automatically. Chess is plainly connected to war strategy and the ability to surprise the opponent. A good player will understand the need to sacrifice pieces in order to gain a greater advantage. Although the pawn may appear to be valueless, it is arguably one of the most important pieces on the board, and certainly the most prolific. We even use the word “pawn” to describe a person that we think is insignificant. In Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal, the knight, Antonius Block, invites the hooded figure of Death to join him in a game, despite the fact that Death warns him that he cannot win. Effectively, chess owes as much to chance as choice, and further underlines the dilemma between the concepts of fate versus free will. The knight knows that he will die, yet he persists in playing the game. Stanley Kubrick, too, believed that his skill as a chess player gave him the discipline to think rationally and to see the bigger picture, an invaluable skill for a film director. The detachment and lack of emotion required by the talented player is synonymous, for many, with an idealized, Zen approach to life. For the Celts, the game of chess was called “intelligence of the wood.” It was the game of kings and the stakes were high. The game therefore symbolizes the intellect of the king, despite the fact that the most versatile piece on the board is the queen. CHI ROH See Labarum. CHNOUBIS The Chnoubis is a hybrid creature, with the head of a lion and the tail of a serpent. It was carved onto stones for use as an amulet, providing protection against poisons in particular. Amulets featuring the Chnoubis date back to the first century and it is supposed that this odd-looking creature may be related to Abraxas, whose image was used in a similar way. CHOKU REI A symbol of Reiki healers, the Choku Rei is comprised of a spiral that culminates in a hooked stick. It looks a little like the treble clef used in musical notation. The symbol is used by Reiki healers to increase the power available to them, and to help focus this energy. The meaning of Choku Rei is “place the power of the Universe here.” Healers draw the sign mentally in the air as a form of meditation, generally before and after giving a treatment. CICATRIX A cicatrix is a scar, but not just any scar. It refers to a very specific incision that is scored onto the body and carries secret symbols pertaining to the person’s religious or magical beliefs. A very painful process called scarification leaves these raised marks on the skin. Until the end of the nineteenth century, Maori men had ritual scarring all over their faces in order that they might look more frightening to the enemy. A cicatrix acts as a permanent amulet that is an inherent part of the person. Its purpose is similar to that of the tattoo; the pain involved in the process is an important rite of passage. Ritual scarring is popular among dark-skinned people because a tattoo is not particularly visible against the skin. CIMARUTA In Italian, this means the “sprig of rue.” It is an amulet, made of silver in honor of female energy in the form of the Goddess, comprising a model of a sprig of rue with various charms in its three branches. The Cimaruta is a very old charm, which evolved from an Etruscan magical amulet. It dates back as far as 4500 BC, although there are more contemporary versions such as the stylized one illustrated here. The charms featured generally include a crescent Moon, a key, stars, daggers, and flowers; different regions of Italy produced their own specific symbols. Also known as the Witch Charm, the Cimaruta is favored by witches, and to see one in someone’s home might indicate the spiritual persuasion of the owner. It is worn either as a pendant or might be hung over a doorway, a possible reason for the Cimaruta being double-sided. When used in this way as an ornament the Cimaruta is usually quite large in size. The three silver branches of the Cimaruta relate to the notion of the Triple Goddess. The charm itself takes on all the significance of the rue plant as being both protective and a tool of witches, used to cast spells and throw hexes. CIRCLE See First signs: Circle. CLADDAGH The Claddagh is a popular symbol, often incorporated into the design of rings, and worn by people as an attractive piece of ornamentation although they may not know what it symbolizes. Traditionally used as a wedding ring, the Claddagh is so-called because it was originally made in a Galway fishing village of the same name in seventeenth-century Ireland. However, the elements of the design are much older, stretching back into pre-Christian Celtic history. The Romans had a popular ring design, the Fede, which featured clasped hands. “Fede” means “fidelity.” CLOTHING Of all the animal kingdom, man is unique in that he wears clothes. In the Bible, Adam and Eve don fig leaves to cover the newly discovered sexual parts that are a reminder of the lower animal nature. Once we had managed to protect our modesty and keep ourselves warm, our attention turned to the use of clothes as an outward sign of status or of certain religious observances. As secret symbols, clothes have an elaborate history, especially when they are connected to religious beliefs; sacred texts from all religions are full of instructions as to the nature of certain clothes and how they should be worn. This section doesn’t claim to be an extensive analysis of these ideas, but serves merely to point out the meanings of some of the most common items of apparel. CAPE The cape has a simple design. At its most basic, it is a piece of cloth with a hole in the middle. Often worn by members of the clergy, when it is called a “chasuble,” the cape shares the same symbolism as the arc or dome that it represents; the vault of the Heavens. This suggests the idea of ascendance. The wearer of the cape becomes a living representation of the Axis Mundi. CLOAK As well as being a symbol of religious asceticism, the cloak is the garment of kings. In addition, the word “cloak” has become synonymous with the notion of hiding something; the invisibility cloak is a very ancient idea. The God, Lugh, had such a cloak that enabled him to pass unnoticed through the entire Irish army in order to rescue his son. Effectively, though, the cloak makes the wearer invisible without any need for magical intervention. A cloak, especially a hooded one, is a mask for the body, covering the wearer from head to foot. A cloak can help someone change his or her identity while at the same time confirming it. In the Bible, St. Martin gives half his cloak to the beggar. This is not only a material gesture but also a symbol of his charitable nature. The Khirka, a specific type of cloak, originally meant a scrap of torn material. However, its unworldly nature made it an appropriate garment for the Sufi mystic. It was originally blue, signifying a vow of poverty, in the same way that brown and gray have the same meaning to Christian believers. The Sufi receives the Khirka after three years of training, a sign that he is worthy of initiation. To wear the Khirka, the Sufi must understand the three levels of the mystic life. These are the Truth, the Law, and the Path. FOOTWEAR When you put your foot upon the ground, this gesture is synonymous with taking possession of the Earth beneath it. Because the holy ground at churches and temples is not, effectively, a territory that belongs to man, the jumble of shoes, sandals, and boots outside the doors of holy places all over the world may certainly be a sign of respect. However, the owners may not be aware that they are, literally, following in the footsteps of a more ancient idea, that they have no claim to this sacred territory. The footwear is significant because it is removed. The Children of Israel sealed agreements between two parties by swapping one sandal each. In addition, in Northern China the word for “slipper” and “mutual agreement” is the same. This is why slippers are given as wedding presents. Shoes also symbolize travel, a meaning that precedes the time of motorized transport. In certain Northern European territories, children leave their shoes out for Father Christmas to fill with gifts; not only is Santa himself making an arduous journey, but his gifts help in the “journey” of the coming year. Shoes are also a status symbol. Slaves generally went barefoot; hence, the wearing of shoes was the sign of the free man. The slipper that Cinderella lost, that later proved her identity to the Prince, is an example of the shoe as a sexual symbol. In common interpretations of this tale these “slippers” sound uncomfortable, since they are apparently made of glass. However, it was an old European tradition that a potential suitor would show his sincerity by making his intended bride a pair of fur boots. It is likely that the word for fur, vair, was confused with the word for glass, verre. The sexual symbolism continues with these kinky boots; the old word for fur shares its roots with a word meaning “sheath.” BELT/GIRDLE Often the very first piece of clothing to be worn, especially in Asian countries, the girdle or belt is circular, and so it represents the union of spirit and matter, and of eternity. It also symbolizes the binding aspect; the girdle is a synonym for the soul that is bound to the body. Although the girdle is tied around the waist of a baby at birth in some countries, it appears in various other forms. The belts of the martial arts exponent range through the color spectrum from white to black to signify levels of expertise. The girdle also protects; it acts as a symbolic “wall” through which evil entities cannot penetrate. It’s a sort of spiritual utility belt. The girdle, too, represents the idea of chastity. The belt worn around robes of monks and others who are called to a spiritual life carries the greater significance of the girdle. Notably, in the Middle Ages prostitutes were allowed to wear neither belt nor veil. To talk of “girding the loins” means to prepare oneself, whether for a journey or something else. The ankh is called the Girdle of Isis or the Buckle of Isis, and carries the same notions of the circle and the knot as binding forces. A sash is also a kind of girdle, used in Freemasonry, for example, as a symbol of office. The knot itself is often used as a reminder, and the knot in the girdle or belt is a reminder of the promise made when the girdle was donned. Another form of a girdle is the Sacred Thread, or Poonal (in Tamil) that is worn by male Hindus, particularly those from the Brahmin caste. The Sacred Thread ceremony can happen any time after the boy’s seventh birthday. The thread is handwoven from three sets of three strands, although extra strands are added to represent marriage and children. It measures about 96 times the breadth of a man’s four fingers; this is roughly the same as his height. Resting on the left shoulder, the thread is wrapped around the body, ending under the right arm. It is knotted only once. Once the Sacred Thread ceremony has been carried out, the thread is never taken off although it is replaced once a year. The single knot represents the concept of Brahman, the unity of all things. The numbers of strands in the thread signify various tenets of the Hindu faith. GLOVE Freemasons sometimes wear white gloves, not only as a symbol of work to be done, but also to show purity of thought. White gloves are worn for the same reasons in the Catholic Church. They are given to bishops and kings after their investiture, and here they are a reminder of newborn purity. Gloves—especially the highly ornamented kind—are a relatively luxurious item of clothing, emblems of the nobility who used gauntlets as part of the equipment associated with falconry. Gloves on heraldic shields usually indicate some connection with hunting birds. To “throw down the gauntlet” is still used as a synonym for a challenge, dating back to the days of chivalry, where it was a politer version of a slap but hardly any less shocking. HEADGEAR Headgear immediately identifies the status of the owner. The crown, for example, is an immediate recognition of royalty. People in authority wear peaked hats. The beggar goes “cap in hand.” Additionally, headgear itself indicates a relationship with the divine, since the top of the head is effectively the first point of contact with the spirit that descends from above. The symbolic nature of headgear is altogether different from its practical usage. In temples, churches, and other holy places, the feet might be bare but the head is covered as a sign of modesty. THE CROWN The open crown, coronet, tiara, or diadem has no practical secular purpose; indeed, the heavier crowns that belong to the sovereignty can be headachingly heavy. The crown is a circle, symbolizing the idea of immortality and eternity, but with the added dimension of a connection between the spiritual and material that is cemented by the ritual of coronation itself, which signifies a blessing, benediction, or union with the divine power that comes from above. Crowns traditionally feature jeweled “rays” signifying Sun beams, an allusion to illumination in all senses of the word. For the Ancient Egyptians, only pharaohs and deities were permitted to wear the crown. The double crowns of the Pharaohs consisted of the white conical miter that represented Upper Egypt, surrounded by the red encasement of Lower Egypt. The serpent symbol called the Uraeus, again worn only by pharaohs, was incorporated into this sacred crown. The pope wears a triple crown, or Triregnum (see Papal symbols). The three parts symbolize different aspects of the Catholic faith and of the papal role. The crown is not always made of princely materials. The crown of laurels is still given as a sign of victory, and for Romans, the highest accolade for a soldier was to be given a crown made of lowly grass. The Corona Graminea signified the ownership of the territory, the right to the land on which the victory had taken place. The feathered headdresses of Native Americans not only signify the status of the wearer, but the feathers themselves signify the different qualities of the birds they belong to. The most valued of all is the eagle feather. These headdresses epitomize the crown as a Sun symbol. THE HAT Which single factor is shared by the old-fashioned policeman’s helmet from the UK, medieval Jewish hats, the papal Triregnum, and the traditional witch’s hat? They all have a tall, conical shape. This has the effect of making the wearer taller than anyone else, more noticeable, and therefore more authoritative. This kind of hat is also a phallic symbol. In addition, the hat of the witch or wizard contains the essence of her magical power in the form of a spiral of energy. SKULLCAP Orthodox Jews wear the skullcap (also known as yarmulke or kippah) at all times; it is stated in the Torah that no man should walk more than four paces without the head being covered. This is because of the belief that the head should always be covered in the presence of God, and since God is omnipotent, then it makes sense that the yarmulke is worn at all times. The yarmulke is not only a recognizable symbol of the faith, but covering the head is in itself a sign of respect for, and fear of, God. Many men also cover their heads for the same reasons. Covering the head as a sign of respect for God is not restricted to the Jewish faith, although many people tend to restrict this practice to the times that they are actually in the place of worship. HOOD The wearing of a hood is sometimes viewed with suspicion, because it masks the face of the wearer. Therefore, the hood is a symbol of invisibility, of disguise, of secrecy, and tends to have negative connotations because we assume that the wearer has reason to conceal him- or herself. The figure of Death, with its scythe, often wears a hood, alluding to the fact that no one knows what form death will take. HELMET Like the hood, the helmet is a symbol of invisibility. It also denotes power and invulnerability. The Greek King of Hell, Hades, wears a helmet, and epitomizes all these powers. The covered-face helmet shares many of the same qualities as the mask. KHALSAS The five Khalsas are the dress rituals of adherents to the Sikh faith, and signs by which they can be recognized. The five Khalsas are: 1 Kesa—this is uncut hair. The hair remains uncut as a reminder that harm must not be inflicted upon the body. Male Sikhs wear the turban as an article of faith, and it also makes a practical garment to cover and contain the hair. 2 Kacha—this is a particular kind of undergarment as a symbol of marital chastity. Men and women wear similar garments. 3 Kanga—a wooden comb, symbolizing tidiness and cleanliness. 