Stretching across nearly 200 square miles, the Nazca lines are legendary. Hundreds of figures include giant spiders, monkeys, humming birds, fish, sharks, llamas, lizards, and more. The glyphs have lasted for over 1,500 years due to the dryness of the region.
The glyphs were made by the Nazca people between 200 BC and 600 AD by scraping a layer of iron oxide off of the dry desert floor. It is believed that the designs were made by using wooden stakes in the ground and rope to keep the lines in ratio to each other. This theory is supported by the finding of wooden stakes at the end of some of the lines.
They are a mystery. Why were they created? One theory is that the lines were created to be walked on as possibly a ceremonial procession that led the way to a sacred area used for praying to various water and agricultural gods. Another suggestion is that the figures were to be seen by the gods as an early SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Others believe that the lines were a giant astronomical calendar pointing to the locations where celestial bodies would align themselves. However, archaeoastronomists who examined the site in 2000 dismissed this claim as insufficiently supported.
Despite the figures having been examined by numerous anthropologists, ethnologists, and archaeologists, not to mention new-agers, ancient astronaut theorists, and alien enthusiasts, we may never know what the designs were meant for, or how the Nazca people intended them to be seen. What we do know, though, is that they are incredibly fascinating.
Zodiac literally means animal circle and is the symbol of celestial glory, the complete circuit dome of light, firmament, halo, lofty sentiments, pathway of fate, and time. The zodiac is also the field of sun hero epics. The lunar zodiac is a circle of twenty-eight star groups associated with the days of the month. The solar zodiac is the sun path comprised of twelve mansions associated with the months of the year (Jobes).
The zodiac is also a “symbol of relationship in the universe, and of cyclical and seasonal transformation; it is the Wheel of Life; an archetype; the harmony of the Many and the One; the fall into the phenomenal world and the salvation from it” (Cooper, pg 198). The goat that represents Capricorn in the western zodiac symbolizes the gate of the gods, the janua coeli, in the winter solstice. (The two solstices, at the highest and lowest points of the year, are called janua coeli or heaven's gates.)
In the mansion, Capricornus, the sun enters on December 21, which is the Babylonian month of Tebet. The Sun Carrier varies according to cultural beliefs. In Babylonia the sun carrier is the goat-fish, in China it is the rooster, in Egypt it is the baboon, and in Europe the sun carrier is the goat. According to Jobes, the ruling planet is Saturn; the flower is holly; the Druidic tree is the birch, the element is the Earth; the color is blue-violet; and the birthstone is lapis lazuli or turquoise.
Other associations of the mansion Capricornus is the quality of influence, which is feminine, cold, dry, and unfortunate. Capricornus influences the knees; the keyword or nature is I use; and the type is actional. Guardians or rulers and their corresponding symbols are: the Greek Hesta and her lamp; the Norse Svipdag and hand; the Roman Vesta and the hearth; the Occultist Angel Humiel and the talismanic gem known as beryl. Also associated with the mansion Capricornus are the Hebrew Tribe, the Naphtali; the Christian Disciple Matthew and the Angel; the biblical book of the Gospels; and the tarot card The Wheel.
See Bibiography category for reference information.
In Roman mythology, seahorses were the steeds of Neptune, deity of the Upper Waters. As attributes of Neptune, they represented cosmic forces and the rhythm of the waves. They were also the steeds of Poseidon, a Greek sea god. Daily, Poseidon rode through the ocean on a chariot pulled by seahorses.
Seahorses represented the lunar and humid element of the sea and chaos. Seahorses also carried the dead safely to the underworld. Because of their unique form, the Chinese regarded seahorses as the lesser sons of dragons. In Norse myth, they symbolized the power of water.
The owl has both positive and negative symbolism. The wise owl is associated with many forms of the Crone goddess who embodied wisdom and morality. Women associated with the wise owl are Lilith, Athena, Minerva, Blodeuwedd, Anath, and Mari. The negative aspect of the owl as a death bird appears in the myth and lore of many cultures and is most prevalent in myths of Central and North America, China, Japan, Egypt, and India.
The owl is the Greek symbol of Athena and the emblem of Athens; sacred to Demeter and regarded as prophetic. Celtic myth tells of the magical aspect of the owl, attribute of Gwynn, the Celtic god of the underworld. In heraldry, the owl signifies one who is vigilant with acute wit. Amerindians called the owl the Night Eagle; the bird of sorcerers.
According to Jobes, in the Dictionary of Mythological Folklore and Symbol, in Christian crucifixion scenes, the owl is an attribute of Christ, “who sacrifices himself to give light to those in darkness. As an attribute of Satan, prince of darkness, typifies deception.“
A symbol of darkness, night, and death, the owl’s cry forebodes calamity, sickness, or death. Vedic attribute of Yama, the god of the dead, the owl is sometimes used as a messenger. To the Ainu people of Northern Japan, the Eagle owl is revered as a messenger between gods and man, the Screech out warns against danger, and the Horned owl and Barn owl are demonic and evil. Owls is also symbolizes meditation, silence, wisdom and is a symbol of the itinerant monks, the Fukuro. In China and Japan, the owl signifies crime or ungrateful children. In China, the owl is also associated with thunder and summer.
The owl is the Australian aboriginal messenger of the evil god, Muurup, who eats children and kills people. In Malayan myth, the owl is langsuyar, a ghost or flying demoness. In Hebrew lore the owl represents blindness and desolation and is considered unclean. In Zoroastrianinsm, known as Asho-zushta, the bird who frightens away demons by reciting the Avesta, the book of sacred wisdom. Algonquin Indians believe the owl was the bird of death. They also believed the owl was a symbol of winter and the creator of the north wind. In Mexican lore, the owl is symbol of night and death.
J.C. Cooper, in An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, offers the following information regarding gestures of the hand:
On the breast – submission, the attitude of a servant or slave
Clasping – union, mystic marriage, friendship, allegiance
Folded – repose, immobility
Covering the eyes – shame or horror
Crossed at the wrist – binding or being bound
Laying on – transference of power and grace or healing
On the neck – sacrifice
Open – bounty, liberality, justice
Clenched – threat, aggression
Outstretched – blessing, protection, welcome
Placed in another’s – pledge of service, the right hand pledges the life principal
Placed together – defenselessness, submission of the vassal before the sovereign, inferiority, inoffensiveness, greeting, allegiance
Placed on each other palm upward – meditation, receptiveness
Raised – adoration, worship, prayer, salutation, amazement, horror, also receiving of the influx of power
Raised with palm outwards – blessing, divine grace and favor,
Both hands raised – supplication, weakness, an implication of ignorance, dependence, surrender, also invocation and prayer
Raised to head – thought, care
Shaking the hand – forms the cross or ankh of covenant, a pledge
Washing hands – dinner innocence, purification, repudiation of guilt
Wringing hands – excessive grief or lamentation
In Sumerian myth, Nammu is the Great Serpent Goddess. She represents the dynamic power of waters beyond, beneath, and around the earth. Legend tells of her regenerative and creative powers. As goddess of the abyss, she gave birth to earth and heaven.
