Symbols have been used since ancient times to communicate various meanings, abstract ideas and concepts. They can be found in every corner of the globe.
Every culture and religion have relied on symbols to express various ideas, and oftentimes, the same symbol can have different meanings depending on the context and era it’s viewed within. For example, a cross can be a mathematical symbol, but it can also represent medicine or Christianity, which is why context is paramount when decoding symbols.
What’s most interesting about symbols is that a symbol’s meaning isn’t inherent but is learned culturally. Take the Swastika – an ancient Eastern religious symbol tainted by Nazi Germans. Today, it’s viewed as both a symbol of hate and a symbol of protection, proof that symbols are dynamic, changing with time and context.
Symbols continue to be everywhere in modern society, some of them ancient and others repurposed. They can be found in architecture, jewelry, fashion, literature, politics and businesses. Understanding the meanings of symbols is like learning a new language. They convey whole ideas, conversations, values and philosophies. Our series of articles on ancient symbols explore the origins and importance of popular symbols, while highlighting their symbolism and modern relevance.