Pagan Symbols and Their Meanings

Updated on July 5, 2018
Elderberry Arts profile image

I have studied crystal healing for many years and have studied and been attuned to reiki levels one, two, and masters.

There are a lot of pagan symbols out there. Each symbol has its own interesting backstory. Here are some of the more famous pagan symbols as well as some other esoteric symbols that have become very popular in recent years.

Pagan Symbols

  • Pentacle
  • Triple Moon
  • Eye of Horus
  • Ankh
  • Hecate's Wheel
  • Triquetra
  • Triskele
  • Setogram (Faery Star)
  • Spiral Goddess
  • Labyrinth
  • Air
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Horned god
  • Eye of Ra
  • Black Sun (Schwarze Sonne)
  • Helm of Awe (Ægishjálmr)
  • Tree of Life
  • Mandala
  • Rod of Asclepius
  • Caduceus
  • Ouroboros
  • Thor's Hammer (Mjölnir)
  • Flower of Life
  • Valknut

Esoteric Symbols

  • The All-Seeing Eye (Eye of Providence)
  • Unicursal Hexagram
  • Satanic Cross

The Pentacle is possibly the most well known but often misunderstood pagan symbol.
The Pentacle is possibly the most well known but often misunderstood pagan symbol.

Pentacle

The star in this symbol is used to represent the four classical elements of earth, air, water, and fire plus spirit. A circle is them placed around them to symbolize the connection and reciprocal relationship between them all. The pentacle is sometimes used on altars and in magical work to symbolize the element of earth.

What's the Difference Between a Pentacle and a Pentagram?

The only difference between the two is that a pentacle is a pentagram with a circle around it. Many satanic organizations use an inverted pentagram or pentacle, which symbolizes the domination of earth over spirit.

Triple Moon

The triple moon symbol represents the three phases of the moon, known as waxing, full, and waning. Within some paths and traditions, this symbol is also known as the triple goddess and is used to show the three phases of womanhood: maiden, mother, and crone.

The first crescent, the waxing moon symbolizes new life, rejuvenation, and new beginnings. The middle circle represents the full moon when magic is at its most powerful. Finally, the second crescent moon represents the moon during its waning period. This time of the moon phase is a time that is regarded as the best to send things away, remove them from your life, or to finish things.

Eye of Horus

The eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol that is often used for protection. This symbol is also known as the Wadjet. The eye of Horus is believed by many to have healing and protective powers as well as the ability to ward off evil spirits. Because of this, the eye of Horus is often used to decorate protective amulets and other items. Horus was an ancient Egyptian God of the sky, and he is typically depicted as a falcon. In ancient Egyptian mythology, Horus injured his left eye during his battles with the god Set, and thus his left eye represents the waxing and waning of the moon.

Ankh

This ancient Egyptian hieroglyph means life or living. Over time the ankh has come to symbolize eternal life and immortality to people from many walks of life. In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the gods are always seen carrying an ankh, making it a symbol of divinity. This symbol is also chosen by some who wish to show that they have spiritual beliefs rather than beliefs belonging to one specific religion.

The Ankh is also known as the Egyptian Cross, or by its Latin name, crux ansata, which translates to 'cross with a handle.'

Hectate's Wheel

The symbol of Hectate's wheel is used to represent the three aspects of the goddess: maiden, mother, and crone. Hectate is a goddess in Greek mythology who is associated with crossroads, entrances, the moon, witchcraft, magic, herbs, necromancy, and sorcery.

The wheel is used to symbolize the power of knowledge and life and is a popular symbol in feminist traditions.

Triquetra

The triquetra has long been used to symbolize the holy trinity but predates Christianity and its use as such. This symbol has been found in Celtic and Nordic inscriptions and arts as well as on Germanic coins and Swedish runes as far back as the 11th century.

Some modern traditions use it to represent the connection between the mind, body, and soul. In Celtic-based pagan traditions, it is often used as a symbol of the three realms of earth, sea, and sky. In the past, there has been speculation that the triquetra is a symbol of the triple goddess or was used as a Celtic symbol of feminine spirituality though no solid scholarly evidence has been found to date.

Triskele

The triskele is generally considered to be a Celtic design, but it has also been found within Buddhist writings. The exact design can vary, but this symbol always features one shape repeated three times, with each repetition interlocking. Triskeles can be found all over the world, for example, it can be found carved on many Neolithic stones in Ireland and Western Europe, in the symbol for the Isle of Sicily, and on bank notes in the Isle of Man.

