William Butler Yeats, the famous Irish Poet of the twentieth century, noted for his elusive imagery and symbolic structures once said, “A symbol is indeed the only possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame…” Symbolism is an art, a creative way of conveying allegorical meaning using symbols and pictorial conventions. In simple terms, symbols are literal pictograms or graphic ideographs used to whip up obscured meanings that lie beyond the obvious. Symbolism exists to adorn and beautify and is often defined as the concrete representation of the abstract. A symbol can represent anything, right from ideas to doctrines, to different feelings. For instance, the olive branch represents peace, while the crucifix can be read as a symbol of Christ. If the prospect of symbology excites you and you wish to probe further into the interesting domain of symbols, then checking out this following article on examples of symbolism will leave you more informed.
Examples Of Symbolism
One undeniable aspect of all Christian, Muslim and Jewish myth and theology are angels. Angels have found a unique representation in realms of literature. Often exposed to various interpretations, an angel is generally depicted as divine messenger of God, but has also found a unique representation in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ as the fallible Satan and his fallen angels.
The dove, deemed as the universal representation of peace, has played an important role in literature. Mythologically referred to as an embodiment of the divine, the symbol of the dove also refers to ‘Noah’s Ark’, ‘The Holy Spirit’, Christian weddings and more. Other symbols of peace are olive branches, the rainbow, the globe, and the Egyptian ankh.
This mythical fire-breathing monster often associated with hostile evil forces and a representation of Satan, have been widely acknowledged as a destroying force in mythology and art.
The lion, the king of beasts, has been used to represent dominion, bravery, ferocity, power and the sun. The lion has widely featured as a mythical symbol in occult science and has been a revered symbol of both the Christians and the pagans.
The phoenix, a mythical firebird, with its legendary status of being able to rise from its own ashes, has been widely accepted as the symbol of resurrection, immortality and mystical rebirth. Often linked with sun gods and fire, the phoenix has even found appreciation by Voltaire and Homer in literature!
Serpents Or Snakes
The serpent or snake is probably one of the oldest and most overused symbols with both positive and negative connotation. While snake has found a positive reference in most pagan literature and has been used to symbolize rain and fertility, life force and vitality, it has often been treated as an embodiment of satan, evil, temptation, destruction, vengeance and sin in Christian and Jewish literature.
Some Other Examples
- Symbols referring to damnation: Fire, flames, hot temperatures and heat
- Symbols referring to death or endings: Gravestones, cemeteries, grim reaper, day of the dead, skulls, candle blowing out, coffins, ringing of the bell, cross bones
- Symbols referring to reincarnation: Phoenix rising from flames, crosses, rainbows, passing storms, dawn, sunrise, broken chains
- Symbols referring to love: Apple, cupid, harp, heart, shell, triangle, maple leaf
- Symbols referring to salvation: Crosses, angels, haloes, clouds, churches
- Symbols referring to knowledge: A book, a candle