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To Stella I remain, as always, grateful for taking on an even larger share than usual of the work in all its stages. This should make reference quicker and easier, but if in doubt turn to the index where the main entry is in bold type.
Cross-references will be found in the index. In the dictionary itself they are shown in small capitals. There is a final section unillustrated which contains what I call 'Collectives'. These are subjects such as the Four Seasons, Seven Liberal Arts and Twelve Ornaments that comprise numerous symbols and to which reference is made many times in the main dictionary.
Gods and others who have multiple attributes will also be found here. This avoids the need for tiresomely repetitive explanations whenever they are mentioned elsewhere. In choosing the illustrations with Chris Puleston, we usually preferred their less familiar aspects, particularly in the case of wellknown, everyday objects. Transliteration There are often alternative systems for transcribing foreign alphabets into Roman.
This can sometimes be puzzling, especially when using an index. I decided, after much thought, to stick to the older systems when there is a choice, because they are the ones used in most of the older-established reference books mentioned in the bibliography. See also the Appendix, p. For Sanskrit I have used the older, more familiar forms that have no diacritical marks Krishna, Shiva; not Krsna, Siva. Mesopotamian gods are usually referred to by their Akkadian Semitic names without accents, though the Sumerian name is used when appropriate Ea, not Enki; Adad, not Ishkur.
We seem to have a natural tendency to create symbols in the way we think and in our art, which must reflect a deep-seated trait of the human spirit. Take the lion, for instance. In fact, of all creatures it is one of the most richly endowed with symbolism, much of it religious, even among people where it has never been known in the wild state. Symbols in art function at many different levels according to the beliefs and social customs that inspire the artist. Among the Chinese they may sometimes express no more than a graceful compliment.
A painted vase or dish offered as a gift by a visitor to his host might, by its choice of decorative images, wish the recipient a long life, many children, or even success in the state examinations. This symbolic language was once widely understood among educated Chinese. On another level are those images - and they form the great majority - that are related to worship. Let us consider for a moment the human body, when the artist uses it to represent a god or goddess. By itself a body is impersonal and anonymous.
It must first be clothed and accoutred in a distinctive fashion in order to make a recognizable deity. We put it in armour to represent, say, Mars, the god of war. In thus giving substance and identity to beings whose form is, in reality, unknowable the artist is making a symbolic image. The Stoic philosopher, Zeno, who lived around BC, put it this way.
The Greek gods, with their distinctive, readily identifiable forms, were, he said, not anthropomorphic at all; they were all symbols, the different aspects of a single divine being whose true nature was wholly impersonal.
When we come to oriental art we find it thronging with deities in human form, most of whom represent abstract, metaphysical concepts that have no counterpart in real life. They, too, are symbols. But even the sacred figures of history may be treated as symbols. We can only guess how the Buddha or Jesus looked in life.
The Buddha, with his tight, curly hair and top-knot, tuft between the brows, pendent ear-lobes and mystic signs on hands and feet, bears little or no physical resemblance, we may assume, to the historical founder of Buddhism. Jesus, when crowned and enthroned in the style of an East Roman emperor, is immediately recognizable as the sovereign King of Heaven, the Almighty. Yet when clad in a peasant's tunic, girded at the waist, and carrying a lamb round his shoulders, he becomes the Good Shepherd of the gospels.
These are symbolic images of the religious leaders. Zeno lived in an age when the Olympian gods were in decline. Athens had been conquered by Sparta, a defeat her guardian deity, Pallas Athena, had been powerless to prevent. An element of chance now appeared to govern people's fate.
Soon Chance, or Fortune, was deified and became, like the Olympians, a personalized goddess, known in Greece as Tyche. The idea of deifying and giving human form to abstract concepts was taken up in Rome where, from the time of Augustus, Peace, Health and Providence looked after the welfare of the emperors. Medieval and Renaissance Europe created a huge family of symbolic figures of this kind, which still populate our cathedrals, palaces and public gardens.
There we find numberless virtues and vices, the seasons of the year, parts of the world, ages of man and much more besides. But the gods were not always portrayed as human beings. People once believed that natural phenomena - the course of the sun across the sky, rainfall, the fertility of beasts and crops, pregnancy and childbirth - were all controlled by unseen powers.
Since one's very existence depended on their favourable behaviour they were propitiated with sacrifice and prayer. These mysterious forces were not at first thought of as having human form, so when an artist made an image of the sun, the moon, or a thunderbolt, it was the god himself that he was portraying. In a sense, therefore, this kind of image goes beyond symbolism: Animals, too, were endowed with the same mysterious power, or mana, that pervaded the natural world.
Birds not merely foretold the weather, they somehow created it. They were worshipped as bringers of sunshine and storm. The leader of the primitive tribe, its priest, or 'medicine-man', dressed in the masks and skins of animals to acquire their mana for himself and gain control over nature. The half-human, half-animal gods we see in the art of Egypt, Mesopotamia and India are the 'medicine-man's' descendants.
When gods and goddesses began to assume the shapes of men and women the old, primordial images were not abandoned. The human deity was depicted standing above, or seated on, his older animal form, as if it were his mount, or 'vehicle'. The solar disk and crescent moon became part of his crown or head-dress. Finally, having fully evolved into human form, as they did so splendidly in ancient Greece, they retained their previous, non-figurative selves as attributes. We may note, in passing, a similar, though unrelated evolution that took place in early Christian art when Christ and the apostles are initially represented as sheep.
