10 Popular SYMBOLS Throughout History That Have LOST Their True Meaning


The power of a symbol or an icon bears more
weight than its equivalent in words or text. A well designed symbol or logo can speak volumes
about, for example, a company’s values, heritage, and objectives. All throughout history mankind has been exposed
and has been creating symbols and iconography for over millennia. From prehistoric cave paintings that tell
stories to emojis used to convey thought instrad of using words, they all have been an integral
part of our development as a species as well as our civilizations. And like our species, symbols and icons have
evolved and – unfortunately for many of them – have lost their true meaning and
what they truly stand for. In today’s video, we are exploring 10 iconic
and popular symbols in history that have now lost their true meaning. 10. THE CADUCEUS Often seen in medical facilities or as part
of a logo of a medical organization, the Caduceus has been synonymous with doctors and health
workers around the world. Known also as the Staff of the Greek God Hermes,
it is often depicted as a winged rod entwined by two serpents. Unfortunately for Hermes’ staff, it has
been employed in the wrong context since Hermes has no association with health or healing. It was the Greek God Asclepius who is the
deity for medicine and healing. He also bore a staff that only had one coiled
snake and no wings. The confusion came from the honest mistake
of a US Army Medical Corps officer who mixed the two symbols up. Because of this, the Caduceus has been interpreted
as the symbol for healing and medicine in the United States where, in other parts of
the world, it is a symbol of commerce since Hermes was the patron of merchants and tradespeople. 9. FLEUR DE LIS One of the most recognizable symbols in history
and popular culture, the Fleur de Lis has been part of almost every visual medium you
can think of. From architecture to interior design, to letter
envelopes, it is certainly one that has endured the ravages of time and history. In its original form, the Fleur de Lis was
a modification of the Gaulish lily that represented the Virgin Juno and was used widely by goddess
worshippers in the ancient times. Today, however, the stylized motif – the
one we are most familiar with – is used to represent French Royalty as well as the
nobility. It has also been employed in fashion and modern
art as well as popular culture; avenues that have, unfortunately, drastically diluted the
true symbolic representation of the icon. 8. THE BLUETOOTH ICON You would think that something as ubiquitous
as the Bluetooth icon on your phone has no ancient origin but that’s where we are greatly
mistaken. The technology was first invented and introduced
to the public by the Swedish telecom company Ericsson. Since then, it has been a great part of our
digitally connected lives. The symbol itself was composed of two parts:
the H rune called Hagall and the B rune called Bjarkan, letters that echo back to the country’s
Viking past. Incidentally, it was also the symbol of Denmark’s
first Viking king, Harald Blatand. And, in a not-so-peculiar-twist-of-coincidence,
“Blatand” roughly translated from Swedish as “Bluetooth”. The Bluetooth symbol is, perhaps, one of the
ancient icons that have retained a large part of its meaning despite the fact that many
of us take the technology for granted. During the lifetime of Harald Blatand during
the 10th Century AD, he was exalted as the king who managed to unite – or, in terms
of the technology, “connect” – all the Danish tribes and take over Norway, where
he ruled as King until his death. If you really think about it, how Bluetooth
technology connects people is not at all far-fetched from the origin of the symbol and why the
Swedes made the right choice to represent the technology. 7. THE ALL SEEING EYE
The symbol of the All Seeing Eye is used throughout different beliefs and religions but is most
strongly associated with the Christian Faith as a representation of the all-seeing eye
of God. In other customs, it is used as a symbol of
spiritual sight, higher knowledge, inner vision, and insight into the occult. Depending on the custom that adopts it, the
symbol usually embraces the supernatural and religious aspect of its iconography. These days, however, it has been used mostly
as a symbol of surveillance and control; a far cry from its religious symbolism. 6. SKULL AND CROSSBONES This symbol has two established and widely-accepted
meanings in this modern age. One appears as a graphic warning on poison
labels and the other – thanks to popular culture – appears as the universally known
symbol for pirates despite the fact that pirate colours or symbols vary from one person or
group to another. In Spain in the earlier centuries of the world,
the symbol of the Skull and Crossbones is used as a means to mark cemeteries and graveyards. To this day, many early century graveyards
and even old churches have traces of the skull and crossbones where they once had – or
