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Why We Wish on Shooting Stars: 9 Symbolic Meanings

I still remember the first time I saw a shooting star as a child. It was magical and I felt a great sense of awe at the beauty of nature. I also remembered to quickly make a wish. That’s a common superstition that most of us have heard at some point in our lives. But what do shooting stars actually symbolize? What does it mean when we see these glowing meteors race across the sky? And where did the superstition of wishing on one originate? Let’s take a look.

Why Do We Wish on Shooting Stars?

Shooting Stars 1897 Fine Art Print
Shooting stars illustrated in an astronomy book from 1897. See it here.

Shooting stars aren’t stars at all. They’re actually meteors burning out as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. But when we look at them from here down on earth, they look very much like falling stars.

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The practice of wishing on shooting stars originated around the time of Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer who lived during 100 AD to 170 AD. Ptolemy postulated that shooting stars occurred when the gods pried apart the cosmic spheres to peer into earth to see what mortals were doing. When this happened, stars would escape between the spheres and fall into earth.

Ptolemy stated that gods were more open to granting wishes made during such times. And so began the tradition of making wishes when you see a shooting star, in hopes that Zeus or Aphrodite or any of the other myriad Greek gods would grant those wishes.

In Christian tradition, these ‘stars’ were said to represent angels. So, the idea of wishing on them may have been strengthened, as it was seen as sending out wishes to angels.

In some Asian cultures, shooting stars were often interpreted as a sign that a certain change was about to occur in one’s life. As such, making a wish on a shooting star was a way to try to control or influence that change.

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What Do Shooting Stars Symbolize?

Shooting star symbolism

Shooting stars have different meanings in various cultures and religions. They’re generally believed to be symbols of good luck, both in ancient cultures and in modern society. Funnily enough, we now know what shooting stars actually are, but we still wish upon them. Science might have unwoven the rainbow, but the magic of these superstitions still exist.

Because of how rare shooting stars are, they’re seen as portentous and a signal of coming changes. Here are the most common meanings of shooting stars.

1. Good Fortune

It’s not uncommon to see people looking up in the sky hoping to see shooting stars so their fortunes will change. This is one, if not the most common belief associated with shooting stars. It may date back all the way to ancient times but it remains very much alive today. 

In early cultures, shooting signs were believed to be signs or messages from the gods. Likewise, in the olden days, a shooting star symbolized a bountiful and great harvest for farmers.

The belief that shooting stars are about good luck has not changed much in modern cultures. Many believe that shooting stars could mean the achievement of one’s goals, financial success, rewards, or the start of something exciting. 

When facing difficult times or in despair and without anyone to turn to, many people look up to the stars. Hoping a falling star would change their fortunes, they lay on their backs waiting for one.

People believe that all you need to do upon seeing a shooting star is to close your eyes and make a wish wholeheartedly.

2. Love

Sterling Silver Shooting Star Dainty Ear Crawler
A symbolic motif in art and jewelry. See it here.

Everybody wants love. Almost everyone hopes to find their soulmate or one great love or hopes that the person they are currently with is their one true love.

One of the meanings of a shooting star is love. This is regardless of one’s relationship status. Shooting stars have been associated with love since ancient times.

If you are involved with someone, seeing a shooting star helps strengthen your belief that your current partner is the right one for you. This is especially true if you two witnessed the shooting star together.

If you are single and unattached, seeing a shooting star is a form of reassurance that there is someone out there in the universe who is meant for you. And you are likely to meet this person sooner rather than later.

3. Fertility

Throughout history, a variety of cultures have associated shooting stars with fertility. In the olden times, people believed that shooting stars were actually the souls of humans. 

These souls are either of their departed loved ones who wish to assure those they left behind that they are already in a good place or old souls who are about to reincarnate. The shooting star could also be the soul of a person to be birthed.

If you are trying to get pregnant, seeing a shooting star means that you are soon to care for a new life.

If you are trying to have a child, the shooting star signifies that your attempts will come to fruition. It’s a message that a new life is coming soon.

On the other hand, if you are already pregnant, seeing a shooting star is the universe’s way of telling you that there’s nothing to worry about your pregnancy and that your child will be delivered successfully soon. This is regardless of whether you see the shooting star alone or with your partner.

4. Major Changes

Shooting stars

Shooting stars aren’t something you see every day. It is a rare occurrence, which is why it is also believed to be a sign of major changes about to take place.

People who tend to be indecisive may also see shooting stars as a sign that should take courage to undergo difficult, major, but necessary changes. It’s a sign to encourage a person to take that crucial step and make the changes that could potentially be life-changing.

It is widely believed that shooting stars are the universe’s way of telling us various things. A shooting star is one of the ways the universe communicates to you that something big is about to change in one aspect of your life. This could be in your career, relationship, finances, or an equally important area of your life

It doesn’t matter if you are going through tough times or not. Shooting stars aren’t just signs of something big about to occur, but also of the fact that you won’t go through this change alone.

5. A Message from the Departed

It’s not uncommon for those who lost a loved one to cry and hurt a lot every time the departed cross their minds. Some believe that shooting stars indicate that your loved one’s soul is still very much around even after you have lost them.

Shooting stars are seen as a sign that you should not feel sad if you have lost someone recently. There is another part of the departed loved, especially his or her soul, that is still present, indicating that you are not alone. They are seen as the departed’s way of communicating that you should stop feeling troubled and lost as they are still with you. They may be physically gone, but their soul remains. 

As well as giving solace, shooting stars remind those who have lost someone they love that their departed loved ones are still watching over them.

6. A Start or an End

Sterling Shooting Stars Charm Necklace
Shooting Stars Charm Jewellery. See it here.

Shooting stars were viewed as representations of the end of something great in Ancient Greek. This could be the death of a prominent person or the end of a new era. 

Similarly, in ancient Roman culture, shooting stars signify the start of a new era or the birth of a significant person.

7. Divine Messages

In ancient Roman culture, people believed that shooting stars were the gods’ way of communicating with humans on earth, and as their way of responding to prayers or omens of the future. Similarly, in many other cultures, shooting stars are often interpreted as a sign of divine intervention or a communication from the heavens.

8. Transience

night sky with shooting stars

A shooting star travels quickly at the night. If you blink, you could almost miss it. This is why it symbolizes missed opportunities and transience. Similarly, shooting stars also symbolize a surprise you are about to experience. After all, they can be quite unexpected. Just make sure to be aware of anything pleasant that might come your way.

9. Achievement and Success

In a more modern context, the phrase “shooting star” is often used metaphorically to represent a rapid rise to success, though it may also indicate a quick fall after that rise, reflecting the fleeting nature of the actual celestial event.

Wrapping Up

Lucky is the person who sees a shooting star as this phenomenon doesn’t happen all the time. Shooting stars often have deep meanings, rooted in the belief in ancient times. Today, despite our scientific understanding of shooting stars (or meteors), the practice of making wishes upon seeing one persists, continuing the rich, millennia-old tradition of finding deeper meaning in the wonders of the night sky.

A shooting star remains a symbol of reassurance, hope, and good fortune. Seeing one is said to ease your worries and help you find the courage you need either to face a loss, start something new or receive blessings.

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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.