When they become men they retain the sheep as attributes. This extremely useful convention, the attribute, which gives identity to an otherwise anonymous figure, later permeated western Christian art and was widely adopted in Hindu and Buddhist art. Indeed, the gods of esoteric, Tantric Buddhism have so many and share them so readily that they are sometimes not much help in identification. There are many instances when an object is both symbol and attribute. Thus, two keys identify St Peter and at the same time symbolize the founding of the Christian Church.
A thunderbolt, the attribute. On the other hand a swan beside a bishop tells us he is St Hugh of Lincoln, for the simple reason that he kept a tame swan as a pet. Finally, another word about art and magic. We have seen how they were closely related from very early times, and it is strange to observe that civilized peoples retained beliefs similar to their primitive ancestors. Inert matter, whether clay, metal, stone, or pigment, once it has been shaped by the artist's imagination, seems to vibrate with a numinous power that can influence people and events.
Thus, a god's image would be carried into battle in the expectation that it would bring victory. In the city it received oblations in order to protect the citizens from harm. Some, it is claimed, have even been known to nod their head or shed tears. Similarly, snakes, scorpions and suchlike creatures that in real life are dangerous and to be avoided acquired beneficial, magical properties as images.
As sculptures or paintings they functioned as symbolic guardians at the gates of temples, palaces and tombs. The lion, which is unlikely to guard anything except its cubs or the next meal, was an especially popular choice. The magical influence emanating from the stone kept evil spirits at bay. Much of Tantric Buddhist art works at this mystical level. The painted mandala, an elaborate symbol of the universe, is felt to have the power to conjure the very presence of a god, when subjected to intense, concentrated meditation.
Other Tantric images, either purely abstract or consisting of a written word or even a single character, are felt to produce the same effect. In geographical scope this book takes in the art of Christian and classical Europe, Egypt, the ancient Near East, India and the Far East not exhaustively, it need hardly be said, but, I hope, in its more important and more widely depicted aspects.
It is a region that I think can be shown to have acquired over the course of very many centuries many points of contact perhaps network is not too strong a word connecting its different cultures. It was a process that was unhindered except in Indonesia and Japan by the 'estranging sea'. Some five thousand years ago this great region was the birthplace of the world's first civilizations, centred on four river valleys: From the beginning each had some kind of representational art, much of it consisting of religious symbols that reflected very varied forms of worship.
The diffusion of their cultures came about in several ways: Buddhist art travelled from India through South-East Asia, Indonesia, Tibet, China and Japan, taking in local cults on the way and adapting their imagery to its own ends. Christianity, born in the Near East, absorbed some of the religious imagery of the region through.
Persian textiles, which found their way to the West, have motifs that reappear in Byzantine church art. Others came from as far away as China. In the West the Church absorbed imagery from the pagan cults it replaced and gave it a fresh, Christian meaning. We see how easily symbolic images can mean different things to different peoples; how seldom, at least in art, are they endowed with a fixed, immutable core of meaning that transcends different social and religious milieus.
This is not to deny the existence of unconscious archetypes as a source of symbolism, but simply to keep them in perspective and be aware of their limited importance in relation to the visual arts. The first letter of Sanskrit, Greek and Roman alphabets. Vishnu, one of the supreme Hindu gods, said T am the beginning, the middle, the end of all creation; of letters I am the A.
Its magical power will conjure up the deity. The written character, on a lotus throne, is also an object of contemplation.
On Roman funerary monuments the letter A indicates that the deceased was an only child. The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet are a Christian symbol of God as the beginning and end of all things. Egyptian hieroglyph for life, possibly originally a representation of a sandal strap [Hi]. As a symbol it denotes eternal life and when held to the nose of a dead pharaoh ensures his everlasting existence. It is held by many deities, in particular Atum, the sun-god of Heliopolis, and when seated Sekhmet, the lion-headed war-goddess of Memphis.
On the walls of temples it gives divine protection to the deceased. The Coptic Church adopted it as a form of the cross, called ansate having a handle. Circle the pure form; see also RING for the annular form. Like the sphere, a symbol of the cosmos, the heavens, and the supreme deity, in East and West. Renaissance humanists likened it to God from its perfect shape.
It formed the ground-plan of churches, especially from the 16th cent, [iv: Choirs of angels, representing heaven, may have a circular or hemispherical configuration. As a Taoist and Buddhist symbol, heaven and earth may be represented respectively by a circle enclosed in a square. Taoism also taught that the circle, divided into two in a certain way, symbolized the creative principle of the universe, the two parts being its female and male elements see YIN AND YANG. Having no end or beginning a circle may denote eternity, sometimes depicted in the West as a 1.
SNAKE biting its own tail, an image of Egyptian origin where it represented the boundlessness of the ocean. The familiar Christian symbol has other, older associations. The cross of the latter may have a solar disk in the centre. From the 4th cent, when Christians were first allowed to worship freely in the Roman Empire the cross itself began, slowly, to be represented on sarcophagi and other artefacts as a symbol of their religion and of Christ himself. In the Middle Ages it was used on church vestments as a symbol of priestly authority and was borne by orders of chivalry and on banners of guilds.
It formed the ground-plan of churches: The Christian cross has other forms: A cross is the attribute of many Christian saints, too numerous to help identify them. It is also the foot-rest of History. It is occasionally represented as a polyhedron with more than six sides, as in Durer's Melancolia [v] where it symbolizes the Pythagorean doctrine that number and form are the basis of the universe. Chinese silk, 17th cent. Its origin is uncertain. The two signs were anciently called 'symbols of the discernment we ought to have of good and evil', and may have been intended to represent the upper garment hanging down back to front, or archers' bows.
