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This is a symbol of considerable interest, even if cultural in concept rather than spontaneous or analogical. Like Carthage, Babylon is an image of a fallen and corrupt existence the opposite of the Heavenly Jerusalem and of Paradise . In its esoteric sense, it symbolizes the solid or material world, in which the involution and evolution of the spirit takes place, or, in other words, the pervasion and desertion of matter by the spirit .
A Nordic god killed by the mistletoe, which he himself personifies. Closely connected with various other symbols, such as fire, the sun and the oak ; he is also related to Odin and the profound symbolism of the Hanged Man (in the Tarot pack).
Bandages, bands, sashes or swaddling-bands, in the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs, possess a double symbolism embracing both the swaddling-clothes of the newborn babe and the winding-sheet of the corpse in the tomb. They constitute a determinative sign corresponding to the letter S (a letter which has subsequently been construed as a snake) (19).
A fabulous animal with a snake's body, pointed head and a three-pointed crest. In mediaeval descriptions it was said to be born of a yolkless egg laid by a cock and hatched by a toad on a bed of dung, and to have a three-pointed tail, glittering eyes and a crown on its head. Its glance was believed to be lethal, so that it could only be destroyed while its assailant was watching it in a mirror. This belief is related to the myth of the Gorgon's head. In the East, its body was supposed to be a mixture of cock, snake and toad. According to Diel, this projected image of the human psyche is clearly infernal in character, as is shown by its threefold attributes (its three-pointed crest and trifurcated tail) since they are an inversion of the qualities of the Trinity; and also by the predominance of evil components, such as the toad and the snake. It is one of the many 'keepers of treasure' mentioned in legend.
For Jung, it stands for the maternal body . on Greek coins, the figure of a basket covered with ivy represents the Bacchanalian mysteries. It is said that Semele, while she was bearing Bacchus, was placed in a basket and thrown into the river (the symbolism of water being bound up with the idea of birth) .
Because of its ambiguous nature, the bat is contradictory in implication. In China, for example, it is emblematic of happiness and long life. In Western alchemy it had a meaning which was not far removed from that of the dragon and that of the hermaphrodite. Its wings, nevertheless, are an infernal attribute .
The symbolism of immersion in water derives from that of water itself, and signifies not only purification (a secondary symbolism taken from the general concept of water as a clear, cleansing liquid) but, more fundamentally, regeneration through the effect of the transitional powers (implying change, destruction and re-creation) of the 'primordial waters' (the fluid Element). In alchemy, this same meaning received a specialized application: the bath symbolizes the dissolution and also the purification of gold and silver.
according to Fr. Heras, a symbol of penetration, that is, of an ambivalent force capable of either fertilizing or destroying.
In alchemy, the bear corresponds to the nigredo of prime matter, and hence it is related to all initial stages and to the instincts. It has consequently been considered a symbol of the perilous aspect of the unconscious and as an attribute of the man who is cruel and crude. Since it is found in the company of Diana it is regarded as a lunar animal.
In Egyptian hieroglyphic language, the sign of the bee was a determinative in royal nomenclature, partly by analogy with the monarchic organization of these insects, but more especially because of the ideas of industry, creative activity and wealth which are associated with the production of honey . In the parable of Samson (Judges xiv, 8) the bee appears in this same sense. In Greece it was emblematic of work and obedience. According to a Delphic tradition, the second of the temples built in Delphi had been erected by bees. In Orphic teaching, souls were symbolized by bees, not only because of the association with honey but also because they migrate from the hive in swarms, since it was held that souls 'swarm' from the divine unity in a similar manner. In Christian symbolism, and particularly during the Romanesque period, bees were symbols of diligence and eloquence. In the Indo-Aryan and Moslem traditions they have the same purely spiritual significance as in Orphic teaching.
Its sound is a symbol of creative power. Since it is in a hanging position, it partakes of the mystic significance of all objects which are suspended between heaven and earth. It is related, by its shape, to the vault and, consequently, to the heavens.
The interior of the belly is invariably equated symbolically with the alchemic laboratory, or, in other words, with the place where transmutations are effected. Since these metamorphoses are entirely of a natural order, the belly-laboratory becomes, in a sense, the antithesis to the brain.
