The concept of "healing symbols'' can be interpreted in many ways, and the most important healing spiritual symbols can vary greatly depending on culture, tradition, and context. That said, some symbols are undoubtedly more famous than others. Here are 10 of the best-known healing symbols to start your learning journey into this fascinating topic.
The Caduceus is formed of 2 snakes winding around a (usually winged) staff. The intertwined snakes are said to symbolise the balance and harmony that’s required for healing, while the wings represent swiftness. The Caduceus traces its origins all the way back to Greek mythology, where it was often associated with Hermes, the messenger god. Despite sometimes being linked with commerce and trade, and being fairly regularly confused with the Rod of Asclepius (arguably a more historically accurate Grecian symbol of healing), it still sees a lot of usage in the Western world, where it can be found in hospitals, clinics, and other medical organisations.
Rod of Asclepius
The aforementioned confusion with the Caduceus is easy to understand, as the Rod of Asclepius symbol also depicts a serpent coiled around a staff, but this time there are no wings on the staff. The serpent represents rebirth and rejuvenation, while the staff represents the power of healing. Again, the symbol comes from ancient Greek mythology (although it also has Roman roots), where it was associated with Asclepius, the god of healing. In this way, the controversy surrounding the Rod of Asclepius and the Caduceus makes sense; the former has stronger roots from a healing context! You may have seen this symbol being used by various European medical bodies and practices, along with the World Health Organization.
The widely-recognised Om symbol consists of three curves, one semicircle, and a dot. Respectively, these represent the 3 states of consciousness (waking, dreaming, and deep sleep), the state of transcendence, and the oneness of all creation. It’s a sacred sound and symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Om is believed to represent the essence of the universe, and is often used within healing or spiritual meditation, chanting and yoga. The sound "Om" is believed to vibrate at a frequency that corresponds to the universe’s natural frequency, and chanting it is thought to bring relaxation, concentration, and spiritual awareness.
The famous Yin Yang symbol consists of 2 interlocking parts - one black and one white - with a small dot of the opposite colour in each section. The black section represents “yin”, which is associated with darkness, coldness, and passivity, while the white section represents “yang”, which represents light, warmth, and activity. The idea behind the dots is that they reflect the constant flux of yin and yang, with each containing a seed of their opposite. The Yin Yang symbol is used in various practices (like traditional Chinese medicine) to represent balance and interdependence between different aspects of the body, mind, and spirit, and also to promote physical and spiritual healing. The symbol is a decorative motif too, and is widely interpreted as being a sign of balance and harmony.
The Lotus is a plant that grows in muddy waters, but still emerges clean and beautiful. The symbol of the Lotus has therefore come to represent purity, enlightenment, and rebirth, with its many layers of gradually-unfolding petals taking on the meaning of steady spiritual awakening. In Buddhist art, the Lotus flower is often depicted with a Buddha or Bodhisattva seated atop it, representing the attainment of enlightenment. In Hinduism, the Lotus flower is associated with numerous deities and is used as a symbol of creation, divine beauty, and prosperity. It’s also used in many traditional medicines, particularly in Ayurveda, where different parts of the plant are used to treat ailments. The Lotus flower is integral to meditation and visualisation exercises for healing and relaxation, depicting the transformative journey from darkness to light and the attainment of higher consciousness.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is an ancient symbol. It’s usually rendered as a large tree with deep roots and branches that reach all the way up to the sky. The roots connect to the earth and the physical world, while the branches connect to the heavens and the spiritual realm. The Tree symbolises growth, strength, and interconnectedness, showing that everything in the universe is united. In some cultures, the Tree of Life is associated with creation myths, and may even serve as the focal point and source of all life. Elsewhere, it’s a sign of fertility, regeneration, and abundance. It’s also used to represent healing and balance in the body, mind, and spirit, and to mirror the transformative process of growth and evolution that occurs throughout our lives.
The Hamsa symbol is a hand-shaped amulet that’s used in Jewish and Muslim cultures as a symbol of protection, luck, and blessing. The word "Hamsa" means "five" in Arabic: specifically referring to the 5 fingers of the hand. The Hamsa is often intricately decorated with Arabic or Hebrew script, geometric shapes, and other symbols. In Jewish tradition, the Hamsa is known as the "Hand of Miriam" and is associated with the sister of the prophet Moses, who symbolises strength, beauty, and wisdom. To Muslims, the Hamsa is known as the "Hand of Fatima" and is instead associated with the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, symbolising patience, generosity, and love. The Hamsa is believed to guard against the evil eye and negative energies, and is often worn as a talisman or displayed in everyday places to promote healing.
The Dharma Wheel has 8 spokes that represent the Eightfold Path - right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. These 8 aspects are considered to be necessities upon the path to reaching enlightenment and ending the cycle of suffering. The hub of the wheel represents the discipline that’s needed to achieve this goal. The rim represents the perfection of wisdom (which is the ultimate goal of the Buddhist path). The wheel's circular shape completes its meaning by representing the cyclical nature of existence and the continuous flow of change and rebirth. The Dharma Wheel is a symbol of the Buddhist path and is often used in meditation and spiritual practices to help practitioners focus. It’s also a popular inclusion in Buddhist art and is common within Buddhist countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
Flower of Life
The Flower of Life is a geometric pattern that consists of overlapping circles, forming a flower-like pattern with six-fold symmetry. It’s been used in Egypt, China, India, and by many other ancient cultures, and also within spiritual traditions like the Kabbalah. It’s considered to be a symbol of unity, interconnectedness, and of the universe’s own underlying geometric structure. The Flower of Life is often used in spiritual practices like meditation and energy healing, and is believed to balance body, mind, and spirit. The pattern is also used within works of art, including architecture and sacred geometry.
Reiki symbols are a set of sacred symbols used in the practice of Reiki, a form of energy healing that originated in Japan. These symbols are used by Reiki practitioners to help focus and direct energy during a healing session. Each Reiki symbol is a visual representation of a specific energy frequency, and the practitioner uses them as a way to connect with and channel that energy for healing purposes. The symbols are typically drawn or visualised during a Reiki session, and their use can help enhance the healing power. Our Reiki 1 & 2 Diploma Course serves as a comprehensive introduction to the practice, and is available for just £29 (save £98!).
If it’s symbols in a more general sense that you’re interested in, then our Symbology Diploma Course will take you through the meaning of modern and ancient symbols alike. You’ll learn about healing symbols and a lot more besides, with 16 modules available for just £29 (save £98!). Enrol today to immerse yourself in the wonderful world of symbols!