Charts & Graphs

Symbology

From the pentagram to the swastika, the meaning and usage of magical symbols.

Pentagram

Early Uses: In Sumerian cuneiform it signified “regions of the universe” (Mesopotamia); harmonious union of sexes—male (three prongs) and female (two prongs)—according to Pythagoreans (Greece).

Later Uses: Nineteenth-century magician Eliphas Levi wrote, “The pentagram signifies the domination of the mind over the elements, and by this sign are enchained the demons of the air, the spirits of fire, the phantoms of the water, and ghosts of earth” (France).

Frog

Early Uses: Associated with fertility because of frog goddess of birth, Heket (Egypt); sight or sound of frog associated with rain, owing to notion that frogs came from sky with the dew (China).

Later Uses: Some frog and/or toad secretions had psychotropic effects, others were poisonous, both useful for making potions; croaking sound thought to be auspicious while casting a spell; “toe of frog” in witches’ spell in Macbeth (Europe).

Mandala

Early Uses: Sanskrit word means “circle,” and its symmetry represented harmony transcending chaos of material world (India); represented two aspects of universe: process of disunion as well movement toward union (China).

Later Uses: Carl Jung treated it as one of archetype “symbols of the process of individuation” so “the center of the circle as an expression of wholeness would correspond not to the ‘I,’ but the self as epitome of the total personality” (Europe).

Eye

Early Uses: Falcon god Horus was represented by painted hawk’s eye, offering protection to the bearer (Egypt); Medusa’s gaze could turn men to stone, so protective eyes were painted on ships and drinking tankards to ward off evil (Greece).

Later Uses: Appears above incomplete pyramid in Great Seal of United States; when Roosevelt saw design on $1 bill in 1935, he was “first struck by the representation of the ‘All-Seeing Eye,’ a Masonic representation of The Great Architect of the Universe” (United States).

Swastika

Early Uses: Mystical cross made on persons or things to connote good luck (India); auspicious symbol painted on pottery (North America).

Later Uses: Appropriated in late nineteenth century during misperception of “Aryan,” meaning “noble,” as denoting white race; Adolf Hitler mentions it in Mein Kampf and chose it as National Socialist insignia (Germany).