Symbols

A few days ago, we received an email from a woman who wants to write a scientific paper on colour symbols. She asked us the initially naïve question of who had determined that black was associated with mourning. Masterchen was puzzled by this and asked Siri 🙂 and 🙂 Selma and Dina what they thought symbols came from.

Vor ein paar Tagen bekamen wir eine Mail von einer Frau, die über Farbsymbole eine wissenschaftliche Arbeit schreiben möchte. Sie stellte uns die zunächst einmal naive Frage, wer denn festgelegt habe, dass Schwarz mit Trauer verbunden sei. Masterchen verblüffte das und fragte Siri 🙂 und 🙂 Selma und Dina, was sie wohl meinten, woher Symbole kämen.

At the horizon the known and the unknown meet. The Sea is a symbol of longing, of connecting and cutting off, it’s a symbol of the beginning and of danger

In any case, it was clear to us, that there was no clever symbol inventor who designed symbols in his cave in prehistoric times. C.G. Jung was convinced that symbols come from the personal and collective unconscious. But, oh my, this collective unconscious with its archetypes is only weakly defined, elusive almost like some symbols. We could agree that symbols are not a product of consciousness.

Auf jeden Fall, das war uns klar, gab es keinen cleveren Symbolerfinder, der in früher Vorzeit in seiner Höhle Symbole entwarf. C.G. Jung war überzeugt davon, dass Symbole aus dem persönlichen und kollektiven Unbewussten stammen. Aber, oh weh, dieses kollektive Unbewusste mit seinen Archetypen ist nur schwach definiert, schwer fassbar, fast wie manche Symbole. Wir konnten uns darauf einigen, dass Symbole kein Bewusstseinsprodukt sind.

The Lighthouse may be seen as symbolic of individual consciousness, which kindles “a light in the darkness of mere being,” as Jung put it in his memoirs.

To our dismay, this question about the origin of symbols was even more complex than we had previously imagined. What, after all, constitutes a symbol? The father of modern linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure, was (like us) of the opinion that symbols are based on similarities, i.e. analogies. Others thought that symbols stood for something that could not be perceived, and Goethe described symbols as a revealing force that was able to represent the general in the particular and the particular in the general.

Zu unserem Erschrecken war diese Frage nach dem Ursprung der Symbole noch viel komplexer, als wir es uns zuvor vorstellten. Denn was macht denn ein Symbol aus? Der Vater moderner Linguistik Ferdinand de Saussure war (wie wir) der Ansicht, dass Symbole auf Ähnlichkeiten, also auf Analogien beruhen. Andere meinten, Symbole seien Sinnbilder, die stellvertretend für etwas nicht Wahrnehmbares stehen, und Goethe bezeichnete Symbole als aufschließende Kraft, die im Besonderen das Allgemeine und das Allgemeine im Besondere darzustellen vermag.

A small selection of Dina’s seal bones; crossed bones and a skull warns of death or danger.

Be that as it may, we hold with Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Ernest Jones that symbols are structured in the unconscious and are by no means consciously thought up. Jung and Campbell even think that symbols express an inner truth, whatever they understand by that. Literary scholars sometimes regard symbols as a rhetorical strategy, so their use is deliberate. With naïve charm, Siri 🙂 and 🙂 Selma imagine how in prehistoric times, possibly under the guidance of hairy shamans, people began to use certain symbols in many places.

Wie dem auch sei, wir halten es mit Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan und Ernest Jones, Symbole strukturieren sich im Unbewussten. Sie sind keineswegs bewusst ausgedacht worden. Jung und Campbell meinen gar, Symbole drücken eine innere Wahrheit aus, was immer sie darunter verstehen. Literaturwissenschaftler betrachten teilweise Symbole als eine rhetorische Strategie, ihre Anwendung ist also bewusst gewählt. Mit naiven Charme stellen Sich Siri 🙂 und 🙂 Selma vor, wie in vorgeschichtlicher Vorzeit womöglich unter der Führung von Schamenen an vielen Orten Menschen begannen, bestimmte Symbole zu benutzen.

Banksy‘s ‘Hermit Crabs in Cromer, Norfolk´- is a quite brilliant painting, which combines humour with a very serious message that refers to homelessness, refugees and the rental market,” said Prof Gough.
“It’s also a brilliant play on the idea of the hermit, a loner denied access to secure accommodation.

Now we ask you what you think, how symbols came into being and what symbols are for you in general. Siri 🙂 asked over coffee and cake in the conservatory whether all pictures should be seen as symbols of reality as you could see well in Dina’s still lifes (Arctic Still Life, Norfolk Still Life, Still Life II, The Magic of Things)

Jetzt fragen wir euch, was ihr meint, wie Symbole entstanden sind und was überhaupt für euch Symbole sind. Siri 🙂 fragte bei Kaffee und Kuchen im Wintergarten, ob nicht alle Bilder als Symbole für die Wirklichkeit angesehen werden können, wie man an Dinas Stillleben gut sehen kann (Arctic Still Life, Norfolk Still Life, Still Life II, The Magic of Things)

From the sunny sea with cheerful greetings

Vom sonnigen Meer mit fröhlichen Grüßen

The Fab Four of Cley
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

P.S.: Wer sich weitgehender über Symbolik informieren möchte, den empfehlen wir Masterchens “Vollmars Welt der Symbole” (Königsfurt Vlg.)

.

© Text and illustrations, Hanne Siebers and Klausbernd Vollmar, Cley next the Sea, 2022

146 thoughts

  1. Humans will never end debating about symbols and their meanings! Black may symbolize mourning in Western culture, but in other parts of the world, people wear white when they participate in a funeral.