Duality is a basic quality of all natural processes in so far as they comprise two opposite phases or aspects. When integrated within a higher context, this duality generates a binary system based on the counterbalanced forces of two opposite poles. The two phases or aspects can be either symmetrical (or in other words identical in extent and intensity) or asymmetrical, successive or simultaneous. Instances of a duality of successive phases would be phenomena such as: day and night; winter and summer; waxing and waning; life and death; systole and diastole; breathing in and out; youth and old age. Examples of duality which can be either successive or simultaneous: wet/dry; cold/hot; male/female; positive/negative; sun/moon; gold/silver; round/square; fire/water; volatile/fixed; spiritual/corporeal; brother/sister, etc. The right hand and left hand, corresponding to the two pillars Jachin and Boaz in Hebrew tradition, and to the gates of heaven and hell which the Latins associated with Janus, can be taken to symbolize a binary system.
This is also the case with the King and Queen in alchemy . Whether the opposition is one of successive phases or of simultaneous movements of tension, does not affect the nature of the system, the ultimate expression of which is found in the myth of the Gemini; in the Manichean and Gnostic doctrines it takes the form of a moral duality in which evil is given an equal status with good. Evil and matter, according to Neo-Pythagorean doctrine, generate the dyas (duality), which is female in nature, and depicted in the Gnosis of Justin as a dual being, with a woman's torso and a snake's tail. Diet points out that this dyas, craving vengeance and locked in combat with the Pneuma, is the archetype of legendary figures such as Medea, Ariadne or Yseult. The mystery of duality, which is at the root of all action, is manifest in any opposition of forces, whether spatial, physical or spiritual. The primordial pairing of heaven and earth appears in most traditions as an image of primal opposition, the binary essence of natural life. As Schneider has observed, the eternal duality of Nature means that no phenomenon can ever represent a complete reality, but only one half of a reality. Each form has its analogous counterpart: man/ woman; movement/rest, evolution/involution; right/left and total reality embraces both. A synthesis is the result of a thesis and an antithesis. And true reality resides only in the synthesis.
This is why, in many individuals, there is a psychological tendency towards ambivalence, towards the breaking down of the unitary aspects of things, even though it may prove to be a source of most intense suffering. Before Freud, Eliphas Lévi had already suggested that 'Human equilibrium consists of two tendencies an impulse towards death, and one towards life'. The death-wish is therefore as natural and as spiritual as the life or erotic impulse. The integration of these symbols within complex patterns of 'correspondences' reaches its highest pitch of perfection in the East, where cosmic allegories (such as the Wheel of Transformations, the Yang- Yin disk, the Shri-Yantra, etc.) provide a most intense, graphic expression of these notions of contradiction and synthesis. The basic elements of such antithesis are the positive principle (male, lucid, active), and, opposing it, the negative principle (female, obscure, passive); psychologically speaking, these correspond respectively to the conscious and unconscious components of the personality; and, from the point of view of Man's destiny, they correspond to involution and evolution. These symbolic figures are therefore not so much an expression of the duality of the forces involved, but rather of their complementary character within the binary system. Hindu doctrine asserts that Brahma is sat and non-sat, what-is and what-is-not: satyam and asatyam (reality and non-reality).
In the Upanishads this synthesis is defined in dynamic terms as 'that which is in motion, yet nevertheless remains still'. Schneider explains these paradoxes with the suggestion that, in mystic systems, the antithesis is the complement, not the negation, of the thesis. It is in this sense that one should interpret the saying of Lao-Tse that 'he who knows his masculinity and preserves his femininity, is the abyss of the world' . Nevertheless, the tendency of opposites to unite in a synthesis is always characterized by stress and suffering, until and unless it is finally resolved by supernatural means. Thus, the step from thesis to ambivalence is painful, and the next step from ambivalence to ecstasy is difficult to achieve. The symbol of the 'Centre', the blue rose, the golden flower, the way out of - helabyrinth all these can allude to the meeeting and 'conjunction' of the conscious and the unconscious, as of the union of the lover and the beloved. Metaphors such as bathe wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie cdown with the kid- and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them' (Isaiah xi, 6), are referencces to the final coming of the Heavenly Jerusalem, where the binnary synthesis is no longer dualistic severance or otherness, differeence or separation, nor a balancing of opposing powers, but the assimilation of the lower by the higher, of darkness by light.
