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The Symbolism of Shapes

Shapes have a symbolism all their own. Learn more about what these shapes that regularly make an appearance in decor accessories and soft furnishings mean:

Ankh: A symbol of eternal life, a cross topped with a loop comes to us from ancient Egypt where it was an indispensable lucky charm for the Pharaohs. The gods are often seen holding an ankh to someone’s lips, this is considered to be an offering of the “Breath of Life”. The breath you will need in the afterlife.


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Axe: Axes are lucky charms that can bring success. Archaeologists have unearthed talismans in the shape of an axe head in all parts of the world. They usually have holes in them, indicating that they were worn around the neck. Ancient art from the Far East, pre-Columbian America, the Mediterranean and Africa frequently depicts a double-bladed Axe to indicate power.


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Circle: The circle is one of mankind’s oldest symbols of good fortune. It stands for eternity because it is without beginning or end. It is a sign of completeness, perfection, and wholeness. The concept gave us many kinds of lucky symbols, including rings of every description and the circular designs of Amish hex signs, not to mention the wreaths we hang on our doors at Christmas-time.


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Crescent: Among the most powerful of all lucky symbols, the crescent is especially lucky for young children and their mothers. In ancient Egypt, the crescent moon was the symbol of Isis, the Mother of the Gods. As its symbolism spread throughout the world, it eventually became a symbol of paradise, when represented with a star. It is particularly significant in Islam.


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Cross: Although the cross has come to be a symbol of Christianity, it was both a religious and lucky sign for centuries before the Christian era. It has been found in parts of the world where the message of Christianity never reached. In most pagan religions, the cross represents the tree of life. In some ancient cultures, the crosspiece intersecting the upright piece, represented a ladder that helped a worshiper to reach God. In other cultures, the upright pointed the way to heaven and the crosspiece represented earthly influences.


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Hand: In just about every Mediterranean country, charms in the shape of human hands have been powerful symbols of good luck. In Muslim countries, the hand is made with the thumb and fingers outstretched in honor of Fatima, the favorite daughter of the prophet Mohammad. Fatima was one of only three women worthy of entering heaven. The thumb represents the prophet himself, the first finger represents Fatima, the middle finger her husband, and the others her two sons. The ancient Etruscans and the Greeks wore lucky amulets representing a fist with the thumb tucked beneath the fingers. Similar charms with the index finger extended were believed to have power to ward off the evil eye.


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Heart: Charms in the shape of hearts are obviously intended to bring luck in love. In Christianity, the heart is seen as a representation of love and wisdom. In Egypt, the heart is seen as the centre of our psychic energy and is thought to have power over the influences of black magic. Islam sees the heart as the basis of thought.


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Horn: The horn, signifies strength power and abundance. In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, the horn represented the phallus. Because of the horn’s form, it is equally effective for both male and female as a sexual symbol. Sometimes called the horn of plenty, this charm signifies future wealth and prosperity. Like crescents, which they resemble, charms in the form of animal horns are believed to have great power over the evil eye.


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Key: As a symbol of luck, a single key is among the most important, not to mention one of the oldest, of charms. A key given as a gift between lovers is considered a symbol of unlocking the door to the heart. It is believed that the giver will be lucky in love. The Greeks and Romans believed it represented the “Key of Life” and had the power to unlock the door through which prayers reached the gods. It was also used to promote remembrance of things past and foresight for things to come. The ancients attached special significance to keys made of silver, the metal sacred to the goddess Diana. She was the protector of doorways and thresholds as well as the special guardian of mothers-to-be. Among the Japanese, three keys tied together are considered a powerful lucky charm. They enable the wearer to unlock the doors that lead to love, health, and wealth. According to the Gypsies of Eastern Europe, a door key with a metal ring attached will ensure a good night’s sleep, if it is hung upside down over the bed. It will also prevent nightmares.


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Ladder: Ladders have been considered lucky symbols for centuries. The Egyptians usually placed them in their tombs to help the souls of the dead climb heavenward. They also carried charms in the form of ladders, to help avoid earthly temptation and to climb to greater heights. Ladders enter the realm of the unlucky when they are leaned against a wall to form a triangle with the ground. The same triangle is formed by an open stepladder. The three sides are believed to represent the basic family unit -father, mother, and child- and passing through it can violate the unity of the family. Others say the triangle represents the Trinity -Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- the unity of which must also never be interrupted. There is an antidote, of course. If you should unwittingly wander under a ladder, you can save yourself by crossing your fingers and spitting three times through the ladder’s rungs.


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Triangle: In engineering, the triangle is considered the strongest and most indestructible form for structures of every description. Even before mankind began to realise this, practitioners of ancient religions found mystical significance in the shape of a triangle and frequently fashioned charms and amulets in that shape. It was perceived as representing the cycle of life -birth, maturity and death- and as such it stood for the harmony of humans with their gods. It was considered a sacrilege to break its perfect shape. The ancient Egyptians used this holy shape when they created the great pyramids, which many today regard all by themselves as symbols of good luck, even though they are in reality monuments of dead. The architects who designed them combined four triangles as a symbol of the coming together of the forces of earth and of heaven.


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Wheel: The flag of modern India has Buddha’s Wheel of Life as its centerpiece. It was said that Buddha himself drew such a wheel in a rice field to teach his followers that all creation is a series of causes and effects following each other like the turning of a wheel. As a circle representing eternity, the wheel appears frequently as a lucky charm in many cultures. It symbolises that bad luck passes and good luck rises, just as a wheel is turned.

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