    Liked by 14 people

    • Thanks for your comment.
      Every symbol is ambiguous, that makes a symbol. If it is definite it’s a sign and not a symbol.
      Symbols are connotated in different ways in different cultures and groups in one culture.
      Mourning is only one meaning of black. It’s erotic and exclusive f.e. as well.
      Wishing you all the best
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

    • Dear Timothy,
      white for mourning you find in European cultures as well.
      Black and white as abstract colours can interchange their meaning.
      Keep well
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  2. 🤔 I went to a store and picked out a pair of fairy garments. At the counter, a man told me the price and I gave him several pieces of paper printed in various colours. The man accepted the papers and I took the pants. Why?

    I’m on my way home. At an intersection, I see a coloured light and stop the car. When another coloured light replaces the first, I continue. Why?

    What is there about a coloured paper that makes it equal to a pair of fairy garments? What is the significance of coloured lights that they can dictate my actions? The answer is… that they are symbols.

    In order to think about something, I think it is necessary to convert the input (sensory impressions, concepts, experiences, etc.) into symbols that stand for what I have sensed.

    It starts by defining “symbol”. A symbol is an abstraction that stands for something else. For example, a euro, a pound or a dollar bill symbolises purchasing power. A red light is a symbol for “stop moving”.

    Note what has happened. Material objects such as a euro, a pound note or a dollar bill have become more. It has become a symbol representing something else.

    Many things that humans perceive have more than just their perceptible features: they also represent other things. When you look at a euro, a pound note, or a dollar bill, you do not see the only coloured paper. You also see what that bill represents — purchasing power.

    Perhaps other animals attach collateral meanings to direct impressions, but humans definitely do. For instance, the Moon may simply be an unfaithful light source for an animal. To humans, the Moon is not only light, but stands for time, the gods, a calendar, a source of mystery and wonder, an adjunct of romance.

    Hence, virtually every direct impression is embued with meanings beyond its mere existence.

    And so are words, aren’t they?

    Still thinking,
    Sirifee 🧚🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 11 people

    • Dearest Siri 🙂
      thank you very much for your clever comment.
      Do you know where the word ‘symbol’ comes from? When two friends had to part for a long time they broke (mostly) a clay ring into two parts. When they met again these two parts fit together and they know who the other is even if he has changed a lot. Interesting is that every friend has a part that refers to another part he has not. A symbol refers to something that is not there.
      Wow, you explained the symbolism really well. I am impressed. Well done 👍👍
      With love ❤ and hugs 🤗
      Klausbernd 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Dear friends,
    what a delightful read!
    For me, a symbol is something that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract, like Siri mentions in the comment above. On a personal basis, I’m convinced a camera symbolises more than merely capturing images to someone like Dina and I’d like to know what a book and words in general symbolises for the fairies.

    A symbol from the North in times of global warming; the polar bear used to be an icon on the ice – now, when the Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the global average, thus causing the ice that polar bears depend on to melt away, this gradually changes.

    What is changing on your coast, I wonder?

    Sending you warm sunny greetings from Norway,
    Klem
    Per Magnus

    Liked by 9 people

    • Thanks for your comment, dear Per Magnus 🙏🙏
      The Polarbear is a great example of a modern symbol.
      What has changed on our coast? Over the years it became dryer and dryer during summer. Well, we had it always dry here but now it’s even more so. A friend of ours who works as a gardener told us he has to change the plants he plants in customers’ gardens. It’s mostly Mediterranean plants that grow well here now.
      Sending you lots of love ❤ ❤
      KRAM
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

  4. Well…..this is a thought provoking post Fab Four! I think symbols may well be a product of the unconscious mind.It is how they cause a reaction in our unconscious minds that is the most telling thing about them.How they make us feel is very much a part of where we live and how we are influenced by the culture we have grown up with and are surrounded by. That’s enough from me on this topic.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Dear Anne,
      that is quite much, thank you.
      We think about symbols like you. In the end, you can’t grasp them intellectually. Therefore we need them. In former times, up to the Baroque, the symbolism was the language of art and philosophy. A language we all know from our dreams.
      Understanding our culture means understanding their symbols.
      With warm greetings from the sunny sea
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

    • Dear Fraggle 🙂
      thank you very much for liking Hanne-Dina’s photos.
      This vast range of connotations makes symbols fascinating for us.
      Keep well
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

  5. I suppose you could say all pictures are symbols of reality but to me, there is always a danger in statements like that of imposing one person’s view on another’s. Each person sees what they see. One thing that makes me wonder about the origin of symbols is the fact that colors, for example, can have very different meanings for different cultures. Asia and Europe don’t necessarily agree on the meaning of certain symbols. That seems to argue for multiple origins for symbols or for the evolution of symbols. Perhaps a symbol arises in the unconscious and is communicated to other people, then it may or may not catch on and take on a life of its own. What perfectly appropriate images you have used for the post – especially Dina’s seal bones arranged on the T-shirt – that’s great!

    Liked by 8 people

    • Good afternoon, dear Lynn,
      symbols arise subconsciously but your subconscious is influenced by the culture you live in.
      C.G. Jung writes about archetypal symbols. Unfortunately, he isn’t clear in his definition. All symbols could be traced back to
      Anima/Animus
      the shadow
      something higher than human
      these relatively abstract archetypes produce concrete archetypal pictures. Whereas the archetypes are not changing the archetypal pictures change with evolution, culture etc.
      Of course, this is a model only of how we can understand that different symbols come into being.
      The T-shirt is from “The Pirate Shop” in Key West. Our dear Master likes to wear it when boating.
      Have a happy end of the week
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

  6. Among the most common symbols are words, and the word “symbol” itself is interesting. The Greek elements are syn ‘together’ and bole ‘a throwing, a casting, the stroke of a missile, bolt, beam.’ According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “The sense evolution in Greek is from ‘throwing things together’ to ‘contrasting’ to ‘comparing’ to ‘token used in comparisons to determine if something is genuine.’ Hence, ‘outward sign’ of something. The meaning ‘something which stands for something else’ [was] first recorded 1590 (in ‘Faerie Queene’).”