According to a popular su-. It was said to flourish in the 'three isles of the blest' in the Western Sea Japan? It is generally represented as the fungus polyporus lucidus [vii]. In ceramic decoration it can take a highly stylized form [vm] which is sometimes difficult to distinguish from the CLOUD pattern.
It is seen in the mouth of a DEER, reputed to be long lived and the only creature able to find it. See also JU-I sceptre. The contraction of the name Jesus in Greek. It is widely seen in the decoration of Greek and Latin churches, on tombs [ix: It is the attribute of Bernardino of Siena, of Ansanus when inscribed on a heart, and of the Society of Jesus.
Roman military standard emblazoned with the chirho monogram by Constantine the Great. It is a combination of the Greek letters chi and rho X and P. As an abbreviation of chrestos, 'auspicious', it had previously been in use as a symbol of good omen, and it is not certain whether the emperor intended it in this sense or as a Christian symbol.
A similar motif occurs in Mesopotamia as an Assyrian military ensign and the symbol of a Chaldean sun-god, either of which could be its prototype. As an abbreviation of Christ's name it appears in Roman catacomb art of the 4th cent, or possibly earlier. A Mesopotamian motif, seen at all periods until the fall of the Assyrian Empire, particularly on 9th - 8th cent, BC cylinder seals and, earlier, on gaming boards from Ur. Its meaning is uncertain but most likely to be an 'all-seeing eye', an apotropaic talisman to ward off the evil eye.
It is thought to be a symbol of victory. A pair of lozenges, joined end to end or interlocking fang cheng , sometimes seen on the walls of houses, are believed to ward off evil spirits. A complex image, generally painted on a banner, or tanka, the object of meditation by Tantric Buddhists.
Its essential feature is a circle, which usually encloses a square with four 'doors' in the middle of each side facing the four cardinal points [xii]. At the centre of the mandala there is. Alternatively, the central figure may be a demonic 'tutelary deity' embracing his shakti. The image probably originated in early Hindu devotional practice. Its characteristic form is a visual metaphor for the structure of the universe as it would be perceived in the act of meditation.
It therefore became, magically, the literal dwelling-place of the deity whom the worshipper is invoking in his quest for Enlightenment. There is a 12th cent, record3 of mandalas having been produced in large numbers between the 6th and 12th cents. A repetitive pattern, having more than one form [i], found on sacred bronze vessels of the Chou dynasty in China c. It was derived from pictographs of the previous Shang period representing clouds and rolling thunder and was hence called the 'cloud and thunder pattern' yun wen and leiwen. The pattern symbolized life-giving rain and the abundance it brought to farming peoples.
It reached the West and was the prototype of the Greek fret or key-pattern which decorates classical architecture. It has survived, together with more complicated variants, to the present day. As a continuous border it may frame Chinese symbols of longevity. It was widely believed, especially in the Far East, that a mirror had magical properties and this is borne out by the motifs and inscriptions on its back. In a mirror one could glimpse all knowledge and see into one's own soul; it warded off evil in this life and the next and was therefore buried with the dead.
To protect its owner a Chinese bronze mirror could be decorated with dragons and tigresses. In China the art of decorating mirrors underwent great developments in the Han dynasty. They began to replicate the designs on parasols and canopies that were used ritually. These designs represented the 'canopy of heaven', a system of cosmology with appropriate symbols.
The T L V mirror, so-called from the decorative motifs on its back, was introduced in the middle of the 2nd cent, BC, and was widely popular. The example shown is only one of several decorative schemes that came to include animals, immortals and other spirits, besides abstract signs [ii]. From the 3rd or 4th cents, AD mirrors increasingly depict Taoist and Buddhist motifs, and flora and fauna that symbolize good fortune, marital happiness, and so on. Mirrors, often of Chinese origin, have been found in many Japanese tombs. The Virgin's reflection in a mirror held by a bishop identifies Geminianus of Modena d.?
Five-pointed figure first seen in Sumerian royal inscriptions of the late 4th-early 3rd mill, BC, where it appears to symbolize the extent of the king's authority, reaching to the farthest corners of the earth. It was used as a mystic symbol of the Pythagoreans and, later, by medieval astrologers and necromancers. As a good luck charm it was placed at doorways to keep off harmful spirits.
As a Christian symbol it stands for the five wounds of Christ [Hi]. Chinese character denoting longevity or immortality, ideals that were popularized by Taoist philosophy and very widely represented as a result of Taoist influence. Over variants are known [iv], [v]. They are seen on ceramics, textiles, medals and elsewhere. Two together on a wedding gift signify 'May you have many years of married life. Mainly associated with fertility and birth.
The walls of the entrance to megalithic burial chambers in many parts of Europe are covered with so-called spiral patterns, probably denoting the journey of the soul into the chamber itself [vi]. Religion was then devoted to the cult of the Mother-Goddess, and the tomb chamber is thought to have symbolized her womb wherein the soul was reborn. Early votive figurines of the goddess have similar spirals in the genital area. Well-defined spiral patterns occur on Chinese funerary vases of the Neolithic period.
