What Does the Ocean Symbolize?

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The ocean is a vast and mysterious body that has existed since the beginning of time. While much has been discovered and documented about the ocean, this enormous all-encompassing body of water has remained a great mystery to humankind thus attracting many stories and myths. Below is what you need to know about the ocean and what it symbolizes.

What is the Ocean … Exactly?

The ocean is a vast body of saltwater that interconnects the earth and covers around 71% of its surface. The word ‘ocean’ is derived from the Greek name Oceanus, who was one of the mythological Titans and the personification of the gigantic mythical river that circles the earth.

The ocean is divided into five regions – the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, and as of 2021, the Antarctic Ocean also known as the Southern Ocean.

The ocean holds 97% of the world’s water that moves in strong currents and tidal waves thus largely influencing the weather and temperature of the earth. Additionally, the depth of the ocean is estimated to be around 12,200 feet and is home to around 226,000 known species and an even bigger number of species yet to be discovered.

Despite this, well over 80 percent of the ocean remains unmapped. In fact, humankind has been able to map a bigger percentage of the moon and of planet Mars than it has the ocean right here on earth.

What the Ocean Symbolizes

What does the ocean symbolize?

Due to its enormous size, power, and mystery, the ocean has over time accrued many symbolic meanings. These include power, strength, life, peace, mystery, chaos, boundlessness, and stability.

  • Power – The ocean is the strongest force of nature. Its very strong currents and waves have been known to cause monumental damage. From shipwrecks to natural disasters like storms, hurricanes, landslides, and tsunamis, the ocean has without doubt demonstrated its power time and time again. These same currents and tides have also been identified as the largest source of renewable energy in the world. These reasons are why the ocean is associated with power.
  • Mystery – As aforementioned, 80 percent of the ocean still remains a great mystery. Moreover, the 20 percent that we have already explored is also filled with mysteries. The ocean represents the unknown and remains something within site that is still mysterious and holds its secrets.
  • Strength – The ocean is associated with strength because of its strong currents and tidal waves.
  • Life – The ocean and all the life in it is believed to have existed well before life on land began. For this reason, the ocean is seen as a symbol of life.
  • Chaos – Related to the power symbolism, the ocean is a cause of chaos with its storms and currents. When the ocean “gets angry” expect it to leave destruction in its wake.
  • Peace – Contrastingly, the ocean can also be a source of peace, especially when it’s calm. Many people find it very peaceful and calming to swim in the ocean or to just sit by the beach watching as the water dances to the small waves and enjoying the sea breeze.
  • Boundlessness – As earlier mentioned, the ocean is vast and covers a very big percentage of the earth’s surface. Once in the deep sea, it’s easy to find yourself lost. In fact, entire ships have been known to get lost in the depth of the ocean to be discovered years later or in some cases never to be discovered.
  • Stability – The ocean has existed largely unchanged for centuries. This makes it a strong symbol of stability

Stories and Myths of the Ocean

The ocean and its mysterious nature has attracted some very interesting legends. Some of these legends are:

  • The Kraken – Originating from Norse mythology, the Kraken is a gigantic sea-dwelling monster that is said to wrap its tentacles around ships and capsize them before devouring the sailors. Historians have linked this myth to an actual giant squid that lives in the Norwegian seas.
  • The Mermaid –  Originating from Greek, Assyrian, Asian, and Japanese mythologies, mermaids are believed to be beautiful sea creatures whose upper body is that of a human being while the lower body is that of a fish. A popular Greek legend tells the story of  Thessalonike, sister to Alexander the Great, who became a mermaid after her death and gained control over the ocean currents. She calmed the waters for sailors who proclaimed Alexander as a great king who lives and reigns to conquer the world. For sailors who did not make this proclamation, Thessalonike stirred great storms. Mermaids have come up in a lot of works of literature sometimes just as the beautiful half-human half-fish creature and other times as sirens.
  • Sirens – Originating in ancient Greek mythology, sirens are sea maidens that are extremely beautiful in an unearthly way. Sirens are said to lure men with their beauty and capture them with their beautiful singing and their power of enchantment before killing them.
  • Atlantis – First told by Plato, a Greek philosopher, Atlantis was a Greek city that was once vibrant with life and culture but later fell out of favor with the gods. The gods then destroyed Atlantis with storms and earthquakes causing it to sink into the Atlantic Ocean. Some myths hold that the city still thrives under the ocean while others claim that it was destroyed completely.
  • The Bermuda triangle –  Popularized by Charles Berlitz in his best-selling book, ‘The Bermuda Triangle’, this unmapped triangular area in the Atlantic Ocean is said to cause wreckage and disappearance to any ship that goes through it and any plane that flies over it. The corners of the Bermuda Triangle touch Miami in Florida, San Juan in Puerto Rico, and the Bermuda Island in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. The Bermuda Triangle is the deepest part of the ocean and is said to have sucked in around 50 ships and 20 airplanes which have never found. Some myths hold that it lies above the lost city of Atlantis and that it’s the power of the city that causes ships and planes to disappear.
  • The Swahili people of East Africa believe that the ocean is home to spirits, both good and malevolent. These ocean spirits can possess you and are most easily invited by engaging in sexual activities in or by the ocean. More interestingly, the Waswahili believe that the spirit of the ocean can be adopted and domesticated in exchange for their wealth amassing power. They can also be used to exert revenge on an enemy.

Wrapping Up

While much still remains unknown about the ocean, it has a huge impact on the world’s weather and in our lives. What we can’t deny however is the subtle joy and tranquility that comes with walking barefoot on the sandy beach, enjoying the sea breeze, and taking a dive in the calming water. Fun fact: the salty water of the ocean is said to cure almost all skin irritations.

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.

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