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Fairies .
Fairies probably symbolize the supra-normal powers of the human soul, at least in the forms in which they appear in esoteric works. Their nature is contradictory: they fulfil humble tasks, yet possess extraordinary powers. They bestow gifts upon the newly born; they can cause people, palaces and wonderful things to appear out of thin air; they dispense riches (as a symbol of wisdom). Their powers, however, are not simply magical, but are rather the sudden revelation of latent possibilities. Because of this, it has been possible to link the legendary 'forgotten fairy' with the Freudian 'frustrated act'. In a more traditional sense, fairies are, objectively, spinners of thread like the Parcae; they also appear as washerwomen. They have been variously called: White Ladies, Green Ladies, Black Ladies; these are terms which tie up with the epithets applied to mediaeval knights and for the same reason. Fairies are, in short, personifications of stages in the development in the spiritual life or in the 'soul' of landscapes. Thus, in Mesopotamia, they take the form of the Lady of the Plains, the Lady of the Fountain and the Lady of the Water (or Damgalnunna). They are prone to sudden and complete transformations, and they bear a certain resemblance to other mystic beings such as sirens and lamias (in their evil aspects).
Fall, .
The The Fall signifies the incarnation of the spirit. 'Man', observes Jakob Böhme, in De signatura, 'died, in so far as he was purely divine essence, because his inner desires, bursting out from the inner fiery centre . . . tended towards external and temporary birth.' Thus (in Evola's transcription), the divine essence or 'inner corporeity' (which nevertheless persists within Man) suffers physical 'death'.
Fan .
Its symbolic significance depends on the shape and size. IsThe large flabellate fan is related to air and wind, and is the emblem iof Chung-li Chuan, the first of the Eight Chinese Immortals, who is 0said to have used it to revive the spirits of the dead . A fan of this type is usually heart-shaped, and is sometimes decorated with feathers. The feathers stress the association with aerial and celestial symbolism as a whole. It is an attribute of rank among several Asian and African peoples, and is still so used with a cosmic significance —by the Pope . The characteristic Western fan is of the folding type, and hence associated with the phases of the moon, so that its symbolism relates to imagination, change and femininity. The changing pattern of phenomena, as shown in the rhythm of moon-phases (non-being, appearance, increase, full being, decrease), is expressed in terms of erotic, allegorical fan-language. So is the Heraclitean conception of perpetual flux. A fan is used in this latter sense by Max Ernst in one of his paintings.
Farmer .
Among basic occupations, farming has a very special significance, not only because its activities take place in the sacred world of seeds, buds, flowers and fruits, but also because it follows the cosmic order as illustrated in the calendar. Cyclic sequences of terrestrial events following the pattern of celestial motions express a correlation which is fundamental to astrobiological thought. The farmer is therefore the guardian of agricultural rites, seeing out the 'old year' and seeing in the 'new'. In spiritual terms, this means that the farmer appears as the catalyst of the forces of regeneration and salvation, forces which join every beginning to every end, forging links which bind time together, as well as the successive seasons and renascent vegetation. Farming was essential not only for the development of primitive economy but also for the emergence of a cosmic consciousness in Man. Mircea Eliade puts it most aptly:
'What Man saw in the grain, what he learnt in dealing with it, what he was taught by the example of seeds changing their form when they are in the ground, that was the decisive lesson. . . One of the main roots of soteriological optimism was the belief of prehistoric, agricultural mysticism that the dead, like seeds underground, can expect to return to life in a different form.'
See Agriculture.
Father .
The father-image, closely linked with the symbolism of the masculine principle, corresponds to consciousness as opposed to the maternal implications of the unconscious. The symbolic representation of the father is based upon the Elements of air and fire, and also heaven, light, thunderbolts and weapons . Just as heroism is a spiritual activity proper to the son, so dominion is the power peculiar to the father . Because of this, and also because he stands for the force of tradition , he represents the world of moral commandments and prohibitions restraining the forces of the instincts and subversion.
Feather .
