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Top 20 Symbols of Balance Through History

The beam balance since ancient times has come to signify fairness, justice, balance, and non-discrimination.Pin
The beam balance since ancient times has come to signify fairness, justice, balance, and non-discrimination.

Throughout history, the heart of human communication has been symbols, allowing for the efficient flow of information across time and space. 

Throughout history, they have served as a means to better facilitate the understanding of various concepts, ideas, or any piece of gathered knowledge. 

In this article, we have compiled the top 20 symbols of balance through history. 

1. Ying Yang (China)

Chinese symbol for balance / Taoist balance symbol .Pin

Chinese symbol for balance / Taoist balance symbol 
Gregory Maxwell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ying Yang symbol represents the ancient Chinese philosophical concept of dualism. 

It states that what look like seemingly contradictory forces are actually interconnected and complementary to each other. 

Light and darkness, fire and water, life and death, and so on are all-natural manifestations espoused in Ying Yang. (1)

Harmony is said to exist when the opposing forces are equally balanced. Should one triumph over the order, the harmony will be disrupted. 

While the concept of Yin Yang dates back to early Chinese antiquity, its symbol is relatively more recent, only taking form during the time of the Song Dynasty in the 11th century. (2)

2. Beam Balance (West)

Symbol of justice and fairness / Beam balance.Pin

Symbol of justice and fairness / Beam balance
Toby Hudson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Depicted in the yore in the hands of just deities and today, for the personification of aspects such as justice, the beam balance since ancient times has come to signify fairness, justice, balance, and non-discrimination. 

For instance, among the Greeks, it was a symbol of Themis, a Titaness associated with divine order, fairness, natural law, and social harmony. (3) 

In a similar fashion, it was the symbol of Lustitia and Tyr, the Roman goddess and Norse god of justice, respectively. 

It was also believed among the Romans that their state was founded under the sign of Libra, as highlighted in the words of the Roman poet Manilius, “Italy belongs to the Balance, her rightful sign. Beneath it, Rome and her sovereignty of the world were founded.” (4)

The beam balance is among the earliest forms of weighing scales, the oldest evidence of its existence dating as far back as 2400 BC in the Indus Valley Civilization. (5) 

3. Nkyinkyim (West Africa)

Akan balance symbol / Nkyinkyim.Pin

Akan balance symbol / Nkyinkyim
Illustration 168867739 © DreamsidheDreamstime.com

In West Africa, adinkra symbols form an integral part of many cultures, serving as visual cues to highlight various complex concepts and ideas. 

Meaning ‘twisting’ in Akan, Nkyinkyim is an adinkra symbol that signifies prudence, vigilance, and balance. 

With the symbol-shaped in the form of a twisted path, it represents the journey of life itself – how it is uncertain and is composed of both good and bad moments. 

In addition, it also serves as a warning against the overexploitation of and carelessness towards the Earth’s natural resources. (6)

4. Tree of Life (Celts) 

A Celtic symbol for balance / Irish Tree of Life.Pin

A Celtic symbol for balance / Irish Tree of Life 
Image by AnnaliseArt from Pixabay

The ancient Celts deified many natural phenomena, and their use of symbols clearly reflects this preoccupation. 

Taking the form of a complex knot in the shape of a tree, the Tree of Life symbol signifies the balance and harmony in nature as well as longevity, wisdom, and strength.  

Trees were considered sacred in pre-Roman Celtic society, with them being considered gateways to the spirit world or possessing supernatural qualities. 

It was a common practice to hold many important tribal gatherings under the shade of a large tree. (7) (8)

5. Dragon and Phoenix (China)

Feng Shui Harmony symbol / Long and Fenghuang.Pin

Feng Shui Harmony symbol / Long and Fenghuang 
Donald_Trung, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Chinese Feng Shui, the dragon (Long) and the phoenix (Fenghuang) are often depicted together in artworks. 

It symbolizes the union of Yin and Yang. The phoenix (Yin) and the dragon (Yang) symbolize feminine and masculine qualities, respectively, and thus, together represent a balanced partnership. 

By extension, it also espouses the Chinese ideal of a perfect couple, who complement each other, will stay together through thick and thin, their bond strengthened by their everlasting love for each other. (9) (10)

6. Yanantin (Andean Cultures)

Yanantin symbol / Chavin visualization of dualism.Pin

Yanantin symbol / Chavin visualization of dualism 
Walters Art Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Yanantin is a cosmological concept similar to Ying Yang that was developed independently in the pre-Columbian Andean cultures. 

Much like the Chinese belief, Yannatin posits the view that any two opposites are actually interdependent and only together are able to form the harmonious whole. 

For the Andean people, the concept of Yanantin teaches them not to look at the difference between two beings. 

Instead, the focus should be on the qualities that bring them together. No being is perfect and fully capable of doing everything; rather, they need the help of another to supplement their shortcomings. (11) (12)

7. Harmony Symbol (Native Americans)

Native American symbol of balance / Harmony Symbol.Pin

Native American symbol of balance / Harmony Symbol
Illustration 193963711 © DsgnteamDreamstime.com

The various tribal cultures indigenous to North America made extensive use of symbols as a means to communicate their history, ideas, and dreams across generations. 

