Tag Archives: cultural symbolism

The Saga of Naga Meaning

naga meaning
Nagas protecting a Thai temple

Secret Life of Nagas and Naga Meaning





If you’ve been following my work for any length of time, you might notice I get jazzed about snakes.  For a myriad of reasons, snakes have always been my source of inspiration and wisdom. Perhaps it has to do with their symbolism of duality.  A staggering collection of cultural myths consider the serpent a symbol of contradiction like: light vs. dark, creation vs. destruction, good vs. evil, etc. I dig that.

The simple answer to ‘what is a naga?’ is this : It is a serpent.  Yep, naga meaning translates to ‘snake’.  But that’s where simplicity ends. Various forms of nagas are found all across Asia and India.  Each naga tells a different tale according to its location.

In India, snakes have been honored for centuries.  To prove my point about duality, Hindu belief identifies the snake as having two distinct personalities.  In this culture, nagas are both holy and maniacal, divine and devilish.

But in cultural symbolism, there is a reason for this two-faced aspect.  Almost universally, snakes are typically feared or revered. They are the epitome of mystery.  The serpent has wrapped its tail around countless legends throughout human history.  Inevitably, there is a silver lining to a snake’s evil action.  Vice versa, there is a consequence to a serpent’s good deed.  Let’s break it down…

The Dark Side of Naga Meaning

To understand the dark side of naga meaning, we have to understand their behavior is not random.  If a serpent lashes out, there is almost always a cause.

Let’s take the tales of nagas poisoning people.  In almost all cases, these powerful serpents are not spewing venom for the fun of it.  Nope. More often than not, the recipient of naga poison committed some kind of crime or misdeed.  This scenario serves as a great moral in children’s fables.  It’s a great teaching method encouraging children to be good – or else the naga will unleash their deadly spit. Yikes!

Nagas have an obsession with glittery goodies like gems, gold and other treasure.  Woe be to anyone who came close to their hoard of sparkly collection of precious bits.  Naga’s were known to squeeze the bejeebers out of anyone who attempted to go near its treasure. Who can blame the serpent for that?  I’d be pretty cranky if someone tried to steal my vintage-mint-in-box Pee Wee Herman doll. lol.



naga meaning
The Naga, or serpent, has a long history in Hinduism

Okay, I confess, I’m an advocate of serpents.  Snakes, including nagas are often villainized.  It just seem unfair.  It’s true, most times serpents of legend have a reason to be nasty.  But I must say…sometimes a wicked naga is just plain wicked.  For whatever reason, naga’s are known to seduce an unsuspecting folks.  Once lured in, the naga struck, killing the poor being who crossed the serpent’s path.  Some naga’s are just bad eggs, I guess.

The Light Side of Naga Meaning

Now for the good stuff.  The symbolic meaning of serpents (and the naga) often revolves around renewal and regeneration.  In the case of Hindu naga lore, the serpent represents infinity and creation. This has to do with the snake’s ability to shed it’s skin. Out with the old, in with the new.  After shedding, the snake is shiny and reborn. This theme is seen in many legends in Indo-Asia.

Another redeeming quality of the naga is protection.  Extreme protection. As mentioned, you don’t mess with naga treasure.  Often myth depicts the naga  protecting booty not for themselves, but for the royalty of the land.  If you ever tour around Asia or India, take a look at the temples.  Odds are, you will find carvings of serpents wrapped around stairs and columns.  This reinforces the aspect of fierce protection the naga provides.

Nagas are also associated with water and the underworld in Hindu belief.  As such, they influence behavior of rainfall, rivers, and lakes. Not only is this vital in hot climates, it is essential for successful agriculture.  In this sense, the naga is a positive symbol of provision, generosity and fertility.

There is another Hindu legend that states the naga showed kindness to Buddha.  One day while Buddha was meditating, a torrential storm blew in, pummeling the Buddha with wind and rain.  The nagas saw this and came to the Buddha’s aid.  They used their hoods (similar to cobra hoods) like an umbrella to protect Buddha from the rain.  Then they wrapped their bodies around Buddha to keep him warm from the chilly wind.