Whether singular or in groups, the feather symbolizes the wind and the creator-gods of the Egyptian pantheon: Ptah, Hathor, Osiris and Amon . Feathers correspond to the Element of air to the realm of the birds . And, for the same reason, cultures in which aerial myths predominate, such as those of the American aborigines, make use of feathers as an essential feature of their personal adornment. The feather head-dress of the Indian chief closely relates him to the demiurgic bird. As a determinative sign in the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs, the feather enters into the composition of such words as 'emptiness', 'dryness', 'lightness', 'height', 'flight' . According to St. Gregory, feathers symbolize faith and contemplation, and the quill denotes the Word . The Egyptian sign for the quill signifies 'delineator of all things' , though it may be that this sign really represents a cane-leaf; however, the meaning turns upon the function rather than the material.
Fecundity .
In allegories, fecundity is usually represented by the poppy plant, because of its prodigious number of seeds; but it is also symbolized by a grain of barley, and by the bull, the hare and the rabbit.
Fertility .
Symbols of fertility are: water, seeds, phallic shapes. Granet recounts that, in China, the conjugal bed used to be placed in the darkest corner of the room, where the seeds were kept and above the spot where the dead were buried. Eliade maintains that the respective rites pertaining to forebears, harvests and the erotic life are so closely related to each other that it is impossible to distinguish between them . In Indian ritual, grains of rice serve to represent the seed of fertility .
Fibula .
The fibula or clasp is a minimal form of shield, and, like the belt, a symbol of virginity. In this sense it has found its way into many legends, especially in the Kalevala .
In the widest sense, they signify spaciousness or limitless potentialities. Into this category come the Uranian gods such as Mithras, called 'the Lord of the Plains'. As lord of the sky, he has the task of conducting souls on their return to heaven , like other psychopomps such as Mercury.
Fight .
All combats are the expression of a conflict of some sort. A great many fights, dances and simulacra are rites, or the vestiges of rites, which express situations of conflict. In Sweden, according to Eliade, combats are enacted on horseback by two sets of riders personifying winter and summer. Usener ascribed a similar meaning to the combat between Xanthos and Melanthos the fair one and the dark one. On the other hand, the struggle may correspond to the primordial, cosmogonic sacrifice, such as the sacrifice of Tiamat (or Tiawath) by Marduk. Struggles between the gods of vegetation and of drought (such as Osiris and Set) or between good and evil (Ahura mazda and Ahriman or Angramainyu, for example) modify the plane of conflict accordingly. Broadly speaking, the struggle is that of generation or involves antithetically opposed elements . For our part, we would suggest that the combats of Roman gladiators reflected an ancestral, mythic and symbolic background with the retiarius (or net-fighter) as the counterpart of Neptune and Pisces (symbolic of the celestial ocean, and the all-embracing god armed with the trident, as a sign of triple power, and with the net); likewise, the mirmillo was Cancer (the sun, or the son armed with a sword).
Figures .
The representational shape of figures is always of a piece with the object, or being, to which they allude. Symbolically speaking, a cock is the same thing as its figure whether painted, engraved or sculpted. When the figure is that of a living being, this being provides the predominant sense, although secondary meanings may be derived from the colour, the form, etc. When the figures are geometric, or when they represent architectural Messes, it is again the symbolism of form which comes into play. Schematic figures marks, signs, tattoos, engravings, prehistoric or primitive inscriptions, magic alphabets, etc are all related to graphic symbolism, which is founded in the main upon space, number and geometric form. Given the analogy, the possible similarity or inner connexion between Man's works and those of his Creator, invented figures cultural symbols or instruments are always related to the natural figures which resemble them. Symbolic or mythic ideas which reveal some influence, resemblance or reminiscence of a natural form or figure, acquire thereby powerful symbolic implications. So, for example, the head of Medusa and the octopus; the swastika and the starfish; the double-bladed axe and the hawk in flight.
Fire .
The Chinese, in their solar rites, utilize a tablet of red jade, which they call Chang; it symbolizes the Element of fire . In Egyptian hieroglyphics, fire is also related to the solar-symbolism of the flame, and associated in particular with the concepts of life and health (deriving from the idea of body-heat). It is also allied with the concept of superiority and control , showing that the symbol had by this time developed into an expression of spiritual energy. The alchemists retained in particular the Heraclitean notion of fire as 'the agent of transmutation', since all things derive from, and return to, fire. It is the seed which is reproduced in each successive life (and is thereby linked with the libido and fecundity) .