Nammu brought forth the cosmic mountain An-Ki, Heaven, and Earth. An and Ki brought forth a son, Enlil, God of air or breath. He separated Heaven from Earth and carried off Earth, his mother Ki, to be his bride.
The Upanishads, sacred texts that form the basis for Hindu philosophy and doctrine, were composed from 600 to 300 B.C. A collection of stories, hymns, metaphors, and dialogs, the focus or lessons of the Hindu texts are the concept of: an interior place, which is the source of being; enlightenment; and cosmic consciousness. The Upanishads teach that the divine resides in the cave of the heart, which is the great fulcrum of the universe where atman (spiritual self) meets brahman (holy power).
The Hindus also created the text, the Kama Sutra, which is more than a handbook; “it is a guide for keeping the principle of desire alive and balanced in the human heart and therefore the cosmos at large“ (Goodwin, 2001). Kama, one of the four goals of life, has to do with “the enhancement of pleasure, the enjoyment of the gifts of the earth, and close attention to things and people” (Goodwin).
Chakras, the Hindu mystical physiology of energy points in the body, are wheels of energy. Of the seven chakras, the fourth or heart chakra is called anhata. It is related to relationship, compassion, and balance. Anhata’s element is air; it’s symbolic animal is the gazelle. If one attains the heart chakra through the practice of yoga one can experience atman connecting with brahman.
Heart chakra: anhata
Bark painting: female and male mimi
Most Australian tricksters are benign but there are those who create chaos and sickness. The Ngangjala-Ngangjala and the Wurulu-Wurulu often disrupt or subvert the ancestral order. The Argula are tricksters related to sorcery. The tricksters known as the mimi can inflict sickness, while the Namorodo are more sinister. The Ngangjala-Ngangjala and the Wurulu-Wurulu tricksters wander through the bush looking for mischief and creating chaos. They are the reason people fight and steal. They themselves steal food and ruin the harvest. They paint images of themselves over ancient cave paintings of aboriginal culture heroes. The Ngangjala-Ngangjala are often seen in the clouds during monsoon season. They also appear as a mist raising from their own cook fires, where they have been cooking stolen food.
The Wurulu-Wurulu steal honey from the bees. They use bottlebrush flowers tied to long sticks to obtain honey from wild bees nests. It is said that if one finds an empty honeycomb, the Wurulu-Wurulu have been there.
The Argula punish anti-social behavior,. Images of the Argula are painted on dwellings to inflict disability or death. The mimi are depicted as long slender spirits who live in the cracks of the Arnhem Land escarpment. If surprised by humans wandering the cliffs, these spirit tricksters become angry and cause sickness. So, travelers near the cliffs shout out to the mimi to warn them of their presence. The mimi live and sing within the rocks and can be heard at night tapping out the rhythm of their songs.
The Namordo “who are so thin that they consist of skin and bones held together by sinew, are particularly feared. They travel at night, making a swishing sound as they fly through the air, and may kill with one of their long claws anyone they hear“ (Willis, 1998, p. 285). Anyone who is sick or injured is vulnerable to their actions. The Namordo can capture the spirit of the dead, preventing it from joining its ancestors. The dead spirit then wanders the bush creating chaos.
Jai Johnson, Art Collections
I once had the pleasure of traveling in the state of Idaho. I took the scenic route (how could any part of Idaho not be a scenic route?). I drove 1,250 miles in three days. From Boise, I drove northeast on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway through the Sawtooth Mountain wilderness area, then south through Sun Valley, and then west back to Boise. The next day, I traveled north following the Payette River to Coeur d’Alene, then west to Spokane, then south through an area known as the Palouse, then back to Boise. Words such as picturesque and spectacular cannot fully describe the geography I saw.
Deer and coyote caught me by surprise as I rounded the corners of the mountain roads. Magpies, western bluebirds, and hawks perched on fence post on the side of the road. If I had stopped at each awesome site, I would not have covered so many miles. With so much quiet time and so many miles, I wondered about the rich Native American Indian heritage of the area. The Coeur d’Alene Indians have many stories related to their life on the plains and plateaus. Following is the story of Coyote and Moon.
Coyote is originally chosen by the first humans to be the Moon, but they become dissatisfied because he takes advantage of his position in the sky to watch people on earth and divulge their secrets. He is replaced in the sky by Old Man Chief, SpoxanitcElt, who travels about the world inspecting things Coyote has left undone. Coyote becomes angry because Sun has killed some of his children. He cuts out Sun’s heart, and at once the earth becomes completely dark. Coyote attempts to carry Sun’s heart home but the dark keeps falling. Finally he realizes he is getting nowhere. He put Sun’s heart back and light returns to earth. (Gill & Sullivan, 1992, p. 55)
Idaho is truly a beautiful state. I enjoyed my sunrise to sunset drives. Had I known coyote was responsible for lighting my way and illuminating Idaho's beauty, it would have only added to my pleasure.
Designed by Julie Thompson Spanaway, United States
A trickster is a character in a story who exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and defy conventional behavior.
In researching the topic of tricksters, I found it most interesting that the majority of stories involving these characters predominately came from Native American and African cultures, and often appeared in animal form. If, according to C.G. Jung, tricksters were the preservation of the shadow in pristine form, then I am grateful for these delightful characters and their often mischievous ways.
The seed represents potentiality, latent power, and the male principal. As a feminine symbol, the seed is fertility, life to be, and growth. Symbol of the Center, from which the Cosmic Tree of Life grows.
In Hinduism, the seed is the Divine Spirit, Atman (the Sanskrit spirit of the highest principle of the universe), the center of being, the heart. The seed in the center of the Hindu temple represents Life and consciousness itself. In Buddhism, the seed is called bija and as a Sanskrit letter is often inscribed on a box or plaque, for ritual invocation.
Along with gold, silver, pearls, precious stones, and human blood, seeds were offered to Mexican gods for bountiful harvests and victories. Seeds are closely associated with fruit and share symbolism. Because fruit contains the seeds of growth, fruit represents cosmic origins and immortality.
