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The concept of rebirth is an ancient one and can be found in almost all religions, mythologies, and belief systems. Some religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Gnosticism, and Taoism, believe in reincarnation, where a body disintegrates but the soul lives on.
Pagan and tribal religions do not have such direct notions of rebirth, but believe in elements within nature, such as water, trees, the sun, and the moon, that are continually reborn and regenerated. In modern times, these rebirth symbols have been depicted and visualized for physical, mental, and spiritual renewal.
There are numerous symbols of rebirth around the globe. In this article, we explore 13 rebirth symbols and their significance.
The phoenix is a colourful, mythological bird, that symbolizes rebirth, regeneration, and renewal. At the end of its life, the phoenix builds a nest around itself and bursts into flames and is replaced by a new phoenix that is born from the ashes. The Phoenix has been incorporated into the mythology of several cultures. The Persians have a similar bird known as the simurgh. For the Chinese, a male and female phoenix represents the Yin and Yang and is said to bring balance to the universe. In Rome, an image of a phoenix was etched into Roman coins to signal eternal wealth. In Christianity, the phoenix was held in a place of great importance as a symbol of Christs resurrection.
The New Moon
The new moon or the crescent moon is a symbol of new beginnings and rebirth. Many people start new jobs, projects, and set new goals at the start of a new moon. In some cultures, there is a belief that the new moon rejuvenates the mind and soul, enabling an individual to have a fresh start. In Hinduism, the new moon day is considered very auspicious, and some make offerings to their deceased ancestors on this day. Each month of the Hindu lunar calendar begins and ends with a new moon.
The Ouroborus originated in ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology and represents a dragon or a snake eating its own tail. The Ouroborus is seen as a symbol of death and rebirth. A snake/dragon dies by eating itself but is reborn through self-fertilization. In the 17th and 18th centuries, images of Ouroboros could be seen on gravestones, and this symbolized reincarnation of the deceased. The Ouroborus has also been used as a gnostic and alchemical symbol, to say that things never disappear but keep changing, and are destroyed only to be recreated.
Like many other creatures, star fish have the ability to regenerate their limbs. When one limb has been torn or cut off, they can grow them back. Due to this characteristic, the starfish were given great importance among the Native Americans, who venerated them for their strength and immortality. There was even a Native American tribe named after a type of star fish. In recent times, many people have adopted the star fish as their spirit animal due to its regenerative ability. People look at the starfish as an inspiration to cast away their older selves, paving way for new thoughts and actions.
The lotus flower has been considered a symbol of rebirth, regeneration, and enlightenment in many cultures. This is because the lotus emerges from muddy waters and blooms during the day, then closes up and retreats back into the water at nightfall, only to repeat the process the next day. In ancient Egypt, the closing and reopening of the lotus petals symbolized the dead entering the underworld, and their reincarnation. Due to this symbolic meaning, the ancient Egyptians used the lotus flower in tombs and wall paintings. In Buddhism, the lotus is often depicted with the Eightfold Path, a guide to reincarnation and enlightenment. In Buddhism, a popular symbol for nirvana is the Buddha meditating over a lotus flower.
Tree of Life
The tree of life is both a symbol of immortality and rebirth. The oldest tree of life was found in Turkey in 7000 BC, and in 3000 BC an image of a pine tree was found in the Acadians, symbolizing life and rebirth. In almost all ancient cultures, the tree of life stood as an emblem of spring. The season of spring marked the end of winter and witnessed a rebirth of plants and flowers. Trees were worshipped during this season as a giver of new life through their seeds.
The dung beetle or the scarab beetle has been worshipped in many cultures since time immemorial. In ancient Egyptian mythology, the scarab beetle was associated with Khepri, or the God of sunrise. Khepri has a man’s body and a beetle’s head. This beetle was seen as a symbol of rebirth and immortality, just like the rising sun, which goes down only to rise anew every morning. The Egyptian name for the scarab beetle means “to be created” or one that “comes into this world”. The scarab beetle is considered holy and can be found in amulets, sculptures, and tomb walls.
Water has been a symbol of rebirth and renewal since ancient times. The unique characteristic of water is that it has the ability to cleanse itself of grime and dirt and become sparkling clean once again. Human beings use water not only to clean themselves physically, but also as a means of emotional renewal. Many people who bathe in holy rivers believe that they have washed away their sins and troubles, only to be reborn again. Water also plays an important role in rituals and meditation to cleanse and freshen the mind, spirit, and soul. In countless creation myths water is seen as the source of life itself.
Butterflies are a symbol of rebirth, transformation, and renewal. They crack out of their eggs as caterpillars, develop in a pupa, and come out as winged creatures. The butterfly is ever changing and transforming until it reaches its final stage of development. Butterfly necklaces, bracelets and earrings, are gifted to people who are entering a new phase or stage in their lives.
The Easter egg is seen by Christians as a symbol of fertility, new life, and rebirth. In Christianity, the Easter eggs mark the resurrection and rebirth of Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the cross. Easter eggs painted red symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ, and the shell of the egg is said to be a symbol of the sealed tomb. When the egg is cracked open, it symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Snakes represent life, renewal, and rebirth. Over a period of time, snakes accumulate dirt and grime on their skin but they have the unique ability to shed their skin to get rid of the filth. Due to this quality of the snake, many people use it as a symbol of self-renewal. Just like the snake, if we are ready to shed off the past, we can rid ourselves of what was holding us back and be born again. Additionally, in many ancient cultures the snake has represented a rebirth of the physical body. For instance, in ancient Greek mythology, god Asclepius, who has a snake on his staff, is believed to remove diseases and restore the body.
The Color Green
The color which is most commonly associated with nature, freshness, hope, and rejuvenation is green. The Japanese associate green with spring, as a season of the rebirth and renewal. In China, green is associated with the east and the rising sun, that diminishes into the darkness, only to be reborn again. In Hinduism, green is the colour of the heart chakra, which is considered the crux of life itself.
Moulting birds have a similar characteristic to snakes. They can shed off their feathers and regrow newer, stronger ones. The process of moulting happens periodically, with either a few feathers or all feathers being cast away. Due to this characteristic, moulting birds are thought to represent continuous and consistent rebirth or renewal.
Rebirth symbols can be found all around us. They act as a reminder that there is always hope and an opportunity to start afresh, no matter how bleak the circumstances may seem. In our world, rebirth symbols will never lose their significance or relevance.