Some Celtic traditions use the triskele to represent the realms of earth, sea, and sky.

Setogram (Faery Star)

The setogram is also known as the faery or elven star. It is used within some faerie traditions but is also associated with many other magical traditions.

Seven is a sacred number in many pagan traditions, and this star symbol can be used to represent different sets of seven things depending on a person's beliefs or tradition. These include:

  • the seven Pleiades (stars)
  • the seven days of the week
  • the seven major Hindu chakras
  • the seven classical planets (Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn)
  • the seven notes in a diatonic music scale (white notes)
  • the seven tenants (balance, harmony, humility, learning, reincarnation, tolerance, and trust)
  • the seven elements (earth, air, fire, water, above, below, and within)

The number three is commonly considered to relate to heaven and the higher realms while the number four relates to the earth. 3 + 4 = 7 which can be seen as heaven and earth coming together as a whole.

Spiral Goddess

This symbol, often used by Wiccans, is used as a sign of life. The spiral represents the ever continuing cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

The spiraling line can be seen as the constant path of life and has been found throughout history as far back as Paleolithic times, where they were carved on tombs. Spirals can also be found in many instances in nature, for example, galaxies and seashells.

Labyrinth

Unlike a maze, you cannot get lost or trapped in a labyrinth. Despite the many twists and turns that may present themselves, there is only one way in and out. This same pattern is seen in life as no matter who a person is, the family they are born to, and the life they live, there is only one way to come into and leave this world. Due to this, the labyrinth is sometimes used as a symbol of life and death.

Air

Air is one of the elements that are found within most pagan traditions. It is considered as the element of the East and is connected to the soul and the breath of life.

Air is one of the four classical elements that are often invoked during pagan rituals and spiritual workings. The element of air is associated with the color yellow and white, communication, wisdom, and the mind. Air can also be represented by feathers, a fan, or incense.

Earth

Earth is one of the classical elements (earth, air, fire, and air). The symbol of earth is also sometimes used to symbolize Mother Earth.

The element of earth is associated with the colors of brown and green, abundance, prosperity, and fertility.

Fire

The element of fire is regarded as strong and masculine. Although fire can destroy anything in its path, it can also be an aid to life, for example in enabling us to cook food for ourselves and keep warm through the winter.

Fire as an element is associated with the south, strong will, and energy as well as with transformation and change.

Water

The element of water is believed to have a strong feminine connection, and so it is associated with all aspects of the goddess. The inverted triangle used to symbolize water is felt by some to symbolize the womb and is befitting with this element's feminine association.

Water is a healing and purifying element that is connected to the West. Water can be used in rituals involving love and other emotions and flowing water in nature such as a river, or the sea, can be incorporated into magical workings that focus on carrying away negativity or other unwanted aspects from your life.

Horned God

The horned god is one of the many names given to the male aspects of spirituality and life and this term most often used within the tradition of Wicca. This symbol can be used to invoke the god during rituals and other magical work.

The horned god is associated with the wilderness and virility. Some people also believe that it is the horned god that carries the souls of the dead to the underworld.

Eye of Ra

Like the eye of Horus, this is an ancient magical symbol which is often used for protection. The eye of Ra was painted or carved onto the boats of Egyptian fishermen in order to protect them from evil curses and harm. This symbol was also placed on Egyptian coffins so that the person would be protected in the afterlife.

Common uses for the Eye of Ra are to wear it as a talisman or amulet or to place them in and around the home in order to protect the building and occupants from harm.

Black Sun (Schwarze Sonne)

Also known as the sonnenrad, the black sun is an ancient occult symbol of European origin that was originally used to represent the cycle of the sun. The black sun was utilized by the ancient Merovingian dynasty that ruled northern France in the 5th century. At some point in time, the design was adopted as a mosaic on the floor of Wewelsburg castle, a famous Nazi base of operations for the SS. Since then it has unfortunately had neo-nazi connotations.

Helm of Awe (Ægishjálmr)

This ancient Viking symbol is one of power and strength. In the ancient Norse texts, the helm of awe is used by the dragon Fafnir uses the symbol as a means to enhance his own power and invincibility.

Tree of Life

The tree of life is an ancient symbol, and it has been used in many of the world's religions. In terms of its most widespread use, many people know of the world tree mentioned in Norse mythology, Yggdrasil. The massive ash tree connects all of the different worlds together and is the center of the universe in Norse mythology.