Closing Thoughts on Naga Meaning

See, so the serpent naga is not all that bad.  I think the symbolic lesson here is this:  If something seems scary or intimidating, there might be a positive side too.  I’ll admit, snakes aren’t everybody’s favorite creature, but when we take a look at serpents through the eyes of different cultures – it gives us insight into new perspectives.

I hope you enjoyed this post on naga meaning.  If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to check out the links below for related information.  As always, thanks so much for reading.

Symbolic Meaning of Snakes

Snake Tattoo Meaning and Ideas

Going Old School With Odin Meaning and Messages

Odin Meaning Odin God
The Norse god Odin with his two ravens

Norse God Odin Meaning and Insights





If pressed to make a choice, I’d say Odin is one of my favorite ancient gods.  Why?  Because he’s old school.  While Zeus was out playing pranks and scheming for more power – Odin had other motives.

What sets Odin apart from most gods in most cultures is that he was for the people.  While many gods in cultures around the world were fixated on self preservation, Odin made great sacrifices to give humans the gifts they needed to survive in a harsh world. He was a true benefactor to the human race.

Here are a few reasons Odin makes my top 5 list of favorite deities:

  1. He was a humanitarian
  2. He was an animal lover
  3. He had a great appreciation for art and poetry
  4. He was a fearless warrior
  5. He respected his comrades in arms
  6. His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable
  7. He never gave up, even when he knew fate suggested he should
  8. He didn’t say much, but what he did say was profound
  9. He understood great sacrifice is required for great gain
  10. He was a pretty good-lookin’ dude from what I can tell ;)

Odin The Norse God and the Nitty Gritty of Creation

Odin is a father-god as well as a sun god.  His association with the sun makes him a light-bringer, a creator, a passionate leader whose destiny simply must shine brightly.  Indeed he was bright, and he did a crackerjack job and creating stuff.

Well, sure, there’s that little detail of Odin almost killing his father Ymir which isn’t a very creator-type thing to do. However, by slaying Ymir, Odin (and his brothers Vili and Ve) created middle earth. You see, Ymir was the first giant.  After he was sacrificed, his blood became our oceans, his bones became our mountains, his flesh became our land, and his hair became our vegetation.  To his credit, Odin didn’t entirely off his dad.  Ymir still lives, although in a subdued state.  You know Ymir is still alive and kickin’ when earthquakes happen, that’s Ymir shifting his body.

After middle earth was created, Odin got the bright idea to populate the place. So he took an ash tree and crafted the first man.  From the elm tree, he sculpted the first woman.  I’d say he did a pretty fine job on both physiques.

Odin was an industrious dude because he didn’t stop at creating the earth or humans.  He also separated day from night.  Quite a neat trick if you ask me.  The ever-savvy Odin figured all this stuff needed a bit of organization, so he established Midgard (middle earth) for humans, then Asgard – the home of the gods.

The Secret Life of Odin – The Personality Behind the God

Within the god neighborhood of Asgard, there was a great hall called Valhalla.  That’s where Odin chose to spend his days and nights.  Interesting, the term Val means ‘death’ or ‘slain’ and halla means ‘hall.’ So essentially, Odin’s address was ‘the hall of death.’  But it’s not as macabre as you might think.  This was a place of warriors who died bravely in battle, fighting for the cause.

Valkyries (which means ‘choosers of the slain’) also lived in Valhalla.  These were lovely, strong women who at Odin’s bidding, brought the bravest fallen warriors back to Valhalla.  This wasn’t a gloomy glum place to pass your time in the afterlife. Nope. Big feasts were thrown every day and night. Sometimes warriors had friendly tests of strengths against each other.  Wild boar was served every night, and the mead (beer) flowed like waterfalls.

You’d think Odin would be whooping it up with his warriors and Valkyries, but hid didn’t.  He never ate.  Rather, he gave his meat to his two wolves, Geri and Freki.  But boy-howdy he drank mead like a fish.  A god after my own heart.  Odin also preferred to be alone rather than join the antics.  He was a deep thinker.  I suppose the alone time allowed him focus and the concentration he needed to protect, organize and enhance his kingdom.

Odin had an inside edge when it came to wisdom.  He had two ravens (sometimes crows, depending on the literature you’re consulting).  Their names were Hugin, which means ‘thought’ and Munin which means ‘memory.’  Every day Hugin and Munin would fly throughout the land gaining information.  They would return at dusk and report all the going’s on they observed to Odin.

