In today’s post about pagan symbols and their meanings, I’d like to take you on a fascinating journey back through history, to the world of paganism in ancient times.
Throughout human history, symbols have been an integral element of all religions. They serve to imbue meaning into every system of faith practiced by humankind.
Paganism is one of those as it had its ‘golden age’ during the pre-Christian period in history, a time when written accounts were quite uncommon and widespread publishing of books or documents was yet to arrive with the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1426. Without widespread written word, symbols were even more critical to practitioners of religious faith.
This makes it all the more necessary to have a solid grasp of symbolism in pagan religion in order to really understand the faith of the people of these times. So let’s dive in with this extensive list of pagan symbols and their meanings.
Ouroboros, the Infinity Symbol Also Known As ‘The Snake Eating Its Own Tail’
Ouroboros, more commonly known as the infinity symbol, is one of the most prominent symbols in the history of humankind that took its place in the accounts of several different cultures.
The symbol, which has originated in Greece, was adopted by many cultures in all four corners of the world, ranging from China in the Far East to the Aztecs in North America, as well as ancient Egypt, the Middle East and Europe.
One of the first depictions of Ouroboros symbol dates back to the 3rd century B.C. , to the works of Cleopatra the Alchemist (not to be confused with Cleopatra, the Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt).
Just like any famous alchemist in history, Cleopatra also aimed to discover how to produce the philosopher’s stone, the mythical substance believed to transform any base metal into gold. Her illustration regarding this work features the Ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail.
By many alchemists around the world, the ouroboros symbol has been used to represent the repetitive cycle of life comprising the phases of life, death and rebirth as well as the chemical element of Mercury.
Similar to the yin and yang symbol from the Far East, it also represents the harmony of the two opposites at times.
After being used as an alchemy symbol for centuries, the symbol was later adapted to be used as the mathematical symbol of infinity.
Symbolizing the everlasting cycle of life and death, ouroboros is also one of the most prominent symbols of rebirth and reincarnation. If you would like to read more about the rebirth symbols, please check out or article here.
Four Classic Elements As Pagan Symbols
The second item on our list of pagan symbols is air, one of ‘the four classic elements’ in alchemy.
The air element is considered to be the representation of the soul and life-giving forces in general. The symbol has been being used commonly in paganistic rituals and spiritual practices.
The alchemical air is represented by an upward triangle that has a straight line across near the top of the triangle.
Water is another classical element that has been invoked during pagan rituals and practices.
The alchemical water is considered to be one of the symbols of ‘the Goddess’ in pagan faith. The symbol, drawn as a downward triangle which resembles the womb, is used to represent femininity and everything that is female.
It is known that, in addition to rituals of love, the water element could be invoked in cleansing and purification rituals in pagan tradition as the flowing water has the power to wash away and clean what one does not want in his/her life.
Being the exact opposite of the alchemical water, the alchemical fire element is considered to be the representation of masculinity.
The alchemical fire is a destructive force in nature, but can also support life itself depending on the situation such as the fire we use to cook or warm up.
It is also used to represent ‘heated’ emotions like anger, passion and love. The symbol is drawn as a regular triangle.
Considered a symbol of Mother Earth herself, the classical element of earth has been commonly used to represent nature, abundance, fertility and physical movements.
Drawn as the exact opposite of the alchemical air, the alchemical earth element comprises a downward triangle with a line across near the bottom part.
The Sacred Spiral/The Spiral Goddess
As another one of the symbols representing the Goddess, the spiral is a symbol used widely by the ancient Celts and pagans.
While the symbol is mainly associated with the Goddess, it is also believed to represent the cycle of life comprising life, death and rebirth as well as the eternal nature of things and the movement of planets and stars in the sky.
A pentagram is a five-pointed star representing the four classical elements and the spirit.
Although the symbol has been used by people of different faiths to represent different concepts throughout history, such as the five wounds of Jesus Christ, it is mainly known as a pagan symbol.
A pentacle is simply a pentagram but with one difference; a circle surrounding the five-pointed star.
Circles represent infinity and power in paganism, so it is believed that the circle around the star in the pentacle symbol strengthens the power of the elements within it.
The circle also represents the interconnected nature of these five elements (fire, earth, air, water, spirit).
Commonly used in pagan practices, the pentacle is known to be a pagan symbol of protection among other things.
If you would like to learn more about the Wiccan pentacle, click here to check out our detailed post.
Eye of Horus
As Horus was known to be the god of protection and healing, the Eye of Horus symbol was mainly used as a symbol of protection by ancient Egyptians.