There are many other references to the concept of a tree of life in other pagan religions as well.

Mandala

Used in Hinduism and Buddhism, mandala comes from a Sanskrit word literally meaning circle, and it is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point within. The symbol is meant to represent the universe, and it is used as a tool for spiritual guidance and as a way to establish a sacred space for rituals and meditation.

Rod of Asclepius

In Greek mythology, the God Asclepius, known as the god of healing and medicine, wielded a staff with a serpent coiled around it. Many health organizations use the symbol, though it is commonly confused with the caduceus, due to the similarities between the two.

Caduceus

The caduceus was the staff of the Greek god Hermes, and originally it did not represent healing or the medical profession. However, in many ancient cultures like the Greeks, the snake was seen as a symbol of healing. The confusion between the caduceus and the rod of Asclepius is mainly due to the US Army Medical Corps adopting the symbol as their logo in 1902.

Ouroboros

First appearing in ancient Egyptian engravings, the Ouroboros has been used throughout ancient and medieval Europe, eventually becoming a symbol for alchemy in the early renaissance period.

The Ouroboros is a drawing of a serpent eating its own tail, and it symbolizes the eternal nature of the universe and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The symbol is closely associated with that of infinity, and the two are typically combined.

Thor's Hammer (Mjölnir)

Out of all the symbols used in ancient Norse mythology, Thor's Hammer is one of the most well-known in the modern world. In Viking mythology, Thor is known as the god of thunder and storms, and the defender of Asgard, where the other gods in the Norse pantheon lived.

Thor wields the hammer known as Mjölnir, a powerful weapon that would always hit its intended target. The hammer also served other ceremonial purposes such as protecting mortals, blessing marriages, and replicas of Mjölnir were used in ancient Viking rituals.

Flower of Life

This symbol has been around for thousands of years and consists of many concentric, equal, and overlapping circles. The flower represents the eternal nature of the universe and is claimed to hold the most sacred patterns of the universe.

Valknut

There is much discussion as to what this symbol represents in Norse mythology as no one can really figure it out. The symbol consists of three interlocking triangles, and it was carved into ancient Viking burial stones. The god Odin, ruler of Asgard, is typically depicted along with the Valknut but beyond that, it is still unclear what the symbol actually means.

Esoteric Symbols

The symbols below are not associated with ancient pagan symbols but they are used in modern occult and pagan rituals.

The All-Seeing Eye (Eye of Providence)

Also known as the Eye of Providence, this symbol consists of an eye, typically enclosed in a triangle, with rays of light surrounding it. It represents the divine providence of God watching over humanity, and it is used on the US one dollar bill. Many conspiracy theorists believe the eye has connections to the Freemasons and other occult orders, but there is no proof that such an assertion is true.

Unicursal Hexagram

This six-pointed star is drawn unicursally, meaning that it is drawn in one continuous line. The hexagram represents the divine and heavenly forces of the universe. In Aleister Crowley's occult order Thelema, a five-petaled flower is placed in the middle to represent the pentacle and the five classical elements.

Satanic Cross

The satanic cross, also known as the leviathan cross, is used by the Church of Satan. It is also the alchemic symbol of sulfur, thus its connection with hell. The symbol consists of a double cross, which represents balance and protection between persons, and the symbol for infinity, representing the eternal power of the universe. As a whole the symbol represents humanity's domination and that humans are the center of balance and truth, not god.

How many of these pagan symbols where you already aware of

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Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Claire

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      • profile image

        Christopher T Allen 

        2 months ago

        the pentacle is actually medieval christian symbol. It represents the five wounds of Christ.

      • profile image

        William Hinchman 

        3 months ago

        Renee Henricks; There is no one Book of Shadows. Each tradition maintains their own book of shadows based on their traditions. Each individual may also maintain their own book detailing not only their traditional path but individual actions, spells and rituals that pertain only to them. Many are solitary practitioners and do not subscribe to any one tradition. So Each 'Book Of Shadows' is unique. Hope his helps.

      • profile image

        John Smith 

        3 months ago

        This was a very helpful article.

      • profile image

        Renee Henricks 

        4 months ago

        I am fairly new to this religion and so I am still learning about the religion right now. One of my friend's dad has a book of shadows how do I know if it is the book of shadows?