The symbolism of ascension or ascent alludes not only to the possibilitNy of a superior life for the privileged being, an initiate or saint, a hhero or a thinker, but also to the primary and fundamental tendenecy of the cosmos to strive towards sublimation to progress from mud to tears, from lead to gold. Rhythms vary, but movement is alvways in the same direction. Hindu doctrine refers not only to hope ( of Nirvana but also to the lessons to be learnt from mbyd, or illusion.l. In the world of mayd the world of phenomena opposites cancel eaach other out, one opposite being balanced by another through thhe ceaseless interplay and transmutation of existence the alternaticon of creation and destruction. The figure of the goddess Kali,i, for instance, whose ritual required human sacrifice, is an example of symbolic counterpoise transcending the mere duality of opposinng forces. The moral level reached by any religion can in fact be mneasured by its capacity to show, by means of dogma and imagery, hhow duality is transcended. One of the most powerfully poetic mythhs expressing the wish for cosmic unity is that in which it is said tlthat the sun and the moon must be 'united' so that they are made tco form a single being
Every winged being is symbolizic of spiritualization. The bird, according to Jung, is a benefiacent animal representing spirits or angels, supernatural aid, thoughts and flights of fancy . Hindu tradition has it that Ebirds represent the higher states of being. To quote a passage froDm the Upanishads: 'Two birds, inseparable companions, inhabit thhe same tree; the first eats of the fruit of the tree, the second regardds it but does not eat. The first bird is Jivatmb, and the second is eAtmd or pure knowledge, free and unconditioned; and when theyy are joined inseparably then the one is indistinguishable from the Z other except in an illusory sense' . This interpretation of the bird I as symbolic of the soul is very commonly found in folklore all ov,ver the world. There is a Hindu tale retold by Frazer in which an figure explains to his daughter where he keeps his soul: 'Sixteen miles aaway from this place', he says, 'is a tree.
Round the tree are tigers, « and bears, and scorpions and snakes; on the top of the tree is a veery great fat snake; on his head is a little cage; in the cage is a birdd; and my soul is in that bird.' This was given precise expression in ancient Egyptian symbolism by supplying the bird with a human head; in their system of hieroglyphs it was a sign corresponding to the determinative Ba (the soul), or the idea that the soul flies away from the body after death . This androcephalous bird appears also in Greek and Romanesque art, and always in this same sense . But the idea of the soul as a bird the reverse of the symbolic notion does not of itself imply that the soul is good. Hence the passage in Revelation (xvii, 2) describing Babylon as 'the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird'. According to Loeffler, the bird, like the fish, was originally a phallic symbol, endowed however with the power of heightening suggesting sublimation and spiritualization. In fairy stories there are many birds which talk and sing, symbolizing amorous yearning (and cognate with arrows and breezes). The bird may also stand for the metamorphosis of a lover. Loeffler adds that birds are universally recognized as intelligent collaborators with man in myths and folktales, and that they are derived from the great bird-demiurges of the primitives bearers of celestial messages and creators of the nether world; this explains the further significance of birds as messengers .
The particular colour of a bird is a factor which determines its secondary symbolisms. The blue bird is regarded by Bachelard as 'the outcome of aerial motion', that is, as a pure association of ideas; but in our view, although this may well have been its origin, its ultimate aim is something quite different to provide a symbol of the impossible (like the blue rose). In alchemy, birds stand for forces in process of activation; here the precise sense is determined by the location of the bird: soaring skywards it expresses volatilization or sublimation, and swooping earthwards it expresses precipitation and condensation; these two symbolic movements joined to form a single figure are expressive of distillation. Winged beings contrasted with others that are wingless constitute a symbol of air, of the volatile principle as opposed to the fixed. Nevertheless, as Diel has pointed out, birds, and particularly flocks of birds for multiplicity is ever a sign of the negative may take on evil implications; for example, swarms of insects symbolize forces in process of dissolution forces which are teeming, restless, indeterminate, shattered. Thus, birds, in the Hercules legend, rising up from, the lake Stymphalus (which stands for the stagnation of the soul and the paralysis of the spirit) denote manifold wicked desires .
