The symbolism of the castle is complex. According to Cirlot in A Dictionary of Symbols, the symbol of the castle is "derived at once from that of the house and that of the enclosure or walled city". In medieval art, walled cities represented the transcendent soul and the heavenly Jerusalem. Castles also represent the “difficult to obtain" and spiritual testing. As castles are often located atop hills or crags, the additional symbol of level or height exists.
The castle and moat are symbolic of physical and spiritual refuge and therefore an especially important symbol during the Crusades. A stronghold of either good or evil, castles usually hold a treasure or a princess (a symbol of enlightenment). As a symbol that houses the unobtainable treasure or an imprisoned person, the castle represent the acquisition of esoteric knowledge or spiritual attainment. To obtain the treasurer to free the prisoner, demanding tasks or heroic struggles must be successfully completed.
Caernarfon Castle was constructed at Caernarfon in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, by King Edward I of England, following his conquest of Gwynedd in 1283. Drawing by Megalobo.
Castles represent authority, dominance, power, romance, safety, sovereignty, and wealth. In heraldry the castle is symbolic of grandeur, nobility, solidity, and strategy.
In Sandplay – Silent Workshop of the Psyche, Bradway and McCoard view the castle as an androgynous symbol. "As a place to live in, it is a feminine image; as a fortress, it is a masculine image." The authors suggest that the use of this symbol may represent the bringing together of feminine and masculine aspects.
If a client uses a castle miniature, what does the item represent? Of course, much of the answer depends on the particular client, their history, and process. In my sandplay collection, the castle most often used was a sandcastle made to replicate the type of structure one would build at the beach. The sandcastle surface is covered with sand so the miniature is very realistic. Did clients use this particular sandcastle because my practice was in an area close to the coast? Are clients drawn to this castle miniature because of their experience of building sandcastles at the beach? There were many other stone castles from which to choose. Only occasionally were the fairytale castles placed in a scene. If I practiced in a region of the Rhine River in Germany, where castles tower above the river at almost every turn, would clients use castle miniatures as a symbol of protection and power more often? Symbols carry powerful personal and collective meanings. It is always interesting and challenging to decipher and to understand the meaning of sandplay miniatures for individual clients.
The Castle of Lichtenstein, also known as "Castle of the Faerie Tale", is located on a cliff next to Honau in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Drawing by Megalobo.