      • profile image

        Catherine 

        8 months ago

        Really interesting and explains so much. By far one of the most helpful to someone exploring new aspects of life and callings. Hecate relates to my name, glad to know a little more. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

      • profile image

        cmoney 

        10 months ago

        thanks for the help sis I really appreciate it :)

      • profile image

        Person 

        10 months ago

        Thankyou!!

      • profile image

        Me 

        13 months ago

        The eye of horus (left eye) the eye of Ra (right eye) you have both right eyes to represent 2 different Gods..

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        14 months ago from Surrey, Uk

        You're welcome :) Glad you enjoyed reading.

      • profile image

        Shawna50 

        14 months ago

        I appreciate the symbols and their explanations. Easy to understand. Some that I have never seen before. Quite interesting. Thanks much, really helps.

      • profile image

        sulaiman 

        15 months ago

        learning about the meanings of theses symbols was interesting

      • profile image

        Peanut 

        15 months ago

        Okay, I have had a triquetra tattoo for a long time and just noticed that it's upside down! What does it mean when it's upside down? I can't find much about it and would really appreciate an informed opinion. Thanks!

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        17 months ago from Surrey, Uk

        Great to hear that you enjoyed my hub. I hope your journey into paganism is going well.

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 

        17 months ago from Oakley, CA

        Most interesting. I knew some of the actual symbols, but not all of their meanings or history. It was interesting to learn those bits.

      • profile image

        Ross 

        21 months ago

        I love all this stuff and I'm copying all these symbols into a blank book so I can memorise them and gain more knowledge on witchcraft and paganism. I'm upsessed with magic so this is AMAZING

      • profile image

        Pamela Spillmon 

        2 years ago

        I am interested in learnering more about wicca and paganism and what is the difference between them. I was raised church of christ and was forced to go but never felt right about it like I was lost and didn't agree with what they said but feel like I am looking for something that is more and really feel like I belong there and apart of..

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        2 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        You're welcome. Glad it helped.

      • profile image

        Lisa 

        2 years ago

        Awesome information!!! I've been looking for this and finally stumbled here. Thanks for sharing!!!

      • profile image

        Eric 

        3 years ago

        Thanks, I saw the Ankh in a dream around my fiancé, and I was trying to determine where I've seen it before. Great page.

      • Joy56 profile image

        Joy56 

        3 years ago

        Such an interesting hub.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        3 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        I am happy that it helped you.

      • Niko Linni profile image

        Niko Linni 

        3 years ago from Long Beach, California

        Very interesting! I've seen a few of these symbols around but didn't really know much about them. This'll be a handy reference.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        3 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        You are very welcome. Pleased you found it useful. Good luck on your journey.

      • profile image

        Pagan Lightseeker 

        3 years ago

        Very well done. I've landed twice on your site now while looking for information on Pagan Spiritualism. Thanks you for taking the time to put this together for those that are seeking.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        3 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you for your kind comment. Glad you enjoyed my hub.

      • profile image

        Mel92114 

        3 years ago

        Wonderful article. Very, very well done and so informative. I love so many of these symbols and several are near and dear to me. Fantastic work!

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        4 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        You are very welcome. Blessed Be.

      • social thoughts profile image

        social thoughts 

        4 years ago from New Jersey

        I like the concise manner in which you wrote this. I knew most of them, but I only work with some of them. It's always good to learn more! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. :) Blessed be!

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        4 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you for your comment and glad you liked my hub :D

      • bethperry profile image

        Beth Perry 

        4 years ago from Tennesee

        I found this a very enjoyable introductory article on the subject! Simple enough for children to understand and historically sound. Good job!

      • profile image

        Kenneth Avery 

        4 years ago

        Elderberry Arts,

        I wish for you , a happy and safe day. I wish that you would would become one of my followers.

        This would make my day.

        Kenneth

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        4 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you for the extra information and kids comment.

      • sanjay-sonawani profile image

        Sanjay Sonawani 

        4 years ago from Pune, India.

        Good article. Triskele is found on Kuru Janpada coins (India) also from 4th century BC. Triskele represented their identity of Kuru region. Whether the symbols spread from one place to another is an issue of debate, but it throws light on the ancient mind sets. Thanks.

      • profile image

        Kenneth Avery 

        4 years ago

        Hi, Elderberry Arts . . . thank you for your kind act of reading one or two of my hubs. That is very appreciated. You have a safe, successful day. Your Friend, KENNETH

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        4 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you for your kind comments and I will poop over and have a read of yours too

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 

        4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hi, Elderberry Arts,

        Nice read here. Very well-written. Professional usage of graphics and text. I admire your talent. I cordially invite you to visit my hubs, read one or two, and be one of my followers. I would love that.