See also VASE as a symbol of the womb. A double spiral, known to represent a bovine womb, is an attribute of the Egyptian goddess of childbirth, Meskhenet, and of an unnamed female thought to be her Syrian counterpart [vii]. It is a very common mo-. It became the principal motif on Cretan jars BC , often in the form of a 'running spiral' [i], which is also found on drinking vessels from Byblos, Mycenae and, intermittently, in Egypt. An ancient and very widespread symbol, believed by many authorities to have been originally a representation of the SUN, indicating its course through the heavens.
According to some it represents a wheel of the sun-god's chariot. Hence it shares some of the sun's symbolism: It was found at Troy, and was a popular motif on Greek coinage, which contributed to its wide circulation. It was virtually unknown in Assyria and Babylon and appeared in Egypt only from the Ptolemaic period. It is seen in the sculpture of Jain temples, dating from 2nd-lst cents, BC, and is an attribute of Suparshva, one of the twenty-four founding teachers of the sect.
In China the swastika wan was originally a Taoist emblem and may be seen in the hand of Lao-tzu, founder of Taoism, and of other Taoist immortals, symbolizing their divine power. A swastika is one of the 'auspicious signs' on the Buddha's FOOT and, when represented on the breast of Shakyamuni, symbolizes his heart, which holds all his thinking. It was introduced into Japan probably through Buddhism and is seen on numerous Chinese and Japanese deities, as well as those of Tibetan Lamaism.
As an auspicious sign swastikas are used for ornamental borders on eastern carpets, silks and woodwork. On Chinese ceramics, with a JU-I sceptre it expresses the wish for a long and happy life. The Chinese character wan later denoted the number 10, The swastika has two forms. They can denote respectively male and female, yang and yin, sun and moon.
The anticlockwise version is the Buddhist and Taoist form and was sometimes associated with the Greek goddesses Artemis, Demeter and Hera. The same form sometimes accompanies early Christian inscriptions, as a version of the cross. Ancient symbol of life, called tau Greek T. For Teutonic peoples it represented the double mallet or hammer of Thor and symbolized the lightning that heralded fertilizing rain, In the Christian catacombs it symbolized the promise of eternal life. The 'mark' put on the foreheads of the righteous Israelites of Jerusalem to save them from destruction was a tau Vulg.
The symbol of a three-fold nature. His halo is sometimes triangular. The equilateral triangle is a Hindu symbol of gender: For the Greeks, the delta apex up was a female symbol, eidolon gynaikeion, the image of woman. The combination of male and female symbols, called Shri yantra, is an object of contemplation in Tantric Buddhism [iv]. It is intended to release psychic energy and heighten consciousness.
The origin of the eight ancient Chinese divinatory trigrams is unknown. It is said they were revealed to a legendary emperor, Fu Hsi c. The line may be broken in the middle yin or unbroken yang. Later interpreters attributed to each sign a natural element, quality of mind, compass point, etc, which became the basis of a philosophical and divinatory system that had universal application. The trigrams were formerly found on the garments of military and religious leaders and were worn as an amulet to ensure good fortune.
They are frequently seen in ceramic decoration. A disk enclosing three legs, joined at the hip and bent, as if running, or three radiating crescents or ogees [vi: The former was originally a solar symbol, the latter lunar, and was meant to portray the movement of sun and moon across the heavens. It is found frequently on early coinage of Asia Minor and on the shield of the Greek hero, Achilles. It may be seen in conjunction with a solar animal such as the lion, eagle, dragon or cock.
The triskele when seen on Celtic crosses may symbolize the Christian Trinity. It is the emblem of the isles of Man and Sicily. Primitive peoples worldwide once believed in the magical power of the spoken word. A person's name was an intrinsic part of his being and must therefore be kept secret lest his enemies use it to cause him harm. The power of the word entered the religious beliefs of ancient civilizations where it had more than symbolic force. The Egyptians inscribed the names of enemies on clay tablets, which they then smashed to pieces.
The word was also creative. Greeks and Romans believed in the magical power of names. Thus it was an offence to pronounce the names of priests who celebrated the Eleusinian mysteries, while priests in Rome kept secret the name of the city's guardian deity for fear that enemies might lure him away. The ritual of pronouncing magical formulae, or mantras [i: The Hebrew name of God, Yahveh, 'I am that I am', became the symbol of monotheism for the Israelites and is so sacred it is not uttered is 'ineffable' except on the Day of Atonement.
The word of the Hebrews' God had, like Ptah's, the power to create: Let the whole world fear the Lord Yin and Yang Jap. Ancient Chinese cosmology, later transmitted to Japan, postulated a dualistic universe based on negative and positive principles, yin and yang, which pervade all things. The words originally meant the contrasting shaded and sunlit slopes of mountain or valley. Yin is female, the earth, darkness, the moon, passivity; yang is male, heaven, light, the sun, the active principle in nature, etc.
It symbolizes the origin of all creation. From the egg was hatched the first man, P'an Ku Jap. Symbol of industry and an example to the sluggard. It also illustrates a classical saying, "Through concord small things may grow greater, through discord the greatest are destroyed' 2 which was made into a rebus in the Renaissance that depicted an ant devouring an elephant and vice versa [Hi]. A black antelope's pelt often serves as a loin cloth for the Hindu ascetic, which is one of Shiva's roles.
The Egyptian goddess Satis, who was associated with the annual Nile flooding, wears the CROWN of Upper Egypt adorned with antelope's horns, probably having been originally worshipped as an antelope. A hunter confronted by a stag with a crucifix between its antlers is St Eustace or St Hubert [v: It is also their attribute.