For World Mythography Part I see February 21, 2021 post
Using a regional paradigm, myths can be examined as they relate to geography and culture. Following is World Mythography: Part II
Northern Europe – myths are from medieval literature of the Scandinavian northlands and Germanic legends; recorded by Christian monks, some stories contain old beliefs and customs; Viking myths include tales of journeys, sky and earth deities, guards who ruled over knowledge of the past and future, poetry and oratory, and victory in battle; Germanic myths tell of the conflict between gods and monsters; myths of the northlands also told of the World tree and its realms, the trickster, the wolf, the last great battle, the All-Father Odin, gods of sky, land, water, goddesses and female spirits, and dragon slayers
Central and Eastern Europe – although comprised of many peoples, the Slavs had a shared mythic tradition; pagan gods and folktales survive through oral tradition; three motives evolved (the theme of light against dark, the cult of the dead ancestors, and the elemental gods); other themes are the other world, the Baba Iaga (the witch), ancestors and heart spirits, spirit souls of the departed, and malevolent spirits (forest creatures, werewolves, and vampires)
The Arctic Regions – myths in these remote areas reflect the harsh environment and the fact that people were widespread and lived in small, isolated groups; common mythic themes are the threat of starvation, animals as helpers and tricksters, spirits who control the seasons, the health of humanity, the elements, spirits of the sea and sky, and shamans
North America – the development of small-scale, oral cultures who range from nomadic hunting tribes to settled agriculturalists; religion permeates all aspects of life; myths are sacred and include “ritual“ myths used in ceremonies and “entertainment“ myths used for pleasure and moral instruction; themes are creation, the structure of the universe, shapers and controllers of the world, origins of humanity, death, maize and game, vision quests and guardian spirits, tricksters, entertainers, mischief-makers, curing ceremonies, the myths of the plains, and animal myths
Mesoamerica – although consisting of many nations and having a variety of artistic styles, Mesoamerica has a unity of culture and religion; each god was linked with a point on the compass or with a central axis of a disc shaped world surrounded by water; myths and images tell of the old gods, the jaguar and the fire god, creation and cataclysm, the myth of the suns, Lord of the Smoking Mirror (the supreme god), the feathered serpent, the wind god, the god of sun and war, the gods of rain and corn, the gods of the sacred calendar and the sacred and solar cycles, and the three layered cosmos
South America – the environment was the focal point for spiritual belief; myths tell of the gods who created the landscape; themes of myths are related to the varied terrain and include spirits who inhabit mountains, rain makers, gods responsible for fertility, rainforest animals and anthropomorphic beings; the ancient religions and mythic beliefs included sacrifice and sacred journeys, origin myth, sky gods, supreme creators, sacred constellations and sacred lines known as ceques which radiated out from Coricancha, the Sun Temple at Cuzco: the myths of the forest peoples consisted of the origin of horticulture, the relationship between kin and in-laws, and the concept of knowledge and ignorance
Africa – with a great diversity of cultures and over 1,000 different languages, African myths have a surprising unity; common themes are the cosmic serpent, the asexual creator gods, the motif of twinship, and the origin of people and their wanderings; myths include the tale of the divine blacksmith, the upside down world (realms of the living and the dead), the loss of immortality, the divine lineage of earthly rulers, the trickster as mediator between heaven and earth, and animal myths of tricksters and transformers
Australia – ancient peoples lived as independent clans; to take advantage of abundance in another region, groups occasionally joined with other clans; myths reflect this interdependence; stories are relayed in song cycles; common myths tell of a wandering ancestral culture hero, the big flood (and origin myth), the origin of mortality, the origin of marriage, and tricksters who disrupt the ancestral order
Oceania – made up of three regions, ranging from small groups to large complex societies; although diverse and culture and languages, there are some common themes; gods and culture heroes exist to teach about customs, morality, sex, mourning, and warfare; myths are told through ritual and include the concept of the actions of ancestral culture heroes effecting living human descendants; myths are told about the creation of the world, the primordial separation of the earth and heaven, the human and heavenly realms, and food and fertility
Southeast Asia – one of the most culturally diverse regions of the world; myths are made up of many layers of cultural and religious heritage; the common theme which prevails is the concept of the universe having many layers (seven above and seven below); dependence on wet-rice cultivation resulted in myths about rice as the giver of life (as life force, as part of the death-regeneration cycle); themes include the origin of civilization, encounters with magic, barbarians, demons, and witches
One way to understand and classify myths is through a regional paradigm; which views myths in a cultural and geographical framework. Following is a brief summary of world mythography, Part I. (Part II posted March 11, 2021)
Egypt – myths are dominated by gods, kings, and priests; the cult of the gods was more important than the relaying of myth and legend; myths developed to elaborate on the relations between the gods; regional myths were created for the geographical areas of Upper and Lower Egypt; funerary and religious texts and pictorial representation is the source of information regarding Egyptian myth; mythological themes include: order from chaos, creation myths, upholders of order, struggle for power, the cycle of renewal, agents of chaos, and life after death
The Middle East – life centered around a political and religious system; religion was animistic; large amount of texts an omen-literature used to divine in the future; myths originated in scribal centers, recorded on clay tablets in cuneiform script; cities featured many temples and great sanctuaries; representing one of the oldest mythologies, themes centered around: world order, creation myths, man as servant to the gods, mortality, the descent to the underworld, destruction and survival, kingship and succession, and the battle between good and evil
India – diversity of religious, linguistic and social groups led to a rich and varied mythology; narrative myth has been preserved through regional languages, with the most popular myths sustained in Sanskrit in the form of the Puranas; geographically, sacred sites and physical features become in the homes or birth sites of gods and goddesses; central themes are: creation and destruction, order out of chaos, the universe dissolving back into chaos as part of the cyclical pattern, reality as illusion, formal groupings of gods, sacrifice and conflict, protectors of the world, and avatars as evidence of Vishnu’s benevolence
China – rich cultural heritage influenced myth; central significance of the number five represented as five elements associated with five seasons, five cardinal directions (both including “center“), and five sacred mountains (which are revered as active deities); evolving symbols and mythology followed changes in ruling dynasties and political philosophies; mythological themes include: creation of the universe, creation of humanity, celestial deities, reunion and cycles, gods and immortals, filial piety, and household gods
Tibet and Mongolia – originally a shamanistic culture, in the 8th century, overthrown by Buddhism; Buddhist texts were translated from Sanskrit to Tibetan; myths tell of: the origin of the universe and the karmic wind, the sky-descended rulers, the warrior-king, the taming of the gods as a result of the influence of Buddhism, encounters with the spirit realm, the shamanistic view of the cosmos as vertical and structure) heaven above, mother earth below), and initiation
Japan – original Japanese institution was the uji, or clan, with its own mythology; eventually the Yamato clan gained dominance; the imperial family with its divine ancestors became a primary force; Shinto, the native religion, is based on the worship of gods, spirits and objects of reverence; Buddhism merged with Shinto and resulted in complex myths; the two major sources of Japanese myth are the Kojiki or Record of Acient Matters and the Nihonshoki or Chronicle of Japan; themes of myths are: the primal couple, the contest of sibling deities, the divine crisis (the removal of the sun), the Izumo cycle (descent to earth), gods, heroes, demnos, and heroic quasi-historical figures
Greece – Greek myths have been admired, adopted, and adapted; each city had their own myths, heroes, and religious festivals; the same mythological events and biographies are innumerable and often incompatible; the geographic region was diverse with many sacred sites; themes encompass: gods and goddesses as governors of lives and destinies, the birth of the gods, the ancestry of the gods, the origins of humanity, human and divine consorts, gods and goddesses of all realms, the underworld, archetypal heroes, quests and journeys, transgressors or breakers of the natural order, transformation, and races of fabulous creatures
Rome – the vast area and many languages of the Roman empire kept this culture from developing a single set of mythological and religious traditions; Romans absorbed the myths of the people they conquered; the core Roman myths center around the founding of the city and the early legendary heros; mythological themes are: the gods and goddesses, civic virtues, the Great Mother, the foundation of Rome, that she-wolf and the kings of Rome, and the history of Rome
The Celtic World – a linguistic term rather than a geographical term, relating to the areas where Celtic languages were spoken, ranging from Ireland to Turkey; local tribal deities were worshiped; Roman interpretations and preconceptions obscured the original mythological tradition; myths include: the Celtic Pantheon (a miscellany of gods), the antlered god, the mythological cycle comprised of the first and second battles of Magh Tuiredh (which establishes cosmic order), warring heroes, the warrior-hunter Fenian Cycle, goddesses, otherworldly voyages, the Mabinogion (stories of Wales compiled for court entertainment) and the Arthurian legend
Sun & Moon lizard by Jose Calvo & Magaly Fuentes
In general, lizards represent good will, health, and regeneration. As a lunar creature, the lizard was believed to be tongueless and to have subsisted on dew, therefore a symbol of silence.