4 Kara—a steel bangle, which serves as a reminder of the truth and of God. 5 Kirpan—a dagger, for ceremonial use only, and a reminder to protect those who need it. The Khalsas are sometimes referred to as the Five Ks. ROBES Nuns, monks, and priests of all persuasions wear the plain robes called “habits”. As well as acting as a kind of uniform, the habit also symbolizes the rejection of material values in favor of spiritual virtues. Generally colored gray or brown, the wearer no longer has to worry about a choice of clothes since external appearances do not matter. Effectively, the habit removes the individual personality. The sackcloth robes worn by ascetics are an extreme statement of the renunciation of worldly appearance, often worn as a penance. Robes in general signify the rank of the wearer, and because they are distinctly different from everyday dress, they tend to be the preferred dress of spiritual or religious people. In China, the Imperial Robes were very ornate and carried specific symbolism as a part of their design. The round collar was the Heaven, the square hem, the Earth; the wearer of this robe was therefore an intermediary between the two. Latter-day druids of some orders wear green robes to signify the bardic grade, blue for the ovate grade, and the fully initiated druid wears white robes. Indeed, pilgrims of all faiths, including Buddhist, Muslim, and Shinto, wear white robes. Buddhist monks and followers of Hare Krishna wear robes of the sacred saffron color. The robes of a shaman, like those of the wizard, are covered in magical signs. They are also decorated with feathers (symbolic of transcendence) and the pelt of the animal whose spirit they wish to connect with. SHIRT A shirt is a symbol of protection. To “lose one’s shirt” means to relinquish the last vestige of dignity as well as material wealth. However, to give “the shirt off your back” is a gesture of great generosity, indicating a willingness to give away the last of your material possessions. The “hair shirt” is an uncomfortable garment worn by penitents who want to self-inflict punishment. The tunic is an earlier form of the shirt. The Cathars used it as an analogy for the human body. When they said that fallen angels wore tunics, they meant that they were made of flesh. VEIL The veil symbolizes a distinct separation between two states of being, physical objects, or concepts. However, the object effecting this separation is apparently flimsy. It must be remembered that this is a two-way separation; the nun that “takes the veil” to become a Bride of Christ separates herself from the world, but also removes the worldly from her relationship with the spiritual. The Greek word for veil is “hymen.” The veil that is lifted to reveal the face of the bride at her wedding not only symbolizes her new status, but also alludes to the tearing of the hymen which is the physical outcome of a marriage. The word “revelation” comes from the Latin revelatio, to draw back the veil. Penetrating a veil, therefore, is symbolic of initiation; hidden knowledge is often described as “veiled.” This veil protects us too; in the same way that the light from the Sun can illuminate, it can also dazzle or even blind us if it comes too close. The Qu’ran says that women should be addressed from behind a veil. The hijab is the physical manifestation of this idea. Although the hijab has been interpreted by some as a sign of oppression, devout followers of Islam would argue that not only is the wearing of this veil instructed by the Prophet, but also gives the woman a great level of freedom. Here, a veil of misunderstanding separates two ideas and cultures. According to Buddhists, Maya is the symbolic veil that separates pure reality from the illusory nature of the world in which we live. COLOR Despite the fact that colors have an essential part to play in symbolism and the understanding of it, they are, nevertheless, frequently overlooked. Colors are proven to have a profound effect on the human psyche and on our moods. They resonate with the elements, the directions, the seasons, the planets, and astrological signs, as well as holding huge significance in their own right, for example, in the Tarot. Colors, and particular shades of them, confer an immediate identity and make a strong statement. For example, in the green, purple, and white of the Suffragettes (green for hope, purple for dignity, and white for purity), or in the red and white stripes of the old-fashioned barber’s pole (where the white represented the color of flesh and the red was the blood sometimes drawn by the cut-throat razor). Territories use colors to represent themselves on their flags. Sometimes the reasons behind these colors have unexpected origins, such as the bright orange that is so strongly linked to the Netherlands; more of this later. The simple colors used by children generally represent the most elemental meanings; blue for the sea and the sky, green for growth, brown for the Earth, yellow for the Sun. The significance of colors is proven by the high value that our ancestors placed on certain plants or substances that could be made into dyes, such as the Imperial Purple of Rome that was produced from a mollusk that was valued more highly than gold, or the saffron crocus that produced the sacred color of the same name. Prior to the development of chemical dyes, the creation of colors that did not fade in the Sun or wash away was a combination of art, science, and magic, akin to an alchemical process. The impact of the Sun shining through stained glass, painting the interiors of churches with living colors that shimmered and danced, in a medieval world where color was often a privilege of the wealthy few, can only be imagined. Warriors in Ancient Britain daubed themselves in blue pigments in order to look more fearsome to their enemies. The power of red was once so powerful that corpses were daubed in red ocher in the belief that the color had the same life-giving properties as blood. The seven colors of the rainbow—which break down into 700 shades that are visible to the naked eye—are associated with the seven planets, the days of the week, the Seven Heavens, and the seven notes of the musical scale. BLACK SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: night, the absence of light; mourning, sobriety, denial; authority; perfection and purity; maturity and wisdom. Although it’s the opposite of white, both shades are, in fact, due to an absence of color, and technically speaking black is not a “color” at all. This doesn’t stop it having a wealth of symbolic meaning. Black often has negative connotations for the reason that it is the color of the night, or the absence of light. It doesn’t require a great leap of the imagination to extend this light/dark, day/night symbolism to good/bad. A fundamentally natural occurrence to do with the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, therefore, has had far-reaching consequences, resulting in fear, racism, superstition, and bigotry which even continues today simply because of skin color. In the West, black is the color of mourning and funerals. In some cultures, white is used in this context, in which case it carries the idea of rebirth. Black, however, is not so sanguine. It is final, conclusive, the denial of life. Despite the mirthless sobriety of black, it depends how you wear it. The “new black” is a term applied to anything that is in vogue, since black is also somehow dangerous and sexy as well as practical, therefore always fashionable as a color. The “black sheep” of the family refers to the one who is a bit of a scoundrel, and the “black dog” means depression. Conversely, a black cat is a very lucky symbol in the UK and other parts of the world. A person who holds a black belt in any of the martial arts is considered to be at the pinnacle of their abilities, and indeed, in Japan, black is the color of wisdom, experience, and maturity. In this instance, black is a color of perfection, an idea shared by the Cathars who also saw black as a symbol of completion and purity. Black is a secretive, mysterious color and used as such in rite and ritual. A polished black mirror provides a perfect, glossy surface for scrying or seeing into the future. BLUE SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: truth and the intellect; wisdom, loyalty, chastity; peace, piety, and contemplation; spirituality; eternity. Blue is the color of the Heavens and is related to the fifth chakra. Blue is traditionally worn by the Virgin Mary, the very embodiment of all the qualities described above. Whereas the reds, oranges, and yellows carry with them a carnival atmosphere, blue is more sober, even somber, despite its many variations. If we’re “feeling blue” then we’re depressed or melancholy. And yet the bluebird is a universal symbol for happiness. The color has even given its name to a rich vein of music. The “blues” actually refers to “blue notes.” These are notes, either sung or played, that are pitched down a little for expressive purposes. An example is Billie Holiday’s heart-breaking rendition of “Strange Fruit.” There’s something cool and detached about blue that gives rise to its reputation for spirituality and chastity. Above all, blue is the color of the sky. Like the sky, blue is infinitely spacious. It contains everything, and yet contains nothing. The color is therefore associated with ideas of eternity. When filmmakers and animators want to place a subject against a different background, they film against a blue screen since the color can be made invisible. In Jewish tradition the city of Luz, where the Immortals live, is also called The Blue City. Similarly, the mythical sacred mountain of the Hindus, Mount Meru, is constructed entirely of sapphire on its southern face and it’s this that is said to tinge the skies with blue. To put any color out of context can have an alienating and often frightening effect. Knowing this, early British warriors daubed themselves in woad. These blue-skinned savages must have been an alarming sight for Roman soldiers. Members of the aristocracy or the royalty are described as having “blue blood,” but why? The phrase originated with the Spanish, sangre azul, and refers to the pale-skinned Castilian ruling classes who prided themselves on never having interbred with darker-skinned races. Therefore, their blue veinous blood was plainly visible underneath the surface of their skin. There’s even a particular shade of blue that is meant to represent this color, called Royal Blue. BROWN SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: poverty, humility, practicality. Brown is the color primarily associated with the Earth, soil, the raw element before it is covered with greenery. The word for earth, in Latin, is humus, which carries the same root as humility. Religious ascetics wear brown as a reminder of this quality and also of their voluntary material poverty. GRAY SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: sobriety, steadiness, modesty. Gray is the midway point between black and white, and tellingly the “gray area” is an area of indetermination, indecision, or ambiguity. To be described as gray is rather less than flattering, since gray is such a subdued and neutral color, and implies that the person blends into the background. However, gray is also a color of balance and reasonableness and is the color used, in photography, to balance all others. Because people’s hair turns gray with age, the word is often used to describe elderly people and is also a color of wisdom. For Christians, gray is the color of resurrection and is worn when people are coming out of the full black of mourning as the midway point on the journey to other colors. GREEN SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: new life, resurrection, hope; the sea; fertility and regeneration; recycling, environmental awareness; a lucky color; an unlucky color. Green is an amalgam of blue and yellow, and is the color of the fourth chakra. Green is the universal symbol for “Go!” to red’s “Stop!” In common with yellow, there seem to be several anomalies in the symbolic meaning of green. To call someone “green” means that they are inexperienced or innocent and obviously refers to fresh young shoots, yet jealousy is also described as the “green-eyed monster.” This saying is actually Shakespearean in origin. In Othello, jealousy is described as being like the green-eyed monster, the cat, “which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Probably the same origin gives us “green with envy.” Green is a soothing, refreshing color, so it is interesting to discover why it’s sometimes believed to be unlucky. It’s still a statistical fact that fewer green cars are sold in the UK than any other color because of this superstition. In the Middle Ages, green was meant to be the color of the Devil. He’s even depicted on a stainedglass window in Chartres Cathedral as having green skin and green eyes, strangely similar to a generally held belief about the appearance of Martians. In this sense the color denotes an alien, nonhuman, possibly threatening being; no surprise, then, that it’s the color of the Fairy Folk, and it might well be that the color is lucky or unlucky depending on their attitude toward you. If you dressed in green, it was believed that the fairies could claim you as their own. In Islam, green is the color of paradise, and Mohammed has a green banner. Paradise actually means “garden,” and in the arid desert landscape of the Bedouin, any stretch of lush green land must indeed appear heavenly. The epitome of the nature God in the Western world is the Green Man, the pre-Christian deity whose leafy face peeps out from bosky woods and verdant forests and reminds us that Mother Nature is supernal. However, the Green Man is not exclusive to the West. He also exists in Islam, as Al Kadir. Al Kadir is the patron of travelers, and he’s said to live on the very edge of the world where the oceans of Heaven and Earth merge. Be mindful if you meet Al Kadir that you should do as he tells you, however outlandish the instructions might be. In alchemy, full of hidden meanings, the Green Lion itself has more than one meaning. It is a symbol for vitriol (sulfuric acid), which is created by distilling the green iron sulfate crystals in a flask. But the life-force itself was symbolized as the blood of the Green Lion, blood contained in a green vessel; this was a reference not to real, physical gold, but to Philosophers’ Gold, far more valuable and elusive. MOTLEY SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: wealth; a chameleon personality. Not strictly a color as such, but a combination of many other colors. The word is generally used to describe cloth or clothing. The rainbow nature of motley means that whoever wears it has as many aspects as there are colors, a chameleon personality, and it can indicate the trickster or fool (as worn by the jester, or the Fool in the Tarot) as well as kings, emperors, and deities. In the Bible, Joseph’s coat of many colors is the object of much envy. ORANGE SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: balance between spirit and sexuality; fertility and yet virginity; energy; the Sun; like yellow, orange is believed to be an appetite stimulant. Orange has two aspects that we see time and time again, pivoting between the material and spiritual worlds, which is not surprising given that the color itself is a balance between red and yellow. As such, it represents the second chakra, the first being red, and the third, yellow. Orange is a vibrant, cheerful color that definitely lifts the spirits. The orange blossom is the traditional flower for brides because the fruit and the flower can appear on the orange tree at the same time, hence the virginity/fertility symbolism. Similarly, a Hindu bride has an orange powder smeared on her forehead once she is married, a sign of her status. Hindu places of worship are indicated by an orange flag or banner, which is replaced once a year in a colorful and effusive ceremony. Why is the color orange so closely associated with the Netherlands? Originally it was because of the Dutch ruling dynasty, the House of Orange. Loyal Dutch farmers who gave the world the first orange carrot further cemented the association. It might be impossible to associate the carrot with any other color these days, but originally they came in black, red, or purple and were a much more bitter vegetable than the modern varieties. By the 1700s, the Dutch had succeeded in hybridizing pale yellow carrots with red ones. It might be a coincidence, but a recent Unicef survey showed Dutch children to be the happiest in Europe; given that happiness is one of the symbolic associations with the color orange, could there be a link? PINK SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: femininity, innocence, good health, love, patience. Pink is the ultimate feminine color, being flirty, girlish, and innocent at the same time. Pale pink is used as the symbol for a baby girl, just as pale blue is used for baby boys. This feminine angle is why the color pink has been adopted as a symbol of gay pride. Pink is the color of universal, unconditional love. PURPLE SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: royalty and pomp; power, wealth, majesty. Purple, or indigo, is the color associated with the sixth chakra. Since it was first discovered, purple has been the color of choice to denote wealth and power. Emperors, kings, and the more powerful members of the clergy—such as bishops—choose the colour as a way of defining their status. This is because the dye itself was originally available from one source and one source only; the secretions of a certain gland of an unfortunate sea snail called the Murex brandaris. Therefore, purple was extremely costly to produce and strictly the color of those who could afford it, since the dye itself was more expensive even than gold. The most popular shade of the color is called Tyrian Purple (named for the city of Tyre, where it was manufactured). Heracles’ dog, which had a predilection for snacking on the snails he found along the seashore, is credited with having discovered the dye after his owner noticed the purple staining around his mouth. It is likely, however, that the Minoans on Crete discovered the purple pigment quite some time before Heracles’ dog trotted into the picture. If the Minoan theory is true then the rare purple dye has been with us for at least 3500 years, so its associations with all things glorious and splendid are well embedded into the human psyche even with the advent of synthetic dye alternatives. RED SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: vitality and life-force; fire, the Sun, the South; blood; good luck and prosperity; power and authority; masculine energy; war and anger; passion, energy, sexuality. One of the three primary colors, bright red pops out of whatever environment it happens to be in and grabs our attention more than any other color. Moreover, it is the first actual color that is seen by babies. Because it has a lower vibrational frequency than any other color in our visible spectrum, it is associated with the base chakra and symbolizes passion, sexuality, fertility, and animal urges. Red-light districts are so called because of the dim red shades of the prostitutes’ quarters. Red is the color of blood, which means that it is associated with the life-forces and vitality. Hunters daub themselves in the red blood of the kill, which they believe will give them empathy with the spirit of the animal. Red is also the color of fire, the Sun, and the Southern direction. The word for “magic,” in German, is directly linked to the word for “red ocher.” A recent archeological discovery provided unusual evidence of the reverence in which the color was held by early man. Lumps of red ocher, as well as tools stained with the substance, were found in early graves in an Israeli cave, indicating its importance as a symbol of vitality, life, and resurrection. Pure colors used to be very difficult and expensive to produce, and so red cloth was used by people in positions of power, such as the monarchy and the clergy. Byzantine emperors were dressed from head to foot in red. In Rome, red was the color of nobles and generals, and the Holy Roman Church still dresses its cardinals in pure, bright, cardinal red. To roll out the red carpet for someone is to honor their presence. Red is a color of protection and has been viewed as such for at least the last 2000 years. Amulets made from rubies or garnets were far more valuable than any other kind, able to make the wearer invincible. And how about the red planet? Mars has a preponderance of iron oxide in its soil, giving it a red appearance that is clearly visible to the naked