Ancient Symbols of Protection: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Ancient Symbols of Protection: What Are They and How Do They Work?

The mysterious and ancient symbols of protection found in witchcraft, art, jewelry, and spell books, which date back over 600 years, continue to have a strong resonance in the 21st century, as evidenced by the popularity of emoji spells and platforms like WitchTok.

With Xinar, you too, can partake of the ancient symbols of protection that have been with us for centuries. Discover more from different collections of charms like our spiritual and ritual charms and Celtic Wiccan belief charms.  

ancient symbols of protection
The hamsa is one of the most widely recognizable ancient symbols of protection in the world

Ancient Symbols of Protection and Divination: A Closer Look at The Tarot

Numerous authors, artists, and designers have found inspiration in the Tarot, among other sources of ancient symbols of protection. However, Tarot is more than just a source of creativity; it is also an impressive art form. Tarot decks have been produced for the last 600 years, spanning the styles of the Renaissance in Italy, Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Pop Art, and digital collage.

Numerous revisions and adaptations have been made to the original tarot symbols, each of which has its unique meaning and style that reflects the culture in which it was first used. Tarot is a fantastic medium for artists because it can be transformed into anything the reader imagines. It’s a clean slate with restrictions; the images you produce must have some more profound significance.

The Visconti-Sforza deck, considered the oldest set of tarot cards still in existence, was created in Italy in the 15th century. The cards were initially intended for the upper classes, so they are highly detailed works of art painted by hand. They feature symbols and characters that became central to the Tarot.

It wasn’t until the 18th century that Tarot cards were used for divination, developed initially as a parlor game. However, the occultist Arthur Edward Waite commissioned the artist Pamela Colman Smith to create a deck of tarot cards in 1909, and the result was the most well-known and influential one ever.

Unlike the Tarot’s universally accessible iconography, the meanings of many ancient symbols of protection remain a mystery to many people. Yet, throughout the history of witchcraft, ancient symbols of protection have played a significant role. The idea that your magic is highly personal and secretive—hence the word “occult”—is crucial for two reasons.

Exploring the Symbols

Historical manifestations of protection symbols include charms, amulets, carvings, or possessions that protect people from harm, typically by leaving a lasting impression on their subconscious minds.

Good and evil exist side by side in the world. The former strengthens belief, while the latter presents several difficulties for humankind. This posed a threat to their existence, necessitating a rescue mission to ensure their most fundamental safety needs were met.

Consequently, a wide variety of symbols were developed to shield humanity from danger and to ward off the influence of the evil eye, spirits, the unknown, demons, and negative energies.

These signs are as ancient as humankind itself and can be found in cultures all over the world. Though all protective symbols served the same function, their energy varied greatly from culture to culture, from the Greeks to the Christians to the modern-day Wiccans.

In times of war, natural disaster, or even wild animal attacks, these symbols represented a divine ray of hope in ancient cultures.

People relied on it regularly to ward off the harm, destruction, and deaths they attributed to the forces of darkness. These symbols are just as potent as they were centuries ago, and using the right one can protect you from harm.

Crescent Moon

The crescent moon is a symbol of female strength and emancipation in Greek mythology, where it is said to represent Selene, the moon goddess. In ancient times, women who wished to start a family would pray to Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon. Slim crescent curves were thought to represent Diana’s bow in Roman mythology, as she was the goddess of the hunt. Diana was also revered for her association with the virtues of innocence and purity. As the female counterpart to the male-dominated sun, the moon represents the yin in Chinese philosophy.

The crescent moon enjoyed immense popularity during the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian periods. Antique jewelry from these eras is rife with hidden meanings, symbols, and sentiments. The Victorians refined the art of jewelry symbolism, which uses motifs, flowers, and gems to convey sometimes complex messages subtly. During the Victorian era, jewelry featuring a crescent moon often served as a symbol of spirituality and a celebration of the Feminine Moon Goddess. However, the stars represented spiritual compass points and points of reference.

