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We all have varying definitions for life, but its universal meaning is the existence of any living being – life is what we all have in common (just like death). Since ancient times, people have been using various symbols, words, and signs to represent the concept of life. Here’s a look at some of the most common symbols of life.
Also known as the key of life, the Ankh is a cross-shaped symbol with a teardrop loop instead of an upper bar. It is an Egyptian symbol that signifies eternal life, life after death and regeneration of life. The Ankh was also used in various positive expressions and greetings such as:
- May you be healthy/alive
- I wish you long life/health
- Alive, sound and healthy
The Ankh was a typical decorative motif in ancient Egypt and is one of the most popular hieroglyphics. It was also depicted on many ancient Egyptian tombs because it was believed to play a significant part in the afterlife. In many representations, the Ankh can be seen being fed to pharaohs by Egyptian gods, symbolizing that they are the living embodiments of divinity.
Today, the Ankh is often worn as jewelry or tattooed on the skin as a permanent emblem of life.
Chai is one of the most popular symbols of life. It’s a Hebrew word that means alive or living and is written with two letters – Chet and Yud. For the Jewish community, this word symbolizes the value of life and the will to live. It also serves as a reminder that they should protect life and live life with thoughtfulness, kindness, and selflessness. A famous Jewish expression is L’chaim, which means to life. This phrase is commonly uttered at celebrations to welcome all the good things in life.
A common symbol found in all cultures is the sun, symbolizing several different concepts. One of the common meanings of the sun is life and strength because it provides the life force that allows all being to grow. Aside from being a symbol of life, the sun can also represent power, passion, and health.
Tree of Life
The tree of life is a beautiful and powerful symbol that you can find in most cultures. One of its symbolisms is the circle of life, which is birth, death, and rebirth. In the symbol, the roots of the tree are extended deep into the ground. Its branches, on the other hand, soar high towards the heavens. Hence, the tree of life can also represent a strong connection between heaven and Earth. Lastly, the tree of life can also symbolize the four elements, which are air, water, wind, and earth, which are essential for all life.
Flower of Life
The flower of life symbol has existed since ancient times and is one of the most complex and meaningful of all symbols. At its core, it represents life and its very beginnings. The flower of life is made created by drawing a central circle with evenly spaced circles emanating from it. This represents energetic force that flows in all life forms. For some, this symbol represents the root of life. Others, on the other hand, believe that it symbolizes love, abundance, and fertility. Lastly, some also think that this symbol signifies that all life forms are connected.
Also known as Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent is an ancient Native American symbol that represents life and creation. The feathered serpent is the creator god and a guardian of life in Native American culture. Unlike most other Native American deities, the feathered serpent was opposed to human sacrifice, which further strengthened its association with life and the celebration of life. Additionally, the feathered serpent is also associated with waterways, thunderstorms, and rain.
Man in the Maze
Another ancient Native American symbol in this list is the man in the maze. As its name implies, this symbol shows the figure of a man located at the start of a labyrinth. The maze represents a person’s life, which is filled with both negative and positive paths. Also, the labyrinth may symbolize the various changes or twists and turns a person will go throughout their life. Lastly, the symbol has a dark circle at the center, which represents death. The dark circle can also signify the start of a new phase in life.
Hopi Maze or Tapuat
The tapuat is a vital Native American symbol, which is somewhat similar to the Man in the Maze symbol. The tapuat symbolizes the labyrinth of life, and the various challenges and obstacles a person has to overcome to grow or evolve spiritually. Aside from that, the tapuat is also known as a symbol of Mother Earth. A such, this symbol can signify the strong connection between a mother (nature) and her children, essential for life itself.
The triskelion, also known as the triskele, is an ancient Celtic symbol with three interlocking spirals. The three spirals represent three stages of life, which are life, death, and rebirth. Aside from being a symbol of life, the triskelion has other meanings. First, it may symbolize the three realms, which are water, earth, and sky. In Christianity, this ancient symbol also represents the Father(God), the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Finally, the three spirals can also stand for the past, the present, and the future.
Water is one of the four essential elements needed by living things to grow and flourish, making it one of the best-known symbols of life. However, keep in mind that water also has other meanings. For example, it can symbolize birth and fertility. For Christians, water is symbolic during baptism, and it represents purification or cleansing.
The Phoenix is a mythical bird with roots in ancient Egyptian mythology. According to myth, the bird lives for five hundred years, after which it bursts into flames. From there, the bird will rise from the ashes, and it will be reborn as a new Phoenix. Because of its ability to be reborn, this mythical bird has become a popular symbol of life, death, rebirth, and immortality.
In ancient times, the phoenix also symbolized royalty. As such, most kings place this symbol on their shields, armor, and robes. As for Christians, the Phoenix also represents the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The stork is a symbol of new life, birth and creation because of the old saying that storks bring babies to new parents. This has also associated storks with a mother’s love. Storks can also represent a long life because of the bird’s longevity.
In ancient times, the scroll was a highly useful item and people used scrolls to record information. As a symbol, scrolls represent life and time. This is because it indicates a life that is unraveling. Remember, the length of a scroll is uncertain, and its contents are hidden. Likewise, our life is also uncertain, and our future is unknown.
A torch has several meanings and how it’s depicted can hold different representations. For example, a torch that is lit or held up signifies life and truth. A torch that is pointed downwards, on the other hand, may symbolize death.
A flame is a powerful symbol of eternal life and regeneration. The dynamic nature of fire as it burns symbolizes life itself, as the flame appears alive. It’s also a symbol of bringing forth new life. However, fire can also have several negative meanings, including destruction, death and hell.
This list contains the most popular symbols of life around the world, and many of them have been used since ancient times to signify life, eternal life, regeneration, birth and rebirth. However, keep in mind that most symbols on this list have multiple and even opposing meanings.