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What is a Symbol?

Red Fish necklace

I thought I knew what a symbol was… but I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.
Symbols are everything, everyone, every when… there is nothing that I can refer to that is not a symbol.

For example, a fish is a fish… but it is also a symbol. The Red Fish Necklace above could be viewed differently from each of the following perspectives… but all would agree that a fish is more than just a fish.

  • The fish was sacred in Greco-Roman mythology where it symbolized change and transformation.
  • In Christianity, the fish is a symbol of abundance and faith.
  • Pagan traditions recognized the fish as a feminine symbol of fertility.
  • The ancient Celtic symbolic meaning of fish was knowledge, wisdom, inspiration and prophecy.
  • Ancient East India sees the fish as a symbol of transformation and creation.
  • Ancient African creation myths tell of the symbolic meaning of fish as being fertility and creativity.
  • In China, the fish is symbolic of unity and fidelity.
  • Buddhist traditions recognize the fish as symbolizing happiness and freedom.
  • Norse and ancient northern European cultures beliefs held that fish had symbolic meanings of adaptability, determination, and the flow of life.

“We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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