Since a moon goes through many different phases, the crescent moon was also used to symbolize transition. Women were beginning to leave their traditional roles and enter the workforce at the time of the Industrial Revolution, laying the groundwork for the advancement of women’s rights and equality in the modern era.

In whatever form it may take, the moon is often seen as a symbol of feminine power because of the attention it attracts and the positive qualities it represents. The moon profoundly affects our lives, from the tides it generates to the feelings it stirs up in us. Many people feel more inspired, energized, and optimistic around the time of a full moon.

The crescent moon, commonly used in jewelry designs, symbolizes both the waning and waxing moon phases. While the moon is in its waxing phase, more of its surface is illuminated each night until it reaches full.

It is believed that as the moon brightens, it infuses us with renewed vitality and optimism, inspiring us to act toward realizing our goals. The waning moon phase (when the moon is preparing to become a new moon) reminds us to purge our lives of any lingering negativity.

Horseshoe

Jewelry, wall decor, jewelry, and furniture frequently feature horseshoes because of their widespread popularity as a symbol of good fortune in North America. But why is it that we associate this sign with good fortune? While the horseshoe is a famous symbol, its meaning and history are largely unknown to the general public.

Blacksmiths have traditionally made horseshoes, and the act of making a horseshoe is thought to bestow good fortune on its owner. Blacksmithing was once considered a suitable profession since it involved working with one of the four elements—fire.

The legend of Saint Dunstan, a blacksmith who became archbishop of Canterbury, and his encounter with the devil is said to be the inspiration for the lucky horseshoe. Various retellings of the story all lead to the same conclusion. Although accounts vary, he is said to have caused the devil excruciating pain by nailing a red hot horseshoe to the devil’s hoof. The saint removed the horseshoe from the doorway to appease the devil, but only on the condition that the devil never again enters a building with a horseshoe over the entrance. Some stories say the devil avoided dwellings equipped with horseshoes because of the trouble they had previously caused him.

The horseshoe’s practical application and symbolic significance are culturally variable. In Assyrian and Egyptian cultures, the horseshoe represents the mysterious “door of life” and is frequently depicted in historical sculptures and hieroglyphs. Because of its association with the beginning of life, the open end of a horseshoe, for example, is a traditionally feminine symbol.

The ancient Scots recognized that the horseshoe’s arch represented the masked serpent king. Likewise, the arc of the horseshoe is strikingly similar to the symbol of the Nagendra (hooded serpent king), a principal deity in Sri Lankan mythology.

El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura (the secret of the virtuous horseshoe) is a massive amulet made from horseshoes in Mexico. The prayer of the horseshoe (Oracion de la Herradura) is typically attached to the back of the amulet after it has been wrapped around a horseshoe in the colorful thread and decorated with sequins and prints of San Martin Caballero (he became a monk after having a vision of Christ). Invoking the Holy Trinity, the horseshoe prayer begs the all-powerful iron horseshoe for protection against bad vibes, financial success, and the ability to silence naysayers and foes.

Horseshoes are worn as amulets in Turkey and the Greek regions bordering Turkey to ward off the “evil eye,” the unfavorable gaze of someone who is jealous or dislikes. Metal or blue glass horseshoes decorated with the all-seeing eye symbol are a common form of good luck charm in this culture.

Dreamcatcher

You can find dream catchers in souvenir shops, in magazines, and on television, as one of the top ancient symbols of protection. But are you familiar with their origins and purposes?

The Ojibwe people created and widely used these devices, also known as nets and dream traps. These people’s lands spanned the northern reaches of Canada and the United States. This item spread throughout the tribe because of its history of intermarriage and trade. A separate tribe, the Lakota, adopted the practice a few years later.

Insects like spiders are viewed with fear and hate in many cultures worldwide. However, the Ojibwe people saw them as a source of safety and solace. An ancient Ojibwa tale tells of a mysterious woman named “the spider woman” who was present at the Big Bang. The children, newborns, and infants of the tribe were incredibly blessed by her spiritual shielding. Over time, the Ojibwe population increased and spread. As more and more members of her tribe migrated to uncharted territories, the spider woman found it increasingly difficult to guarantee their safety. The Native American Dream Catcher was then her brainchild. Other mothers and grandmothers followed suit, making their versions to use as a deterrent from potential threats to their own families.