The cult of the stag, pre-eminently the sacred beast among Central Asian tribes, reached Hittite Anatolia probably c. Overtaken by Greek cultural influences it acquired? With the coming of Christianity under the early Byzantine emperors a cross or crucifix was substituted for the eagle. The scene, with Eustace, is first represented in 7th cent, churches of Cappadocia and was revived in Europe in the late Middle Ages.
Baboons were also associated with the sun. Eight baboons raising their forepaws to the rising sun symbolize the creation of the world by the Ogdoad, eight primeval gods of creation. The screeching of apes at daybreak was regarded as homage to the sun-god, RE. The Hindu ape-god Hanuman epitomizes loyalty and devotion to duty and his tribe became part of the retinue of the Buddha.
Hanuman has human form with ape-like features. It was believed to have magical powers and could control demons that harmed mankind. The ape is the hero of a popular 16th cent, romance, The Pilgrim to the West Hsi Yuchi , based on a T'ang dynasty legend. Many types of ape are represented in Chinese painting, ceramics and wood-carving. In Japan the ape saru is associated with several Shinto deities.
Its image guards the gate of the temple of San No Gongen in Tokyo and also stands on the altar. The three 'mystic apes' Sambiki saru that neither see, hear nor speak evil are the attendants of Saruta-hiko, the Shinto god of roads who has a monkey face. There are many Japanese. In the West, medieval and Renaissance man saw in the ape an image of his baser self.
In Christian art, with an apple in its mouth, it stood for the Fall of Man. Northern European painters, especially 17th cent. Flemish, satirized man's vanities by depicting monkeys performing everyday human activities. The artist represented himself as an ape, illustrating the saying Ars simia Naturae, art is the ape of nature.
Beast of burden of the poor, hence a symbol of poverty; also of humility, patience, obedience, stupidity, sloth, etc. Kneeling before a chalice, it is the attribute of St Anthony of Padua. Spanish, 11th cent] found speech and rebuked the spiritual blindness of its master, who therefore prefigures doubting Thomas. The subject of many legends in Japan, where it transforms itself magically into human form in order to make mischief. Most remarkably, it can distend its scrotum to smother its pursuers and thereby escape them.
In China its name is a homonym of the word meaning 'to be glad'; hence, together with a magpie, the pair denote 'May you experience joy from heaven and on earth'. It is a popular subject in netsuke. Winged serpent with the head and claws of a cock and a second head at the end of its tail. Instant death came to all on whom it fixed its gaze. A symbol of Satan in medieval Christian art [Hi: Believed by the Chinese to reach a great age, hence a symbol of longevity, also of joy [v].
It is a homonym for 'good fortune'. In ceramic decoration it may be painted red, the colour of joy. Five bats are the Five Blessings also Japanese: They are a widely depicted motif and are embroidered on the robes of Tibetan high lamas. In Italian Renaissance allegory it is an attribute of Night personified. According to the bestiaries bear cubs are born formless and 'licked into shape' by their mother, symbolizing Christianity converting the heathen. In China it symbolizes strength and bravery.
Its image [v] is a protection against thieves. The great panda was an emblem of rank, embroidered on the robes of certain court officials. A popular symbol of industry, purity, immortality. Symbol of the pharaoh of Lower Egypt [vi]. A bee or hive is the attribute of SS. Widespread symbol of the soul, especially as it rises to heaven after death. The Egyptian ba, a bird, hovers above the mummy in tomb painting New Kingdom , symbolizing the divine power of gods and pharaohs [vii: Later, it came to denote the soul of the deceased and was identified with the Greek Psyche.
Many ancient peoples associated the larger birds with solar and sky deities. The common image of a bird and snake fighting symbolized the conflict between solar and earthly powers see EAGLE. St Benedict may be represented standing in a thorn bush in an attempt to extinguish the desires of the flesh.
A blackbird perched nearby symbolizes the devil [viii]. The wild boar has tusks, unlike the domestic pig. In some European and Asiatic cultures it is a sacred animal with magical powers. He is represented with a boar's head or fully zoomorphic. The most representative symbol of the masculine principle in nature, that is, strength and procreative power.
It was associated with sun- and sky-gods, the ultimate sources of fertility, and with gods of creation. From Greece and Rome it extended through parts of Europe. In many places worship of the bull was linked to the MotherGoddess. Some bull cults in the Nile Valley are of great antiquity, AMUN, supreme deity of the Egyptian pantheon and worshipped in the Old Kingdom, was called 'bull of his mother' probably meaning that as creator he had no father. In that role he has an erect phallus. The bull-god, Apis, was worshipped at Memphis in the First Dynasty. He was called son, or messenger, of the creatorgod PTAH of the same city.
The pharaoh's epithet, 'victorious bull', implied royal strength and virility and was linked to Apis. Yearly rites at Memphis involving the pharaoh and a living sacred bull were meant to renew these vital powers. The latter also has a solar disk and uraeus. In Mesopotamia and neighbouring regions images of bulls are also related to solar- and sky-gods and to water, as a source of fertility and life.
In very early times a bull was the usual symbol of a city's tutelary deity and was often the consort of the MotherGoddess.
Its identification with known deities begins with the Hittite storm-god, Teshub, who holds a lightning bolt and stands above a bull c. A hybrid bull-man appears intermittently, first on cylinder seals of the early Dynastic period mid-3rd mill. He has a human head with horns and is a bull from the waist down. He may be ithyphallic. On the early seals he fights a lion-headed eagle and other foes. The latter probably symbolizes some cosmic contest of deities, where the bull's role is beneficent. The bull, human-headed and winged, had the important role of guardian, notably in neo-Assyrian monumental sculpture see further, WINGS.
