Symbols for Survivor

I often get requests from folks wanting symbols for survivor.  The following is my response to one such request:

Dear One Day @ a Time:

As I often explain, symbols such as these are vast and vague simply because of the countless cultures who view the concept of “survivor” differently.  

Ideally, I would encourage you to determine your own personal symbol that encapsulates the meaning of survivor to you.  Ultimately this approach will lead you to the most appropriate and powerful symbol for you.

That said, the following are a few common symbols for survivor:

The kangaroo & panda have long been ancient animal symbols of survival because of the overwhelming odds their offspring endure in order to become adults. Born a fraction of the adult size & incredibly vulnerable, the kangaroo & panda youth double their status of endurance as they must endure a long trek upon the mother’s body in order to reach her nutrients.  For them, it is truly a matter of will in order for their survival.

Polar bears are also symbols of survivor and endurance as they all most overcome seemingly insurmountable odds just to survive in their environment. Their ability to be resourceful, and reserve their energy is legendary. They seem to carry with them a sixth sense – that of survival instinct – moreso than most species of the animal kingdom.

Outside of the animal kingdom – we turn to fauna for inspiration on your symbol.  The oak tree has long been a symbol of longevity, strength, endurance as survival.  This strain of tree is long-standing – roots delving deep and holding fast to their stance – never loosening – even under the mightiest forces that nature can dish out.  The oak is a solid symbol of perserverance against all odds.

Another such symbol is that of the bamboo – Bamboo is a Chinese symbol for longevity and endurance because of its durability, strength, flexibility and resilience. It survives in the harshest conditions, and seems to endure through all the brutalities presented by harsh environmental conditions – it is ever diligent to standing tall, and staying green year-round. Its flexibility and adaptability are a considered life-lessons among the Chinese to be go with the flow rather than be inflexible (for to be inflexible cause breakage).  Another tid-bit on bamboo: Feng Shui practitioners recommend putting bamboo plants in the front of your home to assure long life for all those who dwell there.

Many people have told me they use Tarot symbolism in life-survival situations.  Specifically, while in the midst of struggle, carrying the Tarot card of Strength with them instills a sense of peace combined with strength.  For these people it represents surviving while accepting their circumstances.

If you are looking for a specific graphic symbol – you might consider Adinkra symbols.  These are symbols from the west Africa region.

Here is a link to two resources of Adinkra symbols that represent “survivor” . I did some follow-up, the symbols are valid:

The Adinkra symbol for Hyew

The Adinkra symbol for Aya (shown upper left)

I hope you have found this information useful on your journey.

6 Comments on “Symbols for Survivor”

  1. Thank you…I am going through a tough time, and want a new tattoo to kind of symbolize that I have survived and will continue to survive, Your information is great

  2. Hey, Im a ice hockey goalie and a literary finatic, my dad and mom have been diagnosed with heart problems, me and my sis are gonna get a tat…any ideas?

  3. to JAke,
    how about something that represents a passionate love of life?
    or maybe unbreakable bonds

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I was in a head on collision with a drunk driver a year ago. Long story short, I survived the worst and very lucky to be alive. To this day I continue to fight to get better. I have searched for a symbol to represent that I am a survivor and not a victim of a horrible crime. This symbol will remind me that every day. Thank you again.

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