Being one of the most prominent symbols at the time, the Eye of Horus was used widely in ancient Egypt whether it was on a coffin to have Horus to protect the dead loved ones as they passed onto the afterlife or on a fishing boat to protect fishermen from the dangers of the sea.
This tradition was adopted by pagan people and the watchful Eye of Horus became another pagan symbol of protection.
Ankh, The Key of Life
Also known as the key of life, Ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life is just another symbol that made its way into pagan faith from ancient Egyptian culture.
The ankh symbol, which has also been adopted by Christians after the partial christianization of Egypt during 4th and 5th A.D., is a pagan symbol believed to represent life, rebirth/life after death and eternity.
Septogram, The Seven-pointed Star
Septogram, the seven-pointed star, also known as septagram, heptagram and the faery star, is another symbol adopted by major religions throughout the world such as Islam and Christianity in addition to paganism.
While it is used to represent the first seven verses of Quran in Islam, in Christianity it is used to symbolize the seven days during which the world was created.
In paganism, the septogram is used to represent several things that come in sevens such as the seven classical planets believed to exist by the alchemists of the ancient times (Sol, Luna, Saturn, Venus, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter) and Pleiades, the seven stars believed to be the seven daughters of the titan Atlas.
Vegvisir, The Nordic Compass
Also known as the Nordic compass/Viking compass, the Vegvisir is a Norse pagan symbol that is believed to provide guidance to the one bearing the symbol.
Although it is widely used in modern pagan practices, the vegvisir is a relatively new one compared to other pagan symbols.
The symbol was mentioned in two historical sources until today;the Galdrabok, an Icelandic grimoire/book of magic that dates back to the early 17th century andthe Huld Manuscript compiled in the late 19th century.
The word ‘vegvisir’ literally means ‘sign post’ and ‘wayfinder’ in Icelandic language and the symbol, which is sometimes confused with another pagan symbol, aegishjalmur the helm of awe, is popular among people of neo-pagan faith using it as a symbol of guidance.
Read our detailed post on the Norse compass here, if you would like to learn more about the symbol.
Aegishjalmur, The Helm of Awe
Aegishjalmur, also known as the helm of awe, is the next Norse pagan symbol on our list. Comprising eight staves/tridents surrounded by a circle, aegishjalmur is known to be the pagan symbol of protection and power.
Asthe Prose Eddahas it in its section regarding Sigurd’s battle against the dragon Fafnir, Fafnir had the aegishjalmur symbol on him and owed some of his power to the symbol. Sigurd beat Fafnir and took the helm of awe for himself.
Aegishjalmur was drawn on the foreheads of Viking warriors to protect them from their enemies in battle.
It was also believed to provide mental and physical strength to the person carrying it as well as instilling fear on their enemies.
Mjolnir, Thor’s Hammer
Carrying on with Norse pagan symbols, the next item in our list is Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer.
Mjolnir is the legendary weapon of Thor the god of thunder, one of the most important figures in Norse mythology.
According to the belief, the hammer of Thor never missed its target and always came back to the one who wields it. If you are a fan of Marvel Cinematic Universe or Marvel Comics, you are obviously very familiar with this part.
It is considered a Norse symbol of protection in general and Mjolnir necklaces were worn by Viking warriors while going to battle.
The symbol was used for a long time to represent the Norse culture even after Christianity became widespread in Scandinavian lands. It is a common symbol used by the people of the Asatru faith which is a neopagan religion officially established in the 20th century.
It is also known that Mjolnir was used to bless marriages according to pagan traditions.
Valknut, The Symbol of Odin
Valknut, also known as the symbol of Odin, is a Norse pagan symbol that was most commonly seen on Viking tombstones or runestones along with a depiction of Odin himself and/or one of the animals that represent him such as wolves or ravens.
Although there is some doubt about the actual origin and meaning of this symbol, it is mainly considered a symbol of Odin the Norse god also known as the chief practitioner of Norse magic and shamanism practices known as ‘seiðr’ (pronounced as SAY-der).
Seidr practitioners were believed to reach a higher state of mind and travel through the Nine Realms (in Norse mythology). Valknut was one of the pagan symbols used by them in rituals.
Check out our detailed article on Valknut also known as the Knot of the Slain Warriors here, if you would like to learn more about the symbol, its meaning and origin.
The Triple Horn of Odin
Trinities are an important element of pagan faith and the triple horn of Odin is a fine example of trinities being used in pagan symbolism.