eye. This color is partially responsible for its association with war and warriors. In India and China, red is the traditional color for weddings. Indian brides wear saris of red or pink, and the Chinese happy couple will be surrounded by a veritable sea of red; clothing, souvenirs, and gifts. Even the home of the bride and groom are decorated with red banners and ribbons. Roman brides, too, favored red for their wedding veil, which was called a flammeum. This tradition is shared by modern Greek brides. In Ancient Egypt red was synonymous with evil, because it was the color of the God Seth, who haunted the arid desert places, the personification of destruction. Seth was called the “Red God,” and an Egyptian charm of the time goes like this; Oh, Isis, deliver me from the hands of bad, evil, red things! Similarly, in Christian symbolism, the Devil is sometimes depicted as a red creature. Like Seth, he also has a predilection for scorched places. In alchemy, the Red Stone is mercuric sulfide, a compound of sulfur and mercury that is also called vermilion. The creation of vermilion was a very important primary stage in the process of making the Philosopher’s Stone, which is itself disguised as the Red Lion, since this elusive substance was characterized by turning red in its final stage. SAFFRON SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: spirituality, holiness, good fortune. Named after the saffron crocuses whose stigmas create the color, the harvesting of these delicate plant parts is a labor-intensive and time-critical matter and so the actual dye is costly to produce. Saffron is an extremely auspicious color for Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, and a saffron or orange banner indicates a place of spiritual worship. The foreheads of Hindu deities are daubed with saffron paste to denote their celestial status, and although the Hindu pantheon is vast and complex, the use of saffron is a unifying factor across the many different manifestations of the faith. Saffron is paler and more golden than true orange, and is said to be the color of wisdom, the rising Sun, and of Mother Earth. VIOLET SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: knowledge and intelligence; piety, sobriety, humility, temperance; peace and spirituality. Violet is the color associated with the seventh chakra. There are many shades of violet ranging from ethereal pale shades through to the darker mauve, considered the only color acceptable as a relief from the relentless strict mourning convention of black and gray in Victorian times. Violet is a combination of red and blue, and its association with temperance is indicated in some Tarot suits. Temperance is the 14th card of the Major Arcana and is depicted by a woman holding a jug or vase in either hand, one red, one blue, pouring a clear liquid from one to the other. Violet is often worn by people predisposed toward psychic matters, and is the perfect symbol of the “higher” mind, combining as it does the earthy, fieriness of red with the cool reasonableness of blue to forge an entirely different hue. Its association with the seventh chakra, at the crown position at the top of the head, gives violet the power to connect with the world of spirit. The humble qualities of violet as a color come from the flower. The tiny violet grows close to the ground, hidden modestly in among the grass, yet noticeable because of its striking color. WHITE SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: purity, virginity; death and rebirth, a beginning and an end; in the Far East, mourning. White is both the absence of any color and the sum of all colors together, so in a sense it can mean everything or nothing. This combination of all colors has given white the name of the “many-colored lotus” in Buddhist teachings. Probably the most telling of both ends of white’s symbolic spectrum are reflected in its associations with purity and a fresh start (as worn by brides in the Western tradition, as an optimistic sign of virginity) and as the color of mourning in the East, a use that used to be common in Europe, too. Cadavers all over the world are still wrapped in white shrouds and, as death precedes birth, the white here has an optimistic meaning, since in this instance, white symbolizes rebirth. White is also used to denote initiation, another form of rebirth. Children wear white at their First Communion, and in Africa, boys smear their bodies with white paste after circumcision to show that they are apart from their main society for a time. When they re-enter, it is as men, their bodies painted red. White is the color of expectation and contains all the potential of the blank canvas. The pristine glory of a fresh fall of snow makes the world look clean and pure but white shows up every mark, hence its usefulness in hospitals and other clinical environments. White is a symbol of peace, and the white flag is a universal sign of submission and surrender. However, the white feather is a sign of cowardice. This originates in the days of cock-fighting when a bird with a white feather in its tail was believed to be a poor fighter. The potency of this particular white symbol is such that, just after the Second World War, an “order of the White Feather” was started as a method of goading men into joining the army. Womenfolk were encouraged to hand the white feather of cowardice to any man not wearing a uniform. YELLOW SYMBOLIC MEANINGS: the Sun; power, authority; the intellect and intuition; goodness; light, life, truth, immortality; endurance; the Empire and fertility [China]; cowardice, treachery. Yellow is one of the three primary colors and is related to the third chakra which lives in the region of the solar plexus. This is apt, since yellow, like red and orange, is one of the Sun colors. It could be argued that yellow is the most dazzling of the three, so the association makes good sense. The Ancient Egyptians had only six colors available in their pallet, and wherever yellow was used this indicated endurability and timelessness. In China, yellow was the color of the Emperor. The average man in the street was forbidden from wearing it until relatively recently. It is also the color of fertility, since healthy soil in China is a yellow color. Because of this, all the hangings, sheets, and pillows of the bridal bed were dyed in vibrant shades of yellow as well as red. However, there are some contradictions with yellow. In the UK and USA, to call someone “yellow” or to say that they have a “yellow streak” means that they are cowardly. There are several theories about why this should be. The one that seems to fit best is that Judas Iscariot wore yellow robes, and his own cowardly act was to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver. Jewish people were made to wear a yellow Star of David by the Nazi regime in the Second World War. Similarly, in 1215 the Lateran Council ordered Jews to wear a yellow circle to identify themselves. It was probably small comfort for these persecuted people that they believed yellow to be synonymous with beauty. In tenth-century France, the doors of criminals were painted yellow. Conversely, in the fourteenth century, the yellow chrysanthemum was worn by warriors as a symbol of courage. Because leaves turn yellow and then to black with the onset of fall, in several places, including Ancient Egypt, yellow is a color of mourning. A yellow cross was painted on doors as a sign of the plague, possibly for the same reasons, and even today yellow marks off a quarantined area. The Claddagh symbol features a heart held by a pair of hands. A crown usually surmounts the heart. These features represent love, friendship, and loyalty. CLAVICLE See Key. COMPASSES See Freemasonry. CORN DOLLY These days, the corn dolly generally gathers dust in gift shops, an innocuous souvenir for tourists in rural areas, particularly in the United Kingdom. However, its origins as a powerful magical symbol go back thousands of years to pre-Christian times. It may come as a surprise that the corn dolly hanging on the kitchen wall can trace its roots back to a particularly bloody ritual. In any agrarian culture, the success of the crop is all-important and in Northern Europe the harvest produce was essential to survival during the winter period. It was the generally held belief that the spirit of the harvest—in this case, the versatile grain crop—resided in the plant, and once the plant was cut down then the spirit effectively became homeless. In order to provide a new home for this spirit, the farmers made a corn dolly from the very last stalks of the crop. The dolly would spend her time indoors over the winter, waiting to be ploughed back into the ground at the start of the new season. In places where the corn dolly custom was not established, the last few stalks of corn were violently beaten into the ground, thus driving the spirit back into the Earth. The dolly was made into the shape of an old woman, representing the Crone aspect of the Harvest Goddess. She was drenched in water as a further propitiation to the Gods and to ensure that plenty of rain would feed the harvest to come. Different areas had different styles of corn dollies. However, the custom of preserving the spirit of the harvest was not always carried out in such a genteel way. The Phrygians, who lived in central Asia Minor and worshipped the Mother of the Gods, Cybele, carried out a different sort of ceremony. Their “corn dolly” was formed from thickly plaited sheaves of corn formed into a tall column. Any stranger found in the vicinity was captured in the belief that his presence there would mean that the spirit of the harvest had possessed his body and caused him to wander into the area. The hapless stranger was then trapped within this cage of corn and then beheaded in the belief that the blood that fell upon the ground contained the valuable “soul” of the crop. CORNICELLO An amulet designed to protect the wearer, the cornicello features the effigy of the horn, is made of horn, or is horn-shaped. “Cornicello” comes from an Italian word meaning “little horn.” CORNUCOPIA Also called the Horn of Plenty, the cornucopia is often depicted in paintings and on friezes where it symbolizes the notion of boundless abundance, as flowers, fruits, sheaves of wheat, and other produce spill out of a hollow horn or a twisting basket woven in the shape of the horn. The origin of the cornucopia is found in the Greek myth of Amalthea. Amalthea fed the infant Zeus a drink of goat’s milk and was given the brimming goat’s horn as a reward. Sometimes the infant Zeus is depicted being fed the milk from the horn itself. The Cornucopia, as a symbol of a bounteous harvest, is also associated with Ceres, the Goddess of corn, and also with Fortuna, Goddess of good fortune. The idea of a bottomless, bounteous container has similarities to the symbol of the cauldron. COSMIC EGG See Egg. COSMOGRAM This is a flat graphic symbol that represents the cosmos, and is often used as a meditative focus. The mandala is a cosmogram, as are the elaborate depictions of tortoises holding up the planet. Cosmograms commonly feature the most basic shapes of the circle (representing the planet, and unity) and the square (the Earth and the directions). COWRIE SHELL More than any other shell, the cowrie has a marked resemblance to the female genitalia or yoni. Because of the ancient idea of the Doctrine of Signatures, the shell is therefore endowed with magical powers of fertility, good luck, and wealth. Originating from the Malaysian area, cowrie shells were used as currency for some time. Their use in decorative masks, headdresses, and other items was widespread, where it had the new addition of being a status symbol because of its use as small change. The cowrie also represents another body part: the eye. Therefore, along with other objects from the natural world that have a similar appearance, the cowrie is considered to protect against evil. CRESCENT MOON AND STAR The crescent Moon is possibly the most distinctive Moon symbol; it shows the changing shape of the Moon and also the return to the same shape. Like the Moon, it is connected to the female principle and the element of water. It is also linked to virginity. Goddesses with a strong Moon connection—such as Diana, or Artemis—are often depicted with the unmistakable crescent Moon shape close by. In Christian iconography, Mary the Virgin, also known by the lyrical epithet Star of the Sea, appears standing on a crescent Moon with stars in the background, hinting at her Goddess nature. She generally wears the color blue, symbolic of spirituality and chastity. The crescent Moon that rests on its “back” looks like a chalice. The crescent Moon with the star is one of the most iconographic symbols of Islam, although the symbol is believed to predate the faith by thousands of years as the symbol of another of the great Moon Goddesses, Tanit Astarte, the Queen of Heaven. There are several stories that explain why the symbol was adopted. One is that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the crescent Moon stretched across the Earth. Because of this, he kept the existing Moon Goddess symbol and made it the emblem of his Empire. Incidentally, the croissant—virtually a national symbol of France—is said to have been invented when the Turks were besieging Budapest in 1686 (another account gives the city as Vienna three years earlier). They dug underground passages with the idea of reaching the center of town without attracting attention. However, a baker, working through the night, heard the noise and raised the alarm. As a reward for saving the city, the baker was given the right to bake a special pastry in the form of the crescent Moon that was featured on the Ottoman flag. CROSS See First signs: Cross. CROSS AND CROWN A Christian symbol, the Cross and Crown is a reminder of the rewards that come in Heaven (the crown) after the tribulations of life (the cross) are over. Some latter-day Knights Templar organizations use this symbol. CROSS LORRAINE Essentially a heraldic device used by the Dukes of Lorraine, the Cross Lorraine is a vertical bar with two horizontal bars, originally equally spaced at either end. However, this cross is used elsewhere too. In the Catholic Church the cross signifies the rank of cardinal, and in renaissance alchemy it was used as a symbol of spirit and matter. Additionally the Cross Lorraine is used to denote one of the degrees within Freemasonry. During the Second World War it was adopted by the French Resistance as their secret symbol, an emblem to stand in opposition to the swastika, which had been rendered sinister by the Nazis, and lost for a time its meaning as a positive Sun symbol. CROSSROADS In fairy stories and myths, it is often at the crossroads where mischief awaits, usually in the form of other-worldly spirits. Effectively, the crossroads symbolizes the intersection of two paths, making four potential routes, and a place where a decision must be made, not only practically, but metaphorically too. The X of the crossroads marks a spot where two worlds meet. One of the more recent tales about an encounter at a crossroads concerns the renowned blues guitarist and musician, Robert Johnson. Johnson is alleged to have met the Devil at a crossroads, and to have exchanged his soul for his remarkable talent as a musician and songwriter. Johnson exacerbated this devilish reputation when he recorded a track called “Cross Road Blues,” based on a myth from the Deep South. This legend tells that a daring person who fancied striking a deal with Satan should wait for him at a crossroads late at night. The origins of this story go back to African folklore, where a deity called Esu was the guardian of the crossroads. When Christianity took over, these old Gods were, quite literally, demonized, and Esu was transformed into the Devil. Hecate, too, personified as the Queen of the Witches, was called the Goddess of the Crossroads. In Celtic mythology, corpses belonging to those considered “unholy” were buried at crossroads in order to prevent them coming back to life and because the crossroads was a Gate to the Otherworld. Gibbets were placed at crossroads for the same reason. CROW’S FOOT The crow’s foot is also known as the Witch’s Foot, and was feared as an indicator of death, used in casting spells against enemies. Crows, like ravens, were associated with the witches and warlocks who were believed to be able to transform themselves into these black birds so that they could travel unnoticed to their sabbats. The name “crow’s feet” is also given to the lines that radiate around the outer corners of the eyes with the coming of age and the inevitable approach of death. CRUCIFIX A Latin Cross with a model of the body of the Christ fixed to it. It is used in the Christian tradition as a reminder of the sacrifice that Christ made for humankind. CRUX DISSIMULATA In third-century Rome, early Christians were persecuted to such a degree that their lives were threatened and the symbols of their faith had to be disguised. One of the ways they recognized one another was by the sign of the fish or ichthus; another way was to disguise the Cross cleverly as something else. The meaning of Crux Dissimulata is “disguised” or “dissimilar” cross. One of the more ingenious forms of this secret symbol, shown here, was the anchor. The top of the anchor is formed like a cross and, in addition, the anchor is plainly a symbol of stability. Because anchors are associated with the sea, too, the fish symbol could easily be incorporated into it. The Crux Dissimulata was used as a secret symbol and a rallying call for adherents to the new and dangerous faith. CRYSTAL BALL Combining the sphere’s perfection and totality with the clarity and brilliance of crystal, the crystal ball is a part of the toolkit of the professional clairvoyant or seer. The clarity of the crystal matches the “clear sight” of the psychic. When used for scrying, the crystal ball acts as a focus for meditation, enabling the adept to access a place that is out of time in order to be able to see into the future. This practice of scrying is carried out in various ways. Instead of an expensive crystal, cheaper methods are apparently just as effective for the talented psychic. A bowl of water, a mirror, a drop of blood, or a pool of ink can be used. However, the glamor of the genuine crystal ball is hard to beat. CUBE The cube carries all the symbolism of the square (at its most basic, the material world and the elements) except that it is, of course, three-dimensional. The cube is solid, stable, reliable, and often forms the basis of other buildings. It is also a symbol of moral perfection. The cube is a symbol of material eternity. One of the most famous