Lizards that warm themselves in the sun were associated with the sun and light and were sometimes viewed as seekers of spiritual enlightenment. In ancient Greece, the lizard offered itself to Apollo in order to achieve eternal light.
In Egyptian myth the lizard represented divine wisdom and good fortune and was a symbol of fecundity and devouring heat. In Roman myth the lizard that slept all winter was a symbol of death and resurrection. Since lizards shed their skin, they represented rebirth.
Australian Aboriginal myth tells of the lizard Tarrotarro, the culture hero who was the creator of the sexes and taught man the art of tattoo. In African mythology, the lizard is the embodiment of departed souls. Japanese legend tells of the lizard as a vengeful spirit with supernatural powers.
Mazadaism is the system of religion founded in Persia in the 6th century BC by Zoroaster. In the dualistic belief of two creators and two creations, the lizard is the animal created by Angra Mainyu, the personification of darkness, to destroy the Gaokerama, the Iranian plant of life.
The following is from: http://www.native-languages.org/legends-lizard.htm
Lizards play positive roles in the folklore of many Native American tribes. In Plains Indian tribes, lizards are associated with healing and survival, and also with masculinity. In some Plains tribes, a newborn boy's umbilical cord was sewn into an amulet in the shape of a lizard to ensure his health and strength. Today, many Cheyenne people still consider it bad luck to kill a lizard. In the mythology of some California Indian tribes, such as the Pomo, Lizard was one of the major figures of creation, who made humans partially in his image. In Southwestern tribes, horned lizards (sometimes called "horny-toads" in English) are considered sacred medicine animals; Gila Monster (a type of large poisonous desert lizard) features as a powerful hero in Navajo and other Southwestern legends. In other tribes, lizards are associated with protection (especially of children), prosperity, renewal, and good luck."
In learning about the world of sandplay therapy (and many more topics and experiences that make for an interesting life), it is important to cultivate Shoshin - a word from Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind". It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.
This approach is well stated in Mythology: An Illustrated Guide edited by Roy Willis. In the introduction, Robert Walter shares his view on this book about myths:
"Read these pages as you would read a dream journal, for the task of the modern human being is to interiorize mythic symbology...approach this book with an open mind, with the innocence of the child for whom the world is inherently magical...you will explore exotic landscapes and discover untold wonders...you will learn much about your forbears...and more about yourself..."
Bears are associated with myths and cultures of the northern hemisphere. They can be a solar symbol when associated with hero myths and a lunar symbol when associated with moon goddesses. Bears have been depicted in ceremonies through the use of masks, decorated clothing, or actual bearskins. Bears can represent brutality, clumsiness, gruffness, bravery, endurance, and strength. They also symbolize resurrection - as bears hibernate and emerge from their winter cave with newborn cubs in spring. They have been associated with initiation and rites of passage. Here is a brief list of the symbolism of bears:
Alchemy – symbol of the nigredo of the prima materia, related to initial stages and to the instincts and “has consequently been considered a symbol of the perilous aspect of the unconscious and as an attribute of the man who is cruel and crude“ (Chirlot, 1995, p. 23)
Amerindian – symbol of immortality, The self-existent as it dies and rises again; supernatural power; strength; the whirlwind
Ursa Major Constellation
Astronomy – either of two constellations in the northern hemisphere, Great Bear or Little Bear
Celtic – lunar symbol of power; attribute of the goddess Berne (means bear)
Christian – symbol of evil, cruelty, greed, carnal appetite; on Norman churches represents Satan; battle between David and the bear symbolizes the triumph of Christ over the forces of darkness
14th-century shield with the arms of Berne
Heraldic – signifies ferocity and protection of kindred; German heraldic symbol of the devil’s power
Finno-Ugrics – Master-of-the-forest, holy hound of God, honey paw, wise man, fur man
Greek – sacred to Artemis, virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon; the priestesses of Artemis Brauroneia (Athens) were known as she-bears and were concerned with times of transition for women; sacred to Athena, goddess of the hunt; attribute of Atalanta and Euphemia; Atalanta was nursed by a she-bear, for Aristotle, the bear symbolizes silliness
Japan – benevolence, wisdom, strength; for the Ainu people (who live in the north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido and the Kuril Islands) the bear is a mountain deity, culture hero, and devine messenger
Norse – in myth, Odin appears as the bear Björn
Persian – symbol of the foolhardy, powerful, and rich enemy
Roman – sacred to Diana, goddess of the hunt, woods, forest, and moon
Russia – emblem of Russia, friend to man; Siberian instructor of shamans and mythological ancestor
Scandinavian – sacred to Thor; female principal as she-bear Atla; the masculine principle as the heat bear Atili
Shamanistic – messenger of the forest spirits known as Shih; Chinese yang symbol, bringer of blessings; universal preserver
Twin Ursae – nurses to the infant Zeus; associated with children and the bear-mother-cult; evolved into the two biblical she-bears called by Elisha as avengers to maul the boys who mocked him (II kings 2:24)
Zuni – beast god; supernatural patron of the medicine society
Artio bronze statue
In addition to beings noted on other posts related to Bear Symbolism, here are a few more:
Aleyin – Phoenician god of clouds, wind, rain, spring; son of Ba’al, brother of the goddess Anat; depicted as the rider of the clouds, he is accompanied by eight wild bears
Artio – the sacred Celtic she-bear of Berne in Switzerland; the goddess of wild game, worshiped by ancient Helvetians; goddess of the “bear sark“ or bearskin shirt worn to give warriors strength and courage
Callisto – Arcadian, Pre-Hellenic, Greek goddess; depicted in animal form as a mother bear; her symbol is this she-bear
Ga-Oh – Huron, Iroquois, Seneca, North American Indian great Spirit of the Winds, the giant who controls the bear; Seneca Indian Spirit of the north wind who helps a young boy become a swift runner to win a race with bear – in the end the bear offers his life to the boy
Glispa – Navajo Indian culture heroine; one of two sisters who married Bear; she created a shamanistic dance to cure sickness
When looking for understanding about bears used in sand tray scenes, it is helpful to understand a bit of the psychological symbolism of bears.
The “destructive side of the mother archetype (the hand that feed can also withhold)“ can also appears in myth “as the she-bear who drives away her young and leaves them to starve in the wilderness” (Fontana, 1993 p. 16).
“In psychology, for example in dream symbolism, the bear is interpreted as an embodiment of the dangerous aspect of the unconscious; Jung, the bear often represents the negative aspect of the superposed persona” (Biedermann, 1993, p. 33).