In this sense as a mediator between forms which vanish and forms in creation, fire is, like water, a symbol of transformation and regeneration. For most primitives, fire was a demiurge emanating from the sun, whose earthly representative it was; hence it is related on the one hand with the ray of light and the lightning , and, on the other, with gold. Frazer lists many rites in which torches, bonfires, burning embers and even ashes are considered capable of stimulating the growth of the cornfields and the well-being of man and of animals. However, anthropological research has furnished two explanations of the fire-festival (as it persists today in the Valencian bonfires on the night of St. John, fireworks and the illuminated Christmas tree): on the one hand, there is the opinion of Wilhelm Mannhardt, to the effect that it is imitative magic purporting to assure the supply of light and heat from the sun, and, on the other, the view of Eugene Mogk and Edward Westermarck that it has as its aim the purification or destruction of the forces of evil ; however, these two hypotheses are not opposing but complementary.
The triumphant power and the vitality of the sun—by analogy, the spirit of the shining Origin is tantamount to victory over the power of evil (the forces of darkness); purification is the necessary sacrificial means of achieving the sun's triumph. Marius Schneider, however, distinguishes between two kinds of`fire, depending upon their direction (or their function): fire as in the axis fire-earth (representing eroticism, solar heat and physical energy), and fire of the axis fire-air (linked with mysticism, purification or sublimation, and spiritual energy). There is an exact parallel here with the ambivalent symbolism of the sword (denoting both physical destruction and determination of spirit). Fire, in consequence, is an image of energy which may be found at the level of animal passion as well as on the plane of spiritual strength .
The Heraclitean idea of fire as the agent of destruction and regeneration is reproduced in the Indian Puranas and in the Apocalypse . Gaston Bachelard recalls the alchemists' concept of fire as 'an Element which operates in the centre of all things', as a unifying and stabilizing factor. Paracelsus demonstrated the parallel between fire and life, pointing out that both must feed upon other lives in order to keep alive. To steal fire like Prometheus, or to give oneself up to fire like Empedocles, are two concepts which point to the basic dualism of the human predicament. The middle way lies in the comfortable solution of simply making material use of the benefits of fire. But fire is ultra-life. It embraces both good (vital heat) and bad (destruction and conflagration). It implies the desire to annihilate time and to bring all things to their end. Fire is the archetypal image of phenomena in themselves .,
in broad terms, the fish is a psychic being, or a 'penetrative motion' endowed with a 'heightening' power concerning base matters that is, in the unconscious. Because of the close symbolic relationship between the sea and the Magna Mater, some peoples have held the fish to be sacred. There were some Asiatic rites that embraced fish-worship, and priests were forbidden to eat it. As Jung has pointed out, the son of Atargatis (Ashtart or Astarte) was named Ichthys . Schneider notes that the fish is the mystic Ship of Life, sometimes a whale, sometimes a bird, and at other times simply a fish or a flying fish, 'but at all times it is the spindle spinning out the cycle of life after the pattern of the lunar zodiac'.
That is to say, the fish incorporates a variety of meanings, reflecting the many essential facets of its nature. Schneider also mentions that for some people the fish has a phallic meaning, whereas for others it has a purely spiritual symbolism. In essence, the character of the fish is twofold: by reason of its bobbin-like shape, it becomes a kind of 'bird of the nether regions', symbolic of sacrifice and of the relationship between heaven and earth. On the other hand, by virtue of the extraordinary number of its eggs, it becomes a symbol of fecundity, imparting a certain spiritual sense. In this last sense it is found among the Babylonians, the Phoenicians, the Assyrians and the Chinese. There are some fish that have a secondary significance because of their peculiar characteristics: for instance, the sword-fish is associated with the unicorn . The Chaldaic peoples used to portray the figure of a fish with the head of a swallow, as a harbinger of cyclic/regeneration, an idea directly related to the symbolism of Pisces, the last sign of the Zodiac (40) b (Plate IX).
Fish, Cosmic .