As far as Geri and Freki – these weren’t any ordinary wolves. They were supernatural.  These were warrior wolves gifted with super-canine strength.  They adored Odin, and never left his side.  So loyal, they would protect Odin with their lives.  Woe to the fellow who went up against those hell hounds. Mangle-mania! Oy!

Always the animal lover, Odin also had a horse.  But not just any horse.  His name was Sleipnir, and he had eight legs.  His name means “slippery” – I suppose he would be a slippery one to catch, having eight legs! Sleipnir was as devoted to Odin as Geri, Freki, Hugin and Munin. This horse was also endowed the gift to travel between dimensions.  In essence, no place was off limits to Odin as long as he had his noble steed.



An Ode to Odin Meaning and Accomplishments

Odin had a phenomenal reputation for tending to the needs of the other gods in Asgard.  He also paid special attention to his warriors.  They were his pride.  He took great care in their training and well-being.

Odin was always thinking of better ways to protect his people from the evil giants always wanting to pick a fight with Asgardians. So intent upon providing a peaceful, long-lasting existence for his people of Asgard, he made a gruesome sacrifice.

One day, Odin decided he needed more insight as to how to guard his people. So he went to the Well of Wisdom, which was guarded by Mimir. Odin asked for a drink from the well, but Mimir said there must be a price to be paid for such knowledge (there’s always a price, ugh).  In Odin’s case, he had to pluck out his eyeball.  Why Mimir wanted a slimy eyeball, I have no idea – but he got what he wanted, and Odin did too.

odin meaning odin god meaning
Odin never gave up finding solutions for his people, even though he knew Asgard would end.

Ironically, with only one eye, Odin lost half his sight as well as his depth perception. But he gained ‘second sight’ or ‘otherworldly’ sight from the wisdom juice.  From this ‘second sight’ he could see into the future, and what he saw was not good.  He saw the ultimate demise of Asgard.  But even after seeing this, he never gave up trying to find solutions to prevent its eventual end.

As mentioned, Odin also had a soft-spot for humans.  None of the other Norse gods could really figure out what his fascination with us was, but Odin didn’t care – he kept looking out for us all the same.

He made yet another great sacrifice, this time on behalf of humanity.  He wanted to obtain the powerful gift of Runes to give to humans.  Runes are magical inscriptions that can be engraved on wood, stone, whatever. These inscriptions are a language that can guide people and also offer protection.  They can’t necessarily tell the future, but the inscriptions can reveal certain potentialities that offer forewarning.  The runes can also offer advice and solutions for various tribulations.

In order to get this gift for the humans, Odin hung himself from a wind-rocked tree for nine whole nights while being impaled with a spear.  Ouch!  But he won the right to have the Runes, and gave them to humans.  Humans used them to help predict weather, crop behavior, oncoming threats, solutions to family squabbles, and much more.

Closing Thoughts on Old School Odin Meaning

In summary, it should be clear Odin was one bad as* when it came to protecting his soldiers, his Asgardians as well as human kind.  It should also be evident that Odin was outrageously determined to think his way through any problem.  He was rabid about finding solutions – even if it meant self-sacrifice.

Odin also stood up for his beliefs.  Even when the other gods were questioning his motive for fiddling with us humans – Odin still provided regardless.  He provided a home and happiness to his warriors even in the afterlife.  He created an almost Utopian place to live where all kind could live in harmony – at least for a time.  I’d say that’s pretty epic.  And it’s pretty old school to have a vision and hammer down on it, no matter what.

I hope you enjoyed this article on various thoughts on Odin meaning as a wicked-awesome Norse god.  Of course there is tons more to Odin, so don’t stop here.  Keep researching.  You’ll find out about his lovely wife Frigg, his buff son Thor, and his emo son Loki.  Keep diving into the fascinating saga of Odin, and you won’t be disappointed.

As always, thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these articles below:

God and Goddess Symbol Meanings

Celtic God and Goddess Meanings

 

St. Patrick’s Day Symbols

st patricks day symbols

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day Symbols





It’s been said that on March 17th, St. Patrick’s day, everybody is Irish.  That’s not too far off the mark.  At one point, Irish immigrants outnumbered any other nationality in the US. In fact, the Irish have been so influential in this country, that many Irish customs (and symbols) are embossed upon the American culture.

