It is easier to explain something to people using symbols, especially if they are illiterate. That was the case in ancient times. These symbols represent different meanings to different people. So unless you learn what each means, you will always misjudge or leave in fear after discovering one of your friends believes in different religion rather than yours. So, what do different religious symbols mean?
Centuries ago, there was only one religion and thus one symbol. However, when the people tried to build the tower of babel to reach God, He created multiple languages amongst people. So, these languages acted as a barrier and thus stopped the construction of babel. Consequently, people spread to different parts of the world, creating new religions and beliefs and, therefore, all the religious symbols across the globe.
Symbols connect people having the same faith. They also identify one group from the other. For instance, Christians and Muslims possess unique symbols.
What is the importance of religious symbolism?
Here are some ciphers you might have come across but didn’t know their meaning.
1. To symbolize and show the power
Often, a community can have more than one religion, and that explains the South Africa religions. They are multiple following the different races and unique faith amongst people. Each religion has its unique symbols to bring people of the same faith together and separate them from the rest.
These symbols are also used to show dominance. For example, what does the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe remind you of? It brings Mexico citizens together on both religious and secular front.
2. For rituals
Christians, especially Catholics, have mass where they reenact the last supper. It involves taking bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ. Rituals bring people together, and they represent a sacred moment or place.
3. To reinforce society structure
Religion brings people together and submits to authority. Religious symbols act as a way of enhancing society to submit to a superior being. For instance, the statue of Jesus represents Him as God. It shows the hierarchical nature of the community as it reminds Christians that they are under God.
Religious symbols used in the world and their meaning
Here are the Christian Symbols you need to know about:
Centuries ago, crosses were used to crucify thieves and other wrongdoers. That is why it was used to crucify Jesus because he called himself the son of God. The Pharisees, scribes, and everyone couldn't believe that the son of a king would live amongst people. So, when they got the chance, they crucified him on the cross to humiliate him before dying.
However, today, the cross is used to remind Christian of how Christ died for their sins. But what would have happened if he didn't rise again? Well, he did, and from then, the cross is seen as the weight (sins) Jesus carried and died on it to save people.
So, the cross is placed in and on top of churches, and some people wear it. Moreover, Catholics perform the act of the cross to remind them of the journey Jesus took to save Christians. In fact, it one of the Easter religious symbols too.
The fish (ichthys)
Most apostles were fishermen, and when Jesus called them, he said: "come, and I will make you fishers of men". This means he called them to spread his gospel. There is a narrative in the Bible about Jesus directing disciples to fish on a particular side of the sea, and they were unable to pull the net up. Why? The fish were a lot, and they realized it was Jesus. So, fish is a universal religious symbol among Christians.
How many Muslim religious symbols and meanings do you know? Muslim is a significant religion in the world, and you've probably noticed their patterns and symbols. For example, the star and the crescent were adopted by Islamic faith during the Ottoman Empire war when Turks conquered Constantinople. It represents life to lead for Allah.
When you see one with a green background, it shows strong faith in Allah. Green shows the Islamic faith. So, if green is painted on the coat of arms, worn as a turban, it identifies one Muslim to another. Check out the green, black, and white colors amongst Muslims as they are familiar and have their meaning too.
Asian yin and yang symbol
Yin and yang refer to balancing nature. In other words, the world wouldn't have evil if there was no sound, light without darkness. It means if one side exists, it must have another.
Star of David
Star of David looks like two interlocking triangles. It’s a Judaism symbol representing the tribe of Judah and Benjamin.
Aum! If you’ve watched a Hindu movie, then you’ve heard the 'aum'. It sounds like a hymn. The same letter forms one of the religious ciphers for Hinduism. It represents Brahma, their creator. Every Hindu says it every morning after waking up.
It's a Hindu symbol meaning good luck. It looks like an incomplete square with an elephant head in the middle. Check out other Hinduism religious symbols and meanings too.
Statue of Buddha
Statue of Buddha is a monk sitting in a meditation pose. It originated from a man named Gautama who slipped out of their palace and saw a happy beggar. Shortly before, he had seen a dead man, a sick man, and an older man. All looked sad. So, seeing a beggar wearing a yellow robe yet happy changed the way he viewed the world. Gautama, after that, taught people how to get satisfied with little they have and help and love others.
Hand of Fatima
This is one of the religious symbols common across several faiths, including Muslims, Christians and Jewish people. It’s an extended hand with an eye in the middle. It has various meanings, including protection against the evil, strength, protection during pregnancy, and that God exists.
The anchor was used by Christians to show unwavering faith. However, today, other religions use it too.
Religious Symbols across the World
The truth is, you can't cover all the symbols in the world because they are many. In fact, new religions come up every single day and unquestionably new symbols. Some countries can have more religions than others. For instance, you'll find different religions in South Africa. In fact, you’ll also find all the above symbols in South Africa. Don’t forget you haven’t covered the traditional religions yet.
The point is, you need to understand or at least respect each religion and its symbols. All religious symbols have an origin you cannot displace. It would be easier if you learned about each before dismissing it.