A Brief Religious History of Sacred Symbols

A Brief Religious History of Sacred Symbols

Ancient symbols have been used throughout humanity across a wide spectrum of religious groups. They are powerful aspects of spiritual practices and have been used for thousands of years as a means to visually represent complex ideologies. Ancient symbols have also served as channels and points of focus to harness energy. They can even serve various purposes such as providing protection, enhancing fertility, and giving guidance. There are countless symbols spanning across both time and space; appearing in ancient cultures and modern major religions alike. Let's explore some of these symbols to better understand the  meaning and history behind each of them.


Seed of Life

Seed of Life

As soon as ideal conditions align energy bursts forth from seeds, covering the landscape with living, breathing, beauty. Seeds are the basis for life, so it's no surprise that the Seed of Life represents creation. The symbol appears as seven circles that overlap creating a perfectly symmetrical rosette. The Seed of Life is the basis for several other sacred symbols including the Flower of Life, the Fruit of Life, the Egg of Life, and Metatron's Cube.

The Seven Days of Creation

The Seed of Life represents the seven days of creation, the process by which God created the universe. An octahedron was rotated on its axes, creating the first sphere. The Old Testament references the next stage — "the spirit of the Creator floating upon the face of the waters," an expansion of the Creator's self-actualization and the seed. Now we have two circles, the second of which appears alongside the first. This stage is where God said, "Let there be light". The two spheres which resemble a Venn diagram are known as the Vesica Pisces. The Creator continues creating more circles in this method until the Seed of Life is born — the origin of all things and blueprint for our universe. 

The Seed of Life Appears in Most Ancient Cultures and Major Religions 

Examples of the Seed of Life can be found all over the world. It appears in Assyrian, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Phoenician, and even medieval art.

  • In 13th century France, Cabalists discerned the Hebrew alphabet in its correct order utilizing the Seed of Life and geometric interpretation.
  • A religious sage, Rashi's, writings in the Old Testament closely align with the alphabet that the Cabalists found within the Seed of Life.
  • The symbol exists in Christian Churches, Kabbalah text, Synagogues, as well as archaeological sites and ancient temples around the world.

The Seed of Life is often worn as a symbol of protection, fertility and blessing.

Flower of Life

Flower of Life

From the seed blooms the flower. The Flower of Life expands on the Seed of Life, going from seven circles to 19. The centers of the rings are on nine parallel lines, and the border consists of 60 curved triangles. Lines drawn from the center of each sphere give you the five platonic solids, which are covered under Metatron's Cube. The Flower of Life also contains a secret symbol, The Fruit of Life, which has 13 circles, each representing a different reality. These 13 circles each contain unique informational systems responsible for creating everything in our known universe.

The Flower of Life is representative of the Beginning; of the meaning of life and everything within it. It is unity and is a visual expression of the ever-present connection between all sentient beings.  

The Flower of Life Throughout History

The unique qualities within the Flower of Life came about during King Akhenaton's reign in Egypt. The earliest examples of the Flower of Life are in The Osirian Temple in Abydos, Egypt. Research shows that the symbols inscribed there occurred between the 2nd and 4th century AD. The patterns appear in red ochre on two of the granite columns; one of which stands directly across from the Osirion. 

The famous Leonardo Da Vinci studied the Flower of Life and explored the various components associated with it. There are numerous shapes in his artwork that he may have derived from the ancient symbol including the platonic solids, spheres, and tori. Even the Golden Ratio of Phi may have been inspired by the Flower of Life's captivating geometry. 

The Flower of Life also appears in various other cultures and religious practices worldwide.

  • China - The Forbidden City
  • Etruscan - Appears in artifacts dating back to the 7th century
  • India - The Harimandir Sahib or Golden Temple, Hampi, and the Buddhist Temples in Ajanta
  • Israel - The Galilee, Meseda, and ancient synagogues
  • Italy - Italian art dating back to the 13th century
  • Japan - Various temples
  • Rome - Church of San Clemente
  • Spain - Cordoba, La Mezquita
  • Turkey - Ephesus, Izmir
  • Verona - Church of San Fermo Minore

Tree of Life

Tree of life

The Tree of Life comes in many shapes and sizes, but at its core consists of two triangles with center-oriented tips, resembling an hourglass. The ancient symbol is spread throughout the world, appearing in different cultures across time. Some places its appeared are:

  • Celtic and Gaelic culture - Known as Crann Bethadh, these trees had the power to care for all life on earth and fostered connections to the spiritual world.
  • Sumerian Cultures - Known as the symbol of divine creation
  • Christianity - A tree in the Garden of Eden
  • Buddhism - The Bodhi tree was the location where Buddha attained enlightenment so the tree represents the path to enlightenment and life itself. 
  • Egyptian Culture - The tree represents abundance, death, as well as heaven, earth, and the underworld.
  • Kabbalah/Cabalah
  • Cherokee traditions

Despite the Tree of Life spanning various cultures and eras, it often maintains universal overarching meanings — connection, creation, and growth.