Originally it was performed at New Year and spring festivals in Mesopotamia and elsewhere with a bull, ram or goat to ensure a plentiful harvest. This had a more mystical symbolism: Evidence of bull sacrifice in Minoan Crete survives in the bull's horns that surmounted the sacrificial altar and a libation vessel, the rhyton, fashioned in the form of a bull's head, to hold the blood. The taurobolium, a sacrifice to the Mother-Goddess as the source of fertility and life, was a dramatic ritual.
The bull was slaughtered above a pit in which a worshipper stood, to be drenched by a stream of blood flowing over him. It spread to the Roman provinces especially Gaul, where many altars to Cybele have been found. They depict, in relief, a bull's head, or bucranium, somewhat resembling a skull [if].
The myth of the Rape of Europa, who was abducted by Zeus in the form of a white bull,7 is of Cretan origin and is probably derived from a rite of sacred marriage. There are examples in early Greek vase painting and relief sculpture. The likelihood of an early common cultural link between India and her Near-Eastern neighbours is supported by images on seals and other artefacts from the Indus Valley 3rd mill. They indicate worship of a Mother-Goddess associated with a bull.
The later Aryan settlers worshipped a male pantheon which included Rudra, the 'Howler'. One of his roles was storm-god and he was sometimes referred to as bull. Indian, c, 16thth cent. Its image stands before Shivaite temples and women entering may touch its testicles to make themselves fertile.
He is widely represented in Tibetan Tantric painting and bronzes. A bull is the attribute of the Christian saints Thecla, who died tied to a pair of bulls, and Sernin or Saturninus , first bishop of Toulouse, who met a similar end. Eustace was martyred inside a brass bull. Their legends may well reflect the conflict. A butterfly emerging from a chrysalis symbolizes the soul leaving the body.
It is a Chinese symbol for the age of seventy tie is a homonym ; with plum blossom it denotes beauty allied to longevity. Sipping nectar from a flower, it represents a lover tasting the joys of love. It is a Japanese symbol of the soul, and of womanhood [i: A Chinese and Japanese symbol of perseverance: Li also denotes profit or advantage. The carp's armour-like scales made it a symbol of martial valour for the Japanese warrior-caste, the Samurai.
The famous Japanese warrior Yoshitsune is represented carrying a carp. Its 'beard' indicates supernatural powers. A Chinese sage riding on a carp is K'in Kao Jap. Kinko , who befriended the King of Fishes and was persuaded, together with his disciples, to give up ichthyophagy [Hi: Widely believed to have occult powers and sometimes deified. The Egyptian cat-goddess, Bastet, who evolved from a lioness deity, was worshipped mainly in Lower Egypt, especially from c.
Many votive images have been found in her sanctuaries. Cats were consecrated to Bastet and their bodies mummified. Bastet was the daughter of the sun-god, RE, and therefore the enemy of the snake-god of the Underworld, Apophis, whom she beheaded [iv: Funerary papyrus, 19th Dyn. In China and Japan the cat has demonic powers, released especially after its death, and was therefore propitiated. Like the fox in Japan, it could assume human form. Mao, Chinese for cat, is a near homonym for 'eighty years old', thus a cat with bamboo and plum-blossom. Mythical creature, half horse, half man; one of Homer's race of 'wild beasts', lecherous and usually drunk.
Symbol of barbarism in Greek myth and art. Personification of man's lower, bestial nature in Renaissance humanist allegory; in Christian art a symbol of adultery, sometimes heresy. However, Chiron, the centaur-teacher of Achilles, was noted for wisdom. Enemy of the snake in Chinese folklore and once carried by the traveller to warn against its proximity [vi. Ripa,9 following Pliny,10 says it is 'an animal that eats nothing nor drinks but only feeds on air, and yet lives'[vii]. In Greek myth a monster, sometimes having several heads and with the fore-parts of a lion, its middle a goat and its rear a dragon [viii: It ravaged Lycia until slain by Bellerophon.
Ancient Chinese symbol of resurrection and immortality derived from its life-cycle, beginning as a larva underground, then a terrestrial pupa, finally a flying insect. In the larval form it is first seen on Shang dynasty bronzes, 2nd mill. In funerary rites from the very late Chou dynasty until Han times a jade cicada was placed in the mouth of the dead for protection and to ensure immortality.
It was also a symbol of purity since it was believed to feed only on dew. The male domestic fowl has a rich and varied symbolism in the West and East. In ancient Greece it was a traditional love gift. It represents the male principle, yang. Cockcrow drives away the spirit of the night, and a white cock placed on a coffin keeps demons at bay. A painting of a cock on the wall.
The cock's comb Ch. A cock on a war-drum, a popular subject in Japanese netsuke, symbolizes Peace, from a Chinese legend concerning such a drum that had long fallen into disuse [t]. Ancient Chinese astronomy recognized 28 constellations, seven in each of the four quadrants that comprised the vault of the heavens. Each quadrant was guarded by one of four supernatural creatures with mystical powers Ch. East, the green or blue dragon, spring; South, the scarlet bird a pheasant or phoenix , summer; West, the white tiger, or a kind of hybrid UNICORN, autumn; North, a snake coiled round a tortoise, called the 'dark warrior', winter.
