If you are an avid fan of history, you will notice that certain symbols have been used and reused throughout history. Today, Faculti Media takes you through the concept of mixed symbols in history. There are many reasons why cultural symbols and symbols of faith have found their way to different parts of the world.
Here are some reasons:
Humans have always carried the symbols of their faith with them no matter where they went. It was a well-know fact that early human societies used to carve their holy symbols into surfaces.
However, as most early societies were transient and migratory, this meant that they had to start anew with their representation—their carvings had to be remade. Eventually, we developed the technology to carve statuettes in order to have mobile representation of the symbols of our faith.
If you are wondering what had ever happened to old symbols that were carved into walls and fixed objects, they are still there. However, as time went by, different societies and different cultures eventually settled in the places where other cultures once dwell.
As communities eventually stopped being primarily transient and started laying down better fortifications for prolonged stay, it was only natural that the old symbols would still be in place while better technology evolved in order to make non-static symbols of faith and belief.
Wars and Political Shifts
There were also instances wherein other cultures conquered others and the symbols of faith were adapted and utilized.
This is why sometimes different cultural symbols are found in the oddest locations. The symbols of faith and representation of power vary with time and depend on who is presently in power. One of the best examples of this in history is the Holy Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was once dominated by Muslims then a contingent of Catholics conquered the city. Mosques were torn down and were replaced with Christian symbolism.
However, if you know where to look, you will still find symbols of the signs of Muslim faith. There was a shaky peace that was kept between the Christians and the Muslims yet a reckoning was to be expected. Eventually the Muslims took back the Holy Kingdom of Jerusalem. The symbols of the Christian faith were removed—at least they tried to.
When they could not fully remove all the symbols, they just tried to build over them. With the eventual reopening of borders and the imminent influx of people with their own different cultural beliefs, it was once again the norm to have different symbols of faith intermixing with each other.
You have to remember that building structures back then were not as easy as we do it today. As such, it was often easier to keep religious buildings intact. Instead of razing it to the ground, the conquerors merely built over old religious markings. As time went on, the newer symbols of faith eroded and the signs of older symbols were discovered.
The Concept of Syncretism and Eclecticism
This refers to the combination of many different beliefs and the blending of religious practices. If you study Greek and Roman mythology, you will eventually come across stark similarities between them. This is because the two cultures were so near each other and one came before the other. It was inevitable that there would be the porting of some beliefs which were changed to suit political needs.
The concept of eclecticism was also quite rampant. This referred to the use of arts and cultural practices that transcended one culture and utilized into another. While there might have been changes that occurred, it is quite clear where the source is from.
Why is it Important to Understand the Mixing of Religious and Cultural Symbols?
Like in all things, it is important to consider the source. Studying history has always been a good way to determine how far we have come as a society. What things have changed? What things remained the same? Why are certain cultural symbols almost similar but completely different in their meaning and context?
Some examples of this would be the Trident of Neptune. For all intents and purposes, Neptune’s trident is supposed to be the symbol of his power over the sea and whoever is in his domain. However, in later Christian symbolism, the devil is often associated with a pitchfork. The pitchfork is very much the image of the trident of Neptune.
Instead of conveying the concept of power and wisdom, it is now twisted into the symbol of evil. The reason behind these events and the questions listed above can be answered if we actively try to understand the mixing of religious and cultural symbols. To what end are the symbols utilized? What message are they meant to convey?
What is wonderful about humans and our history is the fact that the meaning of one thing today can be completely different a few years from now. Human culture and history is constantly fluid and nothing is exempt from this. We need to be able to keep track of the changing symbols and their contextual origin and shifts.
This will help to establish cultural identity for many. Understanding the past and our collective journey shall help us unlock our relationships better. They will also serve as very grim reminders of mistakes that have already happened. To be honest, it does not matter whose religion came first. Everyone has a right to religion. What we all have to keep in mind regarding looking to the past is how cultures were made. How were the old cultures destroyed? What have we lost as the same species?
These are the questions that studying the intermixing of religious and cultural symbols can help to address. We would like to suggest that you take a trip to your local library or museum and see for yourself what intermingling of religious and cultural symbols can be found there. Everyone’s local area is rife with their own history and enrichment of one’s cultural identity.