Depicted as a crescent moon under the shining sun, the harmony symbol represents the ability to strike balance, peace, and harmony across all living things – an integral aspect of the Native American way of life. (13) 

8. Circle (Various)

Symbol of eternity and perfection / Circle.Pin

Symbol of eternity and perfection / Circle
Websterdead, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In many cultures, both from the New World and Old, the circle has been reserved as a sacred symbol, representing protection, creation, perfection, infinity, and balance. (14) 

The use of circle symbols predates recorded history, and it is plausible that it may well be among the oldest drawn symbols. 

By extension of it representing the whole or the state of completeness, it also symbolizes cosmological order and balance.  (15) (16)

9. Dagaz (Norse)

Dagaz rune symbol / Norse day rune.Pin

Dagaz rune symbol / Norse day rune 
Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay

Among the Norse, runes were more than just letters to write. Each symbol was believed to be linked to a cosmological principle or power. 

It was common to find weapons, tools, jewellery, and various other objects with runes carved on them as it was believed among the Norse that it would grant them magical powers. 

Translating to “day,” the Dagaz (ᛞ) rune symbolizes the end of one’s trials and of reaching fulfillment that awaits at the end of it. 

The rune also depicts the balance between positive and negative energies and how they are both related to each other. (17)   

10. Endless Knot (Buddhism)

Buddhist Endless knot symbol.Pin

Buddhist Endless knot symbol 
Dontpanic (= Dogcow on de.wikipedia), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Endless Knot (Shrivastava) is an ancient symbol. It dates back to 2500 BC from the Indus Valley Civilization. (18)

It is considered a sacred symbol in many Dharmic religions and carries various interpretations. In the context of Buddhism, it symbolizes the interconnectedness of all events as well as the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth

In addition, it may also signify the interplays between opposing forces in the dualistic world of manifestation, their interplay leading to their union, and thus, harmony and balance. (19) (20)

11. Ouroboros (Old World Cultures)

Tail eating snake symbol / Ouroboros on a cemetery door.Pin

Tail eating snake symbol / Ouroboros on a cemetery door 
Swiertz, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ouroboros (in Greek: tail-eating) is a symbol common to several old-world cultures, where it carries various interpretations. 

It can signify eternal cyclic renewal, fertility, and the balance between universal forces. (21)

While imported into Western traditions via the Greeks, the Ouroboros symbol has its origin in Ancient Egypt

Likely, it may have served as a manifestation of Mehen, the snake deity that guards Ra in his journey through the underworld. (22) 

The ouroboros may also have been the inspiration behind the Norse myth of Jörmungandr, the titanic serpent that encircles the Earth and is said to play an integral role in starting the Ragnarök. (23)

A particular variant, depicted with its one half as white and one half as black, symbolizes the concept of duality in Gnosticism, in essence, similar to the Chinese Ying Yang symbol. (24)

12. Square (Various)

Symbol of structure and steadfastness / Square mosaic.Pin

Symbol of structure and steadfastness / Square mosaic  
Image courtesy: pxfuel.com

In many cultures, the square shape is associated with balance, steadfastness, and structure, being composed of straight, fixed lines and thus projecting a feeling of being steady. 

Its side may also signify the four elements – the balance between which is essential for the progress of all life. 

Unlike many other shape symbols, the square symbol relates to the physical rather than abstract conceptualization of things. (25) (26)

The famous Greek polymath Pythagoras assigned the square shape the number 4, which in numerology relates to such qualities as stability, consistency, and practicality. (27) 

Among the ancient Greeks, it was believed that everything had a numerical relationship, and it was up to oneself to seek out and investigate the secret of such relationships. (28) 

13. Ehecailacocozcatl (Aztec)

Quetzalcoatl , God of Wind and Wisdom wears a ehecailacocozcatl around his neck / Wind jewel symbol.Pin

Quetzalcoatl , God of Wind and Wisdom wears a ehecailacocozcatl around his neck / Wind jewel symbol 
Eddo, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Aztec society, twins were perceived as opposing entities but also being complementary to each other – the two together forming the whole. 

In the Mesoamerican worldview, it was believed that contrasting pairs were needed to give rise to creation. 

We see this in the story of the Venus twin deities, Xolotl and Quetzalcoatl. The former was a god of monstrosities, misfortune, sickness, and transformation. 

The latter, meanwhile, was the god associated with wisdom, prosperity, good health, wind, and learning. 

It was only through both of them working in conjunction with another that the suns were created and the world set in order for mortals to live in. (29)

Both the twin deities share the symbol of ehecailacocozcatl (Wind Jewel), a breastplate with a “spirally voluted wind jewel” constructed from a conch shell. (30) 

14. Double Spiral (Celts)

A Celtic symbol of balance / Double spiral symbol.Pin

A Celtic symbol of balance / Double spiral symbol 
Illustration 157613302 © Olha PohorielovaDreamstime.com

Spiral symbols are a common incorporation in many Celtic artworks and architecture. Despite this, due to the lack of reliable records, we can only speculate on their meaning. 

