Today, freedom is considered a fundamental human right and many of us have been lucky to be given this right from birth. However, it has not always been the same. History is rife with examples of individuals, groups, and nations fighting for freedom. But how was it represented? Without further ado, here is our extensive list of freedom symbols, their origin stories and uses.
Ancient Symbols of Freedom
Pileus was a conical-shaped brimless hat that ancient Romans associated with the goddess of liberty – Libertas. Later, it became an emblem of freedom for slaves, as they were made to wear this hat (after having their heads shaved) when they were freed by their masters.
The cap also appears on one of the coins issued by Brutus to celebrate Julius Caesar’s death, as a reinforcement of the rhetoric surrounding the incident. The cap symbolized that Caesar’s death had liberated Rome.
As one of the ancient symbols of freedom, the hawk symbolized a variety of things in different cultures, but to ancient Celts, it represented freedom and conquest. The bird was believed to carry messages from the spirit guides, urging people to liberate themselves from greed, lust, and other limiting behaviors.
The ancient Celtic artworks showing a hawk holding or eating a rabbit were artistic representations of this very concept (Celts viewed rabbit as a symbol of greed and lust) of personal freedom.
The appearance of a hawk is also sometimes interpreted as a sign from your spirit guide to take up the role of a leader or an influencer in a particular situation.
Universal Symbols of Freedom
A Flying Bird
Different cultures and countries may have associated different birds with the concept of freedom, but a flying bird is a universal symbol of it. The underlying reason behind this association is pretty straightforward – a flying bird is free to go anywhere.
It can fly high into the skies, travel to distant places on earth, and can land and live wherever they want. Some of the birds commonly associated with freedom include eagles and doves.
An open birdcage is another bird-related symbol that is universally associated with freedom. And it is easy to understand why.
A birdcage represents captivity and imprisonment because it is used to keep a free being, i.e. bird, confined in a limited space. The symbol of an open birdcage is built on this association.
When you set a bird free, you open the door of the cage, so it can fly away. It symbolizes being able to reclaim your liberty and freedom after a period of oppression or captivity.
Wings symbolize the freedom to fly away wherever one wants. The popular idiomatic phrases give them wings to fly and clip (someone’s) wings embody the same concept. Giving someone the wings to fly means giving them the freedom to do whatever they want.
On the contrary, clipping someone’s wings is an idiomatic expression for taking away someone’s liberty or privileges, limiting their movement, putting restrictions, or not allowing them to live life their own way.
All these connotations are based on the fact that a bird with wings is free to fly whenever and wherever it wants whereas a bird whose wings have been clipped is forced to stay in one place, even if it is apparently free, i.e. it is not held captive in a cage. Clipping a bird’s wings is an ancient practice to prevent pet birds from flying away.
The broken chain symbol is self-explanatory. It symbolizes breaking free from boundaries, confinement, imprisonment, or slavery and achieving the freedom and liberty that is every human’s birth right. The symbol was famously used during the French Revolution to represent the freedom of peasants and the members of the third estate.
While the broken chain symbol has been associated with physical freedom in modern history, medieval people associated a different kind of freedom with it. During the medieval times, the chain with a broken link symbolized the flight or freedom of the soul from the body and its ascendance from earth to heaven.
A country’s flag is the greatest symbol of its autonomy and the freedom of its people. For many of the world’s nations, it is also an emblem of their struggle for freedom.
Freedom Symbols from Different Regions and Countries
Fawohodie, The Adinkra Symbol of Freedom
Fawohodie is an Adinkra symbol of freedom and liberty created by the Bono people. It not just denotes independence, but also serves as a reminder for the responsibilities that come with this privilege.
The word Fawohodie is derived from the phrase Fawohodie ene obre na enam, which means “independence comes with responsibilities”.
The symbol is also often interpreted as a reminder to not take independence for granted and do your best to secure it because it came at a price.
The Liberty Bell
The history of what we now regard as one of the most iconic symbols of freedom in America predates the country.
The Liberty Bell was originally placed in the Pennsylvania State House and used to call lawmakers and townspeople to legislative and public meetings respectively. According to some historical accounts, it was one of the bells that were rung to mark American independence.
However, it got its current name and reputation as an emblem of independence in the 1830s when the abolitionists adopted it as the official symbol of their fight against slavery.
The bell is also inscribed with a verse from the Book of Leviticus (25:10) that says, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof”.
Marianne, French Symbol of Freedom
Marianne is the personification of the values the French Republic is built upon – liberty, equality, and fraternity. While the exact origin of Marianne is uncertain, it is believed to be a French adaptation of the Roman goddess of liberty.
This is because the earliest representations of Marianne in France depicted a woman wearing Roman clothing and a red pileus (or phrygian) cap that Roman slaves were given when they were set free.
Marianne’s statues and busts became widespread during the French Revolution era. Ever since then, the Marianne symbol has appeared several times on the official postage stamps and coins.
Today, Marianne is seen in France as a symbol of freedom from oppression, resistance or fight against monarchy, and an icon of democracy.
Religious and Spiritual Symbols of Freedom
The Lotus Buddha, or Buddha sitting on a lotus flower, symbolizes an enlightened person; one who has transcended the worldly pleasures and pains and achieved nirvana. In other words, it denotes one’s spiritual journey to freedom, which is essential to achieving the highest state of consciousness.
Fish represents a variety of things in the world of symbolism. Independence is one of them. It also represents concepts associated with freedom and independence. One of them is deeper awareness, as it lives and moves freely in water, which symbolizes the vastness or depth of the unconscious mind. It also represents the happiness that comes with its freedom of movement.
This ends our post on symbols of freedom throughout the world, their origin stories and uses. If you liked reading it, you should definitely check out our articles on symbols of love here and protection symbols here.
For a deeper dive into Two specific Symbols for Freedom, read our article on the Statue of Liberty and the Roman Goddess Libertas.
Thanks for reading!