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The practice of accumulating wealth has existed for centuries and no human can deny the power and comfort that wealth can give us in this world. Hence, it’s not surprising that several symbols of wealth exist across every part of the world.
In this article, let’s discuss the most famous symbols of wealth from all around the world and how they came to exist.
What is Wealth?
Before listing down the most popular symbols of wealth, let’s first define what wealth is. It’s easy to think that wealth is simply an abundance and sometimes an overabundance of money. But before paper bills and coins became the currency of the world, people had been bartering or trading goods for other goods of equal value. Therefore, we can say that wealth is so much more than just having cash, but also an abundance of resources, whether this be in the form of money, gold, precious gems, or even food and other basic necessities.
Popular Symbols of Wealth
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most common symbols of wealth and prosperity from different parts of the world.
The Cornucopia is a symbol of abundance specifically related to agriculture as popularized by the Ancient Greeks. The cornucopia is a horn-shaped wicker basket that normally is full to the brim with a bountiful harvest, especially fruits and vegetables. However, the original cornucopia was supposedly the broken horn of Alpheus when he fought the Greek hero Heracles. To fight the demigod, Alpheus transformed into a magical bull and during the commotion, Heracles was able to break off one of his foe’s horns.
Because of its connection to wealth, the cornucopia is associated with several Greek gods and goddesses like Gaia, the goddess of the Earth, Hades the god of wealth and the underworld, and Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. However, the Romans also revered a deity named Abundantia who is the personification of abundance. Abudantia was often depicted holding a cornucopia.
A totem in the shape of a salmon has long been believed by Native Americans to be a symbol of prosperity and wealth. The Native Americans, especially the Inuits, even hold spiritual ceremonies in honor of salmon, that signifies an abundance of sustenance. In this article, you will come across several animals that also symbolize wealth because of their connection to food and nutrition.
Horses are also considered as a symbol of wealth, particularly by the Greeks. But unlike other animals that represent food, horses were considered a luxury. During the Ancient Greek times, having a horse meant having a mode of transportation. Hence, owning a horse meant that the person was wealthy and had a higher status in society. While horses are no longer the primary means of transport in today’s time, they’re still considered animals of luxury because of how expensive it is to maintain them.
Contrary to what some might believe, the symbolic meaning of the horseshoe is not related to horses at all. Instead, it has something to do with the Catholic saint named Dunstan who is said to have fought the Devil and defeated him. Dunstan then made the devil promise to never enter a place where a horseshoe was hung. Ever since then, the horseshoe became a symbol of abundance, attracting or keeping the wealth of a household, depending on its orientation.
The Maneki Neko figurine is a mainstay in many Japanese businesses because it is believed to bring good fortune to its owner. The maneki neko translates to the beckoning cat which is said to literally call money and prosperity into the establishment. The cat figurine is that of a Japanese bobtail which is usually white in color and has one of its paws waving back and forth.
Generally, the maneki neko is made out of ceramic, but some are also made out of plastic or metal. In modern times, the maneki neko comes with a mechanical arm that actually moves back and forth as if welcoming good luck in. These lucky figurines are then placed near the entrance of any business establishment to attract good fortune.
Just like the salmon, the deer is another symbol of wealth for Native Americans because of it being a source of nutrition. Native American hunters often follow the deer’s footsteps to find food and hunt in the wild.
The Chinese also believe that the ox is a lucky animal, specifically to bring good fortune, success, and prosperity. That’s why those born under the year of the Ox are generally believed to be successful. For those not so lucky enough to be born under the year of the Ox, using trinkets with ox symbols is one way to attract prosperity and abundance.
The Jin Chan or the Chan Chu is yet another symbol of wealth from the Chinese culture. Similar to the Maneki Neko, the Jin Chan is a large toad. Also called the Money Toad or Money Frog, it’s believed to bring prosperity according to the Chinese Feng Shui. The association may be from the fact that frogs and toads reside around the water sources, which is a symbol of wealth in feng shui.
Chinese folklore says that the Jin Chan appears when the moon is full near households or buildings that will receive good news, usually connected to wealth. Jin Chan figurines are usually made out of ceramic or heavy metal and has red gems for its eyes. It takes the form of a bullfrog, with flared nostrils, sitting atop old Chinese traditional coins. It holds a single coin in its mouth and may have its back decorated with seven diamonds.
Feng shui experts suggest to never to let the Jin Chan face your main door and to never to put it in your bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom as this can negatively impact its efficacy.
Chinese Symbol Lu or Zi
This specific Chinese symbol is a stylized Lu star and is the 6th star of Chinese astronomy, pertaining to the star of Zhang Xiang, one of China’s 6 deities. Xiang is believed to be the enemy of the legendary tiangou or the dog-like creature that makes eclipses. Xiang is said to be the protector of male children. Hence, he is revered by Ancient Chinese families in order for them to be blessed with a male offspring. The character lu also refers to the wage of a government official, which is why the Lu star is also used to symbolize prosperity, wealth, and high social status.
The Hindu goddess Lakshmi represents power, wealth, and sovereignty. Lakshmi is the Indian goddess of material desire which means she has dominion over all things related to wealth, fortune, luxury, beauty, and even fertility. While Lakshmi can be qualified as only a Hindu goddess, it is believed that even Buddhists have a certain level of adoration for her.
Depictions of Lakshmi see her as a gorgeous woman with four arms standing or sitting atop a lotus flower. She is flanked by white elephants who are supposedly anointing her with water.
The Celtic rune Fehu, which looks like a slanted letter ‘f’, signifies the word cattle or sheep which represents all worldly possessions, including money. This rune, used by the Germanic languages, may be engraved on stones or gems to attract wealth and good fortune to its bearer.
The hex signs were introduced by the people from Pennsylvania Dutch. These are folk art pieces made out of colorful stripes, petals, or stars, arranged in a circular formation. While they might be believed to be simply decorative pieces, these hex signs are also believed to attract goodwill and abundance to the owners of the barns they are painted at.
As one of the most precious metal regarded by humans, gold has become the ultimate status symbol for the rich. All countries around the world use gold bars for currency, hence it’s not really that surprising to learn that this soft metal is a symbol of affluence, prestige, and success in life. But did you know that the gold exchange standard was adopted fairly recently, becoming the international standard during the 20th century after World War I?
Here’s another artificial measure of wealth that was popularized by a diamond mining brand. Perhaps you already know the story of how De Beers monopolized the diamond industry to make a man spend thousands of dollars on a single small rock as a symbol of love. While we often believe that diamonds are romantic symbols, they are actually a symbol of wealth because of the big price tag that’s been placed on it. In reality, diamonds aren’t all that rare nor are they the most valuable of gemstones.
Finally, perhaps the most used symbol of wealth these days are the respective currencies of all countries. From the dollar down to the peso, currencies are the global symbols of wealth despite their abstract value that are determined by exchange rates and economic activity.
It may be something as mundane as a grain of rice or even the next expensive smartphone. Whatever they may be, using symbols of wealth or other charms that can attract good fortune can only do so much in terms of turning your life around. Only perseverance, hard work and a little bit of luck can help foster your wealth.