Modern-day symbols can sometimes tell us a lot more about a person or organization than dozens of words. Most of us are fully aware what a person's attitude toward us is if they put their thumbs up or show us a middle finger for example. However, many of the symbols we use today had a rather different meaning in the past. An example of this is the swastika. This ancient symbol, known throughout all of Eurasia for 12 000 years, meant good luck and well-being but today everyone associates it with the horrors of World War II and Nazism. Here are the other symbols that have lost their original meaning.
Persons of the Catholic faith decorate their homes with mistletoe every December and kiss under it. But the original symbol had nothing to do with family happiness and hugs. This tradition arose from the Celtics, who placed mistletoe on individuals that were to undergo ritual castration.
The well-known sideways 8 that has transformed into the mathematical symbol of infinite time or space initially meant something quite different. In ancient India and Tibet, it represented perfection, dualism and the union between man and woman.
Parallel Lightning Bolts
What is known as the Nazi symbol of the Schutzstaffel today, the parallel lightning bolts in ancient Greece meant a desire for retribution for the wronged and the seeking of divine justice.
Today, everyone associates the Caduceus with medicine. In the ancient past, the 2 snakes wrapped around a scepter was the symbol of the god Hermes - the messenger of the Gods.
The symbol of a hand raised in the air, showing a pinky and index finger, is a traditional one for every hard rock music fan. But in ancient India, this sign was not shown when listening to hardcore music but to chase away demons, diseases and negative thoughts.
Star of David
Today, this sign represents the Hebrew and Zionist communities in the world. It's been that way since 1897 after the first Zionist congress. Prior to that, the symbol didn't mean anything, it was simply a decorative element in the synagogues.
Today, the heart shape is symbolic of romantic feelings and love. However, in Ancient Greece it was used to mark the stores that sold silphium - a variety of giant dill. Experts posit that due to its aphrodisiacal properties, the sign gradually earned a romantic association.
V Shape with Fingers
When forming a V with our index and middle fingers today, we mean to express peaceful intentions. But this sign comes from the era of the Hundred Years' War. With it, English archers made fun of the French, using it to indicate that they would kill them. It was common practice to cut off the index and middle fingers of captured English archers, so that they could no longer draw their bows and kill French soldiers. By flashing the sign, the English alluded that the French's end was approaching.
In Antiquity, the pentagram was a symbol of the Golden Mean and perfection. Today, it symbolizes the devil.
There's no need explaining what this sign means currently. In Ancient Greece its meaning was not at all hostile. It was a symbol of fertility - wishes for a rich harvest or the successful conception and birth of a child in young married couples. The sign resembles a phallus (a holy object that looks like an erect penis).