    Liked by 10 people

    • Dear Steve,
      words are a special group of symbols built of symbols (letters) and the combination of words can produce new symbols.
      The meaning ‘something which stands for something else’ is in my understanding what makes the concept ‘symbol’. It was a broken ring or something of which friends shared each one part that they can recognise each other after a long journey or exile. That I was taught in my old Greek lessons at school.
      Thanks and keep well
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  7. This is an interesting subject! I have dug into it a bit because my novels’ characters are pre-symbolic–they didn’t use proper nouns when referring to landmarks. For example, the Empire State Building (a completely symbolic name for this building) would have a very long name like ‘Tallest-spire-shaped-like-a-spear’. Primitive tribes (from as recent as the 1800’s) interestingly had this sort of tangible names for landmarks so anyone could find anything.

    I’d love to find out when symbolic thinking started.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Dear Jacqui,
      that symbolism dominated our culture started during the middle ages. If you think of the Minnesongs and the great epics of “Parcival” and “Tristan and Isolde” f.e. nearly every line is full of symbolism. During Baroque, symbols and emblemata were dominating art, philosophy and even geography and mapping. But far before that, there were symbolic cave paintings and stone carvings. These cave paintings at Lascaux are about 17.000 years old. We wonder if it could have been the other way round that there were symbols before language.
      If we look at very early maps up to the age of exploration, maps were far from being correct as we see them today. There wasn’t a geographic interest, it was more to show something big that was important and everything has to fit into the idea of our world at this time. We are just reading a history of mapping and were astonished that measuring distances or getting shapes right for example was not important for the first maps. They were symbolic beyond use f.e. the early T-O maps, 100% symbolic.
      Thanks and all the best from the sunny sea
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

    • I had no idea, about maps. Maybe they measured distance by days? or daylight? Not miles. My primitive people measure that way (a very lose definition of ‘measure’).

      Liked by 4 people

    • It seems to me that early people weren’t interested in measuring. We suppose, the concept of measuring developed after symbolism. It looks like it when seeing early maps.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Goodness, you’re right, this is difficult. It’s colors and symbols, right? Colors have various symbolic meanings, even color by color. Black does symbolize death and mourning, but it also symbolizes elegance and dignity. Green means vitality, even resurrection. But if we let Shakespeare have his way, it also symbolizes jealousy. Red means excitement and passion, also anger–and maybe these associations are close to each other. White means purity but also can symbolize mortality–and also eternity. I have a feeling we might find these values are group-determined, maybe broken down by region or profession or period in human experience. There’s color association based on individual experience, too. My favorite color is light blue, which might have something to with my fondness for Oxford cloth shirts and people I knew who wore them. I tend to think color symbolism is an amalgam of psychological, culturally associative, and experiential meaning (experience of the individual or group). The origin of color and symbol has been asserted by those you cite, and I think she’s off to an excellent start with that (with them). There might be insight to gain by listing colors and various symbolisms for each color and then who says so. Maybe patterns, even origins, will emerge. Or you may disregard everything I just wrote. I’m responding impulsively, after all. I’m excited (red) to have found your posts again with which I mean to be more loyal (blue).

    Liked by 7 people

    • Dear Christopher,
      colours as symbols: It was hardly ever that someone decided this colour means that. It’s the colour itself which produces its symbolism. Yellow is a colour that kind of jumps at you, it doesn’t want to stay on the paper or canvas, whereas blue sucks you in. Therefore yellow is seen as extraverted and symbolises communication and blue symbolises introversion and desire (the blue flower of the romantic). Of course, there are many other meanings for these two polar colours, but all this has in one way or the other to do with extraversion and introversion. Blue is longing because everything far away looks blueish. That’s the analogy function of symbols.
      You mention listing all important symbolic meanings for one colour. Our dear Master did it in one of his books about colour symbolism (in his book “Das große Buch der Farben” and in his dictionary of symbols).
      There is not so much a problem with what colours symbolise, the problem is more the undefined names of colours.
      You are excited (red) because red excites, it highers the blood pressure seeing it.
      Oh dear, there is so much to write about colour symbolism but that will do for the blog.
      Thank you very much for your comment
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

  9. Symbols are a complex representation of cultural norms in my opinion. Like language the meanings of symbols change in how they are adopted and used across generations and across cultural boundaries. Westerners tend to associate sin and death with darkness, so it figures that black would be a symbol of mourning. We think of the skull and crossbones as a sign of danger, and Woody Woodpecker as a funny cartoon character. What kind of symbolism is indented when Loquillo combines the crossbones with Woody Woodpecker (Loquillo in Spanish)? https://img.europapress.es/fotoweb/fotonoticia_20180419165600_1024.jpg

    Liked by 9 people

    • Good afternoon, dear Timothy,
      as with language, the symbolic meaning doesn’t change quickly. We think that all symbols originally stand in a relationship of analogy to what they mean. We tried to show this just above with the example of colours. Through the frequent use of symbols, they feel like a convention in connection with their meaning. Some symbols differentiate more and more from their basis as one can see in comics and in advertisements f.e. But you still can trace them back to their basic symbols and their meaning. That’s Jung’s differentiation between archetype and archetypal picture.
      The crossbones combined with Woody Woodpecker is ironic and goes back to the Baroque “memento mori” and “carpet diem”.
      Thanks and cheers
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. So funny to see your photo of the seal bones – my little rural library branch that I manage just did an educational program this afternoon with a seal skeleton. I was just looking at that set of bones!

