When selecting an item of jewellery to wear, you are more than likely thinking of how it looks against your chosen outfit, or perhaps the occasion for which you are intending wearing it to. Jewellery has been in existence throughout history, and still today, plays a major part in accentuating our appearance. Whether it is a family heirloom, passed down through generations or a newly acquired piece of jewellery, it not only adorns our body, but also carries with it significant meaning and symbolism. Symbolic jewellery is reflective of cultures and different beliefs from around the world, and as will be seen, this can be expressed in the form on an unusual jewellery gift.
Some of the earliest pieces of jewellery date back 75,000 years, one example of these being the Blombos Beads, having been found on 24 April 2004 in the Blombos Caves, which are situated on the southern Cape coastline of South Africa. What appears to be the worlds oldest beads, consists of 41 snail shells having been found in clusters of 17, each shell has a puncture hole in exactly the same place, and they display evidence of “use-wear” markings consistent with friction such rubbing against each other, these shells also have microscopic traces of red ochre inside, suggesting contact with the natural clay earth pigment which was widely used in body painting. The wearing of jewellery is believed to have stemmed from the need to identify individuals, showing their social group and status within the said group, and to some extent, this is still evident in today’s social groups.
What Is Symbolism
Symbols play a very powerful part when it comes to expression, and the use of symbols is certain noticeable in all cultures, religions and in certain rituals. Symbols integrated within jewellery demonstrate a diversity of interpretations, with many believing that certain pieces possess talismanic powers, unifying, protecting and creating a bond with those believing in or belonging to their fellowship.
Symbols portray a host of meanings and can be interpreted differently from person to person or by certain groups. Without-a-doubt, symbols can be culturally-rooted, and for somebody knowing very little of that culture, this could represent a single interpretation of the meaning, whereas for somebody who is widely conversed on the culture, they would actually be aware of the multitude of different interpretations that could arise.
Symbols can “speak louder than words“, none more so than the following symbols and their representations.
The DOVE brings peace, love and calm
The HEART is the symbol of love, compassion and health
The OWL shows wisdom and intelligence
The RAVEN is seen as death and doom
The TREE brings forth growth, nature, stability and eternal life
The “Eye of Horus”
In ancient Egypt the “Eye of Horus“, also known as the “Eye of Ra” represented protection, royal power, good health, restoration and strength. The ancient Pharaoh’s were mummified when they died, and amulets in the shape of the Eye of Horus were made and mummified with them, the amulets were intended to ward off evil and protect the pharaoh in the afterlife.
Paint images and engravings depicting the “Eye of Horus” have been found on artefacts discovered in ancient tombs and temples, and it became evident over time, that the “Eye of Horus” appeared to form part of everyday Egyptian life.
Is the eye left or right?
That is a very interesting question. In ancient Egyptian religion, Horus was a god whose form was that of a falcon, traditions have it that the left eye was the moon or evening star, representing that of healing, and became known as the “Eye of Horus“, whereas the right eye was seen as the sun and morning star, with the represention being that of power and quintessence, and was thus called the “Eye of Ra“.
It can be said that the eyes are the most important symbolic sensory organs, representing omniscience and the windows to the soul, and in many cultures is seen as the most powerful symbol.
Ancient Egyptians were known to paint this symbol on the bows of their vessels to ensure safe sea passage.
Talismans – and their magical connections
There are many symbols that represent love, growth, protection, good health, prosperity and a host of other sacred and spiritual representations, but we are now going to take a look into the world of the Talismans and their magical powers and connotations.
Firstly, what is a Talisman? A Talisman, which is derived from the Greek word “teleo” meaning consecrated or sacred object, can be described as an object that is believed to possess magical powers, bestowing upon its bearer good luck, good health or power, an object that averts evil, and brings good fortune and protection.
A Talisman has its roots in astrology, mainly the Hermetic traditions relating to that of an ancient occult assimilating principles and underlying ideas of alchemy, astrology and theosophy.
