Symbols are visual keys that a people with a common heritage uses to communicate.
Important iconic symbols have become popular in many human groups across the globe. These symbols were designed to communicate and remind viewers of concepts in their world. Sometimes, they serve as roadsigns or maps for the viewer. Symbols have had a deep impact on human psychology and spiritual life, relaying the intuitive wisdom of the ancients.
In Africa, where there are records of old human communities, there are many tribal families that use symbols to tell stories and provide information and reminders. These symbols are considered sacred, and were primarily used in ceremonial and religious contexts.
Come along as we explore some of these symbols and what they mean.
An important symbol in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics is the ankh. The ankh combines the symbols of Osiris (the T cross) and Isis (the oval) to symbolize immortality. The story says Osiris and Isis, a brother and sister respectively were the two earliest god and goddess in ancient Egyptian tradition. Isis was said to be the first ancient Egyptian goddess to appear in surviving East African cultural history. She represents the divine mother and protector.
2- Winged-sun disk:
This Nile Valley symbol is the sun disk and the pyramid. The winged-sun disk symbol represents the sun god Ra. Ra is said to rule the sun and the skies, as the creator of the world.
The pharaohs (kings) honored Ra as sons (suns) in their iconography. Ra is said to have resided in Heliopolis, an ancient Egyptian city. The ancient Egyptians used the pyramids for initiations into the mystery schools and home for those who transcends to the world beyond. It symbolizes the highest level of spiritual attainment, an ascent of the hierarchy of enlightenment.
3- Adinkra stamps:
Used frequently by pre-colonial Ghanaian people, the Adinkra stamps which were made from gourds were used to convey important concepts and are embeded in jewelry designs. It represents resourcefulness so, anyone who wears the symbol suggests that he has mastered businesses and have employees.
4- Akoko Nan (the hen’s leg):
The symbol represents parental protection and nurturing. The related proverb says “the hen treads on her chicks but she does not kill them” showing the protective nature of parents for their offspring. The symbol is formed to look like a he’s leg.
5- Denkyem (the crocodile):
This symbol represents adaptability .
Just like the crocodile who lives in the water, and yet breathes air, this ancient symbol is an example of adaptation of to two different environments.
This symbol is a stylized wooden comb that was used by the Akan woman to straighten or plait her hair. It’s design symbolizes the desirable feminine traits such as beauty and good hygiene as well as the abstract virtues such as goodness of nature, love, tenderness and consideration.
7-Osrane Ne Nsoroma:
The Osrane Ne Nsoroma symbolizes the moon and the star. It simply tells the story of the North Star (that is a female) waiting patiently for the return of the Moon, her male partner. Osrane Ne Nsoroma is a symbol of love, faithfulness, commitment, and patience. It signifies the harmonious bonding between man and woman.
This symbol was carried about on any woman (either printed on a fabric, or used as jewelry), whose husband went to war or on a journey and is being expected back.
With these symbols and their meanings, we now have a better knowledge of some of these symbols we see -some everyday, others rarely.
When next you see a symbol, go right ahead and ask for the meaning. It will help you understand the people better.
What ancient symbols do you have in your local community, please share the pictures and meanings with us in the comment section.