A symbol that has a specific meaning today did not necessarily have the same meaning in the past. Many symbols have existed for centuries, and their meaning has changed under the influence of all sorts of events. Others simply vanished into obscurity until they were returned with a completely different meaning. In this article, I will tell you about those popular symbols that have partially lost their meaning today.
Star of David
The Star of David is the most identifiable symbol of Judaism. However, unlike elements such as the menorah or the shofar, the star is not truly Jewish. Before becoming a Jewish symbol, it featured in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. At the same time, Hinduism used the star for the longest time. For Hindus, it represents the anahata, the fourth main chakra, the energy point of the body. It is not known whether these symbols share a common origin or were conceived independently by different people. This is a simple hexagram — a figure where equilateral triangles are connected into a six-pointed star with a hexagon in the middle. Even though the use of the Star of David by the Jewish people dates back centuries, it was not officially accepted as a symbol until 1897.
Most people recognize ichthys by another name. The “Jesus fish” is a common and rather strong Christian symbol. You can often see her in the form of bumper stickers, which is quite correct in terms of history. During the times when Christians were persecuted by the Romans, they often used ichthys as a secret symbol to identify each other. Supposedly, when two strangers met for the first time, one of them drew the first arc of the symbol. The other person, being a Christian, knew to draw the second one. However, various pagan cultures have been using the symbol since before Christianity even existed. It had many different meanings, most associated with abundance. The symbol belonged to the “Great Mother”, and according to some, symbolized her womb. For Christianity, ichthys actually disappeared from common use, but then became popular again thanks to parodies such as the “Darwin fish” that has legs.
Cross of Saint Peter
The cross of St. Peter, or the inverted cross, is probably the most powerful anti-Christian symbol in the world. However, he was previously one of the most powerful pro-Christian symbols in the world. When Peter was executed, he felt that he was not worthy to die like Jesus Christ. He asked to be tortured upside down. After that, the inverted cross became a symbol of humility. You can still find the upside down cross on various churches, and this does not mean at all that the people there worship Satan. The inverted cross has only recently come into use as an anti-Christian symbol. The symbol has been featured in horror films such as The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, and has also been used in the punk and heavy metal movement, where it stands for anti-authoritarianism.
Symbol Skull and Bones
This symbol has two known meanings that most of us know today. First, the modern meaning: poison. The symbol is placed on chemicals and other harmful substances. So people know not to drink it. The other symbol is historical and refers to pirates. The Jolly Roger, the flag of the pirates, is usually depicted with a skull and crossbones on it. And this is despite the fact that most pirates actually had their own personal version of the symbol. However, the Spanish had previously used the symbol to mark cemeteries. Today you can still find old churches with skull and crossbones on them. In fact, the pirates adopted the skull and bones precisely because of their association with cemeteries.
The traditional design of the barber pole is a spiral of red and white stripes. The red stripe symbolizes blood. Throughout history, barbers have done much more than cut hair and shave. Many were also surgeons, and their number one procedure was bloodletting. People thought they could free themselves from disease by bleeding, and this technique was very crude and not sterile at the time. Barbers soaked up the blood with clean bandages or towels. Later, they often hung these bandages outside for publicity. If it was windy outside, then the bandages wrapped around the counter, and this symbol appeared from here.
For many, the aforementioned gesture symbol means “okay”, or “I’m fine”, or “I agree”. However, you should avoid using this gesture abroad because it is not viewed as favorably in some countries.
In most countries, the symbol will mean nothing at all, but in some European countries, the gesture is offensive. Thus, it can be hinted there that the person to whom it is directed is “zero”. Things are even worse in several Mediterranean and South American countries, where it is a symbol of the anus.
Regardless, the gesture does have an ancient positive connotation. This mudra is a ritual gesture in Buddhism and Hinduism. The sign symbolizes learning and many Buddhist exhibits depict the Buddha with this gesture.
Nowadays, the goat, or devil’s horns, is the main gesture at any heavy metal concert. And so it has been for many decades. Ronnie James Dio popularized the use of the goat in his concerts. You will be surprised to know that such a gesture dates back centuries and is not at all satanic. This is actually a superstitious gesture, originally called the “corn”. Ronnie learned the true meaning of the symbol from his grandmother. Like the Ok symbol, the horns of the devil represent an ancient mudra, a gesture that warded off evil. But in some countries it has a vulgar meaning. If you go to the Baltic countries and send a goat to someone, then you convey your not entirely flattering attitude to the addressee.
The caduceus is often used by health organizations or medical professionals. He is depicted as a staff with wings and two snakes wrapped around him. However, every time you see a caduceus, you are looking for an error. The staff of Hermes in medical contexts is confused with the rod of Asclepius, without wings and with just one coiled snake. Asclepius was the ancient Greek god of medicine and healing, so it makes sense to use his symbol for healthcare.
A symbol of peace
Most of us strongly associate this symbol with the counterculture and hippie movement of the 1960s. Unlike the other symbols on this list, the peace symbol is not of ancient origin. Gerald Holtom created it for a single purpose, now forgotten. He wanted to convey the message of British nuclear disarmament to the world. According to Holtom himself, the drawing represents the man himself in despair, frightened by the nuclear race and the threat of the collapse of the world. Later, he stylized the symbol using several lines and drew a circle around it.
For decades, the symbol remained popular because Holtom never copyrighted it. The symbol became a special way of symbolizing freedom, and eventually it came to mean the world. There have been attempts to link the symbol to older and darker origins such as satanic broken crosses or Nazi signs, but all similarities here are actually coincidental.
Many people in Western countries have trouble associating the swastika with anything other than the Nazis. In fact, the swastika (also known as the gammadion cross) is a truly universal symbol and one of the oldest signs in the world with a deep meaning. It was used in ancient religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The swastika was revered by many ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Celts. She is even depicted on ancient pottery that predates recorded history.
Some older descriptions of the swastika appear in Hinduism, where it was the symbol of the god Vishnu. In fact, it is still often used in Hinduism and Buddhism. The sign can have different meanings, depending on the direction of rotation: clockwise is the symbol of Vishnu, and counterclockwise is the symbol of Kali. The swastika has had many uses in modern times, prior to its association with the Nazi movement. It has been used by an old laundry in Ireland, by the Danish brewers Carlsberg and even by the Finnish and Latvian Air Forces.