    Liked by 9 people

  11. Kein leichtes Thema, ihr Lieben vier.
    Ich bin sehr vertieft in meiner Dissertation und möchte nur ein kleines Lebenszeichen von uns senden. Wir haben neben unserer Arbeit (künstlerischen Passion) mit der Renovierung unseres Lebensraumes viel zu tun. Ich hoffe, wir sind bald halbwegs fertig. Sonnige Grüße von Susanne und Micha

    Liked by 7 people

    • Danke, liebe Susanne,
      wir sind wegen des wunderbaren Wetters sehr mit unserem Garten zugange. Dina flog heute nach Norwegen und so halte ich Haus und Hof zusammen.
      Wir wünschen dir frohes Gelingen für Renovierungen und Diss.
      Mit ganz lieben Grüßen nach Berlin an dich und Micha
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Danke, lieber Klausbernd, die Arbeit, die ein Garten macht ist auch nicht zu unterschätzen.ich werde heute die letzten Dahlien Knollen in die Erde bringen. Dann schreibe ich weiter an meiner Diss.
      LG von Susanne

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Our lives are so surounded by symbols, signs, and tradition that we have almost stopped noticing them. Ollie lives a very happy life not knowing about such things. 🙂
    Love from Beetley, Pete and Ollie. X

    Liked by 7 people

  13. Fab Four of Cley,
    I feel symbols are used in place of words or developed over the years by tradition and/or repetition. Such as skull and crossbones for a poisonous product and the Christmas tree for what is actually a religious holiday.
    As seen by the comments previous to mine – we could debate this subject for quite a while, eh? lol
    Have a great Springtime!!
    GP

    Liked by 7 people

    • Dear GP
      indeed, we could discuss symbols for ages. Well, I spent many years studying, writing and teaching about symbols. But for our blog that’s enough after this post – otherwise, we’ll become symbols for ourselves 😉
      Thanks and wishing you a glorious spring as well. We have brilliant weather and are busy in the garden.
      Take care
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Ich denke, dass es viele Erklärungen gibt, was Symbole für die Menschen überhaupt bedeuten. Wenn wir z.B. ein wunderschönes Kreuz nehmen, kann das Qual oder Tod meinen, oder für einen Kunstinteressierten vielleicht einfach nur Schönheit. Vielen Dank, ihr Lieben in Cley, für diesen zum Nachdenken anregenden Beitrag.
    Cari saluti
    Martina

    Liked by 8 people

  15. Dear friends, I certainly appreciate the communication about symbols! You kind replies offers a wealth of additional information to be grateful for.
    Unfortunately, I lost my copy of your book about symbols on a previous holiday. Do you still have any copies at home, Klausbernd? In English or German, please?
    Looking forward to seeing you four in the summer.
    Kram
    Annalena Xx

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dear Annalena,
      of course, I am happy send you a copy of my book, the dictionary of symbols, I suppose. You can have it either in German or in Swedish. Just let me know.
      With lots and lots of love ❤ ❤
      KRAM
      Klausbernd 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Such a fascinating topic and it really makes me think about why I use the symbols I do in my art. For me, I often use crows on wires as a symbol of darkness and nostalgia. And I think this comes from memories I have from my childhood that made me sad. So there’s an emotion attached to it that means something to me. It means sadness and a bit of fear. And I always assumed that emotion would translate to the viewer in the context of my art. But maybe it did not, who knows? And if it did, I wonder if it’s because I was also pulling that symbol from some kind of collective, and therefore the viewer is able to translate it accurately as well. So fascinating!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Crows on a wire remind us of Leonard Cohen’s poem and song “Like a Bird on a Wire”. It has to do with autumn when they all sit on the wires. An emotion is attached to every symbol but not necessarily the same emotion that other people have but a similar or the opposite emotion.
      Thanks and keep well
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  17. Lieber Klausbernd! Ein Beitrag ganz nach meinem Geschmack! Symbole sind für mich Stellvertreter oder Platzhalter, die in visueller Form, Inhalte für uns Menschen transportieren sollen. Besonders deutlich ist Mir die Bedeutung und Funktion von Symbolen – mal wieder – im Rahmen der Berichterstattung des Putinkriegs geworden. Ihre propagandistische Funktion wird hier sehr deutlich.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Da hast du genau Recht, lieber Jürgen. Symbole prägen das Narrativ, somit untersützen sie auch oft die Macht wie im Nazionalsozialismus und jetzt unter Putin.
      Für uns können auch Töne symbolisch wirken, vielleicht so wie bei Wagners Leitmotiv. Hier begebe ich mich jedoch auf glattes Eis, ich kenne mich nämlich in der Musik nicht aus.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Symbols – Site Title

  19. Quite a thought provoking post, and particularly interested the student of philosophy inside me. Now you did mention quite a few of modern day names such as Freud and Jung. I would like to bring the Plato into the discussion. Plato talked about the essence of things, which can’t really be explained or known by the common intellect, such as beauty as essence we know nothing of, but a beautiful painting we can describe. Symbols I feel are representation of such abstract essence. Symbols are the meaning of what we feel, what we perceive out of the object of symbol, and for this very reason symbols are both objective as well as subjective.
    Thank you again for provoking thinking.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you very much for mentioning Plato, dear Aru. Plato’s essence and Jung’s archetypes can be seen as very similar. The symbols are one step toward differentiation. It’s where you can see the essence in the picture. As more you differentiate from the archetype, or the essence, as more the experience of a group or even an individuum forms it. Well, you might call it evolution. Anyway, a symbol has an ‘objective’ basic structure but this changes during its uses – what’s the subjective part. If you want to understand a symbol you have to return this process, you need abstraction.
      Great comment, thank you!
      Take care
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Like

  20. I was so excited to see your post come up in my reader because I knew that your insights and follow-up discussion will be brilliant and thought-provoking. Of course, this is the third time reading the post – so much to consider and upon which to reflect.

