Pagan symbols were a part of everyday existence for countless people from over the world for many millennia. In a time where danger lurked around every corner on every day, be it in the form of a wild animal, disease, conflict or simple injuries for which there were no remedies, divine protection gave Hope.
Pagan Symbols of Protection
Protection symbols emerged from pagan cultures across the globe, each ascribing a layer of defense against enemies physical and supernatural. Here are some which have proven both effective and popular. They come to you from ancient times on the winds of Faith.
The pentacle is simply the pentagram enclosed in a circle. Because pagan rituals associate the circle with power, eternity and the infinite, it can be said that the pentacle enhances and empowers the basic pentagram with an infusion of additional energy.
The Circle of Power makes this a spell of protection.
Eye of Horus
Horus was the son of the god Osiris and his wife (and sister), Isis. Depicted with the head of a falcon, Horus was the god of healing and protection.
His eye was said to watch over the faithful wherever it was emblazoned. Egyptian fishermen painted it on the hulls of their boats; it was placed on coffins to watch over the dead as they made their journey through the netherworld to the Afterlife.
Pagans embrace the Egyptian view of the Eye of Horus and wear this symbol as a protective talisman.
Thor’s hammer (Mjolnir)
Most people know Thor as a character from the Hollywood movies, a weak caricature of what Thor, the god of thunder in Viking lore actually is. Mjolnir was Thor’s magical hammer, blessed to strike its intended target every time and return to its wielder by command.
It is a pagan symbol of protection that was seen across the Scandinavian countries with small variations between neighboring cultures.
The intricate, pleasing curves of the ‘Om’ make it one of the most common tattoos out there. The Om is central to Hindu belief; the ancient texts of the world’s oldest living religion, the Vedas, explain that the Om is the sound of vibration of the universe.
Picked apart, the Om represents the four states of human existence: waking consciousness, deep sleep, dream state and the Enlightened consciousness. It is a symbol of blessing and of good beginnings.
Triple Horn of Odin (Triple Triskele)
Tripartite symbols are prevalent in pagan belief and allude to the triple nature of the world which we can see and that which we cannot. The realms of earth, sky and water; heaven, hell and earth; genesis, middle and end; and the states of solid, liquid and ether all point to a trinity that comprises a whole.
The Triple Horn is a testament to Odin’s wit and magical prowess that help him gain victory against seemingly insurmountable odds. It is borne by pagans who want help from the gods and the Universe to gain victory in trying circumstances.
Ancient Pagan Symbols
One of the four elements of pagan beliefs, Air does not just represent the ether but also the breath of life. It is connected to the East and is associated with the colors white and yellow. In modern representations, it may be shown as a fan or a feather, too.
The symbol for Water is a downward-facing triangle, a shape that invokes the shape of the womb and is therefore a potent feminine symbol. As water is used in real life to cleanse, the symbol of water is a sign for cleansing your spiritual life and of new beginnings. It is associated with the West.
The pagan symbol for Earth is an inverted triangle with a horizontal line cut across it. Associated with the North and the colors green and brown, it represents to pagans the bounty of Mother Earth, prosperity and fertility.
The last of the four pagan elements, Fire is the opposite of Water, an upward-facing triangle reminiscent of the phallus and, thus, the masculine. It is linked to the South, and is an agent of change through strong will.
The pentagram is probably one of the most easily-identified pagan symbols today. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily a good thing; many people automatically assume that it is a sign for devil worship or of Satan himself.
However, the pentagram actually represents the four elements of life – air, fire, water and earth, accompanied by a fifth, the human spirit.
The direction in which the pentagram points is of significance. When the single point points upwards, it is indicative of the human spirit rising above earthly desires. The inverse depiction represents the human spirit embracing his carnal and materialistic side.
Triple Moon (Triple Goddess)
The triple moon symbol is a combined representation of the three stages of the moon – waxing, waning and full. The full moon is depicted as a circle in the center with the waxing moon on one side and the waning moon on the other.
Because the moon was associated with the female menstrual cycle, this is a symbol strongly associated with the feminine in all of us. The female reference also relates to the pagan belief that a woman’s life was divided into three stages: maiden, mother and crone.
The Horned God
As the Triple Goddess is the pagan representation of the feminine, the Horned God is the symbol of masculinity. Together, they form the dual nature of pagan godhood. This sign indicates strong will, virility and also carnal desire.
It is interesting to note that the Horned God is part of the symbol for the Triple Goddess turned on its side.
The ankh is another one of those pagan symbols that virtually everyone has seen before, but at whose meaning only a small proportion can accurately guess at.
No one really knows exactly how to decipher the Ankh but is believed that it is strongly associated with the gift of Life after Death because of its prevalence in the tombs of pharaohs.
It may also be that the Egyptians saw it as representing conception and the start of a new life. Others suspect that the Ankh may be a phallic symbol for the loop at its top.
