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Top 23 Symbols of Change Throughout History

Faux autumn leaf formed with autumn leaves.Pin

Change is inevitable. 

It is an agent of nature, the due diligence of which is absolute; the ripples it causes are too profound.

What we stand as today, who we are, is true due to the fact that we are constantly changing — so is the world. Sometimes, this change can be tremendous; sometimes too insignificant to be noticed. 

Change holds deep meaning. In cultures all around the world, good change is welcomed ritualistically or in good faith.

Bad change is considered the mark of evil or penance and people often resort to averting or deflecting it. 

Over the years, change has been symbolized by color, flowers, written symbols of forgotten or exotic languages, heavenly bodies, and so on.

In this guide, we will list the 23 most important symbols that represent and signify change. 

Animals and Insects 

Change is often symbolized with certain animals. Even certain insects are attributed to it. The concept of spirit animals also stems from these attributions. 

Animals and insects that symbolize change are listed below. 

1. Butterfly

Orange and black winged butterfly atop a flower.Pin

Orange and black winged butterfly atop a flower
Image courtesy: pikist.com

The butterfly is an image of powerful individual change. People who attribute themselves to constant change and evolution would too easily attribute themselves to butterflies, too.

Those seeing butterflies in their dreams, or coming across one consciously are told they are destined to encounter some level of or tremendous change in their lives. 

Change can be twofold. Unlike the beautiful butterfly’s wings, it must not be mistaken with good change always.

It may be that something you do not want to be changed is about to be changed, or something that you have always wanted. In either case, be ready. 

Some other implications behind the ‘Butterfly’ are those of energy, resurrection, beauty—or something beautiful gained after rigorous struggle or patience and waiting, something the butterfly’s life cycle signifies as well.

2. Snake

Grey snake in the desert.Pin

Grey snake in the desert
Image courtesy: pexels.com

The meaning often attributed to the snake is that of dark life, energy, and power. Also, snakes are tricksters, slithering into even the most impenetrable of places, biting and leaving venom coursing through you. 

Snakes are not all evil. 

In many societies, the snake is coveted as an emblem of life and wellbeing. The change that is attributed to it is from when the snake sheds its skin.

This shedding enables it to be born anew. This is why snakes not only signify change but also the washing away of sin—a clean slate if you will.

Dreaming of snakes?

Don’t worry. It also implies rejuvenation, new beginnings, change—of course—positive advances and upcoming experiences in life, and expanded energy and potential for growth.

Spirituality is also very rarely linked to snakes. 

3. Frog

Green frog perched thin tree branch.Pin

Green frog perched thin tree branch
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

The frog’s life is a reminder for us, that helps in remembering the transient notion that is our own lives.

From egg then tadpole to adult, the frog symbolizes constant progress and change.

But what the frog helps us understand is that change comes in all forms, frequencies, and volumes and we must embrace it even if we may not want to.

For the end, all change is good and all changes are for the better. 

Associated with the element of water, frogs are also attributed to the universe of feelings, female energy, and purification.

Mystic and spiritual changes, be it physical, emotional, or mental, also are connected with the frog.

Frog symbolism also entails wisdom that comes with age, resurrection, purging, and cleansing. 

4. Dragonfly

Dragonfly on plant stalk.Pin

Dragonfly on plant stalk
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels 

The dragonfly is another insect attributed to change. As a symbol, the dragonfly personifies the inexactitude and versatility of change throughout everyday life.

You must have seen a dragonfly. Have you noticed how slow they are, yet their wings are a flurry of movement?

This has been attributed to slowly taking in overwhelming change, a one-step-at-a-time from the mighty dragonfly unto humans. 

Apart from change, this insect also symbolizes progress and light.

Sighting or any sort of encounter with dragonflies is said to be the harbinger of small delights and happiness that you would be smart to spot and wise to cherish.

A need for self-discovery and reflection is arisen by dragonflies according to some.

This is usually for either correction of personal errors or for people to find outwardly answers inward. 

Dragonflies also symbolize flexibility, satisfaction, and association with nature. 

5. Owl

Beige and brown owl on top of tree log.Pin

Beige and brown owl on top of tree log
Photo by Jean van der Meulen from Pexels

The Owl is mostly known as a symbol for old-aged wisdom, experience, and intelligence.

However, interpretation and connotations denote that one is to unveil the unknown or disclose that which is hidden or covered up for most. 

The owl is also known to symbolize one’s capacity to sense deception. It has mostly been referred to as an indicator of prevalent deceit, or that which you are yet to encounter—kind of like a heads up.

People also attribute the wise owl to seeing past figments and misdirection. In children’s movies and fairytales, the owl is your go-to person.

Connecting this to interpretations for the adult, it implies you should either look for a go-to person or, well, go to your go-to person. 