Sacred geometry plays a major part in our everyday life, and more often than not, you’ve probably never even realised it. If its all around us, then what exactly is sacred geometry? It has often been referred to as a language of God, and Plato, one of the great philosophers, is known for famously saying “God geometrizes continually“. Representations of sacred geometry can be observed all around us in our natural habitat, whether its in the form of a bee’s honeycomb, seashells or flowers, you more than likely have noticed the repeating patterns and geometric shapes that are present. This is also noticeable in the construction of many religious structures such as churches and temples, and is very visible in the Great Pyramids.
All that being said, sacred geometry can often be seen in Talismans symbols, representing cultural and religious traditions, along with spiritual beliefs and the healing properties channeled within the wearer.
Jewish and Kabbalah Talismans
Star of David
David was derived from the Hebrew name (Dawid) meaning “beloved” or “Uncle“. The Star of David or “Megen David” (Shield of David) is composed of two overlaid equilateral triangles forming a six pointed star, although its origin cannot be traced back to the Bible, it is said to have been derived from the resemblance with the shape of King David’s shield. The earliest known mention of the symbol is cited in a 12th-century Karaite document, although its shape was not specified.
Hamsa is an ancient amulet symbolizing the “Hand of God” offering protection, and also bestowing good luck, good health, happiness and good fortune on its owner. It is also known as the “Hand of Miriam” (sister of Aaron and Moses). The hand is portrayed in one of two styles, the first being that of a regular shaped hand and the other having two thumbs symmetrically arranged, the later of the two being the most popular style. The Talisman offers protection from the “Ayin Ha’ra“, better known as “The Evil Eye“. The number five in Hebrew is “hamesh“, depicting the five fingers of the hand, and in the Hebrew alphabet, the fifth letter is “Hey“, which is often used to represent the name of God.
Five Metals Ring
Based on the ancient Kabalistic concept of joining five metals (silver, gold, tin, lead and copper) to release the hidden spiritual powers intrinsic of such a joining, and thereby creating a Talisman which offers protection and success, coupled with personal-development and expansion. The creation of the ring needs to take place at a specific time, this being when Jupiter obscures the moon, which normally occurs once a month (dependant on the month). Once the ring is completed it is usually engraved in Hebrew, one side will be engraved with S-A-L for abundance and the other side having A-L-D, being a well-known Kabbalah symbol representing protection and safety (Aleph, Lamed and Dalet being three letters in the Hebrew alphabet carrying protective powers), this ancient kabalistic formula for protection and success is found in the Sefer Refuah ve Hayim (The Health of Life Book).
Tree of Life
Sefer Yetzira (Book of Creation) is the earliest book on Jewish mysticism still in existence, in which the “Tree of Life” is explained. The “Tree of Life” represents growth, from a small sapling to an enormous tree, reaching up and outwards, representing personal growth in strength and also that of increased knowledge and experiences over the course of a lifetime. Physical and spiritual nourishment, union and fertility all being represented by this ancient symbol, with the structure of the tree being coupled to the sacred teachings of the Jewish Kabbalah.
Ancient Egyptian Talismans
One popular symbol in ancient Egyptian religion is that of the scarab beetle, which symbolized the restoration of life, immortality and protection. The scarab beetle’s life revolves around the dung balls that they push around, of which they consume, lay their eggs in and feed their young on, thereby representing a cycle of rebirth.
Khepri (or Khepera meaning: morning sun) was an ancient, scarab-faced, Egyptian God of creation, who represented the movement of the sun, pushing it along the sky, much in a similar manner to that of the scarab beetle with his dung ball. The scarab is often depicted on artifacts as pushing the sun along its course in the sky.
During the mummification of a body the heart was the only organ that remained, it was believed that all thoughts and memories of an individual were retained within the heart and would be required in the afterlife, and as such, scarab amulets were placed on the heart to protect it on its journey to the afterlife.
Another ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol is that of the Ankh which represents the word “life“, be it physical life, eternal life, immortality, death or reincarnation, this is the primary symbolic representation of all aspects of life.
The symbol itself is that of an inverted teardrop loop with a cross affixed directly underneath, the symbol was commonly displayed in writings and Egyptian art, and was also widely used to ornate caskets and sarcophagi, which were known as neb-ankh (possessing life). The Ankh is believed to bring good luck to its owner.