Metatron's Cube

Metatron's Cube

Metatron is the archangel from Judaism and Christian mythology, who was responsible for guarding the Tree of Life. Metatron's Cube is a sacred symbol that represents the universe as we know it and reminds us that everything, big and small, is connected. It embodies the flow of energy throughout the universe. The cube is derived from the Seed of Life and Flower of Life and is presented as 13 circles and several lines which form the platonic solids.

The Platonic Solids

Platonic Solids

The five Perfect Solids or Plato Solids are the templates from which all life comes from.

  1. The Cube
  2. The Tetrahedron
  3. The Icosahedron
  4. The Dodecahedron
  5. The Octahedron

These five shapes give us a two-dimensional view of the various forms that molecules can take. Thusly, these shapes are the basis for all things that matter creates.

Religious and Cultural Facts about Metatron's Cube

  • This ancient symbol has origins in Jewish oral traditions. Subsequently, it appeared in the Book of Zohar.
  • In Christianity's Old Testament the figure described in the Jewish tradition is known as the Archangel Michael. He is seen with the cube in various Christian art pieces.
  • Metatron's cube also appears in Islamic traditions. 
  • The spheres are representational of several things including Jesus and his disciples, the hours in the day, and the Zodiac signs and the sun. 
  • Kabbalist scriptures say that Metatron formed the cube from his soul.
  • Metatron's cube is a holy glyph that can be drawn to protect against demonic and satanic interference. 

Metatron's Cube assists those who assume responsibility for their actions in both realizing and attaining their Life's task. The cube balances energy and provides inspirational and transformative moments for those who integrate it into their spiritual journey. 

Yantra and Sri Yantra

Sri Yantra

Yantra's date back to 11,000 - 10,000 BC. These geometrically harmonious symbols hail from Indian Tantric traditions where they were aids for meditations and deity worship. 

The Sri Yantra is the mother of all Yantras and each of its features comes with a spiritual meaning. It consists of five triangles pointed downward (the female energy or Shakti) and four triangles pointing upwards (the male consciousness or Shiva). The overlapping of the triangles forms 43 smaller triangles within it, all of which have their own meanings. The Sri Yantra is displayed with two crowns, one with eight lotus petals and another with 16. They represent the "lotus of creation" and the "reproductive vital force." Even the circles and squares have been giving meaning making this symbol extremely powerful and multifaceted.

This oldest example of the Sri Yantra is found inside the Vidyashankara temple in southern India. This mystical diagram is still widely used today in China, India, and Tibet as a symbol of good fortune. It promotes abundance and aids people in overcoming obstacles to achieve their desires. The Sri Yantra also catalyzes peace and promotes both spiritual and material growth. 

Other Ancient Symbols

Ancient Symbols

This is only a small selection of ancient symbols. There are many more that have appeared in various religions, cultures and mystical practices. Some transcend borders, popping up across time and space, while others exist in the sacred text or art of particular religious groups and cultures.

  • Ankh - One of the most popular symbols from Ancient Egypt, the Ankh represents life and eternity. Archaeologists discovered an Ankh mirror in Tutankhamon's tomb — a practical use for the symbol. In Egyptian culture, the mirror was thought to have the power to hide mystical meaning. 
  • Aum or Om - We have a wonderful blog on Om and meditation. Feel free to check it out to learn more about the mantra that is associated with this sacred symbol.
  • Yin Yang - An ancient symbol that originated in ancient Chinese philosophy and is the visual representation of perfect equilibrium. It represents that duality of all things that work together in harmony — positive and negative, light and dark, night and day, and Heaven and Earth.
  • Spirals - Appears in spiritual contexts worldwide. The most well-known example is The Golden Spiral.
  • Merkabah - Has roots in early Jewish mysticism. The Merkabah is the divine light vehicle utilized by ascended masters to connect with higher realms. The Bible references this symbol in Ezekiel 1:4-26 (God's throne-chariot). 

Does Ancient Symbolism Still Exist in Today's Religions?

Cathedral Architecture

Although these symbols date back thousands of years, they can still be found all around us today. 

The Seed of Life and Flower of Life have strong symbolic connections to Christianity. The Tripod of Life, and Tree of Life, Spherical Octahedron, Vesica Piscis, as well as Metatron's Cube, are all still present in Christian art. Furthermore, the sacred text, as it has remained largely unchanged, still references these symbols to this day.

In New Age practices many of these symbols have been harnessed to help brings practitioners closer to enlightenment. For example, there are people all over the world who have their own beliefs and meditational practices centered around the Flower of Life. The Sri Yantra and other mandalas are also still widely used to aid in meditation, just as they were in the past. 

Essentially all sacred symbols that have roots in major religions are still active in the associated text and artwork. Symbols that are grounded in ancient practices that have survived through time are also still very much in use to aid in spiritual visualization and bringing in the proper energy to facilitate growth in all aspects of life. 

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