In Jungian psychology, the bear may represents danger caused by the uncontrollable contents of the unconscious.
Bear - Revered in hunting practices, powerful ally in healing
Bear Ceremony Delaware, Northeast - Ten-day winter ceremony; the Linkan Men’s Dance, a fast moving dance about a group of boys that danced themselves into the sky and became stars, is done on the 5th night; the Pickwelaneokan or Nighthawk Dance, a dance of thanksgiving and petition for health, is performed on the 10th night
Bear Dance - Performed by members of medicine societies for curing purposes; also as a petition for long life; dancers often wear bearskins and masks; most bear dances imitate the shuffling or waddling gait of bears
Bear Dreamer Society Lakota, Plains - Medicine society responsible for carrying this seriously wounded, if cured by these medicine people, one becomes a member of the Bear Dreamer Society; the healing is done in a tipi with a sage covered floor,; the medicine people you singing, drumming, and dancing
Bear Medicine Woman Pawnee, Plains - Imbued with the spirit of the bears, Bear Medicine Woman performs healing ceremonies using songs and bear growls; she inhales power from the sun; she breaths different color breaths on wounds for four days; she originated the bear dance, which is part of the Bear Medicine Ceremony
Bear Parent Kuteni, Plateau - A myth about a female bear who raises a lost boy with her cubs; she gives the boy the power to hear his people singing and praying in his village; she also teaches the boy to separate sincere prayers from insincere prayers; the boy returns to his people and tells them that bears know how to tell the difference between sincere and insincere people
Bear Sweat Lodge Ojibwa, N. east, Subarctic - Ceremony performed by bear visionaries or those who have dreamed of the bear; an intense ordeal that bestows great honor on the visionaries, the heat is much more intense and the time spent in the lodge much longer (Gill & Sullivan, 1992)
Bear Woman Pueblo, Southwest - Yellow woman who becomes a bear; corn women or maiden heroine of many stories who may appear as a kachina mana and sometimes takes on the identity of a bear
Despite the fact that I have taken many road trips through the U.S. and Canadian Rocky Mountains and hike and camp, I have only seen bears on two occasions. The first time was in Canada's Glacier National Park. While driving along the road, I saw a mother black bear and her cub. They were a rich deep brown color. I stopped, They stopped. We looked at each other for a long while; then they quietly went on their way. The second time was in Mammoth Lakes, CA. A large lumbering bear ran right through the main intersection. It was moving very quickly! It was unsettling and exciting to see such a large bear. I do not think I would like to come face to face with one on a hiking trail.
Have you seen any bears?
Vinca bear mask figurine
Throughout the northern hemisphere, the bear has symbolized strength and majesty as well as motherhood. Myth and folk stories tell of the bear as ancestress and mother life-giver. Ceremonies and rituals related to the mother bear have been enacted throughout the centuries. Some are still in existence today. Bear worship is also evident in ancient reliefs, figures, and vessels.
The Slavs held bear feasts up until the end of the 19th century. A meal was prepared on Saint Andrew’s Day (November 30). The meal consisted of grain, peas, corn, and beans. A portion was thrown into the fire while someone wished good health to the Grandmother Bear (Gimbutas, 1989, p. 116). The Belo Russians (east Slavic) believed a bear brought good luck to the village and would set out honey, cheese, and butter. Bulgarians lead bears into their homes to bring luck, healing, and to ensure fertility. Until the 20th century, newborns were laid on bearskin rugs near their grandmother.
“In contemporary Greece, vestiges of the worship of the Mother Bear can be found. In the cave of Acrotiri, near ancient Kydonia in western Crete, a festival in honor of Panagia Arkoudiotissa, 'Virgin Mary of the Bear’ is celebrated on the second day of February“ (Gimbutas p. 116). Greek myth tells of Artemis’ ability to shape-change into a bear. During festivals, Athenian girls danced as bears. In the sanctuary of Artemis, a frieze shows the lead female dancer with a bear mask. Indications of similar ceremonies appear on a limestone relief in Istanbul showing the figure of a bear-masked dancer.
Bear cult figures come in many forms. Evidence of bear worship is found in art from the Neolithic Vinca culture in southeastern Europe. Simple terracotta figures of women wearing bear masks and holding a cub or wearing pouches on their backs are believed to represent a mythical Bear Nurse and date from the 5th millennium B.C. Other artifacts related to bear worship, in the form of a bear-shaped vessels, were created from the 7th to the 3rd millennium B.C. These containers have four legs, a bowl, and ringed handles and are decorated with bands of short, triangular, line designs.
Spirit, goddesses, and gods often guarded gates, portals, and doors. Guardians also appeared in the form of dragons, serpents, monsters, dogs, scorpion men, and lions. They guarded both the physical world as household deities and the cosmic world as guardians of heaven and the underworld. Guardians offered protection, denial of passage, or a challenge to overcome. “Just as the powers of the earth must be defended, so, by analogy, must all mythic, religious and spiritual wealth or power be protected against hostile forces or against possible intrusion by the unworthy” (Chirlot, 1995, p. 134). From a psychological perspective, guardians represent the forces assembled on the “threshold of transition between different stages of evolution and spiritual progress or regression” (Chirlot).