cubes is the Ka’aba that stands at the center of the Grand Mosque at Mecca, and which is a symbol of power and eternity. If the cube is unfolded, it turns into a cross; this cross gives us the standard floor plan of Christian churches and further reinforces the idea of stability and eternity. One of the five Platonic solids and one of the Tattvas, the cube represents the element of Earth. DARUMA This is a small doll intended to resemble the founder of Zen Buddhism, the Bodhidharma Daruma. Daruma brought the teachings from India to China in the sixth century. The dolls are ubiquitous in Japan as a good-luck symbol par excellence as well as a reminder of the need for patience. The dolls are rounded and chunky, reflecting the story that the Bodhidharma spent such a long time (reputedly nine years) meditating motionless in a cave that his limbs atrophied. A weight inside the base of the rotund little figure means that it may wobble but it never falls over, and this feature symbolizes Daruma’s persistence in his meditative process as well as illustrating the Buddhist tenet that you can fall over seven times but still get up again on the eighth. He was so zealous that he is even reputed to have cut off his eyelids so that he could not fall asleep, and this is why the dolls also have wide, staring eyes. Coincidentally, the gift of tea was given to Daruma by God to help him keep awake. Given as a gift at the New Year, each of the eyes of the Daruma doll are colored with a marker when certain goals are achieved. When both eyes are colored the little doll is burned on a shrine as an offering. DEARINTH A relatively new sign, the dearinth was invented by Oberon Zell as the symbol for his Church of All Worlds. Zell is credited with inventing the term “Neo-Pagan.” The symbol represents a labyrinth but also cleverly includes the figure of the God and Goddess. The nine concentric circles of the dearinth relate to the nine levels of initiation within the Church. DEGREES OF WITCHCRAFT Witches and wizards might write their names, followed by a symbol that denotes the level of his or her initiation into the Craft. FIRST DEGREE [INVERTED TRIANGLE] This shows the neophyte that has been introduced to the most basic teachings and traditions. The shape of this inverted triangle is also drawn in the air as the “threefold salute,” and is drawn in the sequence of breast, breast, genitals, breast. SECOND DEGREE [1] The second stage of witchcraft, and a deeper level of knowledge is also represented by a gesture that emulates the shape of the upright triangle; mouth, breast, breast, mouth. SECOND DEGREE [2] The Fivefold Salute describes the shape of an inverted pentagram by tracing a line from genitals to right breast, then left hip to right hip, right hip to left breast and back to genitals. THIRD DEGREE This is the sign used by fully fledged witches and wizards. Formed of a pentagram surmounted by an upright triangle, it is traced in the air from mouth to breast, then back to the mouth, genitals, right foot, left knee, right knee, left foot and back to the genitals. DHARMA WHEEL The Dharma wheel or Dharmachakra is used as a symbol in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It is an eight-spoked wheel, sometimes rendered quite decoratively. Each spoke of the wheel represents one of the pillars of belief that applies to these Dharmic religions. 1 Right faith 2 Right intention 3 Right speech 4 Right action 5 Right livelihood 6 Right effort 7 Right thought 8 Right meditation The wheel symbol in general is complex and is covered elsewhere; this particular wheel represents the notion of overcoming obstacles, difficulties, and challenges. DJED An Ancient Egyptian symbol of stability, the djed is an image of a pillar with four platforms piled on top of it. As with other pillar-like symbols the world over, the djed also signifies the World Axis, the World Tree, and the phallus. DOORWAY The simple doorway—an everyday object that goes unnoticed most of the time—is symbolic of a transition between one world and the next. Such a doorway may take different forms, as a dolmen, a torii, a gateway, but the meaning remains the same. In C. S. Lewis’s Narnia novels, the wardrobe into which the children step to enter the magical world of Narnia is a good example of this symbol. Both Heaven and Hell lie beyond gates or doorways, and the threshold of such a place is seen as the place where two worlds meet and sometimes collide. Many rituals involve the initiate stepping through a doorway of some kind. The vesica piscis represents a doorway where the world of spirit enters the world of matter. DORJE See Vajra. DOT See First signs: Dot. DOUBLE HAPPINESS This good-luck symbol, ubiquitous in China or in places where there is a strong undercurrent of Chinese culture, comprises the character meaning happiness, written twice, hence the name, Double Happiness. The meaning of the sign is inferred in its name, and it is a popular symbol for practitioners of Feng Shui. The sign is effective if placed in the sector of the home that relates to relationships. It is also said to be particularly lucky for newlyweds. DREAMCATCHER The forerunner of the Dreamcatcher was a Native American spider’s web of feathers and beads, a simple little charm made from a small hoop of flexible wood, such as willow, with an interlacement of plant fibers designed to look like a cobweb. This little amulet was used particularly as a protection for babies and small children. Hung over their cradles and beds, it was thought to entrap any negative spirits that came in the form of nightmares. These malevolent entities, entangled in the web, were sizzled in the heat from the rising Sun. The spider’s-web shape gave homage to Asibikaasi, the mythical Spider Woman, whose magical webs could catch anything. The elaborate Dreamcatchers of today, an essential part of the kit for any self-respecting New Ager, were invented in the 1960s and ’70s as part of the resurgence in Native American culture and belief. DREIDEL During the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, the usually strict rules forbidding any kind of gambling are relaxed slightly. The Dreidel is a wooden spinning top, its four sides inscribed with letters. These letters form an acronym that reminds the players of the meaning of the holiday. The initial letters, nun, gimel, heh, and shin, stand for a phrase which, when translated, means “A great miracle happened there,” and the top is spun to win small treats such as sweets and chocolate coins. The Dreidel is symbolic of fun and of the holiday period but carries a serious message at the same time. DRILBU The Drilbu is the bell-like object that appears sometimes in the right hand of Buddhist statues, and is the female counterpart of the male Vajra or Dorje. Its Sanskrit counterpart is called the Ghanta. The Drilbu symbolizes knowledge, emptiness, and wisdom, and the notes of its bell are a reminder of the transient nature of everything. The actual object is made of an amalgamation of seven different metals, each of which is associated with the planets and is a magical symbol in its own right. The Drilbu is a musical instrument as well as a ritual object. It is chimed three times to focus the attention of the people attending any ceremony. Its sweet-sounding resonant note also welcomes in good spirits and drives away any evil ones. The Drilbu has the same feminine symbolism as the chalice in the Western tradition. It is called the Ghanta in the Hindu faith. DRUZE STAR This five-pointed upright star, comprised of five distinct diamond shapes, is the emblem of the Druze faith, an offshoot of Islam. Each segment is often colored according to its meaning. The five points of the star remind followers of the religion of the five universal principles of the faith: 1 The masculine element, the Sun and the mind. This segment is often colored green. 2 The feminine element and the Moon, colored red. 3 The Word, considered the mediator between the Divine and humankind, colored yellow. 4 Will and the realms of possibility, colored blue. 5 Finally, the white segment of the star represents actualization, the manifestation of the Word and the Will. EGG The egg is as powerful in its symbolism as it is potent as a life-force. The World Egg is a ubiquitous symbol for the egg from which the Universe is said to have hatched, an idea that appears in creation myths from all parts of the world. The Celts, Hindus, Egyptians, Greeks, Phoenicians, and many more all agree about this idea. The form this cosmic hatching takes is variable though. Often, the egg rises from primeval waters and is incubated by a bird; in Hindu belief, this is the Hamsa, a goose. When the egg hatches, the yolk and the white become Heaven and Earth. The Shinto tradition says that the Universe resembled a giant hen’s egg that broke open, with the heavier parts becoming the Earth and the lighter, the Heavens. There is also a theory that the entire Universe is contained in a huge egg that stands upright. The egg is a symbol of new life, and this idea is borne out with chocolate eggs at Easter, which in itself is a celebration of the pre-Christian fertility Goddess, Eostre, who also gives her name to the hormone estrogen. The subsequent celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection meant that the egg kept its significance as a symbol of new life and hope. Archeologists have found clay eggs in Russian burial sites, reinforcing the belief in the egg as a symbol of immortality and of rebirth. In alchemy, the Philosopher’s Egg symbolizes the seed of spiritual life, and depicts the place wherein a great transformation takes place. The ancient riddle of what came first, chicken or egg, was deftly if disappointingly answered by Angelus Silesius, who said: The chicken was in the egg and the egg was in the chicken. ELVEN STAR This seven-pointed star has several different names and occurs in many different magical traditions, including Sacred Geometry. Most prosaically, it is known as the septagram. For wiccans and pagans it is also called the Faerie star, for others it might be referred to as the star of the Seven Sisters since it is associated with the cluster of seven astronomical stars called the Pleiades (or Flock of Doves). These celestial sisters were believed to guard the Axis Mundi as depicted by the Pole star. Wherever it occurs and by whatever name it is known, the Elven star is a reminder of the sacred significance of the number 7; the seven days of the week, the seven planets of the ancient tradition, the seven magical metals, and the seven pillars of wisdom. For the Egyptians this star represented the seven spheres of the Afterlife and the seven wise people that the soul would meet on the journey. The septagram is also an important symbol in the Kabbalah where it corresponds to the sphere of Netzach or Victory. Here, too, it acts as an aide memoire for all the things that come in groups of seven. Like the pentagram, the Elven star can be drawn without the pen leaving the paper, a tell-tale quality of a protective symbol. Specifically, the Elven star is said to defend secrets from the outside world. Aleister Crowley adopted a seven-pointed star as the seal for his Astrum Argentum (Silver Star) Order. EMERALD TABLET See Smaragdina Tablet. ENDLESS KNOT Different interpretations of the Endless Knot occur in different cultures, including Celtic, Chinese, and in Tibetan Buddhism where it is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols, or Ashtamangala. The knot can be drawn without the pen leaving the paper—this is generally a clue that the symbol is one of protection. Philosophically, the knot is constructed of “something” (the rope, representative of matter) and “nothing” (the spaces in between), symbolic of spirit. These two elements represent the co-dependence of wisdom and compassion, male and female, night and day. Since the knot has no beginning and no end, there are also comparisons to be drawn with the circle. ENNEAGRAM This nine-pointed geometric figure, with an open side, is an ancient sign that, in Kabbalistic mysticism, is described as “the essence of being.” It was revived by G. I. Gurdjieff, the mystic/teacher whose teachings have had a far-reaching effect on the last few generations of esotericists. Gurdjieff used this deceptively simple shape to demonstrate his theories about certain cosmic laws. The primary law that the Enneagram demonstrates is the natural “highs” and “lows” of any aspect of life, whether emotional, mechanical, or commercial. Those who have studied the Enneagram in depth believe that it helps them to accept these fluctuations as part of the natural order. The Enneagram of Personality sees the symbol used as a way to define the nine different personality types identified by Gurdjieff. ENSO Belonging to Zen Buddhism, the Enso is a circle, drawn quickly and simply with a brush stroke, although years of practice in the art of calligraphy are likely to have preceded the ease with which the symbol can be drawn. The Enso symbolizes eternity, the perfect meditative state, the “no thing,” and enlightenment. EVANGELISTS’ SYMBOLS The four evangelists—Disciples of Christ who witnessed and wrote about the events in the life of the Messiah, which comprise the four main books of the New Testament—are often represented not as men but as hybrid creatures. Not only that, but the four men—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are each associated with the four points of the compass, the elements, the winds, and with the four rivers purported to run through Eden. Each evangelist is also ascribed a sign of the Zodiac. Collectively, they symbolize stability and the four pillars of the faith. The angel is the symbol of Matthew. Mark is the lion, whose symbol in stone proliferates around St. Mark’s Square in Venice. The bull is the symbol of Luke, and the eagle represents John. Wherever they are represented, these creatures have wings, as a sign of their divine nature as messengers from God. These hybrid animals are also called the Tetramorphs. EVIL EYE This is a gaze or stare which is believed to cause actual harm. There are numerous talismans, amulets, and charms intended to counteract the affect of such a deadly gaze. See Eye (Part 8). FALUN GONG SYMBOL The symbol for the philosophy or spiritual practice of Falun Gong is an amalgam of two ancient Eastern signs. Two concentric circles encompass a central swastika, while four yin-yang signs and four further swastikas are evenly spaced around it. Falun Gong itself is a relatively new movement—it was founded as recently as 1992 by Li Hongzhi—although its practices are based on the ancient art of Qi Gong. Falun Gong relies on certain physical movements and meditation techniques to promote health, harmony, and the balance of mind, body, and spirit although the Chinese government denounced Falun Gong as a “cult.” “Falun” means “Wheel of Law/ Dharma” in Chinese Buddhism, and the wheel symbol itself (the “Falon”) replicates the energy wheel that adherents of the practice say is located in the center of the body, akin to a chakra. This wheel, once “installed” or awakened, turns continuously, when clockwise absorbing energy from the cosmos, or when anticlockwise, getting rid of waste matter from the physical body. Adepts say that meditation and repetition of the set exercises of the Falun Gong discipline result in them actually being able to see the Falun. The Falun Gong emblem also acts as a mandala or also as a cosmogram, a miniature schematic of the Universe. FAROHAR A version of the winged solar disc, the Farohar is a Zoroastrian symbol whose name means “to choose.” The symbol represents some of the philosophical facets of the religion. The three layers of feathers on the wings represent the three main tenets of the faith; good thoughts, good words, good deeds. The disc itself symbolizes the Sun, and the notion of eternity. The two banners are a reminder of duality (good and evil, black and white, spirit and matter, male and female) and the need for balance between opposing elements. The man seeming to sit on the top of the disc represents Zoroaster himself, and serves as a reminder for his followers to live a morally upright life. FASCES A symbol of Roman Imperial power, the Fasces was originally an axe or an arrow with a bundle of birch sticks tied around the handle with red cords. The numerous sticks represented unity and strength in numbers, but as a symbol of authority, it also implied punishment for those who failed to adhere to the rules. The birch rod itself is synonymous with the idea of punishment, its wood used for the schoolroom canes that were inflicted on children in less enlightened times. The symbol of the Fasces carried great resonance for the Italian people and was revived by Mussolini as the emblem of his political party in the 1930s. Hence, the Latin word for “bundle” became the origin of the word “Fascist,” which carries far more sinister connotations than a simple collection of sticks. FEATHER The Egyptian Goddess of truth, Ma’at, has the ostrich feather as her attribute. There is a very specific reason for this. Because the ostrich is a flightless bird, the design of its feathers is different to those of other birds where one side is larger than the other. The ostrich feather, however, is perfectly balanced and symmetrical, and so is a fitting emblem of justice. The symbolism of feathers is closely aligned to that of wings and birds. They stand for ascendance, flight, communication with the spirit realms and the element of air. Shamanistic use of feathers is for all these reasons; the feathers enable the soul to become as light as the feather and transcend the boundaries of gravity, time, and space. Shamans of all nationalities wear feathers as a part of their ritual apparel. The eagle feather is the most valuable of all feathers. In some parts of the world, this feather, synonymous with all the power of the bird, is considered so sacred that only card-carrying Native American tribal members may own them. Eagle feathers that are found in the wrong hands are the cause of heavy fines. The swan’s feather appears in the cloaks of druids; because the swan is the bird of poetry, its feathers magically confer these powers on the bard. Used at the end of the arrow as a “flight,” feathers have a practical as well as symbolic use. Additionally, feathers are a symbol of sacrifice. This is because, when chickens and other birds were ritually slaughtered, all they left behind was a few feathers, fluttering to the ground. The other major symbolic meaning of the feather associates it with vegetation and with hair, primarily because of a similarity in appearance. FETISH Although, latterly, the fetish has erotic connotations, the origins of the word