While the above is what most attributes the owl too, this bird also symbolizes change, instinctiveness, and an ultimatum for decision-making. 

Colors

Though an abundance of colors can be interpreted and symbolized as attributable to change, the light color palette, for instance.

However, only one color is unanimously uncontested when it comes to symbolizing change. 

6. Orange

Abstract orange painting.Pin

Abstract orange painting
Image courtesy: pxhere.com

Orange is known for its dynamism and ferocity. The color has been labelled “masculine,” but in truth, no one can actually label colors.

Given its relationship with the evolving seasons, orange can speak to change and development when all is said and done.

Orange is additionally emphatically connected with inventiveness.

Since this color is also very well related to the earth and with fall (the season), it is often attributed to change—since fall itself represents a change in terms of seasons.

Apart from seasons, the rising and setting of the sun are also forebearers of change—the ensuring dark of night and the daylight that comes once the darkness dissipates. 

Others also attribute it to benevolence, healing, growth, and recovery. 

Flowers

Kathleen Karlsen of the Living Arts Originals believed flowers to be symbols for each and every one of a human being’s characteristics in the old days.

Flowers, along with plants, were found often attributed to a god or a pantheon of them.

In the days of the Renaissance, to be able to relate to a certain godly being, artists made use of these very flowers in their works to reconcile the two.

The Floral Language ascended in Victorian times as a way for people to express themselves and their feelings. 

This language has survived time.

There are a number of flowers that symbolize change. 

7. Pimpernel

Pimpernel Flowers.Pin

Pimpernel Flowers
Image courtesy: pxhere.com

Not often heard of, the Pimpernel belongs to the genus Anagallis, the primrose family. It is known for its scarlet red, in some cases: white, petals that contract and close in during bad weather.

Interestingly, to call someone “Scarlet Pimpernel,” in reference to Orczy’s novel, means giving high praise to that someone for endangering their life and smuggling another to a safe haven in another country.

While the Pimpernel does owe a small amount of thanks to the entitlement above, a more solid explanation of why this flower supposedly symbolizes change remains unknown. 

Fancy yourself a Pimpernel? These flowers are native to Europe, some northern parts of Africa, and some parts of Asia.

They have become rather popular among gardeners.

8. Heather

A field of flowering heather plants.Pin

A field of flowering heather plants
 Julia Zaporozhchenko of Pexels

The heather, or anything from the Ericaceous family, is a strong shrub surrounded by soft and spongy flowers, like Lavender or White Bloom in the Spring season.

It has small, scale-like leaves that are a mix of purple and pink. In contrast to this plant being a member of the “health family,” it not so opposingly symbolizes change in lieu of good health and fortune like one might expect it to.

Not just any change, but transformative change; the growth of something ordinary to extraordinary.

It is rumored that this plant, along with any of its flowers, of course, was given away from the old to new actors as gifts.

The underlying compliment that was always the intention was, of course, congratulations on the recipient’s having “made it” to popularity and stardom.

9. Lilac

A close up shot of purple lilacs on a tree.Pin

A close up shot of purple lilacs on a tree
Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels

The Lilac, Syringa Vulgaris, a shrub that flowers early in the spring, is a symbol for both change and growth.

It is a genus of the currently accepted twelve species of wood plants that bear flowers. These flowers grow in temperate regions along with East Asia and Southeast Europe. 

Lilacs have a purplish disposition and soft-to-the-touch petals. While they have a rich history that stems from ancient Greek mythology, they are best known for their attribution to change and growth from ignorance to knowing and that from innocence to becoming wise. 

Today, Lilacs are used as references in modern poetry and are a gardener’s favorite. They are used in flower exhibitions around the world in places where they are available. 

10. Black Rose

Creative close up shot of black rose.Pin

Creative close up shot of black rose
Photo by George Becker from Pexels

While black roses do not grow naturally, common roses like yellow are occasionally painted or dyed a dark black.

A black rose or death rose commonly symbolizes death or dying love; a change from life to death.

Over the years, people have learned to deduce meanings and interpretations that suit them or their goals which is why we have also heard how the black rose’s death also means the death of old habits and proclivities. 

After death comes life. The death rose, then, also symbolizes rebirth into an improved, changed, or altered state of being. 

But mostly this dreadful flower symbolizes death, despair, and destruction. 

11. Daffodils

Close up photograph of daffodils.Pin

Close up photograph of daffodils
Photo by Maria Tyutina from Pexels

The Daffodil, Narcissus Sylvestrus, is among the first blooms of the spring season. Traditionally, this flower is a vibrant yellow or white, six petals adorning its bell-shaped central flower from the bottom.

But today, a number of varieties have been made of the Daffodil. These cultivations are called cultivars and are of great interest to florists and gardeners.