    At the same time I read your post, I received an article in my in-box on “Death Symbolism & Personification Traced Through Art History” that featured Arnold Böcklin, Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle, detail, 1872. Oil on canvas. Nationalgalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. It seemed serendipitous to me as it reminded me of how art and literature hold our symbols over time and confirm the evolution of these symbols.

    To me, definitions of symbolism such as “the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities” are vague and open to interpretation. I confess I have much to learn. Several years (decades) ago, I read C.G. Jung’s Memories, Dreams Reflections, which introduced me to symbolism. I was too young to fully understand his thoughts, but I have retuned to the idea of symbolism over and over. I continue to learn.

    What I do understand is that our lives and decisions are swayed by symbols through reading, movies, marketing – even though we are unaware of their influence.

    One of my favourite quotes from Memories Dreams Reflections: “Outward circumstances are no substitute for inner experience.”C.G. Jung

    Many thanks for adding to my knowledge and experience. You have given me much to think about in the coming days. Dina’s photography is superb, as it the wisdom of Siri and Selma. Sending my love and hugs to my dear friends, The Fab Four of Cley.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Good morning, dear Rebecca,
      thanks for your great comment.
      You made an important point that art preserves symbols – and fairy tales and proverbs do as well. Often we have forgotten the original meaning. But symbols are resistant, they stay even in a time that doesn’t remember their origins. That’s because they are more than intellectual and they seem like a riddle. Riddles build up tension in our desire to understand. That’s why they are so resistant.
      The Böcklin-picture with death stands in the tradition of the symbol of the dance of death. I remember one of the Bergman films starts with a dance of death. That was a popular symbol during the Baroque. The Romantics put the individuum in the foreground. A kind of emancipation from an impersonal death but the old mento mori still worked. Into the same group belongs all symbolism of the plague which goes back to mento mori and carpet diem pictures. The quintessence of this symbolism is death obviously.
      If you want to read an extraordinarily good book about symbolism, I recommend
      Campbell, Josep: The Power of Myth (New York et al. 1988) – well, it’s VERY Jungian
      The outer can’t substitute for the inner because they use different languages. On one hand, the linear language of everyday life and on the other the language of symbols (both differ in their grammar and vocabulary). You can’t translate one to one. That’s why Freud and Jung wrote that a dream is a riddle we never 100% understand. Intuition and feelings make symbolism work and abstraction makes symbolism understand better.
      Did you read the exchange between Aru and me about symbolism and Plato’s idea about the essence? (two comments above)
      You and Don get well soon. Sending you big hugs from the sunny sea (but breezy)
      Klausbernd 🙂 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
      Greeting from Dina from Norway 🇳🇴
      and Siri 🙂 and 🙂 Selma from somewhere 💫✨🌟

      Liked by 2 people

    • Many thanks, Klausbernd, for adding to my knowledge and experience. I just bought the book “The Power of Myth” and am very very excited to open the book. The other day I had a dream that I was in a field of flowers and when I stopped to look closely at the flowers, they turned into words. Oh, you are so right, a dream is a riddle we never 100% understand. Don and I are in a wonderful recovery mode. Sending many hugs and lots of love to our dear friends, The Fab Four of Cley.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Rebecca,
      what a great picture, flowers turn into words. In a way, words are flowering from our mouths and especially in poetry that you like to read. Your reading of poetry is really moving.
      Great to hear that you and Don are in a wonderful recovery mode. Enjoy your recovery.
      In former times feelings were expressed with flowers – especially during the Biedermeier period. There even existed dictionaries of the meaning of flower arrangements. There was quite a similarity between poetry and flowers.
      Wishing you a happy weekend
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
      If Freud and Jung said that you can never understand a symbol 100% then this raises the question of what ‘understanding’ is in the first place.

      Liked by 2 people

    • P.S.
      Siri 🙂 just mentioned, if you look at illuminated manuscripts you see the text is often framed by flower tendrils. The connection between words and flowers is obvious.

      Liked by 2 people

  21. But the meaning of common symbols is cultural isn’t it? In certain Asian countries, for example, white signifies death and mourning, and in postmodern UK the wearing of black at funerals is fading out, along with other cultural changes. The meaning of symbols shifts over time and culture.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Indeed, the surface meaning of symbols change with different times and cultures but you can trace back the archetype of symbols (or essence) which is – concerning to Jung – timeless and not cultural dependent.
      Thanks and wishing you an easy weekend
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Bernhard,
      du scheinst ein Freund des Meeres zu sein. Wir lieben das Meer auch sehr.
      Vielen Dank für deinen Kommentar.
      Mit lieben Grüßen vom sonnigen Meer
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lieber Bernhard,
      wir nehmen an, SPO steht für Sankt Peter Ording. Dort finden wir den großen Unterschied zwischen Ebbe und Flut faszinierend.
      Wir wünschen euch eine wunderschöne Zeit dort
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ute,
      thank you very much.
      Symbols are really interesting as they say a lot about our culture and as they are a window into an old way of thinking.
      Wishing you all the best
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: Symbols – عنوان الموقعkobra1