Traditional Ojibwe dream catchers were worn as amulets by the Native American tribe. Their original function was to ward off nightmares and evil spirits while people slept, making them especially useful for young children. They thought that good and bad dreams floated through the air at night. Their dream catchers were hung above their beds. They had to be mindful of letting in too much light. Its name suggests that it does precisely that: it draws in and traps all imaginings.

The soothing visions slip through the needle and thread and down the feathers to the dreamer below. However, when exposed to daylight, nightmares get caught in the web and destroyed. Native American religion and philosophy have been profoundly impacted over many centuries by the study and interpretation of dreams. They thought that one’s dreams could affect their waking self. They theorized that dreams could affect qualities like honesty, maturity, kindness, and loyalty.

Divine Feminine

The spiritual concept of the divine feminine is the idea that patriarchal and masculine forms of worship have been dominant in religion for too long and that there is an alternative, feminine form of worship. The divine feminine is not limited to any particular faith but can be viewed through various spiritual lenses to help us see things more objectively. While not exactly a symbol, the divine feminine is a wellspring of ancient symbols of protection.

Feminine and masculine energies are not separate but complementary poles. For instance, the ancient Chinese concept of Yin and Yang represents harmony between passive and active, internal and external, female and male. However, the two energies are interdependent, as evidenced by the symbol’s lack of a clear dividing line. Instead, the black and white shapes merge and separate in perfect harmony, shifting and flowing to accommodate all equilibrium configurations.

Things often present the divine feminine in nature:

Trees

The feminine divine, the symbol of life, is often associated with trees.

As the mother of Jehovah and the spouse of El (the Father), Asherah was a deity in the ancient Israelite religion. She was revered in domestic settings and secluded forest temples on nearby hills.

Asherah is often associated with oak, tamarisk, date, palm, sycamore, and olive trees, though any tree can represent the feminine divine. The Feminine Divine is connected to sacred trees like the Tree of Life because of this.

Water

Water is indispensable for survival, crop production, and personal hygiene or religious purification.

Some scholars believe that the Israelite goddess Asherah’s other name, “Lady Asherah of the Sea,” means “She Who Treads/Subdues the Sea.”

How does viewing the water at your baptism as a representation of Heavenly Mother alter your perspective on this sacred ritual?

Snakes

Snakes, or serpents more generally, are also a symbol of the feminine divine, like this sterling silver rattlesnake charm. The shedding of a snake’s skin symbolizes rebirth, regeneration, and healing because of the cycle of life and death that it represents.

Once upon a time, the snake did not represent danger or bad luck; instead, it symbolized female wisdom, power, and rebirth. Sometimes snakes accompanied goddesses in their roles as women. For example, the Great Mother Goddess of Minoan Crete, who ruled over paradise, was often portrayed with a snake in each hand.

Bees

The Mother Goddess, whom the ancient Sumerians worshiped, was frequently depicted on stelae in the form of a dancing bee.

Honey cakes, made with honey from bees, were used in ancient Israelite rituals honoring Asherah, their Mother Goddess equivalent.

Honey is made from pollen collected by bees as they flit from flower to flower. The queen bee oversees the honey and cells produced by a hive. The Feminine Divine, likewise, can serve as a beacon in the dark when we’re looking for the truth.

Lotus

The lotus flower represents rebirth. Lotus flowers open their petals to welcome the sun and close them again as night falls. The flower represents the spiritual concepts of new beginnings and resurrection, and is among the oldest ancient symbols of protection.

The lotus’s daily routine symbolizes the renewal of life. The lotus is a revered symbol in many Eastern religions and cultures. Because it represents norms and customs, it is held in the highest regard as a religious icon. For example, the historical Gautam Buddha, who attained enlightenment, is depicted sitting on a lotus because he is believed to be reborn.