are from the French fétiche and the Portuguese feitiço, meaning charm. In sorcery, a fetish is something that is believed to have a spirit of its own, used for magical purposes. It is likely that the first fetish objects were stones of some kind, not necessarily small ones. The Black Stone at Mecca and the Stone of Destiny are good examples of fetish objects whose power, as such, has accumulated over the centuries that people have revered them. “Lucky” or “unlucky” numbers are fetishes, as are “lucky” or “unlucky” days of the week. Bodily fluids or parts such as fingernails and teeth are fetish objects, considered to contain the energy of the creature of origin. Smaller fetish objects were carried in pouches or bags, a practice that continues today in many forms. These fetish or medicine bags should never touch the ground. The reason for this is that contact with the Earth is sacrilegious in some way for these empowered objects. It is for exactly the same reason that flags, symbols of national identity, also never touch the ground. FIRE WHEEL See Tomoe. FIVE PILLARS OF WISDOM Islam is conceptualized as a building, which is raised on five “pillars.” These are: the tenets of the faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage (or Hajj) to Mecca (which each adherent of the faith must carry out at least once in his or her lifetime.) FLEUR DE LYS Seen regularly as a heraldic symbol, the stylized flower-inspired Fleur de Lys is much older than many people may realize, appearing in Mesopotamian art, on Ancient Egyptian reliefs, and even on Dogon objects. The literal translation is the “flower of the lily” and it is a symbol of purity, being associated with the dove and the Virgin Mary. At Rennes-le-Château, the Fleur de Lys is a prominent symbol, too, in the Church of Mary Magdalene. FLOWER OF LIFE The ubiquity of this beautifully satisfying geometric symbol is astonishing. It appears at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, in a Buddhist temple at Ajanta, India, in the Louvre and at Ephesus. It has been embroidered onto the robes of Sultans. It can be seen in Cordoba, in Marrakech, in Beijing, the Lebanon, in Egypt, and Japan. It is chiseled into wood in Holland and carved into stone in Scotland and Austria. The oldest example of the Flower of Life is believed to be 2500 years old. The Flower of Life design is deceptively simple. It consists of a series of evenly spaced interlinking circles. As more circles are added, the pattern emerges. The design has been favored by religions, architects, and scientists alike. Flower of Life showing Kabbalistic tree of life Despite the seeming simplicity of the design, hidden within it are subtle complexities that have such a profound meaning for some that they believe the Flower of Life depicts the fundamental forms of time and space. The most obvious symbols inherent within the Flower of Life are the circle, the hexagon or six-pointed star, and the vesica piscis. Furthermore, three intersecting circles alone form a Borromean Ring which is also known as the Tripod of Life symbol. Some important symbolic sequences can be derived from manycircled versions of the design, for example Metatron’s Cube can be derived from the Flower of Life, and the five Platonic solids can then be “extracted” from Metatron’s Cube. As if these fundamental principles of sacred geometry were not enough, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life can be discerned within the Flower of Life, as can the Seed of Life. For many, the Flower of Life is an object of mystery which may well unlock the secrets of the Universe, since they believe that it contains a record of information about all living things. The Flower of Life is used as a focus both for study and meditation. FORKED CROSS See Y of Pythagoras. FRUIT OF LIFE The Flower of Life pattern, if constructed of at least five circles down and across, holds another symbol within it. This is the Fruit of Life, formed from a six-rayed star of five circles in all directions. There are 13 circles in total. This star shape then gives the foundation for the construction of Metatron’s Cube, from which, in turn, the five Platonic solids can be made. FU In China, the Fu is an ancient symbol of good luck, and is still popularly used in talismans and charms. The word “Fu” sounds like the word for bat; so, by association, bats are auspicious, too, especially if they are five in number. The actual ideogram of Fu shows a God blessing a farm, which is an analogy for the Earth; the farm is split into four parts, the four parts resembling the four directions and the four elements. FURKA See Y of Pythagoras. GAMMADION The gammadion is a form of swastika, but with shorter arms, and is so called because it is constructed from four Greek “gamma” letters. This sign was widespread, appearing across Europe and through to India. Like the swastika, it is a solar symbol, and the four arms of the symbol represent all the universal objects and concepts that come in groups of four: the directions, the seasons, the elements, the solstices, and the equinoxes. GAR See Gungnir. FOOD MAGIC Every week of the year, on most continents around this planet, millions of people participate in a profoundly magical ritual whereby two very basic everyday foodstuffs, which are available in supermarkets or on stalls pretty much anywhere you care to mention around the world, have a spell cast over them by means of a sacred incantation. The person officiating over this ceremony makes symbolic gestures with his or her hands and arms. This spellbinding usually takes place in a language very few fully comprehend, a language full of secrets, and as a result these mundane objects are transformed into something as mystical, sacred, and awe-inspiring as anything you could ever imagine. In addition, this ritual generally takes place in a building whose architecture and design has been informed by knowledge of the directions, shapes, and patterns that link the Heavens with the Earth in an arrangement of the sacred symbols which some say were dictated to man by the very angels themselves. When the Holy Communion of the Roman Catholic Church takes place, the simple ingredients of bread and wine are transformed, many believe, into the actual body and blood of the Christ. This is not just a symbolic representation, some say, but a very real and profound belief that underpins the foundations of the religion. By eating this holy, sacred food, imbued with magical intent, the recipient voluntarily absorbs the spirit of the Messiah. The ritual and perceived reality of this act are inseparable, but bread and wine are not the only sacred foods we absorb as part of our everyday lives. We need food to live, so it comes as no surprise that we have accorded many ingredients with magical powers. Indeed, some of the things we eat every day carry both constituent elements and meanings which go far beyond mere nutrition. Many other foods—nuts, apples, and other fruits and vegetables—are covered in other sections of this book, and this is by no means an exhaustive inventory, but a look at some of the foods, real and mythical, which have become symbols in themselves. AMBROSIA For the Greeks, ambrosia was the food of the Gods. Given that it conferred immortality, the deities on Mount Olympus guarded it jealously. As well as ensuring eternal life, ambrosia could be used as an ointment that could heal any wound. However, for a mortal, eating ambrosia was a big mistake. Take the story of Tantalus, for example. He was invited to eat with the Gods, and so, presuming that he was accepted as one of them, he ate ambrosia. In the tradition of all good dinner party guests, he decided to return the favor and invited the Gods round to his place. Deciding somewhat sycophantically that they should feast upon all the good things that they had given him, he served up the flesh of his own children, and was banished to Hades. CHOCOLATE Long before the Western discovery of the Americas, the natives of Brazil, Mexico, the West Indies, and South America used the seeds of the chocolatl tree to make a stimulating drink. These bean-like seeds were cacahuatl, or cocoa. Primarily symbolic of love, chocolate is a sensual food with aphrodisiac properties that are due, in part, to association. However, its melting point is the same temperature as blood, a very satisfying sensation. The botanical name of the plant gives a clue as to its sacred status. Theobroma cacao means “food of the Gods,” from the Greek “Theo,” meaning God and “Broma,” meaning food. The beans were so highly valued that the Mayans used them as currency. Possibly the world’s first chocoholic, their ruler Montezuma was completely addicted to the beans. He drank them infused in cold water with no seasoning. He served this sacred drink in goblets of beaten gold, and at the coronation of Montezuma II in 1502 a concoction of chocolate and psilocybin mushrooms was served to the guests. This must have been a heady mixture. Cortés cultivated the plant primarily because of its reputation as an aphrodisiac; this secret was divulged by one of the nineteen young women given to him by Montezuma as a tribute. Perhaps the 2000 chocolatl trees that he consequently planted were testimony to the efficacy of the beans in keeping the ladies satisfied. By 1550, chocolate factories were operating in Lisbon, Genoa, Marseilles, and other European cities. The recipes became more and more refined. Catherine de Medici slowed down the progress of chocolate for a while because it was so good that she wanted it all to herself. However, although the Church tried to ban many of the foodstuffs that had been discovered in the New World, especially those that were considered as stimulants, their advice was largely ignored and it is possible that this disapproval increased the popularity of this illicit substance. Neither Catherine nor all the forces of the Church could stop the world becoming chocolate coated. Today, the form of chocolate has changed so much that Montezuma would probably find it unrecognizable, both in taste and form. However, it is still unrivalled as a token and symbol of love. HONEY Legislation decrees that all packaged food carry a “best before” date, but this seems to be particularly unnecessary in the case of honey, since jars of the stuff found in the tombs of Egyptian kings of several thousand years ago has proved to be perfectly edible even now. It could well be because honey is so long lasting, and because it is used as a preservative, that it is a symbol of immortality and is used in funerary rites. The bees that make the honey have their place in the realms of magical creatures accorded with supernatural powers, but more of that in the Fauna section. The Promised Land is said to “flow with milk and honey” as being the very best that the Gods can offer. The sweetness of honey is believed to confer gifts of learning and poetry. We’ll never know if the story that Pythagoras existed on honey alone is true, but the fact that the rumor exists is in accord with his God-like status. As well as being edible and fermentable, honey has healing and antiseptic qualities, and a dollop of honey smeared onto a wound will soon draw out any impurities and speed the healing process. Honey is said to be an aphrodisiac and to encourage fertility and virility, wealth and abundance, and is a symbol of the Sun, partly because of the flowers from which it is made but also because of its color. MANNA When the Children of Israel were struggling to survive in the wilderness, manna appeared, miraculously, overnight, and so they could eat. Precisely what manna was—or is—is debatable. Some believe it might be a kind of fungus, others believe that it might be sap or resin exuded from the tamarisk tree. The symbolic meaning of manna is of something provided freely by the Universe or by God and is the ultimate reminder that we have everything we need. Manna is also associated with the Bread of Life or the Eucharist. MEAD Like honey, mead also carries the gift of immortality. The Celts believed it was the favored drink of the Gods in the Otherworld. Mead is a sacred drink in Africa, too, where it is believed that drinking the stuff will make you more knowledgeable. Worth a try! Mead is very simple to make—it’s simply honey mixed with water and allowed to ferment—and this process of fermentation is akin to a magical process in itself, which is akin to transmutation in alchemy. MILK Given that milk is the first food, it’s not surprising that it is associated with many stories of the Creation, and is a symbol of divinity. Amrita, or soma, the absolute nectar of life for Hindus and the equivalent of ambrosia, was created as a cosmic sea of milk was churned. The curds that were created by this epic stirring formed the Earth, the Universe, and the stars. Along with honey, there is an abundance of milk in the Promised Land, and Indian myths tell of a magical milk tree in Heaven. Because of its color and its association with the feminine, milk is a symbol of the Moon. The main food source for milk for us human beings (once we’re weaned) is the cow. The cow is sacred in India because during times of famine it made far more sense to keep the animal alive for its milk rather than slaughter and eat it purely for its meat, so all parts of the cow are accorded sacred status and are ruled over by one or other of the Gods or Goddesses. In the hidden symbolic language of alchemy, the Philosopher’s Stone is sometimes called the Virgin’s Milk. NECTAR Nectar is often referred to as ambrosia, but has secrets of its own to tell. Flowers create it, and its scent attracts the bees, which then transform the nectar into honey. Seemingly insignificant, nectar is nevertheless a very magical ingredient, created from flowers, sunshine, and bees working together in a collective consciousness known as the “hive mind” in an environment which itself is constructed from one of the key shapes in sacred geometry, the hexagon. SOMA Like the Greek Olympians, the Indian deities had a type of food, like ambrosia, that ensured their immortality. This was soma, or amrita. Whereas dire consequences befell any mortal that dared to partake of ambrosia, the Indian Gods were more generous with their soma, and any mortal that ate it was immediately given immortality and access to Heaven. The ancient Indian Vedic scriptures, the Ramayana, tell the story of Rama, an epic hero, the perfect man. Rama was born after his father was visited by an angel. This angel brought with him some magical food. Eating this soma meant that Rama’s father was able to sire offspring that were the human incarnations of the God, Vishnu. WINE The symbolic meanings of wine are generally attached to the red variety; it seems that a nice dry white or a sweet rosé carries no hidden mystery. Here are some things to think about next time you open a nice bottle of claret. The red color means that wine is often linked to blood, particularly since the wine is the “blood” of the grape. Because it looks like blood, wine is often used in rituals where blood would otherwise be called for, and because ceremonial wine is often drunk from a shared chalice, it is seen, like bread, as a unifying principle. Wine is male, and bread is female. As a partner to bread in the ritual of the Eucharist, the consecrated wine is transformed into the blood of the Christ, a reminder of both sacrifice and immortal life, and it’s this transformative power that accords wine with much of its mystique. When the water is turned into wine in the story of the Marriage at Cana, what is really being shown here is the transformation of the mundane into the magical, the Earthly into the Heavenly. It is this magical process of fermentation at work that explains why wine is associated with Bacchus/Dionysus, and the intoxicating power of wine is symbolic of divine possession. The phrase, “In vino veritas” links wine to the truth and is a reminder that those intoxicated by perhaps a little too much of that nice claret will be more likely to speak the truth than most, which can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. GLOBUS CRUCIGER This is the globe surmounted by a cross, which is one of the Christian symbols of authority, and its symbolism is obvious. The orb represents the Earth, and the Cross, that major symbol of the faith, is Christ’s supremacy over it. The Globus Cruciger is often depicted as an actual object but was also used purely as a symbol on Roman coins from the time when Christianity became the prominent religion, round about the fifth century AD. Prior to this, the lone orb had been used in the same way, to imply authority. The addition of the cross brought the well-known emblem into the Christian domain. In Britain, the Globus Cruciger appears as a physical object that is used during the coronation of the monarch. It is called the Orb and is part of the Royal Jewels. GOAT OF MENDES Also called the Sigil of Baphomet or the Sabbatic Goat, this sinister-looking symbol features an inverted pentagram containing the head of a goat, the upward V of the star framing the horns. This symbol has become an icon of modern occultism, believed to be the very representation of the Devil himself, which was exacerbated when Anton La Vey adopted it in the 1960s for his Church of Satan. Sometimes the symbol is encircled with a double ring, containing the Hebrew letters spelling “Leviathan,” the mythical sea monster that features in the Old Testament. GOPURA The ornately elaborate gateway into the Hindu temples, the Gopura carry the same significance as the Japanese Torii, marking a transition between the world of matter and the world of spirit. GRAY WOLF Otherwise known as Lupus Mettalorum, in alchemy antimony is disguised as the gray wolf. This gray wolf is the penultimate stage in the making of the Philosopher’s Stone, so in terms of the spiritual and psychological development of man it symbolizes the condition that brings him very close to the enlightenment he seeks; however, both physically and metaphorically speaking, the final stage of making lead into gold is yet to come, so the gray wolf can symbolize either success or failure. GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA See United States dollar bill. GREEN MAN The symbol of the Green Man could be said to lurk in the subconscious minds of anyone with an affinity for leafy, wooded, and bosky places, although the term was not coined in the UK until the 1930s. Such a character—latterly interpreted as being the raw spirit of Nature—exists not only in the British Isles but in India, Asia, and Arabic countries too. With a head seemingly constructed of leaves and vines, the Green Man is sometimes depicted as human, and sometimes as an animal. Despite his popularity as a garden ornament and its proliferation in garden centers, one of the oldest Green Man symbols discovered thus far is a piece of stonework on an Irish obelisk that dates back to 300 BC. Irish myth features a character called a Derg Corra, meaning “man in the tree,” and it may well be the case that he and the Green Man are one and the same. See Part 5, “Sacred Geometry and Places of Pilgrimage,” for an example of the Green Man made into a living maze. SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF FREEMASONRY Although many of the entries in this encyclopedia have an association with Freemasonry, many secret signs and sacred symbols belong specifically to this discipline, hence the need for a separate entry dedicated to the Craft. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes Freemasonry as a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols. Many of the signs and symbols associated with this ancient brotherhood are necessarily to do with building and architecture, and the instruments of these disciplines are used to carry analogies. One of the central tenets of Freemasonry, however, is that there should be as little dogma as possible, and so the meanings of many of the associated symbols are deliberately oblique and can remain open to personal interpretation. 1. ACACIA Represents the idea of initiation, and is also used in Masonic funerals as a symbol of rebirth. The martyred master mason who designed the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem, Hiram Abiff, had his burial place marked with an acacia branch. See Acacia in Part 4. 2. BLAZING STAR Freemasons give this name to the Pentagram. Freemasons, like Pythagoras, regard the number 5 as sacred. 3. COLUMN Many of the symbols within Freemasonry take their inspiration from the Temple of Solomon, the first temple in Jerusalem. The structure of the Masonic Hall generally has two columns at either side of its main door that relate to the original columns set by the architect, Hiram, in the porch of the temple. These original columns were made of brass or bronze. The pillars are known by their Hebrew names and are also referred to in the Kabbalah; on the right is Jachin (meaning stability) and the left is Boaz (meaning strength). The columns also have a male/female polarity, Jachin often painted red to symbolize the Sun and fiery qualities of the active male principle, and the female Boaz painted white for the Moon and the passive feminine virtues. In rites, the columns are used to denote the grade of mason. Apprentices stand before the red column, Masons stand in front of the white column, and the Master Masons in the central space between the two. 4. COMPASSES One of the foremost symbols within Freemasonry, the compasses combine with the Masons’ Square. The letter G might be incorporated into the design, especially in older representations, and other elements might be added; a Sun and Moon, for example. Although Freemasons prefer to leave many of their associated symbols open to interpretation, we can make some assumptions about this particular emblem simply by looking at its form and by bearing in mind how the tools are used. Both the compass and the square are mathematical tools, used for precise measurements in disciplines that can leave no room for error: building, construction, and architecture. There is a natural symbiosis between these tools, since the circle is used to form the square, and the square can be used to give form to the circle; this is called squaring the circle and is a fundamental rule applied to geometry, sacred or otherwise. Any instruments used for measuring must, ergo, be symbols of judgement and definition. Further, in this Masonic pairing, the feminine circle (which it is the sacred task of the compasses to create) forms a perfect union with the masculine square; therefore the spiritual combines with the material, Earth with Heaven. Another aspect of the compasses and the square delves even further into the symbolism of the circle and the square, with the former representing space and the latter, time. The mason, as “architect,” rules over all these aspects and dimensions. Because they are used to draw a perfect circle, the compasses themselves have significance as a tool used by God as the “architect” of the Universe. This idea is represented perfectly in the William Blake painting The Ancient of Days Measuring Time in which God stretches toward Earth, compasses in hand, with the golden disc of the Sun behind him. Compasses work by turning on a central axle or pivot. This means that they are also a symbol of the Axis Mundi, of the circular nature of time, and of the ouroboros, the serpent which continually swallows its own tail. 4a. THE SQUARE There’s a common phrase, “on the square” or “on the level.” This means to be open, honest, proper, and above board, and springs directly from Masonic practice and ritual. All the symbolism of the square and of the number 4 is applicable to this tool; it stands for solidity, respect, security. 4b. THE ANGLE OF THE COMPASS Accounts differ as to whether the angle of the compass carries any special significance. The Masonic Compass is certainly drawn in different degrees. Some say that this represents the different degrees within Masonry, but again this is a matter for the inner sanctum of Masons. 4c. THE TRIANGLE Both the square and the compasses form a triangle, a symbol both of stability and of the spirit world. 4d. THE SIX-POINTED STAR Hidden within the square and compasses symbol is another magical sign, the Seal of Solomon, the hexagram or six-pointed star. This can be made if a line is drawn across the open point of the square and compasses. The seal is formed of two interlocking triangles and is one of the most ancient and universal magical symbols, also used in alchemy. Among other meanings, this star can be interpreted to mean “as above, so below.” 4e. THE LETTER G This does not always feature in the symbol of the compass and the square, and when it does there is ambivalence as to its meaning. Some say that it stands for God, others argue Geometry. Other interpretations including the notion that the G stands for Generation or possibly Government or even the Great Bear, the star that signifies the celestial pole or center, not only a physical center but a philosophical one. However, Masons agree that there is no definitive answer. 5. HIRAM ABIFF The legend of Hiram Abiff is the central core and inspiration for Freemasons. Hiram was a Master Mason who specialized in metalwork, and was one of the prime designers of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Here is the legend. After the temple was completed, three of the other workers decided that they wanted to extract the secrets from Hiram that would qualify them to be Master Masons. They positioned themselves at the doors of the temple and individually demanded to know these secrets. Hiram refused each one in turn, telling them that the knowledge they desired could be gained only by experience. The three turned on Hiram and killed him; one struck a blow to his throat with a rule, the next hit him on the chest with an iron measuring square, and the third finished the job by hitting him on the forehead with a hammer. Full of remorse for the crime that they quickly realized was a fruitless murder, the “three ruffians,” as they came to be called, buried Hiram and placed an acacia tree over his grave. However, although Hiram was effectively dead, his memory lives on and so effectively he is reborn. The initiation of the grade of Master Mason re-enacts the ritual of the death of Hiram. In as much as there are any hard and fast rules which apply to the symbolism inherent within Freemasonry, the three blows symbolize three different kinds of death: the death of the body (the blow to the throat), the death of the feelings (the strike on the chest), and the death of the mind (the blow to the forehead). Thus, the would-be Master Mason leaves his old self behind, the initiatory process symbolizing his rebirth into the higher moral values that were held by Hiram, of integrity, knowledge, and detachment. In other words, the mason is reborn as a better individual, having risen above the ignorance, hypocrisy, and envy personalized by his murderers. 6. HAMMER AND CHISEL The hammer, in use at Masonic meetings, is not used simply to gain the attention of the gathering. Effectively, it represents the powers of the intellect that drive the thoughts and the will of the individual. At Lodge meetings, the hammer is the symbol of the authority of the Worshipful Master who presides over the meeting. The chisel is only useful if it is directed by the will of the hammer, and so represents the intellect and finer discernment. 7. LEVEL AND PLUMBLINE Again, the level and the plumbline attached to it are inseparable items of practical building equipment that serve a deeper symbolic meaning within Freemasonry. The level comprises a set square, from the center of which hangs the plumbline. The plumbline is used to define both the vertical and horizontal lines, so it takes on the symbolism of the cross, too. The vertical level symbolizes the apprentice, and the horizontal, the degree of Fellowcraft. It is also worth bearing in mind the philosophical meanings of the word “level,” meaning steady and honest, as well as its practical application as a tool. These two meanings are inextricably linked from the actual symbol of the tool itself. 8. RULE Correct measurements, defined by the rule, are essential to the physical construction of a building, and ensure that the design concept will work in the real world. Also of significance are the degrees of measurement that are depicted on the actual ruler itself; in the imperial measurements, these degrees of 12 and 24 correspond to the daily cycle of the Sun. In this sense, the rule represents the macrocosm. The rule also keeps everything in order, and acts as a guide. 9. TRIANGLE To Freemasons, the triangle symbolizes the Greek capital D, which they call the “shining Delta.” The triangle also indicates the meanings of things in triplicate, such as “right thinking, right speaking, and right doing.” On a microcosmic scale, the base of the triangle represents duration, and the two sides symbolize the qualities of light and darkness, male and female, etc. Possibly the most famous symbolic use of the Masonic triangle—which traditionally has an angle of 36 degrees at the apex and two angles of 72 degrees at the base—is the one that includes a blazing star and also a pentagram as seen on the Seal of the United States and on the United States dollar. 10. TRACING BOARD OR TRESTLE BOARD As with many of the symbols inherent within Freemasonry, the tracing board itself is a symbolic representation of an important piece of practical equipment used in masonry. The tracing, or trestle, board has its origins in the flat piece of wood or cloth that was used as a drawing board by the Master Mason, on which he sketched the dia-grams, schemes, and measurements needed for the building work in question. Initially represented as a piece of cloth which was rolled out on the floor at the beginning of a Masonic meeting, the tracing board is now a piece of wood that contains the signs and symbols relevant to the Brothers within their degrees of Masonic hierarchy. The boards are elaborate works of art, with the symbols woven into the whole in a pictorial, allegorical way. The symbols that are already mentioned in this section all take their place. The seemingly simple builders’ tools serve to remind the initiate of their more esoteric spiritual meanings that amount to the betterment of the person and personal enlightenment. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different sorts of tracing boards, all usually the work of individual artists. Different tracing boards show the different degrees of the Craft. As well as showing pictures of the tools involved with practical masonry, tracing boards might tell the story of Hiram Abiff’s murder or perhaps show pictures of the ritual re-enactment of this crime as part of initiation ceremonies. Tracing boards also represent features of the actual temple: the pillars, the checkerboard floor, the porch with its two columns. 11. MASONIC APRON The humble apron of the working Mason is elevated to almost religious status by the Freemasons. Generally made of leather, the way the apron is worn symbolizes the status of its wearer, with the bib worn up for the apprentice, or down by superior grades. Wearing the apron is representative of work and the necessity to be busy and industrious, and also of the fig leaves worn by Adam and Eve; as such the apron preserves the modesty of the wearer. Like the tracing board, the Masonic apron has the signs and symbols of the Craft embroidered on it. One of the most famous of the many Masonic aprons is that which belonged to George Washington. Given to him in 1784 by the Marquis de Lafeyette whose wife embroidered the apron, it displays many Masonic symbols. Nothing is left to chance; the border colors of red, white, and blue are not only the national colors of France but also of the USA. Other symbols on this historic apron include: the All Seeing Eye— watchfulness, the Supreme Being; rays—show the power of the Supreme Being to reach inside the hearts of men; rainbow—symbolic of the arch of Solomon’s Temple that is supported by the two pillars, Jachim and Boaz; Moon—the female principle; globes on top of pillars—peace and plenty; the three tapers—symbolize the three stages of the Sun; rising in the East, in the Southern sky at noon, and setting in the West; trowel—symbolic of spreading love and affection, the “cement” that binds the Brothers of Freemasonry; five-pointed star—represents friendship; checkered pavement—often a feature of temples and again is based on the floor of Solomon’s original temple and represents the duality of opposites, male and female, and so on; steps—represent the degrees of masonry; coffin—represents death and therefore rebirth and is a recurrent motif in Freemasonry; skull and crossbones—symbols of mortality but also of rebirth; acacia; compasses; the square and level; the ark—safety and refuge; tassel and knot—the ties that bind the Brothers; the Sun—the Light of God, the male principle; sword and heart—symbolic of justice being done; nothing can be hidden from the eyes of the Great Architect; seven six-pointed stars—here, seven stands for the seven liberal arts and sciences; beehive—a symbol of industry and a reminder that man should be rational and industrious at the same time. 12. 47th PROBLEM OF EUCLID, ALSO KNOWN AS THE BRIDE’S CHAIR This mathematical theorem has been called one of the foundations of Freemasonry. It is called the 47th Problem for no more esoteric reason than Euclid published a book of theorems, of which this was number 47. Its significance within Freemasonry is somewhat nebulous. However, the beginnings of the Fellowship in architecture and construction, and the usefulness of the 47th Problem as a measuring device, might give us the answer. The design features in Masonic regalia including lodge decorations and Masonic “jewels.” The 47th Problem is also called the Egyptian string trick, and a practical demonstration in making of the shape illustrates its efficacy perfectly. Take a piece of string and tie 12 knots at exact intervals along the string. Then join the ends of the string, again making sure that the knots are evenly spaced. Hammer a stick into the ground. Put one of the knots over the stick. Stretch three divisions of knots and sink another stick into the ground at the point of the third knot. Then take a third stick and skewer it into the ground at the point where a fourth knot falls. This gives a triangle in the proportions of three, four and five, and further, the lines of the string can be extrapolated to make three squares of 9 parts, 16 parts, and 25 parts. This simple device enabled the Egyptians to remeasure their fields after the Nile flooded every few years, washing away the boundary markers. The Egyptian string trick results in a perfect right angle, an essential device in the construction of a building, and as essential today as it was thousands of years ago, although methods of constructing the angle may have changed. Pythagoras traveled to Egypt and may have discovered it there, or he may have discovered it alone. Whatever the case, it is this geometrical solution that caused him to shout “Eureka.” In addition, it is said that 100 bulls were sacrificed in honor of the importance of this seemingly simple discovery, indubitably one of the secrets that was part of the hidden knowledge of the Master Mason; it may well have been one of the pieces of information for which Hiram Abiff was murdered. 13. ASHLAR In material terms, ashlar is the rough stone that comes straight from the quarry. In philosophical terms, to the Freemason, ashlar symbolizes the rough and imperfect state of man before he is rendered smooth and perfect in his ideally realized state. It relates to the alchemical idea of base matter that can be perfected through intellectual and spiritual realization. 14. POINT WITHIN THE CIRCLE A seemingly simple symbol, the circle with a dot at its very center is a sign of birth and resurrection dating back to Egyptian times when it was used as an emblem of the Sun God, Ra. The symbol is associated particularly with the days of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, which fall on the summer and winter solstices respectively. 15. THE TEMPLE FLOOR Although it is stated time and time again that the symbols inherent within Freemasonry are nondog-matic and are as such open to interpretation, it is safe to say that the features of the actual temple form an important part of the secret signs of the Craft. The floor of the temple is no exception. It is constructed of checkered tiles of black and white. These colors represent the duality of opposites; night and day, dark and light, male and female, fire and water, Earth and air, and all the other manifestations of this concept. In Ancient Egypt, the colors were used as a reminder of the need to unify spirit and matter. 