The daffodils are very symbolic. They symbolize changing seasons. Since they are planted in autumn or winter so that they grow and bloom during early or late spring, they are also known to symbolize the overcoming of desolation and despair through struggle, hope, and hard work. 

Daffodils are very beautiful and will make a great addition to your garden or indoor floral décor.

12. Delphinium

Close up photograph of Delphinium.Pin

Close up photograph of Delphinium
jamesdemers by Pixabay

The rare Delphinium, or Larkspur, is a genus of around three hundred species of flowers of the Ranunculaceae family.

They can be found in the high tropic mountains of Africa and anywhere around the Northern Hemisphere.

These flowers are tall, purple-blue visages of different shapes and sizes. They say the shape and size of each Larkspur is unique to its location. 

Though blue, purple and beautiful, these flowers are toxic to humans and animals alike. It is through pain and suffering that one achieves absolute peace and harmony.

The Delphiniums poison, and ultimately the flower itself, is a symbol of spiritual awakening, growth, and change. 

13. Iris

Close up of purple Iris in a field.Pin

Close up of purple Iris in a field.
 Aaron Burden via Pexels

Iris, named after the Greek Goddess of rainbows, is a larkspur-like flower with extravagant, showy petals.

It has a number of lower classifications, each unique in shape, size, and color. Much like some of the flowers above, Irises are also planted during winter, some before that, to bloom in early spring. 

This is why they symbolize change and recovery from the dreadful cold of winter to the delights of spring. Irises also symbolizes the renewal and resurrection of natural, earthly materials.

Today, these flowers are precious. Actresses in movies, even girls in real life, are named after the purple bloom.

More often than not, the intention behind this is not to uphold what the flower truly stands for but for there to be an element of uniqueness associated with the person’s life. 

14. Snapdragon

Pink purple snapdragon flower.Pin

Pink purple snapdragon flower
Picture from metsikgar via Pixabay

The Antirrhinum, more commonly known as the snapdragon flowers or Snapdragon, are flowers belonging to the genus Antirrhinum.

They get their name from their resemblance to the face of a dragon (when distantly looking at them). They come in a number of shapes and sizes in red and orange, purple, pink, and white colors. 

Their symbolism with change is limited. The Snapdragon, in old times, was the conveyer of wishes. If you were to give someone this flower, it would mean that you wish that all of the recipients wishes of asked-for “changes” to come true. 

Apart from this, not much of this flower’s origin is known. 

15. Protea

Creative closeup of protea flower.Pin

Creative closeup of protea flower
Image courtesy: pixy.org

The legendary Protea is one of the oldest flowers, dating so far as three hundred million years.

In Greek mythology, it is said that the flowers were named after the son of Poseidon: Proteus. As Proteus is associated with change and transformation, so is the flower named after him. 

Protea is one of the strangest-looking flowers out there. Much like the daffodil, it has a central dome with numerous petals rising from the bottom and surrounding it. 

This pink-red flower also symbolizes versatility and bravery. In the south of Africa, it is heralded as a symbol for constant evolution and eventual transformation. 

Written

Writings are a collection of symbols etched in stone. They can be messages left for generations to be read, interpreted, and remember.

They are sacred, their importance unmistakable. 

Some written symbols that symbolize change that we have added to this list are below. 

16. Shan, kaizen善 Symbol

Kaizen symbol.Pin

Kaizen symbol
Majo statt Senf, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The concept of Lean Thinking that came as a gift for us from Japan is very inspiring. Japanese meticulosity is an often-sought quality Americans always imitate.

We can see it in their Kanji symbols and how there is one for every concept. These symbols are beautiful in defining their subject and in style when written. 

The 善symbol, or the Shan or Kaizen, is one such symbol. It also relates to the Japanese Zen Symbol. It means to improve or to cause change. It also simply means change. 

This symbol represents change when it is being predicted, being seen, or wished and desired for. Japanese texts glorify their Kanji symbols, this one in particular, for making reference to Japanese history and lore. 

17. Mmere Dane

Mmere Dane Illustration.Pin

Mmere Dane Illustration
196673925 © DreamsidheDreamstime.com

Mmere Dane is the Adinkra-equivalent of change symbolized. It is also used to depict life’s dynamism.

This symbol, along with its counterparts, have been used in the visual and decorative arts and illustrations of Africa from the 11th century and ahead. 

Heavenly Associations

There are lessons and stories everywhere you look in the universe. Some are mere protectors of legacies for generations to come.

Others are teachers for whoever wishes to learn from them. We have added two heavenly associations with change. 

18. Janus, Roman God

Janus faces.Pin

Janus faces
Loudon dodd, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Janus, from Roman religious texts and beliefs, is often depicted as the two-faced god and is the god of new beginnings.