still have – catacombs and crypts. 5. THE BARBER’S POLE It is not a surprise to find a red and white
striped pole outside a barber shop. The symbol has been used for centuries and
is, unlike many symbols on this list, still directly associated with the profession it
represents. Today we see it as a harmless means to advertise
the establishment. However, the origin of the pole dates back
to earlier centuries where barbers were expected to do more than just shave and cut hair. As far back as the Roman times and as late
as the Victorian age, barbers were skilled surgeons whose most popular procedure was
bloodletting. In some regions, they were also skilled dentists
who could offer you to get rid of a toothache after a nice trim. The red stripe on the pole was originally
a white rag that barbers would use to wipe up blood after a procedure. They would then hang it outside of their shops
– where the wind would sometimes blow hard to wrap the rag around the pole where it hung
– to advertise their profession. 4. THE ICHTHYS FISH (OR THE ICHTHUS FISH) The pronunciation of the word is a bit tricky
because there seems to be two ways to say it but however you choose to say it, there
is no doubt that you have come across this symbol at least once in your life – most
probably on the rear end of a car while you’re stuck in traffic. The Ichthys Fish is strongly associated with
Christianity and with Jesus Christ himself. At the height of the Roman Empire, after the
death of Christ, the members of the newly formed secret sect called “Christians”
would identify each other by the use of the Ichthys. When two supposedly Christians meet in public,
one of them would draw the first arc of the symbol and the other, to confirm his Christian
identity, would complete the drawing with the other arc of the Ichthys. While Christians made the symbol more iconic
and popular, the Ichthys Fish predates Christianity and was used by Pagans as a symbol they associate
with the “Great Mother”, a deity known for fertility. After the rise of the early church, Christians
fell out of love with the Ichthys and preferring the crucifix much more. However, in some Christian sects, the symbol
is still very much alive. 3. THE PEACE SYMBOL Unlike the symbols on this list, the Peace
Symbol has no ancient origin and is one of the youngest iconographies created. Mostly associated with the Hippie movement
of the 60’s, the Peace Symbol is universally known and used as a means to show pacifism,
restraint, understanding, and tolerance. While the meanings tacked onto the symbol
were well-intended, the real message it delivers seems to have been forgotten. Designed by Gerald Holtom, the symbol bore
one simple message: British Nuclear Disarmament. The symbol, according to Holtom, is of a man
standing with his arms stretched outward and downward as if facing a firing squad. Unable to copyright the image, Holtom’s
symbol then became a popular way to symbolize freedom and, as we now know it, peace. It’s not a bad trade-off after all. 2. THE PENTAGRAM Seen as the symbol for Satanism and Demonic
worship, the Pentagram is perhaps one of the most maligned and misunderstood symbols to
have existed. As a matter of fact, the Pentagram predates
Satanism and Masonry because of records that trace its use in much more ancient times. The five-pointed star has been discovered
scratched on the walls of caves in Babylonia and several historical records show the ancient
Greeks believing it to have mystical and magical properties. In ancient astronomy, the pentagram is believed
to have originated from the path that the planet Venus takes at night in relation to
the earth’s position in an 8-year cycle. It would even surprise you to know that the
pentagram, for a short time, stood as a symbol that represents the five wounds that Jesus
Christ received during his crucifixion. In art, the Pentagram was seen as a representation
of the proportions of the human body. 1. THE SWASTIKA Since the Second World War and the rise of
Nazi totalitarianism in Germany, the swastika has become a representation of hate and bigotry. The symbol has been associated so much with
the Nazi movement and the horrors that it brought that many European countries have
shunned its image. But before Hitler and his henchmen got their
hands on this otherwise geometrically pleasing symbol, the Swastika was a symbol that represented
life and creation in the Hindu faith and harmony in Buddhism. The swastika was used by ancient civilizations. A fact that points out that it absolutely
predates Nazism. Civilizations such as the Romans, Egyptians,
and Celts have used different versions of the swastika in architecture and art. In the modern times, before the outbreak of
the Second World War, the swastika enjoyed a brief moment of wholesome use such as appearing
as symbols in the Finnish and Latvian Air Forces, as well as part of the logo of the
Danish brewing company Carlsberg. Tragically for the swastika, it may never
recover from the dark shroud it was given due to the atrocities of the Nazi movement.

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