16. GAOTU Abbreviated words, initials, and acronyms form a large part of Masonic ritual, since the pronunciation of certain words is believed to dilute their power and abbreviations are used instead. The abbreviation of GAOTU stands for Great Architect of the Universe, which in turn refers to God. Here there is a parallel to the nature of God as the builder or designer of the macrocosm, and the role of the Freemason as the designer of the microcosm. GUNGNIR This is the magical weapon known as Odin’s Spear or Javelin. Like Mjolnir, the magical hammer belonging to Odin, Gungnir—whose name means “The Unwavering One”—has two very practical qualities that render it an essential tool in the arsenal of the powerful thunder god; it always hit its mark, and it always returns, like a boomerang, back to the thrower. As well as being a sacred object, there is a runic symbol, Gar, that also represents the Gungnir. HALO The halo, aureole, or aura all refer to an emanation of light, generally depicted appearing around the head. The halo is a symbol of spiritual sanctity or of divine grace, used in Christian iconography, for example, in pictures of saints. Although the halo is the sign that a person is blessed by the Divine, some people claim that they can actually see this phenomenon, and that the many colors of the aura that surrounds the entire body can be used as a diagnostic tool. HAND OF FATIMA Also known as the Khamsa, the Hand of Fatima is named for Fatima Zahra, the daughter of Mohammed. It is a very ancient symbol, often used as a talisman, and in the Middle East it is ubiquitous, appearing in houses, shops, in taxis, and hotels. The hand is not really shaped like a normal human hand, but has two balanced thumbs and no little finger. The eye in its palm wards off the evil eye, so the Hand of Fatima is a double symbol of protection since the palm, held up, is a forbidding gesture. Khamsa actually means “five” and has relevance for both Muslims and Jews. Peace activists have adopted the Hand of Fatima in recent years; a reminder that the two faiths have many commonly shared beliefs. HAND OF GLORY If magical charms have more efficacy the harder they are to construct or come by, then the Hand of Glory must be powerful indeed. Noticeably absent from New Age emporia, the Hand of Glory was popular with thieves during the sixteenth century. It was a light, or candle, made from the severed hand of a hanged convict. After this grisly relic was mummified by being embalmed in oils and special herbs, it was turned into a candle using tallow also made from a hanged corpse. The Hand of Glory was the favored tool of thieves because, once alight, it was said to render household members unconscious. Therefore the thief could go about his nefarious activities undisturbed. HEX SYMBOLS In the south-eastern part of Pennsylvania lives a population of European settlers, primarily from the Rhine area. These people come from different religious communities including Lutheran, Moravian, Quakers, Mennonites, and others. Some of these groups, despite their deeply held religious beliefs, are united by one thing; a thriving belief in witchcraft, also known as Hexerie, from the German, Hexe, meaning “witch.” Despite their godliness, these are a very superstitious people. One of the popularly held beliefs is that a cross, drawn on the door-latch, will prevent the Devil from entering the house. HERALDRY The symbols and signs of heraldry act as a sort of historical shorthand, encoding the attributes of the families to whom the heraldic crests belong. The various coats of arms, still in use today, originated in the need to be able to identify opposing armies and single combatants. This necessity dates back to the time of hand-to-hand combat, almost 1000 years ago, although soldiers of much earlier times painted images on their shields that held significance for them, personally, as well as being a sign of identity. Although the blazes, escutcheons, badges, mottos, and crests may at first appear to be a dense forest of impenetrable symbols, their secrets can be interpreted easily. This entry does not pretend to be an exhaustive analysis of the elaborate heraldic codes, but gives a general overview of some of the most commonly used emblems. THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA The Great Seal that is featured on the United States dollar bill contains many heraldic attributes. Here are some features to look out for. 1. Shape—the shield versus the lozenge Since women didn’t go to war, women’s heraldic designs are depicted on a lozenge-shaped framework (which looks like a diamond tipped onto one point), as opposed to the shield of the male. The lozenge itself, suggestive of the vesica piscis, is a feminine symbol. Although the shield shapes vary, the difference between the two shapes is easily recognizable. Similarly, members of the noncombative clergy use the lozenge or oval shape. 2. Color The colors used within heraldry are called tinctures. There are also fields of patterns known as furs, the most common of which is called “ermine,” and resembles the fur of the ermine stoat; the other is called “vair” and comes from a variegated gray-blue colored squirrel. The names of the colors are different, too, retaining their archaic (primarily French) origins. Gold = Or Silver = Argent Red = Gules Blue = Azure Purple = Purpure Green = Vert Black = Sable In order that they may remain as clear and visible as possible, a color is rarely laid on top of another color, and the same rule applies to the metallics. 3. Divisions The shield, or lozenge, can be divided in a number of ways. Split in half horizontally it is called “party per fess.” Vertically, it becomes “party per pale.” When it is divided diagonally from left to right, it is “party per bend.” The opposite direction gives “party per sinister.” The “field” of the lozenge or shield can also be split with a saltire cross, or a “normal” one. It can be divided by a chevron, or into three with a Y-shape. There are other variations; lines can also be wavy or curved. 4. Charges A charge is, effectively, a picture. It can be any object, a symbol, an animal, a plant. Exotic creatures have a large part to play in heraldry; unicorns and dragons join their more realistic counterparts, boars, lions, eagles. The symbolism of these creatures is explored elsewhere in this book, but there may also be a specific link belonging to a family coat of arms, which will have passed into the annals of the family history. The Fleur de Lys has its place as the symbol of the French ruling classes, for example. 5. Crest This is the element that rests on top of the emblem, effectively crowning it. It tends to appear above the shield, and is the symbolic counterpart of the plume of feathers that knights once wore on their helmets as a sign of distinction and recognition. Because women did not have any occasion to wear a helmet, the lozenge generally has no crest. 6. Mottoes This is a phrase that describes the bearer of the heraldic emblem. It acts as a sort of historic mission statement; the name of the family might be used in the motto as a pun or play on words. The motto can be in any language although Latin and French are possibly the most popular. 7. Supporters The shield or lozenge is sometimes supported, generally by animals that stand upright and appear to hold the shield. Again, these creatures bear a relevance to the owner of the heraldic device. OTHER HERALDIC SYMBOLS Symbols used within heraldic devices generally are concise shorthand for the qualities of its owner, and the individual meaning can be found in other parts of this book. The lion, for example, signifies valor, the fox, a wily intelligence. Heraldic devices have meanings of their own; the “mullet,” for example, is not a fish, but a star that denotes the third son. Other curiosities include the Bezant, or gold coin, meaning that the owner can be entrusted with treasure; the escutcheon, a small shield that shows a claim to, or descent from, royalty; a talbot is a hunting hound. A martlet is a symbol of a small bird with no feet, the mark of the fourth son who will have to rely on his own resources since he will not be able to rely on an inheritance. The stirrup signifies action. There is a whole series of magical protective symbols that the community paint or carve onto the sides of their barns or houses. Called Hex Signs or Barn Signs, these magic symbols are used for a variety of reasons, including averting evil, bringing fertility and prosperity, promoting health, and control of the weather. Many of these signs, which are individually designed, become closely interlinked with a specific family, akin to a coat of arms, and are even tooled into the leather covers of the family Bibles. These hex symbols are beautifully decorative and use universally familiar symbols in their design, including hearts for love, stars for good luck, oak leaves and acorns for strength and growth. They also use the image of a bird called a distelfink, a type of finch that lines its nest with thistledown. This bird is particularly associated with good fortune. The “double distelfink” brings double the luck. HEXAGRAM See Seal of Solomon and I Ching. HOLY GRAIL To say that something is like searching for the Holy Grail implies that the search is for a highly treasured and elusive object that might never be found. If there is a genuine Holy Grail, like the Philosopher’s Stone, it has retained its hard-to-get status. The Holy Grail legend has direct links with two mystical pre-Christian items; the magical cauldron of the Celtic Gods that never emptied and kept everyone satisfied, and the magical chalice that represents spiritual authority and kingship. However, received information about an actual physical Holy Grail says that it is either the cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper or the vessel that caught his blood during his crucifixion. The sacred vessel subsequently went missing. There is a rumor that a fragment of the true Holy Grail, known as the Nanteos Cup, is secreted somewhere in the United Kingdom, specifically in Wales. The cup, made of olivewood, is reputed to have been brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimethea, where it was looked after by the monks who lived at the abbey. The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth century, in which monasteries were abolished and their valuable property seized by the Crown, meant that the sacred relic had to be removed. It allegedly ended up at Nanteos Mansion near Aberyst-wyth. Although it is now just a small fragment of wood, water drunk from it is claimed to have healing powers. Sadly, this marvelous story currently has no forensic evidence to support it and so the Holy Grail remains true to its symbolic meaning, tantalizingly beyond our grasp, for the time being at least. The Grail Legends of the Arthurian Tales also symbolize the quest for something beyond reach. The knights, galvanized into action to find this object of desire, soon realize that they are seeking something much more than a cup; given that the shape of the grail is a feminine symbol and a powerful emblem of the spirit, according to Jung it symbolizes “the inner wholeness for which men have always been searching.” As such, the Holy Grail has marked parallels with the Philosopher’s Stone of the alchemists, and an equally elusive nature. HORIZONTAL LINE See First signs: Horizontal line. HORNED SHAMAN This symbol has a deep resonance for many, and was first discovered in the cave paintings of Ariège in France. These paintings date back to 10,000 BC. The figure may be the precursor to Cernunnos and other antlered deities. The horned shaman is also called the Dancing Sorcerer, said to represent a shaman performing a ritual ceremony. However, this theory cannot be proven conclusively. HORNS OF ODIN Norse legends tell of a magical mead that was brewed from the blood of a wise God, Kvasir; to drink this mead would be to benefit from the wisdom of the God. Odin managed to find this drink, and the triple horns represent the three draughts that he drank. The horn itself is both a masculine and phallic symbol, but because it can be used as a container, it encompasses the female aspect, too. The triple horn appears in stone carvings, over the heads of warriors, implying rewards in Valhalla, the Hall of Slain Warriors that is the home of Odin. Today, the symbol is used as a sign of identity by followers of the Asatru faith. Asatru is a relatively modern religion that acknowledges the much more ancient pre-Christian Norse beliefs. HORSESHOE The horseshoe has acquired symbolic significance not because of its function, but because of its shape and the metal used to make it. It is shaped like the arc, one of the first sacred symbols that represents the vault of the Heavens. When it is “upside down” it is also shaped like the last letter of the Greek alphabet, the Omega. Flip the horseshoe the other way up, however, and it resembles the crescent Moon, therefore invoking the protection of the Moon Goddess. The iron that the horseshoe is made from further enhances this protective quality. Iron is a protective metal, which evil entities will go out of their way to avoid. The horseshoe also looks like the yoni, further strengthening its links with the Goddess. The horseshoe is a well-known good-luck symbol and appears on greetings cards, wedding souvenirs, and the like. People nail them up over doorways for the same reason, although there is some controversy as to which way up the horseshoe should go. One school of thought says that it should rest on its curved end to hold in the luck, which, if the horseshoe were reversed, would pour away. However, pre-Christian superstition says that the horseshoe should be positioned so that it looks like the sky, and also like the yoni. HOURGLASS The function of the hourglass is to mark the passing of time, as sand trickles through the narrow waist in the middle of the transparent glass container that is the same shape as a figure of eight. Therefore, the hourglass is often used as a motif to show the inevitability of death. However, the shape of the hourglass, as well as being a visual symbol and a word used to describe the figure of a shapely woman, is a lemniscate, or infinity sign. This indicates eternity. That the hourglass can be turned upside down to start the cycle all over again makes it an optimistic symbol of rebirth. I CHING The I Ching is an ancient Chinese system of philosophical divination, possibly dating back to the eighth century BC, which is still in use today. The I Ching, or Book of Changes, was the only book that escaped destruction when all the Chinese philosophical works were burned in the third century BC. Either dried yarrow stalks or special coins, usually with square holes in the center, plus knowledge and a fair sprinkling of intuition, are the tools of the I Ching. The basis of the system is just two simple lines, one continuous, one broken. The most profound symbols are usually the simplest, and these two lines encompass the universal source of all things, also known as the Tao (as in Taoism). The unbroken line represents all aspects of the positive; male, Sun, fire, heat, action, odd numbers, yang. The broken line represents the opposites. These lines combine to make 64 possible combinations. The lines also form a set of eight trigrams that represent the elements of air, water, fire, and earth, with the four sub-elements of breath, sea, thunderbolt, and mountain. The interpretations of the I Ching are beautifully oblique; the philosophy behind this system is about finding balance. Both the flags of Vietman and of South Korea feature trigrams from the I Ching. ICELANDIC STAVE SYMBOLS Early Icelandic grimoires (magical texts full of spells and occult information) contain long lists of curious, angular-looking symbols, all intended for a specific purpose. Their origins go back to the ancient rune system, with a sprinkling of later medieval and Renaissance magic thrown in for good measure. The purposes of the symbols tell the story of the lifestyles and concerns of the people down the passage of the years; the importance of a good catch for fishermen, protection against thieves and ghosts, how to frighten away enemies. The intentions of these ancient symbols are extremely varied and there seems to be one for almost every conceivable occasion. The lists read a little bit like a magical book of household management. There are staves included to help ensure the quality of butter, for lock breaking, and even for raising the dead. Popularly referred to as Magical Staves, these signs are sometimes comprised of several runic symbols merged together (a bind rune), while others stand alone. AEGISHJALMUR One of these stave symbols is called the Helm of Awe or Aegishjalmur. It looks like a snowflake, except it has eight arms radiating from the central point instead of six. Its purpose, as the name suggests, was to instill fear in the hearts of enemies and to guard the wearer against abuse of his own power. To work properly it needs to be engraved onto lead and then pressed into the forehead. Latterly, followers of the Asatru belief adopted the Helm of Awe as one of their cornerstone symbols. HULINHJALMUR: TO MAKE YOURSELF INVISIBLE Although invisibility is likely to be an incredibly useful asset, the construction of this stave is particularly tricky. It might not seem too difficult to engrave it on a piece of lignite using magnetic steel that has been hardened by soaking in human blood, but the instructions for blending of the ink could be a real nuisance. The recipe calls for three drops of blood from the index finger of the left hand, and three from the ring finger of the right hand; two drops of blood from the right nipple and one from the left. To this is added six drops of blood from the heart of a living raven. All this blood needs to be melted down with the raven’s brain and parts of a human stomach. Voilà. Now you see me… DISCLAIMER Hulinhjalmur, it will be noted, has no counter stave to restore visibility. Neither the author nor the publishers of this book accept any responsibility for misuse of rune staves. ICHTHYS WHEEL At first glance, this looks like a simple six-spoked wheel. However, the name of Christ is cleverly hidden within it, and like the vesica piscis, was a way for early, persecuted Christians to recognize one another. The Greek letters I X O Y E can be laid over the circle. I H S These initials form a symbolic monogram for Christ. The monogram comprises the letters iota, ete, and sigma, which are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, Iesous. The letters also stand for the Latin phrase, Iesous Hominum Salvator, meaning Jesus, Saviour of Man. Later, the symbol became a sign of peace. The IHS symbol is generally embossed onto the communion wafer, and the initials surrounded by the rays of the Sun. INCENSE Its origins in incendere, the Latin word for fire, the importance of incense as a magical symbol lies in the resins and spices that it is made from, its perfume, and the action of its smoke that rises up toward the sky. This smoke is believed to conduct prayers, messages, and devotions toward the deities. The scent is said to please the Gods as well as lifting the spirits of worshippers, and the fact that frankincense was one of the three gifts given by