This Irish holiday is just as impressive with symbolic meaning. Firstly, St. Patrick was a pretty remarkable dude…and he wasn’t Irish either. He was born around Roman Britain, close to Scotland.  In a weird twist of fate, St. Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and made a slave in Ireland.  Ironic, eh? Yeah…the guy who is an Irish icon was kept a slave there from the time he was 16. After about seven years as a slave, St. Paddy was called by God to serve a higher purpose, and he ran away from his dour life of slavery.

He traveled Europe and got the education he lacked as a slave. Then God called St. Pat again, telling him it was time to do great things. So St. Patrick went back to Ireland to share his passion for Christianity. Talk about dynamic forgiveness! This is a guy captured by the Irish, yet he went back there as a missionary to talk about salvation.

St. Patrick didn’t have an easy time of it though.  He made some big social blunders.  On one occasion, Patrick lit a bonfire on what was then one of the most sacred Celtic celebrations (Beltane).

No big deal, right? Well, the high Celtic king, Laoghaire saw Pat’s fire and was enraged. Apparently, it’s not good etiquette to light a bonfire before the king lights his own first. Oopsie.

St. Patrick soothed over the hard feelings about the fire, started to make friends, and successfully shared his views about Christianity.

What I find very cool about St. Patrick is that he took a different tact than many missionaries.  He wasn’t about crushing and converting the people.  He actually meshed the Celtic/pagan beliefs in with the Christian philosophy.  So instead of obliterating Irish ancient beliefs, St. Patrick wove together the old and the new – forming a cohesion.

As he respected the old ways while honoring his own faith – I think St. Paddy would approve of this post on St. Patrick’s Day symbols.  Why? Because symbols, either ancient or new, reflect an era, a culture, a belief, etc. Check out these St. Patrick’s Day symbols…I think you’ll find they make March 17th a little more rich with meaning.



st. patricks day symbols

St. Patrick’s Day Symbols

Shillelagh: Okay, so it’s not the most sophisticated weapon, but certainly effective.  Back in Patrick’s day, there was a lot of warring for territory, and family feuds. The fighting Irish devised these clubs called shillelagh’s from oak trees as weapons. Often, a warrior would double fist their clubs, one club in one hand to deliver the damaging blow, and the other club for staving off attacks. So what makes this one of St. Patrick’s Day symbols? Over time and with the evolution of legend, the clubs turned into staffs or walking sticks.  They were considered to be a mark of wisdom and great power.  Check out any picture of St. Patrick, and you’ll see him with a staff – a mark of his esteemed position in the Irish culture.

Leprechaun: These are the wee ones in Irish lore. They are a group of fairies known as Luchorpan. The whole deal with their association with cobbling shoes points back to their name in Gaelic, which means ‘one shoemaker’.  Now, you’ve got to understand that in ancient cultures around the world, just about everything had a governing spirit (fairy, troll, goddess whatever).  There is a hierarchy of mythic beings who are in charge of certain functions in life. Leprechaun’s, apparently were the Jimmy Choo of shoes back in the day. The leprechaun is included in this list of St. Patrick Day Symbols as a nod of respect to St. Pat for keeping old traditions intact. Rather than eliminating beliefs in magical beings, St. Patrick allowed the people to acknowledge them side-by-side with the new religion.

Harp: Both a national symbol of Ireland, and St. Patrick, the harp won popularity with the Irish long ago.  This instrument was used in festivals, celebrations and just general family gatherings. Its music was said to put evil spirits to sleep, and insure peaceful dreams for children. The harp plays its way into Irish culture because it was custom for great tales and legends to be made into music.  These tales were often sung accompanied by the harp. Seeing as how St. Patrick is a living legend, it makes sense a few harp tunes were played in his honor. As a symbol of cultural heritage, St. Patrick and the harp go hand in hand.

