Symbols Of Love And Their Meanings
Updated November 22, 2019
Reviewer Audrey Kelly, LMFT
Sometimes love between two people feels so significant, that they want to represent it with a suitable symbol. Here is a selection of numerous symbols of love in different cultures to find the one that speaks to your heart the most.
The best known, universal symbol of love is the heart-shaped ideograph, and it symbolizes the core of romantic love, affectionate emotion and caring.
Robert Frost wrote: "My love is like a red, red rose that's newly sprung in June." This line draws a comparison between romantic love and a red rose, but it has its roots in religion. Today it symbolizes passion, physical desire, and many facets of love. In Greek mythology, it is associated with the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and in Christianity, it is associated with the Virgin Mary.
A white rose depicts divine love, a yellow rose friendship, and a pink rose infatuation or romantic feelings.
Also called the crux ansata, the key to life or the cross of life, the Ankh is probably the best known among ancient Egyptian symbols. It looks like the Christian cross that makes a loop at the top, and it commonly represents life and immortality. However, it is little known that the Ankh also symbolizes fertility, and some scholars have argued that it represents the female genitalia. Another interpretation is that it also symbolizes the union between Isis and Osiris after she resurrected him from the dead. This is not a common association, though.
This little known and obscure Egyptian symbol "is a heavily beaded necklace characterized by a crescent front, heavy collar and a counterweight at the back (to keep it in place)" that also doubled as a percussion instrument in ancient Egypt. It was worn with the hope that it would bring the bearer fertility, potency, joy,and good luck. The menat is also known as the menit or menet.
Swans And Doves
The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, and her Roman counterpart, Venus, goddess of love and desire, are symbolized by a swan. A popular depiction of love is two swans opposite each other with beaks touching. The shape their necks forms looks like a heart, and this, at least in modern culture, reinforces its symbolism. Swans mate for life.
The dove is a well-known Christian symbol of Christ's peace and love, but two doves together signify fidelity. Thisis also a symbol for deep, enduring love, and in the Hindu tradition, the dove is a symbol of the heart's limitless capacity for love.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the dove was considered a sacred bird, often sacrificed in honor of the two goddesses of love, Aphrodite,and Venus. In art, each goddess is also often shown with these birds fluttering around them.
Doves are also known to mate for life, and the male is a hands-on father with the chicks. Doves are a beautifully pure symbol of marriage and partnership.
In Japan and China, a red maple leaf is used as an emblem for lovers and serves to remind one of the beauties of love in everyday life. North American settlers also used to place a maple leaf at the foot of the bed to attract sexual pleasure, ensure deep sleep and ward off evil. In the same tradition, a stork using a maple branch to build its nest is used to depict parental love welcoming a new baby.
Much like the sweetness of maple syrup, a maple leaf also signifies the sweet feelings associated with being in love.
Celtic Love Symbols
The following are enduring Irish love symbols with a rich history steeped in legend.
The Claddagh Ring
This ring, with two hands holding a heart with a crown, is a symbol associated with an old legend. Claddagh (pronounced [klad-ukh]) is derived from a word that means 'flat stony shore,' which describes the fishing village this legend originated from. A fisherman called Richard was separated from his love after being captured by the Moors to work as a slave in Africa. Over the years, he allegedly stole gold from his masters and forged this ring for his lady love. Fortunately, when he was able to return to Ireland, he discovered that she'd remained true to him, and he could present the ring to her.
To this day, it is worn to signify that a person is spoken for before a formal wedding. It symbolizes undying loyalty, friendship,and love. It is also used in jewelry other than rings and sometimes engraved into wedding rings.
The love knot is a uniquely Celtic love symbol, popular throughout the world. It has many permutations that go by different names, but it comprises two ropes tied together in an intricate knot, so that the ropes seem like one, and without beginning or end.
Legend has it that when Celtic sailors of old missed their sweethearts while at sea, they would tie this knot as a symbol of their heart's desire to be entwined with their lovers. Upon returning home, this knot would be presented to the beloved. Today it symbolizes the perfect union of eternal love between two people. The sailor's knot is thebest known, but there's also the Celtic spiral or oval knot, the Celtic serpent, round and square knots.
The SerchBythol is a well-known love knot, characterized by two intertwined knots that each have three corners. These three-cornered knots are called triskeles, and the corners represent body, mind,and spirit. The triskeles' union signifies two people uniting in body, mind,and spirit, in a circle that symbolizes eternal love. It is often used in jewelry and as a simple tattoo.
Some sources also state that, in the time of the prophet Muhammad, some used to tie knots in a rope, and then used incantations to either curse or bewitch a would-be lover. This is generally considered a sin in Muslim tradition, though.
Also called the Shamrock, this plant was sacred by the Irish in ancient times. Today, the three-leaf white clover is Ireland's national symbol. Its symbolism is derived from the legend of St. Patrick, who used it to explain the concept of the holy trinity in Christianity to the Irish. In this, it represents hope, faith,and love, and is still worn by some couples on their wedding day for good luck in their marriage.
Shells, home of pearls and mollusks, were ancient symbols of love that signified their protective nature by cultures as diverse as the ancient Romans, Hindus,and Native Americans. Venus, Roman Goddess of love and fertility, is often depicted standing in a scallop shell, where she was created from sea foam. Sandro Botticelli did the most famous painting of this divine birth in the early 15th century. The shell also denoted regeneration in ancient Roman culture, while the Hindus are said to have used the conch shell to call love.
The apple is a well-known and ancient symbol of love in many legends and stories. It also has various meanings attributed to it. Think of the biblical Adam and Eve, with Adam eating the forbidden apple, the fruit of knowledge, at Eve's bidding. In this tradition, the apple represents temptation. Venus, Roman goddess of love and desire, is also often depicted holding an apple, so it can be said that the apple represents the slightly dangerous, seductive and sexual aspects of love.
In Norse mythology, the gods eat golden apples to remain youthful and vital.
The apple blossom is a symbol of adoration in Chinese culture, while Celtic mythology associates an apple with irresistible desire in the story about Cole.
In the seventh century BCE, sharing an apple was a custom of marriage, and it signified the couple'shope for a fruitful relationship.
The Roman goddess of love and beauty, Venus, gave birth to Cupid, on whom the same title was bestowed - god of love. He is commonly depicted as a winged boy with a bow, and blindfolded, which some interpret to mean that love blinds you to your beloved's faults. His bow and arrow, according to legend, are used to shoot a golden arrow through a person's heart, which causes them to fall in love with the first person they see. If Cupid uses a leaden arrow, the opposite happens - they will never fall in love with the first person they see.
When Help Is Needed
Life sometimes throws us curve balls that can turn any fairy tale into a challenging saga. That's just the nature of things and not necessarily a reflection of your character or the character of your relationships. It would be a good idea to keep in mind that all relationships go through demanding times, and if you handle these well as a couple, they can strengthen your union.
If you feel that you're unable to handle conflict or other upsets, consider couple or individual therapy online and in your own home. At ReGain, our registered therapists are trained to help you with whatever you may be experiencing. Be sure to consider relationship counseling when the going gets tough.