Without us always being aware of it, symbols and signs accompany us through daily life: Traffic lights and road signs, professional symbols, identification signs, company symbols, information boards, national emblems, national flags, license plates, orders, party and association badges, coats of arms, etc.
Thereby the message of Characters be unambiguous, direct and easy to understand.
Symbols on the other hand, are visual signs, images, figures that stand for one, or even several ideas and are open to interpretation.
In religions, in the esoteric scene, or in secret societies, a more or less magical symbolism and its interpretation can play an important role.
In medieval Christianity, as an example, a diverse, complicated symbolism developed: symbolic meanings were attributed to plants, animals, colors, objects, numbers, etc., and certain attributes were attributed to angels, apostles, and saints.(4)
At a time when most people were illiterate, this symbolic language helped the faithful to recognize in religious images or figures the beliefs addressed.[i]
Finally there were or still are secret signs, for example with the Freemasons, which are understandable only in it initiated ones.
Before the invention of wireless telegraphy, flag signals, constantly changing secret identification signs, slogans, etc. played an important role in the military field and in the navy. These also belong to the category "signs and symbols".
Known are also the "Gaunerzinken"; inconspicuously attached hints, which indicate beggars, thieves or burglars, where there is something for them to get.
Nomen est Omen
In the esoteric scene, or also in religions, names receive additionally still another special, symbolic meaning. Likewise other attributes in the form of pictures or signs.[ii]
As it was "known" already in the antiquity, according to mysterious, transcendental connections every person gets the name suitable for him, which says something about his personality.
Also groups, organizations, parties, states, associations decide unconsciously, or also for advertising reasons only apparently very consciously, for the name suitable for them and/or the applicable symbol.
An attentive observer can then infer the deeper background of a personality from seemingly purely random names or symbols, or even discern the hidden intentions behind an organization.
The interpretation of such analogies is then also a wide playing field for conspiracy theorists, who cannot always be distinguished from serious seekers at first glance.
At the same time, the discussion of symbols is usually difficult. The interpretation of symbols depends on the personal background of the discussants, and one must not disregard the groups and regions in which the symbols originated.
Some circles (e.g. the medieval church) also develop their own symbolism, with which one must be familiar in order to understand this language in symbols.
There are also culturally specific differences in the meaning assigned to symbols between countries and peoples. For example, the dragon in China means a sign of good luck, in Europe a fearsome monster, or a symbol of man's lower nature.
Also, the interpretation of symbols can change or even reverse in the course of history. Thus, a lucky sign of antiquity, such as the pentagram, could become a negative symbol.
So, if one wants to explore the deeper meaning of the symbols, one must not hope for unambiguous results. Because names, symbols, omina are basically ambiguous, and no one can prove that his conclusions are the only correct ones. In the end, everyone must fall back on his individual feeling and decide according to it.
This also applies to the examples below, which are intended to show the results to which such interpretations can lead.
Some important symbols of political or esoteric movements and their (controversial) interpretations
Elephant and donkey:
The two major U.S. political parties are not making it easy for their voters:
Democrats have used as a symbolic animal the Donkey elected, the Republicans the Elephants.
The Elephant is generally considered a symbol with positive connotations:
Its size alone is impressive.
In Asia, it is a royal mount, valued for its wisdom. A special occult significance still has the white elephant, the heraldic animal of the former kingdom of Siam.
Particularly controversial are the symbolic interpretations of the Donkey:
In medieval literature, it was often associated with stupidity and laziness. Offenders had to ride a donkey through the village as an expression of their shame.
But Greek gods, like Dionysus, also rode donkeys. Ox and donkey were witnesses of the birth of the Savior. Not to forget Balaam's clairvoyant and talking donkey (Genesis, 22, 23 f.), who even saw an angel of the Lord. And Jesus himself rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Since I'm not an American voter, I don't need to dwell on the comparisons between the elephant and the donkey, and I don't need to choose either symbol.
The clenched fist is considered the symbol of resistance.
It is a threatening gesture used in various representations and colors by left-wing (Communists, Black Power) or even right-wing (White Power) extremists.
Accordingly, one should not hope for peaceful goals from organizations that operate under such symbols; for the clenched fist is the counterpart of the peace sign, the open hand.
The swastika is found on many Buddhist temples, right-turning or left-turning, but never standing on its top, because that would be an unlucky sign in Buddhism.
Around the end of the 19th century, the swastika became a "sun wheel" in völkisch groups, and in the Thule-Bund the - later used by Hitler - left-turning swastika (turning against the clock hand, flames against the direction of rotation) became the "victorious sun wheel". (3, S. 68).
So the NSDAP marched under a Red Flag with an unlucky sign, which unfortunately only a few contemporaries became aware of in time.
The crescent or quarter moon was already used on artifacts (such as the Nebra Sky Disk) in Stone Age Europe.
In ancient Egypt it stood for the name of the moon god Jah, in ancient mythology for the moon goddess (Tanit; Selene; Artemis).