  23. Pingback: Symbols – TMC CONSULTING CLUB

  24. Interesting to read this and to read the comments, too, thanks. I just read about another intriguing dimension of symbols and language. Protactile, a new language-ish way of communication that involves the primacy of touch as the DeafBlind people that use it can neither hear nor see (at least not very well). When is something a gesture, when is it a word and when and how does that happen? I guess that’s a question of when does it become a symbol or a more specific shared meaning? In sign language, a gesture has become a word, but it’s not so clear yet in this new touch-based communication, which has a lot of nuance through touch and cannot be recorded for those who know it, so immediate experience and presence is necessary. If interested, here’s the link. Sorry, though free for a couple articles, this New Yorker article might be behind a paywall for some:
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-inquiry/deafblind-communities-may-be-creating-a-new-language-of-touch

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much. Very interesting to create a new language. We think it’s rather signs that are used there in this non-verbal communication than symbols.
      Keep well
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Like

  25. Very, very interesting post
    The quotes shared lend themselves to further research. I now want to know more views or depths on the subject matter. I agree that symbols are meant to reveal or conceal, the mysteries of which can be intriguing.
    I think through the eons, symbolism is used more places than is assumed. This can lead to questions such as, but not limited to: If the serpent has represented wisdom, why was a serpent the creature that tempted Eve? Why are snakes found upon the brows of people in Egyptian art? What of the Kundalini of Hinduism?
    And, why does the Rod of Asclepius exist, as wielded by a deity associated with healing?
    Is symbolism the truest form of language and understanding? And finally, is the concept of sigils, can they materialize something with proper intent and application?
    Some learning only raises more questions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Dawn,
      Symbols are a language system. Like with all language systems the origin of its semantics is mostly unclear. What makes the snake such a special symbol, why?
      Analogies often determine the meaning of a symbol. How this is the case with the snake we can only guess. At least the dichotomy of poison and remedy is addressed. Answering your question helps to know about early mythological systems and to look at a symbol analytically.
      To our understanding, it’s one difference between symbols and signs/sigils that symbols are not consciously formed. Following Freud and Jung they arise from unconsciousness.
      Thanks for commenting and cheers
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Hier meine Definition zum Begriff Symbol: Als erstes Symbol bezeichne ich einmal eine Markierung. Ich setzte ein Zeichen, ich war hier, das ist mein Revier. Das könnte schon in der Urgeschichte so gewesen sein. Ein Kreuz auf einem Stein, auf einem Baum. Das Zeichen als Symbol hat dann schon die grundlegende Bedeutung etwas einfach und verkürzt darzustellen. Als Beispiel möchte ich die Schrift der Ägypter, also die Hieroglyphen sehen. Ein Symbol ersetzt eine Silbe, ein Wort, oder noch mehr. Diese und weitere Symbole schließen eine Gruppe von Menschen ein, die das Symbol lesen, beziehungsweise deuten können. Symbol als Gruppenzugehörigkeit. Erkennungszeichen, Macht. Und so möchte ich Symbole auch negativ sehen, da sie alle anderen, die das Symbol nicht aufschlüsseln können, ausschließt, wie einen Analphabet die Schriftzeichen. Negativ auch, als Abneigung bis zu Hass von Glaubens-, oder Clan-Zugehörigkeit. In neuerer Zeit können Symbole wie Piktogramme wiederum sehr hilfreich sein. Ein rotes stilisiertes Herz mit einem schwarzen Kreuz könnte vielleicht ein Symbol für einen speziellen Blog sein. Oder?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lieber Ernestus,
      das Problem ist, dass Zeichen und Symbol fließend ineinander übergehen und dennoch von einander getrennt werden. Grundsätzlich ist etwas mit eindeutiger Zuordnung ein Zeichen, dazu gehören u.a. Zahlen, Buchstaben und Piktogramme. Ein Symbol verweist auf etwas Komplexeres, das man nur indirekt, eben symbolisch ausdrücken kann. Dem Symbol haftet immer etwas Rätselhaftes an.
      Es ist ziemlich sicher, dass Symbole vor Schriftzeichen auftraten.
      Das Symbol als Erkennungszeichen – naja, Symbol oder Zeichen? Symbole verweisen stets auf etwas Geistiges.
      Die ältesten Symbole sind Spiralen, Kreise und Tiere.
      Vielen Dank für deinen Kommentar. Bleib munter und fröhlich
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Moin Klausbernd.
    Deine Frage “Jetzt fragen wir euch, was ihr meint, wie Symbole entstanden sind und was überhaupt für euch Symbole sind.” ist sehr interessant und erinnert mich ad hoc an einen vor Jahren von mir geschriebenen Aufsatz. Meine These:
    Symbole gehören für mich in den Bereich der Vorurteile. Dieser Begriff mag negativ konnotiert sein, ich meine das hier jedoch positiv im Sinne der natürlichen Notwendigkeit im Rahmen der menschlichen Evolution. Ich glaube, ich habe das damals als “kognitiver Geiz” bezeichnet. Will heißen, dass der Mensch in bestimmten Situationen ohne nachdenken zu müssen das richtige tut. Er hat ein “Vorurteil” abgespeichert, gleich einem Textbaustein im heutigen IT-Zeitalter, und kann bei Bedarf ohne lange zu überlegen schnell bzw. reflexartig darauf zurückgreifen. Erfüllen Symbole, egal in welcher Form und Farbe, nicht den gleichen Zweck? Viele sind doch international verständlich, selbst wenn man nicht dieselbe Sprache spricht.
    Und dennoch gilt, das jetzt mit einem Augenzwinkern: Für die einen ist eine Toilettenrolle ein notwendiger Hygieneartikel, für die andren die längste Serviette der Welt.
    Viele Grüße auf die Insel, wir lesen uns! Bleibt munter!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Moin, lieber Sven,
      wir sehen Symbole nicht unter dem Aspekt des Vorurteils, denn Urteil klingt uns rationaler als es den Symbolen zu eigen ist. Was du ansprichst scheint uns eher dem Zeichencharakter zu entsprechen, wie eben bei Textbausteinen, die wir auf keinen Fall als symbolisch sehen würden. Aber wenn auch ‘Urteil’ beim Symbol weniger zutrifft, so doch das ‘Vor’. Hmmm, Vor-Urteil kann man natürlich auch als vor einem Urteil liegend sehen, in dem Sinne würde ich dir Recht geben. Symbole sind vor-rational, auch in der Entwicklung, eben vor dem eher rationalen Sprachsystem.
      Die Metapher Textbaustein ist mir zu sehr vom Bewusstsein geprägt. Bei Textbausteinen bezieht sich der Baustein auf etwas, dass man weiß, beim Symbol bezieht sich das Signifikant auf ein zumindest partiell unbekanntes Signifikat; also man durchschaut nicht (völlig), was man mit dem Symbol bezeichnet. Das zumindest ist zentral für den Symbolbegriff bei Freud, Jung und Lacan.
      Es gibt freilich einige unterschiedliche Auffassungen darüber, was Symbole sind. Wir betrachten sie hauptsächlich unter linguistischen und tiefenpsychologischen Aspekt, wo de Saussure und Freud & Co sich treffen.
      Vorurteile schaffen ja eine gewisse Eindeutigkeit nach der Folie “man weiß, dass Frauen nicht einparken können”, bei einem Symbol erahnt man das Signifikat, also dessen Bedeutung im besten Fall.
      Dank für deinen inspirierenden Beitrag.
      Mit lieben Grüßen vom Meer
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Liebe Buchfeen und liebe Dina und lieber Klausbernd

