Sacred Symbols – Pt 2

(…Continued From Sacred Symbols Pt 1)

Sacred Symbols

Animal Symbolism

Many cultures have traditionally used animals as symbolism. Native people often view animals as teachers, as each represents a beneficial quality that can help strengthen and educate a person. Once we understand each animal’s essence–the specific gifts and strengths the creature represents–we can then incorporate a particular animal into a ritual and ask its guidance.

Bear: introspection, incubating ideas and bring them to fruition, cultivating power and support
Beaver: architecture and building, teaches structure, problem solving, and the ability to work with others
Butterfly: transformation, moving forward, trusting life to support you
Cat: independence, playfulness, caution, and gracefulness
Crow: intuition, justice
Deer: gentleness, peace
Dog: loyalty, guardian, and protector
Dolphin: power of play, unconditional love, the ability to release stored emotions through breath
Dove: peace, calm, and simplicity
Eagle: ability to see above the mundane, clarity, vision, and connection to the divine
Fox: confidence, cunning, and independence
Frog: connection to water rituals, a cleansing of spirit, body and mind, easing change
Horse: power, dependability
Hummingbird: joy, celebration life, and the ability to feel emotionally “lighter”
Lion: leadership, action, assists one in moving through fear
Owl: wisdom, clairvoyance, and clarity of thought
Peacock: wholeness, authority of self, and the expression of one’s own beauty
Rabbit: creativity helps one face fear
Raccoon: unmasking the truth helps one accept hidden aspects of the self, the ability to play many roles in life
Snake: sexuality, psychic energy, death and rebirth, immortality
Spider: integration, inner connection, and creativity
Swan: ability to see one’s own beauty and goodness
Tiger: confidence, spontaneity, and strength
Turtle: connection with earth grounding helps one slow down and focus on the present
Wolf: teaching, the ability to establish healthy boundaries, encourages friendship and sense of community

Our ancestors express themselves to us in the sacred symbols of our cultures and religions. For example, my grandfather, being Cherokee, comes to me when I light a cigar and call his name. He appears in the clothes and age when I most needed him in my childhood. I know he is near me when I smell cigar smoke for no obvious reason.

Coyote: people mistakenly dismiss coyote as a trickster, but he is much more than a trickster. Through humor, coyote brings together opposing cultures worldviews and people who think that they are enemies. By making them laugh at themselves and each other, they can see how silly their differences appear to the spirits and animals. Coyote embodies the fool. –Lewis Mehl Madrona, Coyote Medicine (Fireside).

(Barbara Biziou and Lewis Mehl Madrona will be facilitating a weekend retreat in August on “The Wisdom of the Ancestors.”)

Crystals as Sacred Symbols:

A crystal is an earth element–a mineral or gemstone. Both ancient cultures and modern science have utilized the mysterious qualities of crystals, which have the ability to receive and transmit energy.

Amber: balance
Amethyst: spiritual awareness, transmutation, healing
Aquamarine: purification, healing, calming
Bloodstone: courage, physical energy
Calcite: balance, peaceful meditation
Carnelian: sex, self-esteem, creativity
Copper: purification, inspiring love, making peace
Fluorite: healing, releasing unwanted energies
Gold: courage, self-awareness, self-confidence, wealth, and virtue
Hematite: encouraging willpowr, concentration
Herkimer Diamond: dream recall
Jade: fertility, wisdom, and tranquility
Lapis Lazuli: communication, healing
Malachite: protection, money
Moonstone: love, psychic awareness, feminine principle
Nickel: youth, beauty, growth, and adaptation
Obsidian: inner growth, psychic development
Opal: passion, love, and emotional expression
Pearl: purity, integrity, focus, wisdom
Quartz: change, focus
Red Jasper: compassion
Rhodolite: love
Rose Quartz: love, compassion
Silver: fertility, nourishment, and growth
Tiger’s Eye: empowerment, willpower, courage, and clarity
Tin; flexibility
Topaz: new beginnings
Tourmaline: healing, balance
Turquoise: balance, friendship, positive thinking

Symbolic images can communicate an essence of their meaning even to people from different cultures and religious faiths. For example, walking the labyrinth has become a popular event although few realize that they are re-enacting a symbolic Christian pilgrimage or the route that Theseus took to kill the minotaur, half-bull, half-human beast, that King Minos is supposed to have kept at the heart of a labyrinth in ancient Crete. One can appreciate the beauty of the gardens of the Taj Mahal without being of the Islamic tradition which views these gardens as images of paradise containing cypress trees, symbolizing death, and fruit trees, symbolizing life.

In Japanese Zen Buddhism, gardens are made to symbolize the whole of creation, while many use this symbolism in rituals to celebrate Mother Earth.

Sacred Symbols – Herbs and Flowers:

For thousands of year, we have used flowers and herbs to symbolize the power of earth. Here are a few:

Basil: clarity, prosperity
Bay Leaf: protection
Bamboo: good fortune
Daffodil: new beginnings
Iris: love
Lotus: rebirth
Parsley: protection
Rose: love
Tobacco: fertility
Sage: purification
Rosemary: loyalty, friendship
Thyme: courage, health
Ylang-Ylang: sexual energy

Sacred Symbols – Food and Drink

Food, itself, can be used symbolically. Many cultures offer food on altars, believing that it will give sustenance to the deities as well as to their ancestors. Hindus and Buddhists share this belief, and Hindus often use fruit as an offering. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, an apple, symbolizing nature, is dipped in honey to bring sweetness into the coming year. Native Americans use corn or cornmeal to signify the abundance of a harvest. And when a family moves into a new home, friends often bring bread, sugar, and salt, signifying nourishment, sweetness and purification.

We can use food to represent where we live, where we came from, and its meaning to our loved ones and us. In America, everyone expects cake on his or her birthday, while children associate chocolate bunnies with Easter, turkey with Thanksgiving, candy canes with Christmas.

Bread: earth, harvest, and abundance
Cake: celebration, sweetness
Citrus Fruits: joy, vitality
Corn: earth, harvest, and abundance
Grains: earth, harvest, and abundance
Hot spices: sexuality, creativity
Mangoes: sensuality
Pomegranate: rebirth, abundance
Salt: purification
Seeds and sprouts: new potential
Wine: celebration, bounty, creation of new life (red wine: feminine power-white wine-masculine power)

Authors Details: Sacred Symbols – Barbara Biziou, America’s foremost ritual expert, teaches us how to restore ritual to its rightful place as food for the soul. Web Site


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