Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Picture: http://commattdown.t35.me/celtic-symbol-for-family.html

I was sitting in an English Poetry class discussing symbolism with the students and how many words in the English language can have different connotations. Such as the word rain can symbolize time passing or knot can symbolize problems or obstacles to overcome. Colors also have different connotations to them, for example red can symbolize blood or passion and orange can be used to symbolize fear and urgency. 

To help some of my students write their own poems, I hit the Internet in search of more poetic symbols and stumbled upon this Symbol site. It was so intriguing looking through all the symbols there are in this world and how many civilizations or groups of people created them to represent an idea, a deity or a process.

Reading their descriptions, I realized how amazing it was that each symbol represents a meaning and it denotes a variety of things to different groups or factions. I find it very interesting how one simple symbol can communicate so much to the rest of the world.

Take the symbols of Cross, Star of David, Crescent or the Om for example. Just by looking at them, might bring about a variety of emotions such as love, peacefulness, even fear. We find that many symbols bring about an instant sense of relief and warmth while others bring on the total opposite feeling; panic, dread, horror, maybe even hatred. Pick any symbol from the list provided on the site and make a note of the kinds of feelings it might stir up inside of you. 

Isn't it amazing? Even though when you think of it... it is only a symbol... nothing more... just a few lines drawn to make a shape or a picture...If we took the symbols out of the context they had been used for, we would not expect them to bring along any specific or intense emotional reaction. They are not to be feared or be alarmed about and yet we tend to attach a lot of meaning to all of them. For example; there are so many symbols on that list that I had no knowledge of before finding that site and therefore did not feel any kind of emotion welling up inside of me. I just found them interesting to read about and yet, I was positive that they might bring about different emotional responses from people who associated them with certain events in their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

It is we who attach meaning to these symbols... sometimes it is out of our own or other people's experiences that we attach the emotion of fear onto them. We know that our fear of these symbols is illogical and yet we link so many negative connotations and emotions to some of these symbols. Even though there are a few symbols on that list that bring about fear and sadness in everyone's hearts, such as the 3000 year old swastika, we each perceive these symbols differently probably because we had an intense negative or positive experience with them in the past.

I never realized how powerful these symbols can be.... and yet at the end of the day they are man-made. Makes me wonder about the power in every human-being and how that same power that can bring about so much fear, destruction and misery can also be used to bring about so much security, development and contentment.


db said...

Makes me think of how songs and sounds, even smells can stir up specific emotions and memories.

Seems like all the senses can attach stereotypes to all kinds of things, I guess that is the way we sort out the world.

It would be great if we could figure out how to harness and disperse all of this, in such massive quantities, to help solve the worlds problems.

paula devi said...

Such an interesting and fascinating subject. The associations each of us has for certain symbols. You mention the swastica. Seeing it gives me an immediate gut reaction of repulsion. And yet, this symbol, 3,000 years old, represents the turning of the wheel of Dharma - the Buddha's teachings - which are about, love, kindness and compassion and self-realization. Hilter, a lover of the occult (which Buddhism is not) chose this out of some bizzare personal resonance. And re-defined and twisted it's true meaning and we all know how that resulted.

Yes, I do think there is power in certain symbols. Perhaps they are a manifestation of something greater that has the ability, if we are open, to connect us to a higher realm of being - or non-being - sacred beyond our mundane and suffering reality.

Some are man made as you say, but I also choose to believe that some of these symbols came as inspirations to the human realm from a higher place.

Hundrick Tarek Massinissa said...

love the article, and the family symbol

Hundrick Tarek Massinissa said...

just stumbled upon your blog by chance, love the words and the symbol as well

Tabouleh said...

Hi Hundrick, Thank you for reading and posting a comment. I have been away from my blog for a very long time now due to change of country of residence... was in Bangkok Thailand and now I am in Dar es Salaam Tanzania... I will write soon.
Thanks again for visiting!

Tia Ana said...

I love the way you see life. It's very similar as I face it. I'm a teacher too and I'm always seeking for knowledge to share with my children. We are from Brazil and here education is a priority only in the paper. I'm very happy to know such a conscious teacher as you are. Be in peace.