Symbols and Labels

Recently I had a conversation with my mother which got me thinking about how many people confuse symbols – particularly those we wear – with labels – particularly those they like to apply to us.

My mum has taken to wearing a cross – something she took up only very recently and after she found out about my pagan path. (I should probably point out that my mum has never been overly religious – in fact when I was searching for my own spiritual place in the world over 20 years ago and was attending church regularly, as well as bible study, any mention I made of God or asking for assistance from God was met with incredulous looks and “God’s never done anything for me” responses. I was raised in a ‘Christian’ house and we three children were sent to Sunday School and later church from about 5 to 14. Mum however had only ever been in a church three times I know of – one of which was for her own wedding – and dad, never.)

I say all of this with no judgment. It took me 20 years of research before I placed my feet firmly on the path I now tread – and find it amazing still how once I did, like-minded souls and kindred spirits began turning up everywhere, attracted like moths to a flame! It has been an amazing journey that has brought me friends from around the globe and some incredible learning opportunities once I opened my soul to them.

Back to my story…

So, mum wears a gold cross. A pretty big one actually, with diamonds all over it – very bling! – so there’s no missing it and I guess she’s making her own statement. Yay mum!

I have, in the last couple of years, found some really nice pentacle necklaces I wear when the mood takes me. I also wear lots of other stuff including crystals, more ‘traditional’ pieces I’ve received as gifts from my beloved and our daughter, etc. On a recent visit mum asked me about “that thing you wear around your neck” – going on to say she had been reading a book that had witches in it doing all manner of nasty things to the main characters – I guess as witches are wont to do … in fiction.

I pointed out to her that in the same way her wearing a cross does not make her a Catholic, wearing a pentacle/pentagram does not make me a witch.

It’s interesting though isn’t it that many people connect symbols with their labels? People see a pentagram and immediately think of witches, and yet it is an ancient symbol (dating from around 3000BC) used by many people varying from a good luck talisman, to symbolising the directions, to a symbol for the 4 elements (earth, air, water, fire) and spirit (showing the connectedness of all things), to representations of the five plants: Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Venus as the ‘Queen of Heaven’ (Ishtar) above. Interestingly, the pentagram was also commonly used by Christians to symbolise the five wounds of Jesus – and it also has associations with Freemasonry. Solomon, the third king of Israel in the 10th Century BC is said to have worn the sign on a ring he received from the Archangel Michael. The seal on the ring was said to give Solomon power over demons. Ironic it has the reverse connotation these days!

The cross on the other hand also has many pre-Christian connections with many ancient peoples using cross-like icons including the Egyptians (ankh), and it’s believed the cross wasn’t associated with Christians until around the 2nd Century – previously the Ichthys (fish symbol) or Chi-Rho monogram (adopted by Constantine 1 in the 4th Century as his banner) were more commonly used.

I pointed out to my mother that whilst witches use the symbol, they do so because they are pagan – more specifically pagans who practice Wicca. You see, all witches are pagan, but not all pagans are witches. It’s important to make the distinction. Just as in the same way Christians can be Catholic, Protestant, Uniting, Methodist, Presbyterian, and a plethora of other religious affiliations that proclaim Jesus as the son of God and Christ (the main thing that actually differentiates Christians from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other religions).

I’ve never liked labels much. To me, labelling yourself one thing precludes you from being or doing something else.  And my wearing of a symbol that you think belongs to a particular group of people does not mean I believe myself to be a member of that group. It just means I like the symbol or it has particular significance for me in that moment.

Incidentally I also wear a Star of David from time to time when I feel the need for protection. Why? Because this symbol was in fact originally used as a magical sign for protection – and was only later associated with Jewish peoples first in the 17th Century in Vienna and later in the 19th Century as the symbol of the Zionist movement.

So you see, just because someone wears a piece of jewellery doesn’t necessarily mean they are a member of particular faith or movement. Perhaps they are … or perhaps they just like it. Either way it’s time to move on from old prejudices and belief systems that judge people based purely on what they choose to wear.

Besides, what’s that old Christian saying: Judge not lest you be judged?

Peace and blessings to you and yours.

References:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Christian Cross

The Star of David

Pentagrams

© Earth Goddess Wisdom – www.earthgoddesswisdom.com

10 Responses to “Symbols and Labels”

  1. 1
    Raven

    As you are aware I read your posts regularly with interest. This one is so appropriate for me at the moment as I’ve been asked recently why I wear so many Ankh symbols (ring, necklace and tattoo). It seems because I like them is not enough of an answer.

    I choose to not get into the conversation regarding my Paganism with the people that are asking the questions as I do not think they would respect my choice of path. Yet these people demand a more substantial answer simply because I state that my pendant is not a cross.

    Thank you for your insightful thoughts.

  2. 2
    Gaia's Wisdom

    My pleasure Raven! And I very much appreciate your support. Perhaps you could share my blog post with them and it might serve to ‘enlighten’ them further! 🙂 Be Blessed.

  3. 3
    Anon

    Well spoken. I never thought I would agree with this opinion, but I’m beginning to see things differently. I definitely want research more on this as it appears quite interesting. One thing I don’t get though is how everything is related together.

  4. 4

    Nice list. I’ve read a few of them and also suggestthem.I would like to stay atyour blogs oftenly. trulyamazing contents. This will give a briefinformation about the this topicand will help as a leadto newbies.Thanks a lot for sharing.Keepblogging.

  5. 5
    Ragnar

    I have always been slightly amused with the idea of wearing the symbol of Christs death around your neck. To me it’s a bit like wearing a pendant of a knife around your neck when someone you love has been stabed to death.

  6. 6
    Gaia's Wisdom

    To each their own I guess. Like most symbols, those who wear them are either showing the world their faith, or they just like the image! 🙂 In fact, what you say is precisely the reason it took some hundreds of years before Christians began to wear the symbol of painful execution – preferring as I said the fish or the Chi-Rho monogram. And the cross, like the other symbols mentioned, has multiple meanings too being used across a number of civilisations to mean various things but interestingly, nearly always included in rituals surrounding death.

  7. 7
    Gaia's Wisdom

    Thanks for your comment – and I found your link interesting. Particularly your reference to the Romans using the ‘ash cross’ – yet another example of the use of what we consider now a ‘Christian’ symbol by different cultures/peoples/belief systems as something else.

  8. 8
    Gaia's Wisdom

    You will find lots and lots of information online for your research. I will answer your question re connectedness in a separate post so we can start a discussion there. Blessings to you.

  9. 9
    Anon

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It is the old what goes around comes around routine.

  10. 10
    Gaia's Wisdom

    Thank you – yes I am a great believer in the Rule of 3 and what you put out comes back to you three-fold. Blessed be.


Want to Leave a Reply?