The corn dolly played a significant part in the pagan history of subsistence farming. The pagans of old believed that the spirit of the corn lived in the fields. When the corn was harvested, the spirit was deprived of its home and food.
To appease the spirit, corn dollies were left in the field, often beside a section of the plot that was intentionally left unharvested. Before the next season’s crop was sown, the corn dolly and remaining grain were burnt and the ashes mixed into the soil to ensure a successful upcoming harvest.
The labyrinth is often associated with the Minotaur. However, not every labyrinth is a deadly trap. In fact, the serpentine twists and turns of the labyrinth can be said to be a representation of human life, with a single point of entry and a single exit point.
The Seven-Pointed Star
Another pagan image made popular recently by television – Game of Thrones in this case – the seven-pointed star was originally meant to represent the seven days of the week, and/or the seven classical planets (the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). There are also theories that say it was a symbol of the seven stars (Pleiades).
In recent pagan tradition, it has become associated with the seven chakras of the body according to Hindu scripture and the practice of yoga.
Valknut translates as ‘Slain Warrior’s Knot’ or the ‘Knot of the Dead’, which is a name not to be taken lightly.
A design of three interlocking triangles, the Valknut may represent them as three discrete shapes or as a unicursal of a single, unending line. Wherever it is found in archaeological remains, the Valknut is only ever depicted as a symbol associated with the death of the one who bears it.
This is a pagan symbol whose true meaning still defies a full explanation but it has a decidedly macabre aspect.
This is a representation of one of the most potent magical tools the Norse people record that they used. While the exact shape of the symbol varies between sources, they all share certain crucial characteristics, a long tine with an angled hook at one end, coupled with a circular or semi-circular shape at the other, and a number of horizontal lines in between.
The Svefnthorn was said to be able to put an individual or group of people into a deep sleep when used. It is a pagan symbol usually employed in an offensive capacity to gain an advantage over the enemy.
The Swastika is truly the worst case of an ancient symbol being appropriated and completely distorted for selfish gain. Used originally by the proto Indo-European race, the Aryans, it was seized by Hitler’s Nazi party as the symbol of race-based discrimination.
Both the Vikings and the ancient Hindus inscribed the Swastika onto any object that they wanted to have blessed by the gods. In fact, even in modern-day India, Hindus paint or engrave this ancient pagan design onto new purchases and on either side of the doorway to a new home.
It is a powerful symbol of oversight and protection that few use outside of the subcontinent.
This intricate symbol is interpreted as the ‘Revealer of the Path’ or ‘Shower of the Way’. It is said that if you carry this pagan sign with you, you will not lose your way to any destination even if you do not know the way.
Very similar to the Aegishjalmr, which was a protective charm, the Vegvisir shares the design of eight outward-facing sets of prongs. Whereas these prongs are universally tridents in the Aegishjalmr, the Vegvisir features more elaborate design and does not abide by the limit of three points each as seen in that stave.
The Vegvisir is the perfect pagan symbol to accompany you on your trip to a new destination or an unknown environment.
Snake Swallowing its Tail (Ouroboros or Infinity Snake)
With its origin in ancient Egypt, the Ouroboros (Greek for ‘tail swallower’) was a symbol of the sun because of its disc shape. Gnostics interpret this shape as signifying the eternal soul, a common pagan theme with circular designs.
The Chinese dragon has also been depicted in this manner.
Yin and Yang
Another easily-recognizable pagan symbol, the Yin-Yang motif speaks to the duality of Man, nature and all of existence itself. It represents the perfect balance with which we are all born and which we spend the rest of our lives trying to regain.
The gentle, sweeping curves of the shape soothe the soul and the two ‘eyes’ look back at you when you regard it closely. It may be said that the shapes represent the circle of life, death and rebirth.
It is invariably used in East Asian cultures but very early iterations of this symbol have even been found on Roman shields dating back 15 centuries.
The concurrently light and dark nature of the Yin-Yang remind us that no bad situation is permanent and that we simply have to abide by our chosen path to attain the light. It is simply a matter of time.
The sun-shaped disc is a recurring motif in pagan symbology, always pointing to continuity and progress. Besides representing the power of the sun and its ability to grant life wherever its rays pass, the circle also speaks to immortality, the cycle of life and the unending nature of both the soul and the universe.
The Sun Wheel is a sign for the demarcation of the solar year into eight Wiccan Sabbaths (Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lamas, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule). It is also reminiscent of the halo that we see in the depictions of gods from around the world.
The sun is associated with fire, the most masculine and virile of the four classic pagan elements. Use the Sun Wheel to garner success in new ventures where a firm hand is desired.
The spiral is a symbol of the goddess but the exact way it is deciphered as such is unclear. There are theories that say the shape represents the movement of the planets and stars across the night sky.
It is one of the most ancient symbols of which we know – spirals have been found at sites from the Neolithic era, which dates back over 17 millennia. Celtic symbols also feature the spiral regularly.
While it is connected to the circle, the spiral is more complex and also more beautiful.