Guardians of Doors
Anakusha: Indian tiger-headed goddess, Door-keeper of the East; guardian of the door on the Sixth Day of the Bardo World
Celestial Kings: Chinese deities who replaced the two door guards, Shen-t’u and Yu-lu
Chak-yu-ma: Tibetan goddess, the Door-keeper of the East
Chhung-Lui: Chinese household god; one of the Chinese gods of the inner-doors, also known as Tsao Shen
Dithytambos: Roman god of the Double Door; an epithet of Dionysus
Dorr-Karing: Swedish door spirit, she stands by the door to blow out the candles of those entering or leaving
Men Shen: collective name of the ancient Door Guards who opposed Ma-Mien, the god who conducts souls to Ti-yu (hell); it was the job of the Men Shen to make sure all papers were in order; depicted as bird guardians
Ts’in Shu-pao: Chinese god of the door, usually paired with Hu King-te; he is represented by a leaf on one half of the outer door of the residence
Uksakka: Lapp door goddess who lives under the door; protector of the newborn and owners of the house; watches over a child’s first steps
Wlenenu: Egyptian deified animal, a door god known as the Opener of the Ways; his female counterpart is Wenenut
Guardians of Doors
Enodia: guardian of gates and crossroads, especially the gate of birth as goddess in the form of a divine midwife,; epithet of Artemis or Hecate
Janus: Roman god of beginnings and endings, God of Gates; ancient Roman divinity, gates and doorways are under his protection
Persephone: goddess of the underworld who ruled the gates of death
Guardians of Thresholds
Cardea: two-headed Roman goddess of hinges, she held the keys to the underworld; protector of thresholds and the guardian of family life; mistress of Janus
Guardians of Portals and Passages
Charybdis and Scylla
Charybdis: Greek mythological ravenous woman who took the form of a guardian whirlpool located in the Messina Straits
Sabaoth: Syrian underworld deity; guard of the Portal of Life, which opens into the lower zone of heaven; his chariot is depicted with a four-faced cherub and angels
Scylla: Greek mythological daughter of Phorcys and Hecate; changed into a six-headed monster by the jealous Amphitrite; sent to guard the Messina Straits; harassed sailors along with Charybdis
The Gateway of the Sun
The Door of the Chonyi Bardo: in Tibetan Buddhism the second stage of the Bardo Thodol which is liberation by hearing on the after-death plane and consist of four transitional states between death and rebirth
The Door of the Gods: the winter solstice in the zodiacal sign of Capricorn symbolizing the ascent and rising power of the sun, the Zanau coeli; in Hinduism the door is called the pitri-yana, the portal of the east
The Door of Men: the summer solstice in the zodiacal sign of Cancer symbolizing the dying power and descent of the sun, the Zanua inferni; in Hinduism the door is called the deva-yana
The Gate of al-Safa: in Mecca, the gate through which Muslim pilgrims leave the Masjid al-Haram mosque
The Gate of Peace: in Mecca, the entrance to the Masjid al-Haram mosque which holds the cube shaped Ka’ba
The Gateway of the Sun: Mesoamerican monolithic structure incised with a figure wearing a sun-ray headdress holding two condor-head staffs, surrounded by rows of winged creatures also holding staffs; represents an earlier version of Viracocha, the creator; located in the Pre-Inca city of Tiwanaku
Gate of the East and West: the doors of the World Temple through which the sun passes morning and night
Gate of Heaven: the sheltering aspect of the Great Mother; in Christianity, the Virgin Mary is the Gate of Heaven
Horn Gate: in Greek mythology, dreams left the realm of sleep through two gates; the gate through which prophetic dreams pass
Ivory Gate; the Aeneid gate through which deceptive dreams pass, dreams that elude mortals
Lud‘s Gate: the entrance to the underworld
Strait Gate: the central point of communication between the lower and the higher
Symplegades: twin rocks at the gateway to the Black Sea; symbol of perilous passage; legend tells they opened and closed to crush whatever tried to pass between them
Hope you are managing all of the changes, chaos, and uncertainty during these very difficult times. I have been taking it a day at a time. I finally have the energy and interest to return to my blog writing and research. It will be an endeavor that will shift my focus away from all that causes distress and frustration with the current global situation. I will also be adding sandplay miniatures to my Etsy shop.
Peace and health...
Doors, gates, and portals can represent both physical and psychological access. In terms of sandplay, when doors and gates are used in a scene they may represent transition, initiation, or the ability to pass through. Psychologically, passageways may represent the possibility of transition from one aspect or issue to the next, the positive aspect of movement, or an opening for growth. Closed doors or gates may be a boundary symbol.
Doors symbolize hope, opening and entrance to new life. Also, doors represent a passage from one world to another, from one level of consciousness to another. Doors are the barriers through which initiates pass and also represent initiation. As a symbol of the sheltering aspect of the Great Mother, in some cultures, all doors and windows are unlocked and opened to facilitate childbirth. The door is the Druidic emblem of the oak-king or thunderer.
Gates represent entry to mystical and profound areas, places of divine power. Gates are the opening between one world and another and are often a protective threshold, usually guarded by symbolic animals. A series of gateways may represent various stages of enlightenment. The gate is a Hebrew symbol of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and the emblem of Ezekiel, whose prophecy spoke of the coming of Jesus through the east gate of the temple.
Passages represent change from one plane to another. Successfully navigating passages may symbolize gaining states of consciousness or transcendence. Passages signify or allow the ability to transcend time and space, day and night.
Portals are usually elaborate and are used for entry. They often symbolize the way through which the dead acquired rebirth into a new form of existence.
Thresholds represent the passage from the profane to the sacred. As a boundary symbol, thresholds symbolize the meeting of the natural and the supernatural. They often represent entering the unknown.
The use of gates or portals in sandplay scenes may symbolize the process of preparation and approach, the actual passage or journey, and the experience of successfully navigating the passage. The use of a gate may signal the awareness of or the ability to navigate a psychological passage.
The sacred Japanese torii gate, consisting of two upright posts with a crossbeam, may symbolize themes related to transition and transformation. In sandplay, the torii may represent the readiness prior to a journey, including the preparation one must make. Bradway and McCoard (1997) explain that the torii gate may symbolize "the boundary between the conscious and the unconscious; movement may be in either direction". The use of the torii gate may also be representative of the "release of energy for life which occurs after the experience of passing through the gate" (1997 p. 93).
Gates in sandplay scenes can be closed to prevent passage and to protect or open to allow entry or passage. Bradway and McCoard offer insight into the use of a gate in a sandplay process. In an initial tray, the client placed a fence in front of a house. When asked about the fence the client explained that it was between where one lived and the world outside. A subsequent tray showed a house with a fence, yet this scene had an open gate with a dog coming through. "Now there is a gate in the fence and the dog, his instinctual feeling, can go through the gate and connect the house with the world outside" (Bradway and McCoard, 1997 p. 135).
Native American myth and lore is rich with fire and light symbolism. Fire represents living things, the creation of light, and the sun. Creation stories often include fire and flame as generative and destructive forces. The Aztecs recognize fire as the “fundamental catalyst of change” (Miller & Taube, 1993). Myths tell of the acquisition of fire, fire making, and the gift of fire. The Navajo Fire God, haashcheehzhini, represents fire making and the control of fire. In Navajo mythology, he is responsible for creating the stars and the constellations and is depicted as old and slow moving. Fire handlers of the northeast and sub-arctic Ojibwa tribe used fire to interpret dreams.
Associated with fire and essential for life, light is a common motif in Native American myth. The origin of light appears in numerous tales such as the Apache Creation and Emergence (see January 3, 2020 blog post). The myth is complex and includes the underworld, many mythological heroes and characters, and tells of Holy Boy who performs ritual acts to create the sun, the moon, the earth, and humankind. The creation of light is also attributed to the creator of the world, as in the example of Loak-Ishto-hoollo-Aba, the Chickasaw Great-Holy-Fire-Above. “He is responsible for all light and warmth and, therefore, all animal and vegetable life. Connected with the sun, but not the sun, he can live in the sky as well as with people on earth” (Gill & Sullivan, 1992).
Light “is often entrapped or hidden by some malevolent being, it is the task of some culture hero to make the dangerous journey to steal the light and release it to the world” (Gill & Sullivan). Myths tell of tricksters and clever characters who steal light and fire such as: coyote, wolf, woodpecker, and raven.
Central American myth tells of Quetzalcoatl, the creator god and the Aztec cult god Huitzilopochtli, who made fire with the half-sun that shone before the dawn of humankind. Other myths tell of Tezcatlipoca, who was the first to make fire with flint. The Aztec ritual of New Fire was held to celebrate the new calendar and regeneration. During the ritual all terra cotta pots were destroyed and new ones were created for the new year. All fires were extinguished to await the new beginning. The new fire was started with flint in the chest of a sacrificial victim to guarantee the arrival of the morning sun (Miller & Taube).
