Symbols

The world is replete with symbols. From the beginning of time, human beings have used symbols to convey ideas. More than a convenient form of shorthand, however, symbols are images that encapsulate the essence of whatever they represent. When you see one, you instantly understand something fundamental and profound about what's behind the symbol. A good logo, for instance, reveals important information about a company — not just what the firm makes or does, but the company's mission and how its principals want the business to be perceived by the world. Rolex's crown bespeaks royalty; Nike's signature checkmark connotes speed. You could think of these symbols as visual metaphors.

Numbers, letters, and geometric shapes are common symbols you see around you every day, usually without giving them a second thought. The average person only recognizes the obvious meanings of these familiar images, but to someone versed in occult knowledge they reveal something deeper. (Chapter 5 details the secret meanings of numbers and letters.) Astrological glyphs, the I Ching's hexagrams, rune marks, and the suits on tarot cards are other examples of symbols that wise men and women have used for centuries. Even colors contain symbolic associations — the chakras, for instance, are usually linked with certain colors. The following table lists qualities associated with a variety of colors.

Color Symbolism

Red

Passion, anger, heat, energy, daring

Orange

Confidence, activity, warmth, enthusiasm

Yellow

Happiness, creativity, optimism

Green

Health, fertility, growth, wealth

Light blue

Peace, clarity, hope, innocence

Royal blue

Independence, insight, imagination, truth

Indigo

Intuition, serenity, mental power

Purple

Wisdom, emotional depth, spirituality

Pink

Love, friendship, sociability

White

Purity, clarity, protection

Black

Power, wisdom

Brown

Stability, practicality, grounding in the physical world

Because the subconscious responds better to images than words, symbols provide a way to directly communicate with your inner self. Artists frequently include symbols in their work in order to present ideas. For example, the medieval artisans who fabricated stained glass windows for Europe's great cathedrals chose images that portrayed religious concepts to the masses, who at that time were largely illiterate.

Your subconscious instantly comprehends a symbol's inherent meaning, even if your rational mind doesn't.

Magicians often use symbols to embody ideas. The tools that magicians employ in rituals — the wand, chalice, athame, and pentagram — symbolize the four elements. Symbols can also be placed in charms as a way of emphasizing specific energies and intentions. You might wish to add a rose quartz heart to a love charm or slip a silver coin into a prosperity talisman. Some magical practitioners like to wear clothing adorned with meaningful symbols or to decorate their sacred spaces with poignant imagery. Symbols can even be acted out physically. Mudras, for instance, are symbolic gestures that express concepts or intentions.

Universal and Personal Symbols

Some symbols transcend time and place; they mean basically the same thing to all people around the world. Archaeologists have found these symbols inscribed on stones in Mexico and in temples in India. The cross, for example, isn't unique to Christian belief; it existed in ancient Celtic, Egyptian, and Native American cultures, too. This simple yet powerful image represents the union of the archetypal male energy or heaven (the vertical line) with female energy or earth (the horizontal line).

The star is a common symbol of hope, while the circle is a well-known symbol of wholeness. Spirals represent life energy in many cultures. Triangles signify trinities, whether Father-Son-Holy Ghost, maiden-mother-crone, past-present-future, or some other threefold concept. The tree is another universal symbol, usually seen as a conduit for knowledge. The Buddha received enlightenment while sitting beneath a bodhi tree. The Celtic World Tree unites the different realms of experience. The Norse god Wodin brought the wisdom of the runes to humanity after hanging on the tree Yggdrasil for nine days.

Other symbols are personal; they connote something distinctive to you that may not concur with the usual meaning. Lilies might represent purity to you and death to someone else. Initials and family crests are examples of personal symbols. For example, if you are of Irish descent, Celtic knots may hold special significance for you.

If an image resonates strongly with you, you may choose to view it as your personal symbol. Arrows, crescent moons, sailboats, conch shells, or apples might signify something profound to you. You might feel an affinity with wolves, so you could display photos and figurines of wolves in your physical surroundings. Personal symbols, like totem animals and power objects, can help you focus your own power and draw upon energies outside yourself. Notice incidents of synchronicity that involve your symbol, too. Any time your symbol appears unexpectedly, it's a wake-up call. Pay attention!