In Christianity, the crescent moon is often shown together with the Queen of Heaven, to whom several attributes of female deities are attributed.
In the Islamic world, the flags of many countries feature the artistically alienated crescent moon with star, which is said to date back to Osman I (1258-1326), the founder of the Ottoman Empire from which Turkey emerged.
According to another reading, the crescent moon of the Muslim conquerors symbolizes the "saber of Muhammad" that was carried forward as a field sign in battle. Accordingly, this crescent would not be a symbol of peace. (Cf. "Hammer and Sickle).
Hammer and sickle:
The Hammer has multiple symbolic meanings in the sense of violence, power and strength. Or also of finality, as still today the hammer blow after auctions or in court.
Most often, the hammer, like the axe, is interpreted as a symbol of violence and destruction.
The Sickle, as an ancient harvesting tool, became in ancient times the symbol of the crescent moon, the inexorable passage of time, but also a weapon. Scimitars were also called sickles. In ancient art, the sickle was a tool of death. In the Middle Ages, it gave rise to the "Grim Reaper".
Thus, from the esoteric point of view, "hammer and sickle", the most famous emblems of communism, Bolshevism or even Marxism, symbolize "violence and death", or "death and destruction".
The various leftist movements have then also proven the correctness of this spiritual interpretation, in the practical application of the corresponding leftist ideologies, many times over on several continents.[iii]
That Pentagram is a magical symbol that is still widely used today by esoteric or alternative associations, including Freemasons, and is interpreted in different ways accordingly.
In ancient times, it was partially revered, seen as a banishing sign against evil and a defensive sign against demons.
This interpretation changed:
Since the late Middle Ages, the pentagram as the "Drudenfuß" became a witch's sign.
However, some people see the pentagram as a hex sign only when it points downward.
To others it is considered a symbol of Satanism.
Many today wear a pentagram as a badge or piece of jewelry in numerous variations, and one must wonder what meaning those concerned ascribe to their accessory.
Related to the pentagram is the five pointed starwhose symbolic interpretation is disputed.
Similar to the interpretation of the pentagram, the five-pointed star in the Western magical tradition embodies the four elements (fire, water, earth and air) with the point facing upwards, surmounted by the spirit. The other way around, it stands for the devil. (2, S. 22).
During World War II, the US marked its army with the five-pointed star in white, the USSR in red.
Many of the new states created after the two world wars (including the EU) have one or more five-pointed stars in their flag.
In the Third Reich, in the course of "Germanization", e.g. on gravestones, the date of birth was marked with the "elhaz" (elk) rune, in which one can see a stylized tree of life. Before the date of death, this rune was then turned upside down as a "death rune". (Occurs in the most recent runic alphabet as Y).
Unfortunately, for reasons that are difficult to understand at first glance, the peace movement has chosen the death rune, of all things, as its symbol. This gives rise to speculation about the real, the hidden background of this movement, which was allegedly financed by the Eastern bloc during the Cold War.
As we know at the latest since the Ukraine war (24. 3. 2022 - ?), naive do-gooderism is not a reliable basis for world peace.
In the Ukraine war, which must be called a "special military operation" in Russia, Russian military equipment is marked "Z".
There are different interpretations for this "Z". Thus, the "z" in the Latin alphabet finds its equivalent in the "з" in the Cyrillic alphabet.
Then, from the Russian point of view, it can be seen from "за мир sa mir" ("for peace"), or from "за правду sa prawdu" ("for the truth"). Or also from the letter "z" in the English words "demilitarization" ("Demilitarization") or "denazification" ("Denazification"), which the Russian President Vladimir Putin as the targets of his invasion. (There are quite a few other interpretations, friendly or unfriendly).
In the Federal Republic, the "Z" is considered a symbol of a war of aggression, and anyone who uses it in this sense may be liable to prosecution.(5)
With an esoteric approach, a parallel can be drawn between the A and Z of the Latin alphabet and the "Alpha and Omega" of the Greek alphabet, "the beginning and the end", which is very important in religious mysticism.
Then the "Z" could symbolize an end:
An end that has already come in part: the end of Europe's post-war order, and the end of the left-green illusions of a conciliatory, global world full of peaceful do-gooders.
But that does not have to be all. The "Z" chosen by the Russians themselves may also indicate the end of an era in Russia, for which we still have to wait.
Since from a spiritual point of view every end is connected with a beginning, one may also hope for a - hopefully positive - new beginning in East and West.
(1) Biedermann, Prof. Dr. Hans: "Knaurs Lexikon der Symbole", Weltbild, Augsburg, 2000.
(2) Bruce-Mitford, Miranda et al: "Signs & Symbols," Dorling Kindersley, Munich, 2020.
(3) Hagl, Siegfried: "Der okkulte Kanzler", Gräfelfing, 2000.
(4) Lipffert, Klementine: "Symbol-Fibel," Johannes Stauda-Verlag, Kassel, 1964.