    Diese Knochen sehen verdächtig lebendig aus…
    Ist die Rose das Symbol der Liebe?

    Sende Euch herzliche Grüße, hier wird wieder ordentlich geschwitzt beim Tanzen…
    Euer Pialein

    Liked by 2 people

    • Guten Morgen, liebes Pialein,
      die rote Rose ist ein verbreitetes Symbol der Liebe, das aus dem Orient durch die Kreuzzüge in unserer Welt ‘importiert’ wurde, aber wesentlich älter ist. Rosen wurden bereits in Asien und Arabien vor 5000 Jahren kultiviert und waren schon damals ein beliebtes Symbol. Man fand es z.B. in ägyptischen Gräbern. Bereits Alexander der Große brachte viele Rosenarten von Asien nach Europa. Die Böden von Cleopatras Palast sollen mit Rosen bestreut gewesen sein und in Indien wurde seit frühen Zeiten das Hochzeitsbett mit Rosen bestreut. In der europäischen Symbolik bedeutete die Rose schweigen, was sub rosae gesagt wurde, durfte nicht weitergesagt werden. Aus dem Grund findet man häufig geschnitzte Rosen an der Eigangstüre oder an der Decke von Gerichtssälen. Die Rose als Bild des klaren Geistes kannten die Alchemisten, denen sie mit ihren Erlösungsvorstellungen verbunden war. Schon in Dantes „Paradiso“ wird die kleine Schar der Erlösten als eine weiße Rose dargestellt, über welche die Engel wie die Bienen kreisen. Grundsätzlich ist die weiße Rose ein Symbol für die Unschuld und Reinheit. Auf der anderen Seite gilt seit der Antike und davor die Rose als Symbol der weiblichen Sexualität. Im Deutschen und Englischen stellt der Name Rose ein Annagramm für Eros dar. Angeblich sollen in frühgeschichtlichen Fruchtbarkeitskulten die fünf Blätter der Rose für die fünf Wendezeiten in Leben einer Frau stehen (Geburt, Menarche, Mutterschaft, Menopause, Tod). Die Rosenblüte wurde oft (wie alle Blüten der Blumen) als Abbild des weiblichen Geschlechts gesehen.
      Das mag erst einmal zum Symbol Rose genügen.
      Mit ganz lieben Grüßen von uns allen. Wir wünschen dir ein wunderbares Wochenende
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Aha, vielen Dank! Das wünsche ich Euch auch!
      Dein Symbol Buch steht im Eingangsbereich der Ballettschule, in dem sich die Mütter aufhalten….ich muss noch ein Schild aufhängen: Bedienen am Bücherregal erlaubt und erwünscht!
      Sie trauen sich nicht, oder das Handy ist einfach vermeintlich interessanter…
      Macht es gut!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Das ist soooo lieb von dir, Pialein.
      Dir wünschen wir ein wunderbares Wochenende. Wir lassen es uns gut gehen mit Essen und Trinken, das unsere liebe Dina aus Nowegen mitbrachte.
      Alles Liebe von uns
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Na klar! Lieb zu sein ist doch alternativlos!
      Vielleicht noch ne Prise Froh – Sein dazu…
      Wenn es geht…
      Stellt Euch mal vor, das würden alle machen, wo kämen wir dann hin?!

      Liebe Grüße an die Buchfeen aus Oggersheim, hier ist es richtig lustig, kommt doch mal wieder rüber geflattert!