In ancient Mesoamerica, the heroes, myths, and rituals related to fire evolved over time. Xiuhtecuhtli was the terrestrial fire god, who was surpassed by Huitziloplchtli, the god of the sun and fire. Xiuhcoatl, the fire serpent, bears the sun through the sky. Carvings depict heroes holding the mankin scepter that symbolizes lightning and fire. The scepter took the form of a deified axe with a fire serpent at one end (see image below). Mayans believed that fire was the way to communicate with gods and ancestors and often burned paper splattered with blood.
This story is condensed from five very detailed stories told by the Jicarilla Apaches. The Jicarilla are one of six tribes of the Apaches of the southwestern U.S., and they have a voluminous folkore. These stories were compiled and translated by Morris Opler in the 1930's. In addition to telling the story of the creation and emergence and explaining the world, the stories reflect the Jicarilla disregard for the shamans found in some other Native American religions, and they reflect the sacredness of fours in every thing and every behavior.
In the beginning there was nothing - no earth, no living beings. There were only darkness, water, and Cyclone, the wind. There were no humans, but only the Hactcin, the Jicarilla supernatural beings. The Hactcin made the earth, the underworld beneath it, and the sky above it. The earth they made as a woman who faces upward, and the sky they made as a man who faces downward. The Hactcin lived in the underworld, where there was no light. There were mountains and plants in the underworld, and each had its own Hactcin. There were as yet no animals or humans, and everything in the underworld existed in a dream-like state and was spiritual and holy.
The most powerful of the Hactcin in the underworld was Black Hactcin. One day Black Hactcin made the first animal with four legs and a tail made of clay. At first he thought it looked peculiar, but when he asked it to walk and saw how gracefully it walked, he decided it was good. Knowing this animal would be lonely, he made many other kinds of animals come from the body of the first. He laughed to see the diversity of the animals he had created. All the animals wanted to know what to eat and where to live, so he divided the foods among them, giving grass to the horse, sheep, and cow, and to others he gave brush, leaves, and pine needles. He sent them out to different places, some to the mountains, some to the deserts, and some to the plains, which is why the animals are found in different places today.
Next Black Hactcin held out his hand and caught a drop of rain. He mixed this with some earth to make mud and made a bird from the mud. At first he wasn't sure he would like what he had made. He asked the bird to fly, and when it did he liked it. He decided the bird too would be lonely, so he grabbed it and whirled it rapidly clockwise. As the bird became dizzy, it saw images of other birds, and when Black Hactcin stopped whirling it, there were indeed many new kinds of birds, all of which live in the air because they were made from a drop of water that came from the air. Black Hactcin sent the birds out to find places they liked to live, and when they returned he gave each the place that they liked. To feed them, he threw seeds all over the ground. To tease them, however, he turned the seeds into insects, and he watched as they chased after the insects. At a river nearby, he told the birds to drink. Again, however, he couldn't resist teasing them, so he took some moss and made fish, frogs, and the other things that live in water. This frightened the birds as they came to drink, and it is why birds so often hop back in fright as they come down to drink. As some of the birds took off, their feathers fell in the water, and from them came the ducks and other birds that live in the water.
Black Hactcin continued to make more animals and birds. The animals and birds that already existed all spoke the same language, and they held a council. They came to Black Hactcin and asked for a companion. They were concerned that they would be alone when Black Hactcin left them, and Black Hactcin agreed to make something to keep them company. He stood facing the east, and then the south, and then the west, and then the north. He had the animals bring him all sorts of materials from across the land, and he traced his outline on the ground. He then set the things that they brought him in the outline. The turquoise that they brought became veins, the red ochre became blood, the coral became skin, the white rock became bones, the Mexican opal became fingernails and teeth, the jet became the pupil, the abalone became the white of the eyes, and the white clay became the marrow of the bones. Pollen, iron ore, and water scum were used too, and Black Hactcin used a dark cloud to make the hair.
The man they had made was lying face down, and it began to rise as the birds watched with excitement. The man arose from prone, to kneeling, to sitting up, and to standing. Four times Black Hactcin told him to speak, and he did. Four times Black Hactcin told him to laugh, and he did. It was likewise with shouting. Then Black Hactcin taught him to walk, and had him run four times in a clockwise circle.
The birds and animals were afraid the man would be lonely, and they asked Black Hactcin give him company. Black Hactcin asked them for some lice, which he put on the man's head. The man went to sleep scratching, and he dreamed that there was a woman beside him. When he awoke, she was there. They asked Black Hactcin what they would eat, and he told them that the plants and the cloven-hoofed animals would be their food. They asked where they should live. He told them to stay anywhere they liked, which is why the Jicarilla move from place to place.
These two, Ancestral Man and Ancestral Woman, had children, and the people multiplied. In those days no one died, although they all lived in darkness. This lasted for many years. Holy Boy, another Apache spirit, was unhappy with the darkness, and he tried to make a sun. As he worked at it, Cyclone came by and told him that White Hactcin had a sun. Holy Boy went to White Hactcin, who gave him the sun, and he went to Black Hactcin, who gave him the moon. Black Hactcin told Holy Boy how to make a sacred drawing on a buckskin to hold the sun and moon, and Holy Boy, Red Boy, Black Hactcin, and White Hactcin held a ceremony at which White Hactcin released the sun and Black Hactcin released the moon. The light grew stronger as the sun moved from north to south, and eventually it was like daylight is now.
The people didn't know what this was, and the shamans each began to claim that they had power over the sun. On the fourth day, there was an eclipse. After the sun had disappeared, the Hactcins told the shamans to make the sun reappear. The shamans tried all kinds of tricks, but they couldn't make the sun come back. To solve the problem, White Hactcin turned to the animals and had them bring the foods they ate. With the food and some sand and water, they began to grow a mountain. The mountain grew, but it stopped short of the hole in the sky that led from the underworld to the earth. It turned out that two girls had gone up on the mountain and had trampled the sacred plants and even had defecated there. White Hactcin, Black Hactcin, Holy Boy, and Red Boy had to go up the mountain and clean it. When they came down and the people sang, and the mountain grew again. It stopped, however, just short of the hole, and when the four went up again they could only see to the other earth. They sent up Fly and Spider, who took four rays of the sun and built a rope ladder to the upper world. Spider was the first one to climb to the upper world, where the sun was bright.
White Hactcin, Black Hactcin, Holy Boy, and Red Boy climbed up the ladder, and they found much water on the earth. They sent for the four winds to blow the water away, and Beaver came up to build dams to hold the water in rivers. Spider made threads to catch the sun, and they made the sun go from east to west to light the entire world, not just one side. Hactcin called for the people to climb up, and for four days they climbed the mountain. At the top they found four ladders. Ancestral Man and Ancestral Woman were the first people to climb up, and the people climbed up into the upper world that we know today. Thus the earth is our mother, and the people climbed up as from a womb. Then the animals came up, and before long the ladders were worn out. Behind the animals came an old man and an old woman, and they couldn't climb the ladders. No one could get them up, and finally the two realized they had to stay in the underworld. They agreed to stay but told the others they must come back to the underworld eventually, which is why people go to the underworld after death.