Like the whale and the primordial monster, the cosmic fish symbolizes the whole of the formal, physical universe. The most striking example of this symbol is afforded by the splendid Scythian fish, made of gold, which was part of the Vettersfelde treasure, and which is now in the Museum of Berlin. The cosmic fish can take two different but complementary symbolic forms: The first and more frequent is simply narrative and spatial, for on the upper part of its body, above a heavily marked horizontal line, are four beings of the 'superior stage'mammals (apparently they are a stag, a horse, a boar and a leopard). Below this line are beings of the 'lower stage'those of the deeps (fishes and sirens). The second symbolic aspect is the product of morphological collation, based upon paraidolias: so, for instance, the two branches of the tail, reminiscent of two necks, constitute two sheep's heads, while in the middle of the tail there is an eagle spreading out its wings to form an analogous shape. Its eye comes to resemble an octopus, as much in its shape as in the implied comparison between the 'grasping' tentacles and the potentiality for 'grasping' objects apparent in its gaze. This golden fish, then, is a symbol of the progress of the world across the sea of 'unformed' realities (or of worlds dissolved or yet unformed, or of the primordial seas).
'The path of the Grail was marked by a number of miracles; one of the brothers was called Brous and was also known as "the rich fisherman" because he had succeeded in catching a fish with which he had satisfied the hunger of all round him. Peter is called "the fisher of men" and the fish becomes a symbol of Christ.' This fragment of legend, taken from Waldemar Vedel, affords a clear explanation of the mystic sense of fishing and the fisherman, a sense which has been corroborated by all students of mythology and anthropology, Schneider among them. Fishing amounts to extracting the unconscious elements from deep-lying sources the 'elusive treasure' of legend, or, in other words, wisdom. To fish for souls is quite simply a matter of knowing how to fish in the soul. The fish is a mystic and psychic animal that lives in water (and water is symbolic of dissolution and, at the same time, of renovation and regeneration). The fisherman is able like the doctor to work upon the very sources of life because of his knowledge of these founts. This is how it comes about that Parsifal meets the King of the Grail as a fisherman.
Historically speaking, the flag or banner derives from totemistic insignia as found in Egypt and, indeed, in most countries. The Persians carried gilded eagles with outstretched wings on top of long poles; the Medes, three crowns; the Parthians, a swordblade; the Greeks and Romans had signal standards and banners. The important point about all these symbols is not the kind of figure used, but the fact that it is always placed at the top of a pole or mast. This raised position is expressive of a kind of imperious exaltation, or the will to 'heighten' the spiritual significance of the figure or animal by raising it above the normal level. From this is derived the general symbolism of the banner as a sign of victory and selfassertion.
Flame .
There are certain significant points of contact between the flame and light. For Bachelard, the flame symbolizes transcendence itself , whereas light signifies the effect of the transcendental upon the environment. He adds that 'The alchemist attributed the value of gold to the fact of its being a receptacle for the Element of fire (the sun); the quintessence of gold is fire. The Greeks represented the spirit as a gust of incandescent air.'
Fleur-de-lis .
An heraldic flower, non-existent in nature, which has been a symbol of royalty from the earliest times . As an emblem, its base is an inverted triangle representing water; above it is a cross (expressing 'Conjunction' and spiritual achievement), with two additional and symmetrical leaves wrapped round the horizontal arm; the central arm is straight and reaches up heavenwards, the symbolism being self-evident. During the Middle Ages the lis was regarded as an emblem of illumination and as an attribute of the Lord .
Flight .
The symbolism of flight comprises a variety of elements. The most basic derives from the pleasurable sensation of movement of active spirituality) and a gold belt adorned with twelve plaques alluding to the Zodiac. This Tarot enigma corresponds, in short, to the irrational, the active instinct capable of sublimation, but related at the same time to blind impulse and the unconscious . For Schneider, the mythic and legendary Fool is closely related to the clown. In their medicinal ceremonies and rites, doctor and patient 'act mad', and, through frenzied dancing and 'extravagances', they try to invert the prevailing evil order. The logic of the process is clear enough: when the normal or conscious appears to become infirm or perverted, in order to regain health and goodness it becomes necessary to turn to the dangerous, the unconscious and the abnormal . Further, the Fool and the clown, as Frazer has pointed out, play the part of 'scapegoats' in the ritual sacrifice of humans.