Christian symbolism attaches significant significance to lotus flowers as well. Typically, they stand for naiveté and the origin of the cosmos. Nevertheless, Jesus has been linked to sacred flowers, despite Christians not generally believing that material things like lotus flowers can possess divine properties. Lotuses, for instance, are known to emerge from murky water for three days before blooming. The seeds of these plants have a long shelf life and can be replanted after a long dormant period, and the plants’ roots can extend down to depths of up to 6 feet. Everything here has to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lotuses are notable for being adapted to grow in floodplains with slow-moving rivers or expansive deltas. A moment of revelation, like the lotus, brings forth the flower of faith, even though spirituality may seem to move slowly in the Christian life.

While most lotus flower seeds are consumed by animals or used as ingredients in human diets, the rest can lie dormant for eons until the right conditions arise.

Lotus seeds found to be 13,000 years old germinated successfully. The lotus represents eternal youth in Chinese culture. This allows for its wide distribution across multiple regions, from Indochina to East Asia, Russia, and Egypt.

Nonetheless, the lotus is not a native plant in the Western Hemisphere. Because of this, its mystical aspects are more mysterious and highly regarded than their Buddhist and Hindu counterparts.

Hamsa

One of the most widely recognized ancient symbols of protection is the Hamsa. The meaning of the Hamsa may be unfamiliar if you’ve only seen it on jewelry, tapestries, or clothing and are curious. What role does it play in spirituality and religion? Can I safely wear a Hamsa pendant? The significance of the Hamsa hand has evolved and grown over time and across cultures. It’s a symbol of safety and good fortune honored by some major faiths and revered worldwide.

Ancient Mesopotamia was the birthplace of the Hamsa symbol thousands of years before the rise of any major religion. Its first use was as a protective amulet. The human need for encouragement and protection from harm has persisted throughout history despite the rise and fall of civilizations.

Though the Hamsa has its roots in the area now known as the Middle East, the representation of the hand has evolved and expanded with the cultures that adopted it. As they spread across the globe, cultural practices and ideas were carried by migrating civilizations.

While many cultures and religions came and went, the Hamsa hand remained. The Hamsa hand is a symbol used in nearly all major religions for centuries, even though it predates many formal religions. For many, it stands as a symbol of safety and optimism. The spiritual significance of the Hamsa hand is primarily as a talisman against the evil eye. However, in some cultures and religions, it is also associated with good fortune and fertility. The evil eye is a symbol that originally meant bad energy brought on by someone’s malicious or maliciously-looking gaze but has since come to mean anyone who looks at you with malice.

The Hamsa hand is well-known for its ability to bring good fortune, dispel lousy luck, generate positive energy and counteract opposing forces. On some Hamsa hands, there is an eye symbol; this is not an evil eye, but rather an eye that keeps an eye out for the evil eye’s harmful energy. Like an “anti-evil eye,” it protects its owner from harm while also attracting good fortune.

Depending on how it is worn, the talisman either brings good fortune or protects the wearer from harm. When the palm is facing down, its owner extends a hand to the universe, hoping to receive blessings and success. The evil eye can be avoided, and good fortune can be attained by simply wearing an object depicting a hand-held upward (typically with an eye). Different cultures and religions attribute different meanings to the Hamsa hand. However, the Hamsa hand is a universal symbol of solidarity and safety and is always depicted as a shield against harm.

The five fingers of the Hamsa hand are symbolic of the five chakras in Buddhism; when they are in harmony with the five senses, the mind and body are cleansed. The seven major energy centers in the body are the sacral chakra, root chakra, solar plexus chakra, and heart chakra.

The Hamsa has an exciting and complex history in Christian practice. Certain Christians approve of the talisman’s use, justifying it as a representation of “the hand of Mother Mary” and an emblem of Mary’s esteem. You can call upon her shielding presence by making the Hamsa hand gesture. Yet many other faiths have adopted the Hamsa hand as a symbol, and some Christians find this offensive. Instead, they would look to the cross as their primary means of self-defense.

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