Shamrock: This unlikely little plant set St. Patrick on the map.  It is THE symbol he is most famous for.  Why?  Because St. Pat was a clever guy.  He used the shamrock as a demonstration tool to explain the triple force behind Christianity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost).  Celts were already digging the scene of triple energy (triple gods, and goddesses) when Pat showed up, so a trinity was easy to grasp.  St. Patrick used the shamrock to show how each branch of the Christian faith stood on it’s own power, but all the leaves needed each other to live and grow.  He used the leaves to explain the individuality of each holy entity, while also explaining their dependence upon each sacred power.  Learn more about shamrock symbol meanings here.

In closing, I hope you enjoyed this brief article on St. Patrick’s day symbols and their meanings.  To be sure, there are many more icons associated with St. Patrick, as well as Ireland.  Don’t let your research stop here! Take some time to find out the symbolic meanings associated with this great time of year and the Irish culture.

If nothing else, you can impress your friends at the pub with your knowledge about Irish symbolic history!

As always, thank you for reading. And I hope your St. Patrick’s day (March 17th) turns out to be a frolicking good time.

Brightly,

Avia

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy…

Symbolic Meanings for the Month of March

Symbolic Shamrock Meaning

Symbolism of Celtic Trinity

Good Luck Symbols and Their Meanings

 

 

 

Symbolic Meaning of Today’s Holiday – February 28th

today's holiday in Finland
The blacksmith, Ilmarinen, is celebrated on this day in Finland.

Today’s Holiday: Symbolic Meanings From Different Cultures

The first holiday on February 28th we'll celebrate is from Finland.  Today is Kalevala Day.  It's a holiday that celebrates the blacksmith Ilmarinen and the Finnish warrior Lemminkainen.  The holiday was established by doctor Elias Lonnrot in 1835.  Dr. Lonnrot wanted to reestablish Finland as the 'land of warriors'.  So he did a lot of research and his results lead him to the conclusion that this was the day of Finland's creation. This is also the day that Ilmarinen and Lemminkainen got together to forge the 'lids of heaven' which insured the earth would not float out into the vast abyss of sky, but be anchored in place so the people of Finland could continue to live on their lovely lands. On this day, the Finns celebrate their heroes and warriors with great feasts and festive parades.

today's holiday Chaldean Today's Holiday Features Chaldean Sabbath. Shown here is the Demiurge, the male oracle of intellect and creation of the ancient Chaldean people.

 Today's Holiday: The Chaldean Day of Rest on February 28th

The ancient Chaldean's existed around 800 BC, and were a sect of Babylonia. Eventually the Babylonians absorbed the Chaldean's and morphed their ways of life.  But in their prime the Chaldean's held to a strong Gnostic belief system.  Gnostic is simply a fancy word for 'having knowledge'.  On this day, the Chaldean's would turn to their Gnostic texts and ponder higher knowledge.  They celebrated the Sabbath (day of rest) every seven days, but this day called for a deeper, more ascetic practice of worship and contemplation.  Yes, it was a day of rest, but it was also a day of silence and intense meditation upon Chaldean oracles.  These oracles included prime male and female deities.  On the February 28th Sabbath, these mother/father oracles were highly focused upon in an effort to acknowledge and silently celebrate the creation of their people.

Today's holiday for the Cherokee people Today's holiday and celebration for the Cherokee Nation

Today's Holiday, February 28th For the Cherokee Tribe

The Cherokee Nation, also known as United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee spans across the south and southeastern regions of North America.

Not all, but most Cherokee had daily ceremonies and devotionals. These observations were intended to reinforce the idea of the dawn of a new day and renewal.

Today, February 28th, the Cherokee paid homage to all that is beautiful.  They made extra effort to rejoice the presence of spirit living in all things.  Each moment was a meditative focus upon listening within, as well as listening to the call of spirit.  Today was a day the Cherokee eliminated sorrow and imbued their souls with joy.  This was a day to turn away from the dark, and face the hope and bliss of the light.  It was also a day to ignore all kinds of judgement (whether from others or from oneself) and embrace the unique beauty within every soul.

I hope you enjoyed this post on the symbolic meaning of today's holiday - February 28th. I'm starting to post these daily celebrations because learning how other cultures around the world acknowledged every day offers great insight into living a symbolic life.

As always, thanks for reading!

May every day be a meaningful holiday for you.

Brightly,

Avia

Related Posts on Symbolic Meanings of Days:

Astrological Meaning of Days

Symbolic Meaning and Observances for February

Native American Moon Sign Meaning for February