He was conjured as the first of any divine beings in quite a while. The start of the day, month, and year, both calendrical and farming, were hallowed to him.

The long stretch of January is named for him, and his celebration occurred on January 9, the Agonium, is celebrated today.

There were a few significant sanctuaries raised to Janus, and it is expected that there was likewise an early society on the Janiculum, which the people of old interpreted as meaning “the city of Janus.”

Many believe that the associations of change and doorways linked with this God are, however, derivative.

19. Uranus, the Planet

Image of Uranus, taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986.Pin

Image of Uranus, taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986.
NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Uranus is the planet of abrupt motivation and change, of erraticism, and receptiveness.

In one’s natal graph, Uranus shows us where in life they may encounter these sorts of unexpected changes.

People have made connections to changing tides and times with the movements of this planet in old times. Astrologers, to this day, do the same. 

While these connections are highly subjective, it is better to interpret the planet as just a symbol of change and not to enact upon its position on any given chart for that matter. 

Others

Some other symbolic manifestations of change are presented below.

20. Dandelion Fluff on the Wind

A close up shot of dandelion fluff.Pin

A close up shot of dandelion fluff
Image courtesy: peakpx.com

When you blow on a dandelion, the fluffs that flow away into the air are your wishes. Wishing on dandelion fluff is no longer practiced, however, it was quite common in the old days.

The fluffs carry your wishes and were a symbol of change that you were to expect to ensue. 

21. The Death Tarot

The Death Tarot.Pin

The Death Tarot
Photo 116471849 © Sara MilanaDreamstime.com

Death (XIII) is the thirteenth trump or Major Arcana card in most conventional Tarot decks. It is utilized in Tarot games just as in divination.

The card regularly portrays the Grim Reaper, and when utilized for divination, is frequently deciphered as implying significant changes in an individual’s life.

22. Haircuts

Girl with honey blonde hair lost in thought.
Pin

Girl with honey blonde hair lost in thought
 cottonbro via Pexels

Oddly enough, haircuts make this list, too. It is only natural to assert that sometimes when a person gets a new haircut, they want the ensuing look to contrast the “changes” they are making in their life.

The haircut itself is a part of those changes. 

Today, some people go for unconventional hairstyles or something they could not be pegged for or have tried to implement change in their lives. 

23. Upper-case delta (Δ)

The Upper-Case DeltaΔis the fourth letter of the Greek letters in order. In the arrangement of Greek numerals, it has an estimation of 4.

The river delta (initially, the Nile River delta) is so named on the grounds that its shape approximates the three-sided capitalized letter delta.

It is used to denote a quantifiable change in Chemistry and Physics. While it may only be used in high school and college and for nothing else, the delta still symbolizes change, and maybe a hundred years from now, people will interpret it like we have interpreted all of the other objects on this list that symbolize change. 

This was our list of the top 23 symbols of change through history. We hope you enjoyed going through it.

Should you have any symbols of your own, let us know about them in the comments below.

References

  1. https://www.gardenguides.com/13426233-flowers-that-symbolize-change.html
  2. https://www.3rdcultureproject.com/collections/mmere-dane-chintemani#:~:text=Mmere%20Dane%20is%20the%20Adinkra,arts%20since%20the%2012th%20century.
  3. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/553028029215670201/
  4. https://labyrinthos.co/blogs/astrology-horoscope-zodiac-signs/astrology-planets-and-their-meanings-planet-symbols-and-cheat-sheet
  5. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Janus-Roman-god
  6. https://agileleanhouse.com/en/japanese-symbols.html#:~:text=The%20symbol%20%E2%80%9Czen%E2%80%9D%20means%20%E2%80%9C,good%E2%80%9D%20or%20%E2%80%9Cchange%E2%80%9D.
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_(Tarot_card)#:~:text=Death%20(XIII)%20is%20the%2013th,changes%20in%20a%20person’s%20life.
  8. https://writershelpingwriters.net/2011/03/symbolism-thesaurus-entry-transformation-change/
  9. https://educateinspirechange.org/nature/animals/25-spirit-animals-amazing-meanings-behind/
  10. https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/01/color-theory-for-designers-part-1-the-meaning-of-color/#:~:text=Orange%20(Secondary%20Color)&text=Because%20of%20its%20association%20with,also%20strongly%20associated%20with%20creativity.
  11. https://visme.co/blog/symbols-and-meanings/

The Editors of Give Me History

The editors of Give Me History work with specific content that they’ve had considerable expertise within academic projects or study. The contents of this article have additionally been reviewed by external experts before publishing.

Cite this article

The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 23 Symbols of Change Throughout History," Give Me History, January 11, 2021, https://givemehistory.com/symbols-of-change.

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