Everything in the upper world is alive - the rocks, the trees, the grass, the plants, the fire, the water. Originally they all spoke the Jicarilla Apache language and spoke to the people. The Hactcin, however, decided that it was boring to have all these things speaking the same, so they gave all these things and all the animals different voices.
Eventually the people travelled out clockwise across the land. Different groups would break off and stay behind, and their children would begin to play games in which they used odd languages. The people in these groups began to forget their old languages and use these new ones, which is why now there are many languages. Only one group kept on traveling in the clockwise spiral until they reached the center of the world, and these are the Jicarilla Apaches.
Adi-Buddha – appeared as a flame when he first revealed himself on Mount Sumeru
Agni – Indian personification of fire; the eater of sacrifices on the altar which were consumed by fire; consort of Destroyer Kali; god of fire, sun, and lightning
Aither – Greek deities of light
Allah – illuminates the world; effulgent light; the manifestation of Divine Knowledge
Anchises – Greek light deity, son of Capys and Hieromneme
Angiras – Indian and Hindu descendants of the fire god Agni; celestial bodies who are deities of fire and light, often seen as meteors
Aos – Sumerian god of light, also known as Aa, Hoa, Oannes
Apollo – Greek god of light
Artemis – Greek goddess of light
Aten – Egyptian god of light and the sun; also known as Horace, Ra
Atthar – ancient Arabian Goddess of Enlightenment; also known as Golden Mother, One Born to Gold, The Glory
Brhaspati – Hindu, Indian Lord of Devotion who brought light to the world
Bridgit – Celtic goddess associated with a light festival at the beginning of February, also called Bridgid
Bura-penu – Indian god of light; mate of Tari-penu, the goddess of darkness
Byelobog – Slavic god of light whose name means White God; his evil counterpart is Chernobog, or Black God; Byelobog is a benevolent god who shows travelers the way
Christ – the Light of the World; “the Father of Lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning“ (James 1, 17)
Cuchulain – Celtic god of heat and light; son of Lugh, the sun god
Demeter – Greek goddess of corn and the harvest; the torch is her attribute
Devi – Hindu Great Mother; as Uma, the wife of Shiva, her skin is golden and she personifies light and beauty
Fire – Phoenician; child of Genos & Genea from the creation legend; his siblings were Flame and Light
Gerd – Scandinavian frost goddess of the frozen earth and of light; daughter of Gymer and Aurbods, wife of Freyr
Heracles – carried a torch as the weapon against Hydra, Greek mythological monster with nine heads
Hestia – Greek goddess of the hearth; symbol of the religious center of the family; modern Greeks still honor Hestia by pouring oil and wine through the center of a ring-shaped cake onto the hearth fire (Walker, 1998)
Jupiter – brightness, god of the bright sky
Khou – Egyptian god of light; similar to Ka or Ba which is the essence of the soul; depicted as a crested bird
Krishna – light was the manifestation of Krishna, Lord of Light
Leto – Greek goddess of light, daughter of Ceos and Phoebe; mother by Zeus of the twins Apollo and Artemis
Lucina – Mother of the Light; pagan feminine interpretation of the symbol of the lighted candle; she governed the sun, moon, and stars; gave newborn creatures the “light“ of their vision; her festival of light became the Christian feast of St. Lucy (Walker); also known as the Roman Juno
Mihr – Armenia, Iranian god of light; an underworld or fire deity, child of Ormazd
Nusku – Assyro-Babylonian, Sumerian god of light; his symbol is the lamp; a messenger of the gods
Ormazd – Zoroastrianism‘s Lord of the Light, the power of truth; sacred to the Magi
Parvati – Hindu, Indian aspect of Uma as goddess of light
Phanes – Greek; Light or light god from the Orphic Creation Legend; he emerged from the silver egg protected in the womb of darkness to create earth, sky, sun, and moon
Pistis Sophia – Post-Christian Gnostic Virgin of Light
Silik-mulu-khi – Akkadian, Mesopotamian god of light and protector of immortals; son of Ea, a creator deity, god of the earth and waters
Svarog – Slavic sun god, used a torch to represent the rebirth of the sun
Tenshodaijin – Japanese goddess who rules the realm of light on heaven and earth
Vesta – Roman goddess associated with the hearth; at the center of Vesta’s temple, tended by sacred women, the fire was never allowed to go out
Fire, flame, hearth
Candle –associated with religious ceremonies; lighting a candle is symbolic of a theoretical preservation of the soul (Walker, 1988); light in the darkness of life; vitalizing power of the sun; the uncertainty of life is easily extinguished; divine light in the world; the Christian Paschel Taper burns for 40 days from Easter to Ascension, it is extinguished on Ascension Day to represent Christ’s removal from Earth; it also depicts the pillar of fire which guided the Israelites for 40 years (Cooper, 1978)
Cross – resolves into ac-er-os and yields great fire-light (Jobes, 1962)
Fire – transformation; purification; light-giving and generative power of the sun; destruction; fusion; immolation; the medium for conveying messages or offerings heavenward; the means of devouring all created things to return them to original unity; baptism by fire restores primordial purity (Cooper); dual symbolism of light and heat; alchemical symbol of unifier and stabilizer; Amerindian symbol of the Great Spirit; Buddhist symbol of wisdom which burns all ignorance; Hindu representation of transcendental light and knowledge; in India a masculine principle personified by the god Agni
Flame – fire manifested as flame symbolizes spiritual power and forces; transcendence; illumination; surrounding the head as a nimbus represents divine power, potency of soul; Islamic symbol of light and heat, divinity and hell; Chinese symbol of the yang principle called huo
Fleur-de-lis – French for flower of the light; symbolic of enlightenment, fecundity, light, primal cause; emblem of Christ as light of the world
Hearth – center of clan and tribal life; an omphalos, the central point around which everything revolves; the interior spiritual center; center of the home, dominated by the feminine; warmth
Lamp – universal symbol of enlightenment; sometimes made of terra-cotta and said to burn perpetually, origin of the eternal flame; life; light of divinity; guidance; shedding light in the darkness; in Hinduism, oil in the lamp represents the ocean and devotion, the wick is the earth and mind, and the flame is love (Cooper)
Lantern – represents illumination and guidance; bringing light to darkness; used to light the way in the underworld; in the East, paper lanterns were decorated with symbols so that when lighted, the symbols would cast shadows during celebrations
Sun – brilliance; the dispeller of darkness; enlightenment; fire; mate; fury; destroyer
Star – from Sanskrit meaning disperser or stewer of light; dispeller of light; heavenly fire; guidance
Torch – used in Mythraic shrines to symbolize the rising and setting of the sun; viewed as protection from the powers of darkness; represents enlightenment; the wood represents the feminine, the fire the masculine, the “divine male principle springing from the feminine tree, the soul-flame attached to the wood-matter, hence the fecundating spiritual fire“ (Cooper)
Urim – literally late and fire; unidentified object mentioned in the Old Testament, apparently precious stones or small figures whose luster revealed God‘s will; a divine oracle; the name expresses the truth of God’s revelations (Jobes)
Yule candle – symbol of the rekindling and renewal of the sun during winter solstice