The triple horn of Odin, also known as the horned triskele, is a symbol comprising three interlocking horns which are believed to represent the three times Odin drank the magical mead of poetry and wisdom.
According to the belief, the magical mead brewed from the blood of the wise god Kvasir, granted wisdom to the ones who drank it. After a series of events and using some trickery to fool Gunnlöd, the giant guarding the mead, Odin was able to drink the mead three times over three nights and run away.
Horns, in general, were commonly used by Vikings in toasting ceremonies and mentioned many times in Norse eddas. That and the fact that it is one of the Norse symbols closely associated with Odin the Allfather, make the triple horn an important pagan symbol.
Svefnthorn is a symbol which is believed to be used by the Norse practitioners of magic to put someone to deep sleep.
Also known as the ‘sleep thorn’, this symbol, the exact description of which differs from source to source, was mentioned in several Norse sagas as a pagan symbol used to induce sleep.
Although it has been used as a symbol to represent the holy trinity in Christianity, triquetra is a Celtic-pagan symbol that emerged long before Christianity existed.
Although the triquetra is mainly considered a Celtic symbol, the earliest examples were found in India about five thousands years ago.
There are theories suggesting the triquetra symbol represented in Celtic culture the Triple Goddess and her three aspects; Mother, Maiden and Crone but there is no solid proof about this.
Triquetra has been used by Celtic and Norse pagan people on artwork, coins and runestones.
You can read more on Triquetra, its origin and meanings by clicking here.
Just like Triquetra, the Triskele, also known as the Triskelion, is a prominent Celtic symbol that might have come into existence in the Far East. The first examples of the Triskele symbol were first seen in Buddhist writings written in ancient times.
The symbol was used by Celts to represent motion, energy and progress. It is also considered by some people as a symbol representing the three stages of the cycle of life; life, death and rebirth.
The Horned God
The Horned God is one of the two main deities in Wiccan faith, the male counterpart and the consort of the Triple Goddess.
He is associated with masculinity, virility, sexuality hunting, nature and wilderness.
The Horned God symbol comprising a crescent moon on its side on top of a circle, kind of looking like a face with horns, is used to invoke god in Wiccan rituals especially the ones that are about fertility.
The Triple Moon/The Triple Goddess
The Triple Moon symbol, also known as the Triple Goddess, comprising a circle with two crescent moons on each side, is a symbol that represents the three stages of the moon.
The crescent on the left side is the waxing moon that represents rejuvenation, renewal and new beginnings. The circle in the middle is the full moon that represents the time when magic is believed to be at its full power. The crescent on the right side is the waning stage of the moon that represents the end of things, a finality in a sense. This is also considered the most ideal time to do banishing magic, end things and let them go.
The Sun Wheel/The Sun Cross
The Sun Wheel, also known as the Sun Cross, is a pagan symbol that represents the sun, its life-giving force, life, fertility and immortality.
It also represents the four seasons of the year in Wiccan faith as well as 8 Wiccan sabbats.
On an unfortunate side note, a version of the sun wheel symbol was adopted by the Nazis and used under the name ‘Schwarze Sonne’ (the Black Sun). It is still being used today to represent the neo-Nazi movement.
Hecate’s Wheel is the symbol of Hecate, the Greek goddess of the moon, night, magic, witchcraft and necromancy.
The symbol is mostly associated with the three stages of a woman’s life (also known as the three aspects of the Triple Goddess); Mother, Maiden and Crone, and the relevant Wiccan practices.
That being said, as Hecate is believed to grant prosperity, it can also be considered a symbol of prosperity.
On a side note, it is also considered a symbol of rebirth/renewal as a labyrinth represents rebirth.
The Tree Of Life
The tree of life is a very common archetype mentioned in the accounts of many prehistoric civilizations including the Celts and pagans of the early ages.
In Norse pagan faith, Yggdrasil, the tree of life, is a giant ash tree that connects the Nine Realms in Norse mythology.
The Celts revered nature in general and the trees played a specific role in their culture. When a Celtic tribe needed to find a new place to establish a settlement, they would choose a spot near a strong tree.
This tree, under which important meetings were held, would become the center of the settlement and namedCrann Bethadh,‘the tree of life’ in Gaelic language.
In Wiccan tradition, the Tree of Life is believed to be the bridge between the divine beings and everything on Earth.
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Pagan Symbols And Their Meanings, The Detailed List – SymbolsAndMeanings.Net, February 20, 2021