They are frequently of ferocious aspect, especially Japanese and Tibetan. The entrance to Egyptian pyramids is on the north face towards the Pole Star and its neighbours, from where the Great God governed the universe. Egyptian temples and tombs usually have an east-west axis. Necropolises usually lie to the west of a city, the sunset land of the dead.
This head-dress is also one of the forms of isis, who took it from Hathor New Kingdom. For Hindus the cow is of all animals the most sacred, yet it is not identified with any deity. In the Rig-Veda it is the rain cloud, which nourishes the earth. Io, changed into a heifer by Zeus, is represented on Greek vases and wall-paintings as a woman with small horns. The Chinese describe western handwriting as 'crab-wise', from the creature's sideways gait. Buddhists in northern China and Tibet adopted the crab as a symbol of the cosmic night between the kalpas of Brahma, from the belief that it hibernated.
A species found in Japanese waters, having markings on its shell resembling an anguished human face [iv], was the subject of several legends: It is the messenger of the gods and carries the tablets of human fate sometimes a scroll, or twig to earth. It is seen thus, typically on Ming ceramics [v]. It bears the souls of the dead to heaven in Chinese funerary art.
The Shinto spirits of pine trees, Jo and Uba, an old wrinkled couple, have a crane and tortoise for attributes, a popular subject in netsuke. Sobek, or Suchos, the Egyptian crocodile-god, may be wholly animal or an animal-headed human [vi: He symbolized the power of the pharaohs, this relationship being indicated when he wears the royal crown of double feathers. His chief cult centres were at Kom Ombo and in the Fayyum. She has a crocodile's head, the forepart of a lion and rear of a hippopotamus.
She devours the heart of the deceased if it is found wanting in the scales. The crocodile was also the embodiment of SETH, and was accordingly destroyed in effigy in certain rites of Osiris and Horus. In Christian art a crocodile or dragon is the attribute of St Theodore, whose legend is similar to St George and the dragon. This belief reached Japan at an early period, where the. It also became an emblem of the shrines of the Kumano sect of Shinto.
Its solar connection and its uneven number of legs make it yang. It is some-times a bird of ill-omen, contrasted with the white heron yin [i: A sacred bird among primitive peoples and in parts of ancient Greece. Among the Japanese it was a symbol of unrequited love Deer Ch. It may also symbolize Wealth, as 'deer' and 'official salary' are homophones in Chinese.
The deer is sacred to the Kasuga sect of Shinto, which had its origins in primitive agricultural deities dwelling on Mt Kasuga, and is the gods' messenger. Many of them roam wild in the grounds of the Kasuga shrine. Deer are prominent in Kasuga art [Hi], saddled and sometimes carrying the tutelary deity of the sect, Kasuga Myojin. An alternative devotional image shows a branch of sakaki, an evergreen tree, springing from the saddle and surmounted by a mirror on which the sect's five principal deities may be depicted. Watchful guardian, symbol of faithfulness and companion and messenger of numerous deities in the art of many civilizations.
When in human form she has a dog for attribute. The so-called jackal, the form of the Egyptian god Anubis, was probably the desert pye-dog [rv]. The god is wholly animal or a dog-headed human. His role was funerary, guarding the mummy at night and weighing the heart in the Hall of Judgement. Three-headed Cerberus guards the entrance to Hades. It sometimes has a serpent's tail and lion's claws.
In Christian art black-and-white dogs are Domini canes, the dogs of the Lord, a pun on St Dominic's name and an emblem of his Order which has a black-and-white habit. St Roch is accompanied by a dog, with a loaf of bread in its mouth, which fed him as he lay sick with the plague. A dog is the attribute of St Margaret of Cortona. The cynocephalus, one of a race of dog-headed people, is occasionally seen in medieval Christian art V6zelay, 12th cent.
They were believed to live on the distant fringes of the world, along with other fantastic peoples, and appear to symbolize the furthest reaches of the apostles' evangelizing missions. Seen mainly in the art of Mediterranean peoples [v]. On coins and seals of cities like Carthage and Syracuse dolphins are a symbol of their maritime power. It is also associated with other deities in a maritime context: On Roman sarcophagi dolphins are psychopomps, bearing the soul to the Isles of the Blessed.
A dolphin entwining an anchor illustrates the Latin motto, Festina lente, 'make haste slowly', first seen on the coinage of early imperial Rome and revived in the Renaissance. Roman catacombs, 3rd cent. Seven doves are the 'seven gifts of the Holy Ghost'. A pair of doves is a widely recognized symbol of love and con-.
In China and Japan it is an emblem of long life and fidelity. Jade batons topped with a dove were given to the aged in the Han dynasty to wish them continued well-being ahd a good digestion. A dove was associated with the Japanese god of war, Hachiman, symbolizing the expectation of peace to follow. In the West, a symbol of Satan and of evil in general except in heraldry. In the East, especially in China where it has an ancient lineage, it was a beneficent creature. Its earliest form, on Chinese bronze ritual vessels of the Shang and Chou dynasties 2nd to mid-1st mill, BC but not widely represented thereafter, is the k'uei dragon [i].
Purses were made of the mongoose's skin; hence the animal became the attribute of certain lesser gods of wealth, from whom it probably acquired its jewels. Withoutabox Submit to Film Festivals. In Christian art the lion symbolizes both Christ, 'the lion from the tribe of Judah',60 and Satan, who 'like a roaring lion prowls around'. The destructive locust is the enemy of Maat, the Egyptian goddess of cosmic law and order, seen on Late Dynastic coffin painting. It entered Greek and Hindu myth in various contexts: In China and Japan the cat has demonic powers, released especially after its death, and was therefore propitiated.