In all probability, the foot is to be taken as an ambivalent symbol. For Jung, it is what confirms Man's direct relationship with the reality of the earth, and he considers that it is frequently phallic in significance . Ania Teillard points out that, like the hand, it is an essential part of the body and the support of one's entire person; she recalls that in the mythology of a number of countries the rays of the sun are compared with the feet, as witness the figure of the swastika . But Diel makes the revolutionary assertion that the foot is a symbol of the soul, possibly because it serves as the support of the body in the sense of keeping man upright. He quotes examples which show that, in Greek legends, lameness usually symbolizes some defect of the spirit some essential blemish. Jung corroborates this, observing that Hephaestus, Wieland the Blacksmith and Mani all had deformed feet . May it not be that certain talents are given to men to compensate for some physical defect? Schneider has indicated the heel as the 'area of vulnerability and of attack' in the foot. It is the heel that scotches the serpent or that is wounded by it (as with Achilles, Sigurd, Krishna). According to Aigremont, 'the shoe, like the foot and the footprint, has also a funereal implication. In a sense, a dying man "is going away". There is no evidence of his going away save his last footmarks. This sombre symbolism is illustrated, possibly, in the monuments characteristic of the Roman Empire, and, beyond question, in primitive Christian art....' (And also, we might add, in Gothic art. The passage is quoted by Stekel.)
A sign of liberty amongst the ancients, since slaves walked barefoot . Its symbolic meaning is linked with that of the foot, from which it acquires its general symbolic characteristics. Given the triple symbolism of the foot
(1) phallic according to the Freudians,
(2) symbolic of the soul according to Diel, and
(3) signifying, in our opinion, the relationship as well as the point of contact between the body and the earth it follows that footwear partakes of all three potentialities, together with the general symbolism of level.
Ford .
This is an aspect of threshold-symbolism (q.v.), denoting the dividing-line between two states or two forms of reality, such as consciousness and unconsciousness, or waking and sleeping. Jung has drawn attention to the highly interesting fact that, in the exploits of Hiawatha, his victims are nearly always in the water or close to it. Every animal that rises out of a ford is a representation of the forces of the unconscious, like some demonic being or metamorphosed magician.
Forest .
Within the general symbolism of landscape, forests occupy a notable place, and are often found in myths, legends and folktales. Forest-symbolism is complex, but it is connected at all levels with the symbolism of the female principle or of the Great Mother. The forest is the place where vegetable life thrives and luxuriates, free from any control or cultivation. And since its foliage obscures the light of the sun, it is therefore regarded as opposed to the sun's power and as a symbol of the earth. In Druid mythology, the forest was given to the sun in marriage . Since the female principle is identified with the unconscious in Man, it follows that the forest is also a symbol of the unconscious. It is for this reason that Jung maintains that the sylvan terrors that figure so prominently in children's tales symbolize the perilous aspects of the unconscious, that is, its tendency to devour or obscure the reason . Zimmer stresses that, in contrast with the city, the house and cultivated land, which are all safe areas, the forest harbours all kinds of dangers and demons, enemies and diseases . This is why forests were among the first places in nature to be dedicated to the cult of the gods, and why propitiatory offerings were suspended from trees (the tree being, in this case, the equivalent of a sacrificial stake) .
Fossil Broadly, .
its symbolic significance corresponds to that of the stone, but, because of its ambivalent character, it embraces the concepts of time and eternity, life and death, the evolution of species, and their petrification.
Fountain .
(or Source) In the image of the terrestrial Paradise, four rivers are shown emerging from the centre, that is, from the foot of the Tree of Life itself, to branch out in the four directions of the Cardinal Points. They well up, in other words, from a common source, which therefore becomes Symbolic of the 'Centre' and of the 'Origin' in action. Tradition has ity that this fount is the cons juventutis whose waters can be equated with the 'draught of immortality' amrita in Hindu mythology). Hence it is said that water gushing forth is a symbol of the life-force of Man and of all things . For this reason, artistic iconography very frequently uses the motif of the mystic fount; it is also to be found in Mithraism a Pannonian votive inscription reads: fonti perenni . There can be no doubt that its significance as the mystic 'Centre' is confirmed and reinforced when it is portrayed in architectural plans: whether in the cloister, the garden or the patio, the fountain occupies the centre position, at least in the majority of architectural works built during periods within the symbolist tradition, as in Romanesque or Gothic edifices.