The double spiral seems to have served as a symbol of balance – the ends of the two spirals representing polarity between two extremes and how they are interrelated to one another. 

In addition, it could have also served as a symbol of Epona, the Celtic horse goddess of Earth; the spirals representing the sun’s journey over the course of the year and the changing of the season.  (31) (32)

15. Three Rays (Celtic)

Celtic trinity symbol / British druid order Awen symbol.Pin

Celtic trinity symbol / British druid order Awen symbol 
Awen by Andrew Cameron from the Noun Project

Also known as Awen, the Three Rays is a Celtic trinity symbol with the first and third rays representing a masculine and feminine aspect and the middle one the balance between the two. 

This can be interpreted in various ways, for instance: mind, spirit and body, nature, knowledge and truth, sea, land and sky, past, present and future, and so. 

The symbol is often depicted housed inside of a circle, which may imply the timeless and cyclical nature of the interpreted trinities. (33)   

16. Borromean Cross (Celts)

Borromean rings / Celtic Five-Fold symbol.Pin

Borromean rings / Celtic Five-Fold symbol
Madboy74, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also referred to as the Celtic Five-Fold symbol, the Borromean cross represents spiritual and natural harmony. 

Similar to the above symbol, it can be understood in various contexts. For instance, the four outer rings could represent heaven, time, spirituality, and the universe, with the central ring symbolizing God and how all of them are tied to Him. 

Alternatively, the four outer rings could signify the four elements – air, water, Earth, and fire – and their link to the central ring symbolize how each is necessary to sustain life. 

It can also be taken as a representation of the four seasons and the cyclic nature of time. (31) (34)

17. Temperance Tarot (Europe)

Tarot balance symbol / Temperance tarot.Pin

Tarot balance symbol / Temperance tarot 
Image courtesy: en.wikipedia.org

Today, in popular imaginations, associated with witchcraft and the Occult, the origin of tarot cards is rather innocent, first emerging in Italy in the late 13th century to play card games with. (35) 

Only in the later centuries would they start to be linked with the supernatural. 

Depicting a winged angel pouring water from one chalice to another, the Temperance tarot symbolizes the virtue of moderation. 

It is a fairly old card, making an appearance among the very first Italian card decks. (36)

Upright, the card represents moderation, balance, peace, harmony. When reversed, it represents disharmony, imbalance, lack of patience, and the onset of illness. (37) 

What this can be interpreted as is that without exercising moderation, a person’s life cannot be peaceful nor fulfilling.  

18. Necklace of Harmonia (Ancient Greeks)

Golden Necklace of Harmonia.Pin

Golden Necklace of Harmonia
Mararie, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Born to Ares, the god of war, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, Harmonia was a Greek goddess of harmony and concord. (38) 

Among her chief symbols was her golden necklace, which was given to her by the gods as a gift on her wedding to Cadmus, the founder and first king of Thebes. 

Little did she know that it had been cursed by Hephaestus as revenge against his wife Aphrodite’s infidelity. 

While the necklace made the wearer remain eternally young and beautiful, it would also bring some misfortune to them and their descendants. (39)

19. Ostrich Feather (Ancient Egypt) 

Symbol of Ma’at / Ostrich feather.Pin

Symbol of Ma’at / Ostrich feather
Shadster, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ostrich feather was among the chief symbols of Ma’at, with which she was often depicted wearing on her head. 

She was a literal personification of the concept of justice, order, harmony, truth, and balance. In her role, she also governed the stars and regulated the actions of mortals and deities alike to prevent the universe from sliding back into chaos. 

It is said that, in judging whether a person’s soul would be granted access to paradise, Ma’at would weigh her feather on a scale against the person’s heart. 

If the heart was found to be lighter or equal to the weight of her feather, the person would be deemed worthy. 

However, if it was found to be heavier, the person would be condemned to remain in the underworld. 

This is also the reason why in Egyptian mummies, the heart would be left out while the rest of the organs were removed.   (40) (41)

20. Bridle (Ancient Greeks)

Bridle in the British museum, Etruscan, c. 700-650 BC / Symbol of Nemesis.Pin

Bridle in the British museum, Etruscan, c. 700-650 BC / Symbol of Nemesis
British Museum, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The bridle is the symbol of the Greek goddess, Nemesis, who was charged with enacting retribution, avenging crime, and punishing hubris. 

Her name derives from the Greek word Nemein, which means “to give what is due.” 

Her bridle was said to be made of adamantine and was employed by her to restrain “the frivolous insolences of mortals.” (42) (43)

Over to You 

Do you know of any other symbols of balance in history? Tell us in the comments, and we’ll consider adding them to the list.

References 

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The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 20 Symbols of Balance Through History," Give Me History, December 3, 2020, https://givemehistory.com/symbols-of-balance.

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