The lung dragon is thought by some to have originated in the alligators that formerly lived in the Yangtse and other Chinese rivers. Certainly, like the alligator, it was associated with water - it was once worshipped as a bringer of rain and good harvests. It usually has horns, long teeth and long whiskers, a mane and a long scaly body. Originally it was more often three-clawed but since the Sung dynasty from AD it has usually had four or five.
Near its mouth there may be a flaming ball, described as a pearl, probably a symbol of thunder. Dragon and TIGER guardian of the West together symbolize life and death, the principal forces controlling the universe, the dragon appearing among rain clouds, the tiger eyeing it from below.
Some have said that it hides in caves or in the depths of the sea. Its legendary appearances, rare and always fleeting, are a portent of some great event such as the birth of a future emperor. For Taoists its appearance is the Tao itself, a force suffusing the universe that they may momentarily glimpse. For Zen Buddhists the dragon was also a cosmic spirit, symbolizing their all-too-elusive visions of Enlightenment. From the 2nd cent, BC the dragon was a symbol of the emperor's might and sovereignty, and was the principal motif on imperial robes see DRESS. From the 14th cent.
Dragon lore reached Japan from China probably soon after the arrival of Buddhism in the 6th cent, AD and was gradually. The earliest written legends appeared about AD , though it was not much represented in Japanese art before the later 14th cent. It usually has three claws and may have the mystic pearl. It was the form taken by the King of the Sea, Ryu-jin, who is the subject of numerous legends. In art, he is an old man with a dragon entwining his head and may hold magical jewels that govern the tides. The ancient Shinto god, Susano-0 see MOON , is widely depicted destroying an eight-headed dragon described in the legend as a serpent , having first made it drunk with eight bowls of sakd.
A dragon is the vehicle of several Japanese immortal sages, the sennins. In Tibetan painting, especially on Lamaist prayer-flags, there is a composite animal with dragon's head and tail and a scaly horse's body. It carries the Buddhist scrolls of the Law on its back. Since the Latin draco means either dragon or snake as in Greek Satan is represented in either form.
As a dragon, of the kind vanquished by St George and St Michael in late medieval and Renaissance art, he is in essentials human but typically has a bird's beak, claws and, his most characteristic feature, bat's wings [Hi: They reached the West with the expansion of the Mongol empire into eastern Europe in the 13th cent. Trade with the East followed and brought with it Chinese ceramics and figured textiles on which such dragons were featured.
Among the saints a chained dragon beside Bernard of Clairvaux symbolizes heresy; beside Pope Sylvester it is paganism. The 'serpent of old' 26 is also chained. Margaret of Antioch treads on a dragon.
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Legends have connected it with Theodore and Martha. In Renaissance allegory it is an attribute of Vigilance. The dragon slain by the greek hero, Perseus, was originally 6th cent, BC a sea-serpent or whale. One of the emblems of Japan, which is known as 'dragonfly island', Akitsu-shima, because its shape is. Its apparently aimless, darting flight has made it a symbol of instability in Japan and China. It is a Chinese symbol of summer. Wild ducks and geese are the subject of numerous Chinese and Japanese legends and are a popular subject in ceramic decoration.
A pair of mandarin ducks Ch. The Chinese lotus lien is a homophone for partnership, so duck and lotus are typically depicted together. An amulet of a duck resting on a lotus [ii], known as the Sacred Duck, protects the wearer against accidents. Associated with solar and sky deities from earliest times.
A lion-headed eagle, usually known by its Sumerian name, Imdugud [Hi: Eagle and snake in combat, symbolizing the conflict of sky- and earth-gods, was also of Sumerian origin. It entered Greek and Hindu myth in various contexts: The myth of Ganymede, carried to Olympus by Zeus' eagle, acquired the same symbolism. In the rite of apotheosis of a Roman emperor, an eagle was released which bore his soul to heaven. On the standards of the Roman army it symbolized power and victory.
The double-headed eagle, first seen on Hittite reliefs and Indian coinage, which found its way to Europe during the Crusades, is of uncertain meaning. It was probably the result of merging pairs of birds as a decorative motif in jewellery, and not originally symbolic.
In many mythologies the source, or womb, from which all creation emerged. Egyptian Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead make references to the egg as the origin of life. Alternatively, it was fashioned by PTAH on a potter's wheel [iv]. RE, the sun-god, was born from it. A Chinese creation legend tells how the earth, the sky and the primeval man, P'an ku, were hatched from a great egg. In Christian art an egg is the symbol of Christ's Resurrection. An ostrich egg symbolizes the virgin birth, from the medieval belief that it hatched of its own accord.
In Greek myth Leda, impregnated by Zeus as a swan, laid two eggs from which were hatched the Dioscuri, Helen and Clytemnestra. Very widely represented throughout the East as a religious symbol and in illustrations of folk legends. The oldest images are found on seals from the Indus Valley Mohenjo-Daro, 3rd-2nd mill, BC , possibly symbolizing royal prerogative because owning elephants was confined to sovereigns.
Early Chinese ritual vessels, made of bronze, often take the form of fantastic animals and birds. A vessel of this kind, covered with magical symbols and possibly used to hold wine, is shaped like an elephant.