      Liked by 2 people

  29. Das ist ein sehr interessanter Artikel, Klausbernd. Ich persönlich denke auch, dass Farben, bzw. Farbsymbole eine geheime Macht sind, die unser Verhalten steuern, ohne dass wir es merken. Ich denke da z.B. an Verpackungen, die unsere Kauflust fördern sollen. Oder vor einiger Zeit las ich, dass die Farbe Gelb als Symbol für Kommunikation gilt. Deswegen wären auch die Nachrichtenkabel international gelb. Die Frage ist, ob die Post deswegen gelbe Autos fährt und die Briefkästen gelb sind?
    Sonniggelbe Grüße aus dem Bergischen Land…..von Rosie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Guten Tag, liebe Rosie,
      ein Schlüssel zur Farbsymbolik ist die Gestik einer Farbe. Gelb strahlt aus und entspricht so der Kommunikation, wenn du so willst, ist es eine extravertierte Farbe. Blau dageen zieht einen in die Farbfläche hinein. Es ist eine introvertierte Farbe. Gelb wird somit mit Kommunikation verbunden und Blau mit Sehnsucht, was “die blaue Blume der Romantik” (aus “Heinrich von Ofterdingen”) anspricht.
      Die Farbsymbolik ist ein wesentlicher Faktor beim Produktdesign.
      Danke für deinen Kommentar.
      Mit herzlichen Grüßen vom blauen Meer
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ja, mit Farben in der Werbung kann man viel ausdrücken, bzw. ein bestimmtes Zielpublikum erreichen.
      Andererseits werden Farben noch weitere Eigenschaften zugeschrieben, z.B. dass GELB ein Symbol für Neid wäre, ROT eines für die Liebe oder BLAU eines für Treue.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi dear Rosie
      kurz eine Antwort, evor wir jetzt lecker kochen. Jede Symbolik besitzt ein Bedeutungsfeld, das, grob gesprochen, von Analogien und Historie bestimmt ist. Außerdem kommt es auf den Farbton an. Z.B. Gelb mit nur leichten Grünbeimischungen lässt es in den negativen Bedeutungspol rutschen wie eben Neid und Gift. Solche Polarität ist jeglicher Farbsymbolik zu eigen wie bei Rot Liebe – Krieg, Blau Sehnsucht/Treue – Depressivität.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ohja, Farben und ihre Assoziationen, bzw. ihre Symbolik sind ein umfangreiches Thema, über das man sich endlos austauschen kann. Ich denke, ganz persönliche Assoziationen spielen bei der Vorliebe oder Abneigung bestimmter Farben auch eine Rolle.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Guten Morgen, liebe Rosie,
      ich glaube, wir überbewerten die individuellen Assoziationen häufig. Diese sind oft gar nicht so individuell, wie wir es gerne hätten. In der Massengesellschaft möchte man individuell sein, was aber häufig eine Illusion ist.
      Mit lieben Grüßen ins Bergische Land
      Klausbernd 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  30. Nice post and thoughts. Thank you. White in Asia is associated with death, grief and mourning. (I did study Freud for two years in college, always useful. Later on when I did qualitative research I used a very good book, in French, Dictionnaire des symboles by Alain Gheerbrant. I don’t know whether there is an English edition.
    Hope all is well with you.
    Tschüß
    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, dear Brian. I have got his “Dictionary of Symbols”.
      We are healthy and happy and we hope you are as well.
      Tschüß
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • You do? That’s amazing. I only of a couple of people who do. How did you get one? You work(ed) in psychology, research, academia?
      Glad to know you are well. Stay that way.
      (We are too)
      Au revoir.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Brian,
      I wrote a dictonary of symbols myself. Before I started to write it my editor provided me with a collection of dictionaries of symbols. I studied liguistics and psychology and specialised on symbolism, actualy the grammar of the language of symbols and taught this at the McGill University/Montreal.
      Wishing you all the best
      Klausbernd 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • You did? Fantastic. I wish I’d know about you before, when I was still working. it could have helped some of my analysis.
      McGill now? That is a very good university. Compliments.
      (Klausbernd would be like Claude-Bernard in French? 😉)
      Tschüß
      Brian

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Brian,
      I have been retired now for more than ten years. Sometimes I give some interviews about symbolism, especially the symbolism of colour, but mostly I enjoy my garden and the sea.
      Are you a French native speaker?
      Klausbernd is Nicholas-Bernard in French, I suppose. I don’t know if Claude is a form of Klaus which is an abbreviation of Nikolaus.
      Tschüß and all the best
      Klausbernd 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Enjoy retirement, gardens and seas.
      Oui je suis Français, but I always say French is my mother tongue and English my father tongue. My father was bilingual since his mother was English and raised him in English. And so did he with me.
      Of course. Sinterklaas in Dutch. Claude is probably a form of Klaus. There is some influence of German into French because of the Franks who were a Germanic tribe.
      All the best indeed.
      Brian

      Liked by 2 people

  31. Thank you for the insightful post. The images transported me to places (in my mind) far far away. I especially loved the description of the symbolism of the sea clarified the feelings of longing and my love for sunsets at sea.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Jenn,
      research studies have shown that people have a preference for surroundings with water and especially the sea. They respond positively to water – maybe because our survival depends on water ( > White, Matthew et al.: Blue Space. In: Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 4, 2010)
      We love living at the seaside.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Keep well
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Ich kann dazu nur sagen, lieber Klausbernd, dass ich diesen Begriff bisher immer nur unreflektiert benutzt habe und das auch weiterhin tun werde, weil ich eben ein “geistiger Faulpelz” bin.
    Liebe Gruesse,
    Pit

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lieber Pit
      das machen doch die meisten Leute. Wenige unterscheiden z.B. korrekt zwischen Zeichen, Symbol und Metapher. Das ist auch für den Alltagsgebrauch hinreichend.
      Mit lieben Grüßen von uns allen
      The Fab Four of Cley
      🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  33. Symbols were a central part of alchemy. Those alchemist symbols influenced most of the European symbolism until nowadays. The alchemists were obsessed with symbolism to a level almost incomprehensible for us nowadays.
    You will find a good introduction to these symbols in
    Roob, Alexander: “Alchemy & Mysticism”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to flowerywallpaper Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: