God and Goddess Symbol Meanings
Symbols were commonly assigned and attributed to gods and goddesses of ancient times. Why? Because each deity rules large-and-in-charge over a specific domain. For example, Hermes lords over matters of travel and trade. Neptune's turf (err, not a turf at all) is the sea and all its inhabitants. Cernunnos' forte is fertility and assertion. Kwan Yin is a bright beacon for humanitarianism, compassion and grace.
Symbols are assigned to deities to clarify their dominions over certain factors/realms of life. It's like assigning a "Pedestrian X-ing" sign to a street. When we're on that street, we know that portion is reserved for people crossing it. Likewise, when we learn winged shoes are a symbol associated with Hermes, we know this god is reserved for fleet-of-foot matters (travel, messages, etc).
Before we delve any further into the realm of deity symbols, let's take a look at the definition of what a symbol actually is. Some definitions of a symbol include: A small representation of something more grand. A written emblem that signifies a heady concept or ideal. A visual marking that stands-in for, or represents a person, place, thing, idea. A visual aid to express meaning or identity to something.
With the definition of the symbol in mind, we can see that something like a flower, an animal or a planet is a simple way to gain immediate identification of a deity's function or domain.
While on the subject of defining, it's good to become familiar with the concept of archetypes when exploring god and goddess symbol meanings. Why? Because an archetype serves the same function as a symbol. The definition of "archetype" is: An example, or representation of something. Archetypes are usually copied, patterned after, or emulated. An archetype is an original example of something. Sounds very similar to the definition of a symbol, doesn't it?
I use the term "archetype" in many of the articles below listed about god and goddess symbol meanings because humans often experience an enhanced life when they have a good role model to emulate. Our ancient ancestors emulated gods and goddesses because they had highly desirable attributes, like: Strength, courage, honor, wisdom, provision, nurturing, protection.
In researching symbolic meanings, I pour over a lot of texts to round-out my understanding (so I can provide quality information for myself and to those of you who read this website). In my research, I found Carl Jung's archetypal concepts quite fascinating - very fitting constructs for human behavior, and the human dynamic. Jung talks about psychological archetypes - these are aspects inherent in human personality/psychological make-up. Jung's thoughts on psychological archetypes (Anima, Animus, Persona, Shadow and the Self) could take up some major real-estate here on whats-your-sign.com, so I'll just touch on the recurring archetypal themes Jung sussed out for us in his own research.
Jung proposes that there are several common personality types, life events, and/or environmental factors that men and women encounter time and time again throughout human history. Stuff that is a common thread in human history like: Being tempted, the need to be brave, youth, life, death. These concepts are relevant to our research on god and goddess symbols because ancient deities embody these important life-themes. For example, there are several mother-type goddesses, and each of them represent childbirth. Childbirth is an recurring theme for the whole human race. Attributing the process of conception, gestation and birth to a goddess is an act of using an archetype (a symbol) to illustrate a life-event that is common to all humankind. In essence, archetypes both humanize and deify the human experience.
Jung outlined a dozen or so common archetypal features that can be found in almost all mythological accounts. In other words, every god or goddess has an archetypal theme which illustrates (and mirrors) the human experience. By identifying each archetype (within each god/goddess) we can succinctly address the core symbolic meaning of a deity.
These are all symbolic of issues we deal with in our lives, and that makes them worthy of our attention. Why? Because while exploring the realm of gods and goddesses, knowing these common denominators allows us to more succinctly identify the predominant symbolism. Knowing the symbolic meaning of something gets us to the root of understanding, as well as gives us a big picture of how things work. Once we get that symbolic framework in place, we can apply these underlying (archetypal or symbolic) meanings to our own lives for the purpose of creatively solving problems, or simply living life more consciously.
Having said all that, I've written (and am in the process of writing more) some pages on god and goddess symbols and their meanings. I hope you enjoy browsing through these articles as much as I enjoyed writing them.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!