The 'giant bird' is always symbolic of a creative deity. The Hindus of Vedic times used to depict the sun in the form of a huge bird an eagle or a swan. Germanic tradition affords further examples of a solar bird. It is also symbolic of storms; in Scandinavian mythology there are references to a gigantic bird called Hraesvelg
(or Hraesveglur), which is supposed to create the wind by berating its wings . In North America, the supreme Being is (often equated with the mythic personification of lightning and thumder as a great bird . The bird has a formidable antagonist irn the snake or serpent. According to Zimmer, it is only in the WestF that this carries a moral implication; in India, the natural elerments only are contrasted the solar force as opposed to the fluid ernergy of the terrestrial oceans. The name of this solar bird is Garruda, the 'slayer of the sagas or serpents' .
Birds are very frequently used to symbolize human Souls, some of the earliest examples being found in the art of antcient Egypt. Sometimes, they are depicted with human heads, alS in Hellenic iconography. In the Mirach it is written that, When Mohammed went to heaven, he found, standing in the middle of a great square, the Tree of Life whose fruit restores youth tzo all those who eat of it. This Tree of Life is surrounded by groves and avenues of leafy trees on whose boughs perch many birds, brillig3ntly coloured and singing melodiously: these are the souls of the faithful. The souls of evildoers, on the other hand, are incarnated in birds of prey . Generally speaking, birds, like angels, are symbo]ls of thought, of imagination and of the swiftness of spiritual processes and relationships. They pertain to the Element of air and, as nloted in connexion with the eagle, they denote 'height' and zconsequently 'loftiness' of spirit. This general symbolism has sc)metimes been narrowed down excessively to the particular, as often happens in traditional symbolism. Thus, Odo of Tusculum, in his sermon XCII, describes different kinds of spirituality in men in terms of the characteristics of different kinds of birds. Some birds, he says, are guileless, such as the dove; others, cunning like the partridge; some come to the hand, like the hawk, others flee frorn it, like the hen; some enjoy the company of men, like the swallow; others prefer solitude and the desert, like the turtle-dove.... Low-flying birds symbolize an earth-bound attitude; high-flying birds, spiritual longing .
This, like the great majority of symbols, has a double meaning embracing both the mystic and the psychological planes. On the mystic level, the bite, or, rather, teeth-marks, are equivalent to the imprint or the seal of the spirit upon the flesh (since the teeth are the fortress-walls of the 'inner' or spiritual man). on the psychological level, and especially where animal-bites are concerned, it is symbolic, according to Jung, of the sudden and dangerous action of the instincts upon the psyche.
on some cultural levels, the position of blacksmith is considered to be held under the king's prerogative, and to be sacred . There is a close connexion between metallurgy and alchemy: According to Alleau, the blacksmith is equivalent to the accursed poet and the despised prophet. In the Rigveda, the creator of the world is a blacksmith (31); this may be accounted for by the associated symbolism of fire, but also by the fact that iron is associated with the astral world the first iron known to man was meteoric and with the planet Mars.
From the standpoint of the chromatic or biological order, blood, since it corresponds to the colour red, represents the end of a series which begins with sunlight and the colour yellow, the intermediate stage being the colour green and vegetable life. The development from yellow to green and red appears in relation with a corresponding increase of iron. In cases of relationships as close as that between blood and the colour red, it is evident that both are reciprocally expressive: the passionate quality characteristic of red pervades the symbolism of blood, and the vital character of blood informs the significance of the colour red. In- spilt blood we have a perfect symbol of sacrifice. All liquid substances (milk, honey and wine, that is to say) which were offered up in antiquity to the dead, to spirits and to gods, were images of blood, the most precious offering of all. Sacrificial blood was obtained from the sheep, the hog and the bull in classical times, and from human sacrifice among Asians, Africans and aboriginal Americans (as well as among the Europeans in prehistoric days).
The Arabic saying, 'Blood has flowed, the danger is past', expresses succinctly the central idea of all sacrifice: that the offering appeases the powers and wards off the most severe chastisements which might otherwise befall. The driving-force behind the mechanism of sacrifice, the most characteristic of the symbolic inferences of blood, is the zodiacal symbol of Libra, representing divine legality, the inner conscience of man with its ability to inflict terrible self-chastisement. Wounds, by association, and for the same reason, have a similar function. Similarly with the colour red when its use appears irrational when it mysteriously invades the object: for example, in alchemy, when matter passes from the white stage (albedo) to the red (rubedo); or the legendary 'red knight' who expresses the ever-passionate state of him who has mastered steed and monster. The Parsifal of Chrétien de Troyes is a red knight, wreathed in a pattern of images of such beauty and richness that we will quote the whole of the passage: 'A slab of red marble is floating on the water with a sword plunged into it. The knight who proves able to withdraw it will be a descendant of king David.
He is clad in a coat of red silk and the aged man accompanying him hands him a cloak of scarlet lined with white ermine.... Parsifal meets a knight whose red armour turns all eyes that regard it red. His axe is red, his shield and his lance are redder than fire. In his hand he holds a cup of gold, his skin is white and his hair red.' Levi, in his penetrating study of this symbol, quotes the following phrase: 'He was clothed in garments stained with blood,' for he had come through war and sacrifice. of great interest, too, heightened by his discussion of the etymological sources, is the quotation supplied by Pinedo; the passage is taken from the commentary upon Isaiah lxiii, 1-2 ('Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? . . . Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel?'). Pinedo comments: 'Edom and Bozrah its capital stand for all the nations of the Gentiles. The word Edom means "red" and Bozrah means "winepress", which explains why the Holy Fathers say that he who comes "red" from the "wine-press" is none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ, for, according to them, this is the question which the angels put to him on the day of his triumphal ascension.'
The symbolic significance of the boar, as of most other animals, is ambivalent. On the one hand it occurs as a symbol of intrepidness, and of the irrational urge towards suicide. on the other hand it stands for licentiousness. One of Vishnu's incarnations was in the form of a boar. In Babylonia and other Semitic cultures it was regarded as a sacred animal. In Celtic and Gallic legends there is always a note of distinction and positiveness about it . As a hostile force the boar ranks higher than the dragon or primordial monster, but below the lion.
In the most general sense, a 'vehicle'. Bachelard notes that there are a great many references in literature testifying that the boat is the cradle rediscovered (and the mother's womb). There is also a connexion between the boat and the human body.
Body For Gichtel,
it is 'the seat of insatiable appetite, of illness and death'. In Mithraic thought (according to Evola) the soul, in order to free itself from the body, must cross seven spheres.
(or Latch) In Egyptian hieroglyphics, this sign represents the link securing the two halves of a double-door, symbolizing by analogy the will to resist any possibility of change .
A symbol of life as seen in the character of a seed The Hebrew word 1uz stands for the mandorla, embracing both the tree and its inner, hidden and inviolable heart. But according to Jewish tradition, it also refers to an indestructible, corporeal partide, represented by a piece of very hard bone; it is, then, symbolic of the belief in resurrection, and is comparable with the symbol of the chrysalis from which the butterfly emerges .
A book is one of the eight Chinese common emblems, symbolizing the power to ward off evil spirits . The book 'written inside and out' is an allegory of the esoteric and exoteric, cognate with the double-edged sword projecting from the mouth . Broadly speaking, the book is related as Guénon has suggested to the symbolism of weaving. The doctrine of Mohiddin ibn Arabi in this respect may be summarized as follows: 'The universe is an immense book; the characters of this book are written, in principle, with the same ink and transcribed on to the eternal tablet by the divine pen . . . and hence the essential divine phenomena hidden in the "secret of secrets" took the name of "transcendent letters". And these very transcendent letters, or, in other words, all things created, after having been virtually crystallized within divine omniscience, were brought down to lower levels by the divine breath, where they gave birth to the manifest world.'
According to Bayley, the bottle is one of the symbols of salvation , probably because of the analogy (of function rather than of shape) with the ark and the boat.
Shiva's bow is, like the lingam, the emblem of the god's power . Basic to this symbolism is the concept of 'tension', clearly defined by Heraclitus and closely related to the life-force and to spiritual force. Benoist remarks that the bow and arrow, as attributes of Apollo, stand for the sun's energy, its rays and its fertilizing and purifying powers . The symbolism of the crossbow is similar, but more complex, including, as it does, the 'conjunction' of the bow and its stock.
Like the tower, the well and the door, it is a common emblem of the Virgin Mary. That powerful painter of female nature, John of Flanders (15th-16th centuries), frequently brings these themes to bear upon his works. Generally speaking, the bower is a feminine symbol .
Like all receptacles whose basic use is keeping or containing, the box is a feminine symbol which can refer both to the unconscious and to the maternal body itself. we do not here refer to spherical objects, which are symbols of Oneness and of the spiritual principle. The myth of 'Pandora's box' appears to allude to the significance of the unconscious, particularly in the special sense of its unexpected, excessive, destructive potentialities. Diet relates this symbol to 'imaginative exaltation'. In addition, we would like to point out the analogy the family resemblance between Pandora's box and the 'third casket' which figures in so many legends. The first and second contain goods and riches; the third discharges storms, devastation, death. This is clearly an example of a symbol of human life (of the cycle of the year), which is divided into three stages, consisting of two favourable thirds and one adverse. A superb elaboration upon the Pandora theme is to be found in Dora and Erwin Panofsky's Pandora's Box (London, 1956). Particularly interesting is the authors' study of the literary heritage of a myth, and the ways in which it may be adapted to serve the visual arts.
A symbol of virginal purity consumed in its own flame . The Biblical burning bush, on the other hand, is symbolically related to the myth of Semele.
When bearing blooms or fruit, it has the same significance as the garland. In the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs it means 'to give way' or 'bend' .
or Marking The mark, especially when it takes the form of a painting or decoration (insignia) upon the body, is, like the seal, the sign or the signal, cognate with tattooing. Such brands may also have an incidental meaning occasioned by a particular circumstance (mourning, an initiation rite, etc.). But their deepest significance is connected with the symbolism of scars as the marks 'of the teeth of the spirit'. A brand is a distinguishing mark and this is the original and predominating idea of each and every mark. The individual who wishes to 'belong' accepts the distinctive mark of the group he seeks to belong to; or if he wishes to express his own individuality, he can do so by means of determinative, unrevealed signs. Artistic or spiritual creation of any kind, the development of the personality, the mask, idiosyncrasies of dress or behaviour, are all derived from the essence of marksymbolism.
Symbolically, to breathe is to assimilate spiritual power. Yoga exercises place particular emphasis upon breathing since it enables man to absorb not only air but also the light of the sun. Concerning solar light, the alchemists had this to say: 'It is a fiery substance, a continuous emanation of solar corpuscles which owing to the movement of the sun and the astral bodies, is in a perpetual state of flux and change, filling all the universe.... We breathe this astral gold continuously.' The two movements positive and negative of breathing are connected with the circulation of the blood and with the important symbolic paths of involution and evolution . Difficulty in breathing may therefore symbolize difficulty in~assimilating the principles of the spirit and of the cosmos. The 'proper rhythm' of Yoga-breathing is associated with the 'proper voice' demanded by the Egyptians for the ritual reading of the sacred texts. Both are founded upon imitation of the rhythms of the universe.
According to Guénon, the Roman pontifex was literally a 'builder of bridges', that is, of that which bridges two separate worlds. St. Bernard has said that the Roman Pontiff, as the etymology of his name suggests, is a kind of bridge between God and Man (Eractatus de Moribus et Officio Episcoporum, III, 9). For this reason, the rainbow is a natural symbol of the pontificate. For the Israelites, it was the sign of the Covenant between the CreatOr and his people, and, in China, the sign denoting the union of heaven and earth. For the Greeks, it was Iris, a messenger of the gods. And there are a great many cultures where the bridge symbolizes the link between what can be perceived and what is beyond perception . Even when it lacks this mystic sense, the bridge is always symbolic of a transition from one state to another of change or the desire for change.
A monster, half-man and half-ox or bull. In some monuments Hercules is shown fighting a bucentaur or smothering it in his arms. Like the centaur, this mythic animal is symbolic of the essential duality of man, but, in this case, stressing the baser or animal part. Hercules' struggle with the bucentaur is the archetype of all mythic combat: Theseus and the Minotaur, Siegfried and the dragon, etc.
The buckle implies self-defence and protection, like the fibula on the one hand (which is the shield reduced to its minimal form), and the belt on the other . To undo one's belt is symbolically the same as 'letting one's hair down'.
A decorative motif deriving from the appearance of the remains of the head of the bull or ox, after it had been sacrificed by fire in ancient ritual.
The bull is associated with the symbolism of Taurus (q.v.). It is a highly complex symbol, both from the historical and psychological point of view. In esoteric tradition it is an emblem used by the Hyperboreans as a totem against the dragon of the Negroes, and is equated with the god Thor, the son of heaven and of woodland . In principle, this emblematic use symbolizes the superiority of the mammal over the reptile, or of the Aryan over the Negro. The basic dilemma lies between the interpretation of the bull as a symbol of the earth, of the mother, and of the 'wetness' principle' (11); and the view that it represents heaven and the father. Mithraic ritual seems to have been founded on the former: the sacrifice of the bull was expressive of the penetration of the feminine principle by the masculine, of the humid by the igniferous (the rays of the sun, the origin and cause of all fecundity).
Krappe, investigating these paradoxes, has pointed to the fact that the bull is the commonest tame animal of the Near East and relates this to the fact that bulls are depicted as lunar as often as solar (that is, they may be subject to either one or the other of the opposed principles we have just outlined). Sin was a Mesopotamian lunar god and he often took the form of a bull; Osiris, also a lunar god, was supposedly represented by the bull Apis. On the other hand, the Vedic god Surya is a solar bull. According to the Assyrians, the bull was born of the sun. Krappe explains this disparity not as an internal contradiction but as a consequence of the way in which the lunar and the solar cults succeed one another. The lunar bull becomes solar when the solar cult supplants the more ancient cult of the moon . But it may well be that the bull is first and foremost a lunar symbol because it is equated with the moon morphologically by virtue of the resemblance of the horns of the crescent moon, while it must take second place to the solar symbol of the lion. This is the view expressed by Eliade, for example, who suggests that the bull does not represent any of the astral bodies but rather the fecundating sky and that, from the year 2400 B.C. onwards, both the bull and the thunderbolt were symbols connected with the atmospheric deities, the bull's bellow being associated with the rolling of thunder. In all palaeo-oriental cultures, it was the bull which expressed the idea of power.
In Accadian, 'to break the horn' signified 'to overpower' . According to Frobenius, the black bull is linked with the lower heaven, that is, with death. This belief prevailed in India; and in lands as remote as Java and Bali which fell under the influence of Indian culture, it was the custom to burn the bodies of princes in coffins shaped like bulls. There are Egyptian paintings of a black bull bearing the corpse of Osiris on its back . This interpretation is supported by Schneider's observation that, in so far as the bull corresponds to the intermediary zone between the Elements of Fire and Water, it seems to symbolize the communicating link between heaven and earth, a significance which could also apply to the bull of the royal tombs of Ur, which has a head of gold (representing fire) and a jowl of lapis lazuli (water). The ox symbolizes sacrifice, self-denial and chastity, and is also found in association with agricultural cults ; it is, in other words, the symbolic antithesis of the bull, with its fecundating powers. If we accept that the bull is Uranian in implication, however, then the contradiction is resolved and the bull may be linked with the active, masculine principle, although only in so far as its maternal aspect has been superseded supplanted, that is, by the son (the Sun or the lion). This, at least, is what Jung has suggested, together with the idea that the bull, like the he-goat, is a symbol for the father .
In Christian art, a bunch or cluster always symbolizes Christ and sacrifice. So, in the book of Numbers (xiii, 23), one reads: 'and (they) cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes' .
Among the ancients, an emblem of the soul and of unconscious attraction towards the light . The purification of the soul by fire, represented in Romanesque art by the burning ember placed by the angel in the prophet's mouth, is visually portrayed on a small Mattei urn by means of an image of love holding a butterfly close to a flame . The Angel of Death was represented by the Gnostics as a winged foot crushing a butterfly, from which we may deduce that the butterfly was equated with life rather than with the soul in the sense of the spirit or transcendent being . This also explains why psychoanalysis regards the butterfly as a symbol of rebirth In China, it has the secondary meanings of joy and conjugal bass