Furthermore, the four rivers of Paradise are denoted by four paths which radiate out from the region of the cloister towards a clear space, circular or octagonal in shape, which forms the basin of the fountain; this basin is usually shaped, again, like a circle or an octagon, and sometimes there is a double basin. Jung has devoted much time to the study of fountain-symbolism, specially in so far as it concerns alchemy, and, in view of how much lies behind it, he is inclined to the conclusion that it is an image of the soul as the source of inner life and of spiritual energy. He links it also with the 'land of infancy', the recipient of the precepts of the unconscious, pointing out that the need for this fount arises principally when the individual's life is inhibited and dried up . The Jungian interpretation is particularly apt when the symbol concerns a fountain centrally placed in a garden, the central area then being a representation of the Selbst or individuality. He mentions as examples: the 'fountain of life' of the Florentine Codex Spherae, and the Garden of Delight painted by Hieronymus van Aecken (Bosch). He observes that the fountain, in the enclosed garden in the Ars Symbolica of Bosch (1702), signifies strength in adversity, and that the central area may be regarded as a temenos (a hallowed area) (Plate X).
Fox .
A common symbol for the devil during the Middle Ages, expressive of base attitudes and of the wiles of the adversary.
In general, any state of matter or of form carries a literal symbolism which simply transposes to the mental, spiritual or psychic world the corresponding physical phenomenon. One can see a clear illustration here of the parallel between the two realms of the visible and the invisible. Naturally, the symbolic significance of the object is broadened in consequence. So, for example, a broken column takes its significance from the idea of fracture rather than the notion of the column as suchfsymbolically, it is the precise equivalent of the stunted tree. Charred wood, rusty iron, lichencovered rocks are repellent to people of a certain temperament while the same things are attractive to others of a romantic nature precisely because they symbolize the 'conjunction of opposites' or the interplay of positive and negative forces.
A fracture may reach the stage of absolute destruction when it becomes symbolic of spiritual ruin or death, as in the case of The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe. Giorgione, in his mysterious painting of The Storm, portrays two broken columns on a pedestal, which, according to the Freudian interpretation, would signify a critical sexual conflict. But we would rather interpret the picture as an illustration of the break-up of a unified whole (as symbolized by the number two), and this interpretation would seem to be confirmed by the fact that the man is separated spatially from the woman: he is in the left foreground of the painting in an attitude expressive of wandering, with the woman on the right, a stream flowing between them, and a flash of lightning, together with two columns, above. Thus, all physical fragmentation is symbolic of destruction and disintegration. Nevertheless, there are instances when the break-up may be positive in character in that it symbolizes a possible way of escape. The Roman Flamen Dialis was not permitted to wear knots in any part of his garments, nor any bangle that was not split. The knots and bangles, bands or necklaces would here symbolize the various kinds of bondage that the priest had to rise above (Plate XI).
Frog .
The frog represents the transition from the Element of earth to that of water, and vice versa. This connexion with natural fecundity is an attribute derived from its amphibious character , and for the same reason it is also a lunar animal; there are many legends which tell of a frog on the moon, and it figures in many rites invoking rainfall. In Egypt, it was an attribute of Herit, the goddess who assisted Isis in her ritual resurrection of Osiris. The little frogs which appeared in the Nile a few days before it overflowed its banks were, therefore, regarded as heralds of fertility . According to Blavatsky, the frog was one of the principal beings associated with the idea of creation and resurrection, not only because it was amphibious but because of its alternating periods of appearance and disappearance (phases which likewise characterise all lunar animals). Frog-gods were once placed upon mummies and the early Christians incorporated them into their symbolic system .
The toad is the antithesis of the frog, as the wasp is of the bee. Jung rounds off all this with his comment that, given its anatomy, the frog, more than any other of the cold-blooded animals, anticipates Man. And Ania Teillard recalls that in the centre of his picture of The Bemptatign of St. Anthony, Bosch places a frog, with the head of a very agezd human being, poised upon a platter held up by a Negress. Here it represents the highest stage of evolution. Hence, the frequency of the 'transformation of prince into frog' in legends and folktales.
Equivalent to the egg, in traditional symbolism, for in the centre of the fruit is the seed which represents the Origin . It is a symbol of earthly desires.