the Wise Men to the infant Christ is a reminder of its significance. In Christianity, incense was first used in burials as a symbol of purity that would drive away demons and to carry the soul up to Heaven. However, its use soon expanded, and today, incense has a prominent part to play in rites of all kinds, especially within the Roman Catholic Church and the High Church of England. Neopagan groups, too, use incense for the same reasons. Burning of incense transcends faiths and cultural boundaries. For Native Americans, the fragrant smoke given off by tobacco and other herbs when they share the calumet or pipe carries exactly the same significance as the incense that is burned in churches and the “dhupa” (or dhoop sticks) of Hindu ritual. For Hindus, incense represents the element of air and the perception of consciousness. The tower of smoke that rises up from the incense is symbolic of the Axis Mundi. Practitioners of ceremonial magic might use incense so that disembodied entities, such as elementals or other spirits, might use the smoke to make themselves manifest. INDALO This is a prehistoric symbol of magical significance, found in caves in the Almeira region of Spain and known to have been created about 5000 years ago. The symbol is very simple, showing a stick man holding an arch above his head. The arch represents either a rainbow or the vault of the Heavens. Indalo was perceived to be a go-between between man and God, the rainbow providing a bridge between Heaven and Earth. This sign, which looks like a child’s drawing, serves as a reminder of the complex belief of man as the microcosm and the Universe as the macrocosm. The Indalo figure has become a logo for the village of Mojacar in particular and for the whole area in general. Sometimes he is called Mojacar Man. INFINITY Often the simplest symbols are the ones with the richest meanings. The infinity sign, the figure of eight, and the lemniscate all refer to the same shape that contains a wealth of complex meaning within its fluid lines. This mysterious symbol is found on an everyday object, the camera, where it appears as the infinity lens focus. To get a sense of what the infinity sign is and how it feels, find something circular and flexible—an elastic band will do. Then twist it once. That is the lemniscate. The flat, one-dimensional circle is suddenly lent a new dimension by this simple twist. As a mathematical device, the infinity sign was first “discovered” in 1655 by John Wallis, but its significance as a religious symbol is much older. The infinity sign has its origins in the Arabic numerals that actually came from India in the first place. The sign can be drawn in one continuous movement, making a seesaw movement of clockwise and counterclockwise loops. These loops reflect the balance of opposites; male and female, day and night, dark and light. Because the circles of the lemniscate sit side by side, the sign implies equality between these opposing forces, with the connecting point in the center the convergent point. The sign epitomizes the idea of sexual union and of “two becoming one.” The infinity sign stands for wholeness and completion. The lemniscate appears in the elaborate curlicues in Arabic calligraphic renderings of the Name of God; the elegant loops providing a decorative device as well as pointing toward the idea of eternity. The symbol appears in the Tarot, as part of the Magician card. In the Pamela Colman/Rider-Waite version, the magician has the lemniscate floating boldly above his head; in other decks, the brim of his hat conceals the shape. Disguising the symbol in this way is a suitable device for such a mysterious character. INVERTED CROSS The “upside down” crucifix, or Cross of St. Peter, has become a sinister symbol purportedly belonging to Satanists, whose penchant for reversing certain aspects of the Christian faith (such as the Mass and the Lord’s Prayer) is well documented. In horror movies the inverted cross represents the Devil. However, the inverted cross originated as the type of cross upon which St. Peter chose to be executed since, like St. Andrew, he felt unworthy of being crucified on the same type of cross as Christ. Devout Catholics view this particular cross as a sign of deep humility and unworthiness in the sight of the Messiah. The Pope is said to be the successor of St. Peter and so, logically, has been photographed with this type of cross in the background, giving rise to hysterical conspiracy theories about satanic influences within the Catholic Church. IRMINSUL This early Anglo-Saxon symbol has been adopted as one of the cornerstone signs of the Asatru religion. It takes the form of a single pillar, with an ornamented cross bar or a Sun wheel surmounting it. The word itself means “great pillar” and it is connected to the Nordic World Tree, or Yggdrasil, that connects the Earth with the Heavens. The root of its name is shared not only by Yggdrasil but also by the God, Odin, and is a clue to the close connection between the three. JAIN SYMBOL Also called the Parasparopgraho Jivanam, this sacred symbol of the ancient Jain faith (an offshoot of Hinduism) is constructed from several other signs and symbols. First, the outline of the symbol is called the Lok and is representative of the Universe. The lower part reminds Jains of the concept of Seven Hells. The central part represents the Earthly plane, and the upper portion represents the Heavens. Then, working from the top down, the curved arc represents not only the Moon, but is called the Siddhasila, the final resting-place of souls that have been liberated from the karmic wheel of death and rebirth. These souls are called Siddhas. The dot or bindhu within the arc is indicative of the zero, the every thing and the nothing combined. It is also representative of the Siddha. Below the arc are three further bindhu. These represent the Three Jewels of Jainism, namely, the rules for attaining the desired liberation of the soul. These rules are: Right Faith (Samyak Darshan) Right Knowledge (Samyak Jnan) Right Conduct (Samyak Charitra) Below these three sacred dots is the swastika, the very ancient solar symbol. Here, the four arms of the swastika symbolize the four realms into which a soul may be reborn; a soul can become a heavenly being, a human being, an animal being, or a hellish being. Underneath the swastika is the upraised hand, a universal symbol meaning “Stop!” Inside the hand is the word “Ahimsa,” one of the tenets of Hinduism and Jainism, which is an offshoot of this faith. Ahimsa means “nonviolence” and the word itself is contained within a wheel. The combination of the hand and the word within the wheel are a reminder to stop and think before acting, to do nothing which could harm any creature, otherwise the wheel of birth and rebirth will keep on turning and the soul will never be liberated. JAPA MALA See Rudraksha. JERUSALEM CROSS This is one large cross with smaller crosses in between the arms. Originally used by the Crusaders, hence its name, the five crosses symbolize the five wounds of Christ. JEWELRY The precious metals and beautiful gems that make up jewelry spring from the womb of the Earth. Legends tell us that these gems are mined by dwarves and that jewelry is constructed by elves and goblins. Metals and gems are themselves full of hidden meanings. Gems symbolize not only material wealth but also wisdom and the riches of the mind and spirit. Buddhist doctrines are called “jewels.” And, as the song says, diamonds really are forever! Not only the stones, but also the precious materials that go into the design of jewelry, are eternal and incorruptible. Ancient jewelry often looks as new as the day it was made, and was worn by royalty as well as the common man. There is evidence that man adorned himself with jewelry as long ago as 40,000 years, and the very earliest kind was made of shells, animal bones and teeth. The importance of this jewelry was such that people were even buried with it. Jewelry is not only decorative: it can be functional, too, for instance, to hold clothing together (buckles, brooches, pins, and clips). It stores wealth (think of the archetypal gypsy, dripping gold—this jewelry is the same as money in the bank). Jewelry can take the form of protective amulets and talismans, with countless designs intended specifically to avert the evil eye. It also denotes status or membership of a group or tribe, or can give information about the wearer, for example, the wedding ring as a symbol of binding, or the jet mourning jewelry worn by bereaved Victorians. In Rome, the Sumptuary Laws gave instructions as to who had the right to wear specific sorts of jewelry. The wearing of religious symbols, like the crucifix or Star of David, may sometimes be the cause of contention because of a lack of understanding of religious and cultural values. For example, a woman working at a major airport in the UK was told that her crucifix could be offensive. In addition, there have been instances where the facial jewelry of some Hindus has been looked at askance by people who do not understand the reasons for this adornment. A deeper understanding of the reasons that people choose to wear certain jewelry can only help to bring more harmony between diverse cultures. The nose ring, for example, is a practice copied from Indian cultures where piercing is believed to enhance fertility. RING Wearing a ring indicates a link or bond; the wedding ring is the perfect example of this. In J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, the mystical ring bears the inscription “one ring to bind them.” The Fisherman’s Ring, which is exclusive to the Pope, is used as his personal seal, being broken when he dies. The ring, of course, is a circle, and so it carries all the symbolic significance of the shape; eternity and unity. The signet ring has a personal seal or other hieroglyphic device engraved on it used as a sign of identity. Solomon had a particularly magical ring, the possible source of all his wisdom. He used it to conjure up the demons that then became his slaves, but when he lost the ring all his wisdom disappeared too, until the ring was returned to him. Plato describes a ring that belonged to the shepherd, Gyges. His ring had a rotating bezel that, if turned inward, made him invisible. The fingers on which rings are worn also have significance. The fourth finger of the left hand that is traditionally designated for the wedding or engagement ring has a direct link to the heart. Archers in China and Persia wore rings to protect their thumbs, so the thumb ring indicated military rank. A ring worn on the index or “pointing” finger indicates authority. In India, toe rings, or bichiya, also denote status. Worn on the second toes of both feet they are a sign of marriage. Hindus traditionally consider it disrespectful to wear gold below the waist so these rings are usually, but not always, made of silver. NECKLACE A necklace is a sign of identity, more visible and more immediately obvious than the ring. For example, it can signify a chain of office (as in the ornate mayoral necklace) or a chain of bondage, like the collars worn by slaves. The Goddess Kali is immediately identifiable by her necklace of human skulls, and witches traditionally wear a necklace of acorns. Amulets and talismans often appear as pendants, and lockets of all kinds store hidden information. JIZO This is a Japanese Buddha symbol. Almost cartoonlike, Jizo is depicted as an innocent, childlike character, venerated as a protector of the souls of children and unborn babies. Jizo is ubiquitous in Japan, often appearing as a statuette dressed in robes. People also surround the Jizo statuette with offerings of food, sweets, incense, and pebbles. KABBALAH YAH, the Lord of Hosts, the living Elohim, King of the Universe, Omnipotent, the Merciful and Gracious God, Supreme and Extolled, Dweller in the Height whose habitation is Eternity, who is Sublime and Most Holy, engraved His name and ordained the Universe in thirty-two mysterious paths of wisdom, by the three Sephariam, namely, Numbers, Letters and Sounds, which are in Him and one and the Same (from the Sefer Yetzirah) A VERY SHORT HISTORY Most systems of faith have an exoteric, or external level of understanding that is aimed at the masses, and an esoteric, or inner level of meaning that is the preserve of the priests and initiates. The deeply mystical Kabbalah is the enigmatic aspect of the Jewish doctrine. The word has its root in Hebrew, QBL, meaning “to receive” or alternately “mouth to ear,” or “the unwritten law,” and like most mystery traditions its secrets were originally communicated orally. It shares the same root as the word “Cabal,” meaning “secret intrigue.” These secrets, so the story goes, were given directly from God to the Archangels who then passed the information on to Adam after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, in order that he might regain his former favor in the eyes of God. The secrets passed through Noah to Abraham, who shared the mysteries with the Egyptians. From here the Kabbalah spread to other parts of the world. Moses, too, had kabbalstic instruction directly from God. According to Jewish mystics, the third time he climbed Mount Siani he spent forty days learning its secret doctrine from the angels while he was wandering in the Desert. Thereafter, Moses concealed the teachings that appeared for the first time in written form in the first four books of the Old Testament. In the first century, Rabbi Simeon Ben Jochai had to hide in a cave with his son for twelve years, avoiding execution because of his criticism of the Roman Empire. During this time, the Rabbi taught the secrets of the Kabbalah to his son, and these teachings appeared as a book, published in thirteenth-century Spain, called the Zohar. It is this book which is the cornerstone of the Kabbalistic doctrines. The universality of the ideas within the Kabbalah means that it has been adopted by numerous different religions. Not surprising, since the beauty and logic of its construction is awe-inspiring and all-encompassing. There was a general upsurge of interest in esoterica in the Middle Ages and this era saw the development of a Hermetic Kabbalah, a combination of Kabbalistic teachings and Greek hermeticism. In turn, alchemy and Rosicrucianism were influenced by its secrets, as was Freemasonry. The Tarot takes its influence from the Kabbalah. The Golden Dawn based its symbolic language on that of the Kabbalah. Its influence has been all pervasive, thousands of years after the angels imparted its intricacies to the First Man. The doctrines encompass The Four Worlds and The Tree of Life, while the latter, in turn, encompasses The Ten Numbers and The 22 Letters. THE FOUR WORLDS The Greatest Name, Jehovah, or IHVH, has an element attached to each letter. Further, the letters also represent the Four Worlds. These are Atziluth (emanation), the world of pure spirit, an archetypal world where there is no separation or division. This is the world of the Gods. Atziluth is associated with the element of fire and the letter I, and from it the other three worlds are “born.” Briah, “cosmos” or “creation,” is the next world, represented by the letter H and the water element. This is the world where separation begins, where one idea might separate from others, although this world is still formless. Yetzirah, represented by the V and the element of air, is the next world born from Briah. This is the domain of imagination and thought, corresponding to the astral world, a level of consciousness that immediately precedes the physical. The fourth world is Assiah, which means “to do.” Assiah is the material world, represented by the final letter H and the earth element. It is the here and now, our physical reality, the world of separation that is constructed from the finer elements that precede it. THE TREE OF LIFE This is the most famous graphic representation of the Kabbalah’s diverse unfolding of ideas. All of nature is enclosed within its relatively simple form, which has multi-layered dimensions of significance that belie a straightforward graphic representation. Its ten spheres or sephiroth represent the ten numbers, and are connected by 22 paths or branches that also represent the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The letters and numbers comprise the 32 paths of wisdom that are written about in the Sefer Yetzirah, the very early kabbalistic text said to have been written by Abraham. The three columns of the tree are symbols in themselves. The central one represents balance or equilibrium. The one on the right is called Jachin, male energy; on the left is Boaz, female energy. These are the pillars that were represented in the Great Temple in Jerusalem and which also influence the design of Masonic temples. They also appear in the Tarot. Here are the component elements of the tree. The Ten Numbers Behold! From the Ten Ineffable Sephiroth do proceed the One Spirit of the Gods of the Living; Air, Water, Fire, and also Height, Deoth, East, West, South and North [from the Sefer Yetzirah] In the diagram, these are represented by the spheres or sephira. ONE The uppermost sephira of the tree is One, the Crown (Keter). It is the start of manifestation, positive, but undefinable because it as yet bears no relation to anything else. TWO To the right of Keter, just below it, is the sephira of Hokhmah or Wisdom, the number two. It enables a line to be made between it and the number One. THREE To the left of Hokhmah is Binah, meaning “understanding.” It makes a triangle and all three numbers give definition to one another. These first three sephiroth represent Atziluth, the element of fire and the first of the four worlds described above. FOUR Next, moving down the Tree, beneath Hokhmah, is Hesed, or Mercy. Now the Universe contained within the Tree can have four elements and four directions, and can form a square. FIVE To the left of Hesed is Gevurah, meaning strength. This implies the idea of time, without which nothing can happen in the Universe as we experience it. SIX With Tif’eret, meaning beauty, another dimension is added; as well as the four elements and “above” and “below.” The number six contributes the notions of past and future and consciousness of the self. SEVEN Netzah, or victory, is the next of the sephira. It sits below Hesed. It represents the notion of the emotional nature and the pure joy of existence. Despite the possibility of suffering, the soul is happy to be made manifest in human form. EIGHT Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/adele-nozedar/the-element-encyclopedia-of-secret-signs-and-symbols-the-ult/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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