Creating Sigils

A sigil is a uniquely personal symbol you create in order to produce a specific result. In a sense, a sigil is a way of communicating with yourself via secret code because no one else can interpret the symbol. Although there are various techniques for designing sigils, the easiest one involves fashioning an image from letters.

Start by writing a word or a short affirmation that states your intention. Delete any letters that are repeated. Entwine the remaining letters to form a design. You can use upper- and/or lower-case letters, block or script. Position them right-side up, upside down, forward or backward. The finished image depicts your objective in a graphic manner that your subconscious understands, although it won't make sense to anyone else.

Sigil for “Love”

Both creating the sigil and applying it are magical acts. You can draw a sigil on a piece of paper and slip it into a magic charm. Display a sigil on your wall or altar to constantly remind you of your intention. Carve one on a candle, and then burn the candle to activate your objective. Have a jeweler fabricate your sigil as a pendant or pin and wear it as a talisman. Some people have even had sigils tattooed on their bodies. Give your imagination free rein. There's no limit to how many sigils you can draw or how many ways you can use them.

Dream Symbols

No one knows exactly where dreams come from or why people dream. Yet researchers and psychotherapists believe your dreams are conveyances of messages that can help you in your waking life. Because the unconscious and subconscious parts of the mind use the language of symbols to communicate, dream messages are usually presented in symbolic rather than literal form.

Some symbols appear in many people's dreams; others are unique to the individual dreamer. Over time, general meanings have become accepted for the most common dream symbols. Personal symbols, though, usually hold special meaning for you and you alone.

Common Dream Symbols and What They Mean

House

You and your life: The basement represents your unconscious, the main floor shows your daily living situation, the attic or upper floors describe your mental or spiritual side.

Car

Your body and your passage through life: The driver represents who's controlling your life; the car's condition reveals health and physical matters.

Water

Emotions: The type of water (deep, murky, cold, turbulent, etc.) indicates the quality of your feelings.

Sex

The act represents the merging of your masculine and feminine sides, or incorporating another person's qualities into yourself.

Death

Represents a transition or change

Birth

Represents a new direction, perspective, or endeavor; creativity; a symbol of opportunity.

School

Learning lessons: Taking an exam represents being tested in an area of life.

Monsters

Represent things you fear or parts of yourself you haven't integrated.

Images that turn up repeatedly in your dreams are especially important. If you experience recurring dreams, your subconscious may be trying hard to convey something to you that you need to know. Pay attention. For example, if you frequently dream that you're driving along a freeway and see a huge exit sign with flashing lights, it could be a sign that you need to change your direction in life, perhaps by leaving the fast lane and moving at a slower pace.

You may discover that you can communicate with other people via dreams. When your waking consciousness is temporarily stilled, it's often easier to access the energy matrix that links you with everyone else. Like telepathy, dream communication knows no boundaries. Your thoughts and another person's can connect instantly, even if you're at opposite ends of the world. It's even possible to intentionally send messages to someone while you're sleeping or to arrange to meet in the dream world. Some people, such as the Aborigine, believe that they actually journey to another realm of existence when they dream and that what transpires there is every bit as real as what goes on in the waking world.

Sometimes dreams reveal the future. When your perception is loosened from its ordinary, physical confines, it can range far and wide, even beyond the limitations of time. A dream that lets you see in advance what's coming may help you to prepare yourself or avoid a problem altogether.

Learning to interpret your dreams opens a door to greater understanding in all areas of your life. Quite likely, you'll gain insights and information that you can use in your magical work. While in a dream state, you might find that you can tap into the reservoir of knowledge contained in the cosmic web, which some people refer to as the Akashic Records. You might even be able to revisit past lifetimes or travel to other realms of existence.

  1. Home
  2. Spells and Charms
  3. Synchronicity, Signs, and Symbols
  4. Symbols
Visit other About.com sites: