Symbols are religion’s most powerful references to their systems of belief. They can effectively diagram, call upon, and communicate mystery, all without the need of words. A new book, Sacred Symbols, brings together hundreds of these images from Eastern and Western cultures and traditions and organizes them under the themes of Peoples, Religions, and Mysteries. From Egyptians to Celts to Mayans, from China to Japan to India and back to the Tarot, Sacred Symbols is a visual feast and compelling food for thought.
The Triple Head
The number “three” held deeply auspicious connotations for the Celts, certainly in Germany, Gaul and Britain. Of all the elements of Celtic iconography, it was the human head — symbol of spiritual potency — which was most often the subject of a triad. In traditional Celtic literature the presence and repetition of the number “three” had the effect of strengthening and intensification. The mother goddess, for instance, was often represented in groups of three. But even in single-figure representations of gods or their heads, it was not uncommon to give them three faces — one main and two subsidiary. (From Sacred Symbols: A Visual Tour of World Faith, edited by Robert Adkinson, Abrams, $24.95.)