The principal symbol of the Christian religion is that of the Cross, representing faith and recalling the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But there is evidence which shows that the cross was in existence centuries before the birth of Christianity, it is believed that the cross originated from the ancient Babylonians. The form of the pre-Christian cross used by pagan’s was that of the “tau cross“, which is of a T-shape having all three ends of the cross expanded, the cross gets its name from the similarity in shape to that of the Greek letter “tau“.
The Christian cross was acknowledged as a symbol of Christianity after the Constantine, and today it is the universal symbol used by both Catholic and Protestants alike, with many Christians wearing the cross in the form of necklaces, bracelets and rings, and often making the sign of the cross during worship.
The image of a fish (ichthus) is a Christian religious symbol representing Christianity, and was adopted by early Christians as a secret symbol to other Christians, during the time that followers of Christianity were being persecuted by the Roman Empire. Ichthus is the Greek word for “fish” and the ichthus symbol in Greek letters is an acronym for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour“. The early followers of Christianity were called “Pisciculi“, the root of the Latin word being “fish“.
The word Buddha means “enlightened” and to follow the path of enlightenment one must embrace morality, meditation and wisdom, and once enlightenment and a state of inner peace is achieved, they are said to have experienced nirvana. Meditation is widely practiced amongst Buddhists as they believe this helps awaken truth.
Buddha, although not a God, is considered an extraordinary man. He was born Siddhartha Gautama in the famous gardens of Lumbini around 623 B.C. and was the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya Devi.
Although Gautama came from a wealthy family, he was touched by the suffering that was all around, and felt a need to relinquish his lavish lifestyle, but finding no fulfillment in this, after years of searching, it is believed that Gautama finally found enlightenment whilst meditating under a Bodhi tree. The teachings of Buddha thus became the foundation of what has developed into Buddhism.
Mandala is the Sanskrit word for “circle“, and are symbolic pictures of the universe, symbolizing unity and harmony as well as that of cosmic and psychic order. The circle is believed to be a magical shape, neither having a beginning nor an end, just as its believed that the universe has no end.
The Mandalas most basic form is circles contained within a square, and having an intricate geometric configuration focused around a single central point, much in the same way as placing sand on a metal plate and vibrating it, you will see different structures forming from the centre. There are many forms of Mandalas but the most common being the Sand Mandala, which is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition using coloured sand, the creation of the Mandala is a form of meditation and can take weeks or even months, with each particle of sand being placed precisely within the intricate design. These sand Mandalas are unique in that they require both their creation and destruction.
The mandala’s purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones.
Om (ॐ) or Aum is considered the most sacred mantra and spiritual symbol (the ॐ symbol representing the sound in a visual form), known as the basic sound of the universe, and is chanted at the beginning and end of most spiritual recitations and prayers. It consists of three letters a, u and m, and its first mention was in the Upanishads, being mystical texts that were connected to Vedanta philosophy.
Have you ever thought what the curves of the Om (ॐ) represent? Well these curves symbolize the mind’s journey, and when broken down, each element represents a different state. Starting with the larger lower curve, this symbolizes the waking state (Jagratha), the upper curve denotes deep sleep (Sushupti), and the smaller lower curve is associated with the dream state (Swapna)
There are eight Auspicious Symbols in Tibetan Buddhism, The Tibetan or Endless Knot being one of them. Auspicious, conducive to success, creating favourable conditions is derived from auspice “a divine omen” considered a lucky sign
The Tibetan Knot symbolizes that of Samsara, being the cycle of death and rebirth, having neither a beginning nor an end, denotes the endless wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. The symbolic meaning of knots also represents the interlinking and binding together, evoking the effects of our karmic destiny.
Amulet Or Talismans – the spiritual connection is there
Amulets and Talisman have been in existence for thousands of years, and hold connections to the spiritual world in one form or another.
Amulet, from the Latin word amuletum, is described as, or refers to an object, having a protective or apotropaic purpose, and as such, the wearing of an amulet offers the wearer protection, shielding them from any evil that may be present. Talismans on the other hand, differ from amulets, having additional powers other than that of protection, offering the possessor enhanced personal power and success.
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