        Best of everything to you.

        Kenneth/ from northwest Alabama.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        4 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you for your interesting comment and the additional information. I would think that the internet has had a huge impact on the ability to share information and teach/inform others. I know that I have learnt so much and met with people I would not have had the opportunity too if it had not been for the internet.

      • jamesjohnbell profile image

        James John Bell 

        4 years ago from Union, Washington

        Nice short descriptions of some of the modern pagan symbolism. The triquetra was used in the 1970s as one of the core symbols for the Aquarian or 'new age' movement and is used still currently in a subtle way to indicate allegiance to those ideas to the baby boomer generation familiar with the symbol. Specifically the pro new age book The Aquarian Conspiracy made the symbol popular by having it be the core image on the book's cover (which is still in print and has been translated into just about every major language). The book promotes the idea that people in all walks of life who hold new age beliefs need to find ways to covertly communicate with others, i.e. engage in the 'conspiracy' in a positive sense, to insert new age ideas into culture at every opportunity, from Hollywood films to the education system to public policy, etc. Many famous people, like VP Al Gore, are on record as having been influenced by the book.

      • Lyn.Stewart profile image

        Lyn.Stewart 

        4 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

        Enjoyed reading your hub

      • profile image

        Deborah Sexton 

        4 years ago

        You're welcome. I Love your hub.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        4 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you. I did not know that about the star of David.

      • profile image

        Deborah Sexton 

        4 years ago

        Nice Hub. Many people think these symbols have something to do with the devil. Jewish people have the star of David which was David's shield and stands for the six days of creation and the very center is the seventh day of rest. It is also accused of belonging to the devil.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        4 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you

      • WiccanSage profile image

        Mackenzie Sage Wright 

        5 years ago

        What a great guide to common symbols. So many people have the wrong idea about so many symbols. Excellent hub!

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you :)

      • Thundermama profile image

        Catherine Taylor 

        5 years ago from Canada

        I learned a lot from this hub and really enjoyed it. You are a fabulous resource for Pagan wisdom.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        I would be happy to try. Can you email me a photo of the holder to elderberryarts@ymail.com and I will take a look :)

      • profile image

        DArlene 

        5 years ago

        I found a candle holder with 3 black Egyptian cats with symbols and I can't seem to find the meaning of the symbols and why this holder came to me. Can you help

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        You are welcome and I think you would be right about the bulls, which of course would have been very important in times gone by. The ancient Egyptians also had bull gods.

      • Spongy0llama profile image

        Jake Brannen 

        5 years ago from Canada

        Thank you for this. I found it fascinating! Do you suppose the Horned God is based on bulls, oxen, and other livestock, the spirits of which rural pagans have traditionally worshiped (amongst other things that kept them alive or played a significant role in daily life on the land)?

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you Glad you found it interesting :)

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        All religions have different symbols associated with them and it was informative reading the ones associated with Paganism.

        Voted up/interesting.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        6 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Thank you. I feel commended to be followed by a high priest. I am looking forward to reading some of your hubs

      • Dale Hyde profile image

        Dale Hyde 

        6 years ago from Tropical Paradise on Planet X

        Well done and most informative to those seeking. As a Wiccan High Priest, I do wear various items that use some of these symbols for what they represent as well as how they resonate with myself. Voted up as interesting and useful.

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        6 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Your welcome :) some people view the pentacle as evil due to it's association with Satanism but they generally use an inverted pentacle.

      • melbel profile image

        Melanie Palen 

        6 years ago from Midwest USA

        This is really interesting. I've seen some of these before (the ankh and the pentacle, I've seen a lot!) I think I remember someone drawing a pentacle in the Sleepy Hollow movie with Johnny Depp. I think he thought the girl meant evil by drawing it, but she meant it as a way to protect him... or was it the evil eye? Now I don't remember! :P I've never really thought about the meaning behind these symbols, so I definitely learned a lot here! Thanks!

      • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR

        Claire 

        6 years ago from Surrey, Uk

        Your very welcome. Glad it helped :)

      • mcleodgi profile image

        Ginny McLeod 

        6 years ago from Overland Park

        Thank you for explaining it so simply (in a way that even early elementary school-aged kids can understand it:)

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