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Top 23 Symbols of Healing Throughout History

Floating lotus on waterPin
The lotus flower has been a Buddhist healing symbol for centuries.

Through history, healing symbols have typically been created by a mix of Western and Eastern cultures and sometimes-even religions. 

Some have been around for centuries and have even turned into trends that people choose to get tattooed or wear as charms. 

Many healing practitioners and this is especially true for the those who have been trained in Western medicine, don’t often pay heed to these symbols. 

However, in many cultures, religions and practices, some of these still play a crucial role. One such example is that of Reiki, which has gained popularity today.

The below 23 symbols are unique, and each offers its own beautiful pathway towards spiritual healing.

1. The Spiral Sun 

The spiral sun.Pin

The spiral sun is also known as the first healer 
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Also commonly referred to as ‘The First Healer’, this one goes way back. It emerged from petroglyphs and was made by the Anasazi, and was looked at as an essential healing symbol. 

Lots of shamanic tribes look to the sun as the first shaman or the first healer.

The spiral sun depicts the everlasting movements and rhythms that surround the totality of the universe. The reason why it holds so much significance is because it is known to emit a one-of-a-kind healing power. 

This power is essentially derived from all the dimensions of the cosmos which help people heal from difficulties by getting their own physical as well spiritual rhythm in sync with the rhythm of the universe. 

2. Serpents

Limestone capital of Serpents.Pin

In ancient Egyptian culture, serpents symbolized health, healing and protection / A twelfth-century limestone capital featuring interlaced serpents
Ethan Doyle WhiteCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In ancient Egyptian culture, serpents were seen as a symbol of health, healing as well as protection. This can be seen in the way that the mythological goddess Wadjet was represented as a cobra many times or as a woman with a cobra head. 

It is therefore evident that serpents were a huge symbol of healing in Egyptian culture, though it can be hard to believe since they look quite the opposite. This association can also be linked to Hebrew culture and religious texts that involved serpents.

3. Abracadabra 

Abracadabra.Pin

Abracadabra
Image courtesy: denstoredanske.lex.dk / Public Domain

You’ve probably heard this phrase when it comes to magic tricks, but you’d be surprised to know that it started off as an ancient symbol for alchemy, which was used to heal people from different kinds of illnesses. 

The patient had to wear this phrase, this was done by writing it in the form of an inverted triangle on an amulet, which the patient then wore. The people strongly believed that through this, the illness would disappear. 

It’s interesting to note that this phrase ‘abracadabra’ is assumed to have emerged from the Hebrew initials of father, son and the holy spirit.

4. Sei He Ki 

Sei He Ki.Pin

Sei he ki is one of the five Reiki symbols
L orlandoCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is among the oldest and most significant Reiki symbols. It is essentially one of the 5 traditional Reiki symbols. During the mid-1800s, Buddhist Monk Mikao Usui rediscovered it in Japan. The main concept behind this symbol is God and Man becoming one. 

This symbol is popularly used for different kinds of healing, whether mental or emotional. Many practitioners also use it to cure depression and various addictions by getting at the center of the disease, which is normally buried deep down in the conscious or subconscious mind. 

In this manner, the symbol plays a huge role in rehabilitating the spiritual equilibrium of the body.

5. Yin-Yang 

Yin-Yang.Pin

The yin-yang represents a harmonic equilibrium
Image by 18121281 from Pixabay

The Yin-Yang symbol is no doubt one of the most popular and well-recognized symbols in the world. Did you know that the oldest representation of this symbol goes back as far as 1400 BC? Yet, all these years later, it is still so widely used. 

It was used to identify the age-old Chinese religion Taoism. 

What it represents is a harmonic equilibrium, as is generally considered to be the optimum symbol for it. The belief is that our mode of being is in fact, physical manifestations of vibration and the Yin Yang symbol adds a compelling wholeness to our organic harmonic flow. 

Any kind of imbalances that may afflict us, such as disease, trauma, etc. can be corrected and healed through this symbol. 

6. Lotus

Lotus.Pin

The Lotus flower symbolizes purity of the mind, body and speech in Buddhism 
Mmhs.bdCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Lotus flower has its own special place in the realm of healing. In Buddhism, it is symbolic of purity of the mind, body and speech. 

Universally, however, it symbolizes rebirth and healing. This is because the flower begins its journey rooted in mud through which it patiently makes its way and blossoms to the top as the most exquisite flower. 

It therefore depicts the cycle of life where one has to go through the hardships to come out as a stronger and healed person.

7. Navajo Sand Painting 

Navajo Sand Painting rug.Pin

Navajo Sand Painting rug 
Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also referred to as the ‘Canvass of the Medicine Man’, this sand painting in particular is one that is a symbol of healing. It is an ancient art and the Navajo version of it is typically used for healing purposes. 

The symbols in this painting include depictions of divinities to whom an appeal is being made to. After the session, the patient has to sit in the middle of it in order to destroy it completely. 

Doing this helps them to soak in the energy of the symbols and at the same time let out their particular illness into the sand. 

Interestingly, the sand that is used for this purpose is thrown away after this as it is believed to be toxic. 

For the Navajo, these are not paintings of mere objects but actual spiritual beings that deserve the highest respect. 

8. Healing Hand 

Shaman’s Hand / Healer’s Hand.Pin

Shaman’s Hand / Healer’s Hand

The healing hand symbol or the Shaman’s hand as it’s properly known as, is an age-old symbol of healing and protection. 

It comprises a hand that has a spiral instead of the palm. This spiral depicts the universe and when it is put together with the outline of the hand, the symbol is known to give off therapeutic energy. 

It is for that reason that the Healer’s Hand is known to represent the healing powers of a Shaman.

This symbol is believed to have originated from the Native American solar signs that have been discovered in a variety of places in the south-western part of the United States. 

Though it is one of the ancient symbols, today it still continues to be used in many parts of the world as a healing symbol. However, you can say that the way this is being done may have changed a little. 

In modern times it has become correlated with new-age spiritual healing practices like Reiki. The healer’s hand is looked upon as a depiction of a Reiki healer’s hand, one that gives off positive energy, and it is therefore even called the Reiki hand. 

You must have seen it as a charm in jewelry and as a popular tattoo. Not just is it a fashion statement but those who believe in it attract good luck, health, wealth and happiness.

9. Cho Ku Rei

Cho Ku Rei.Pin

Cho Ku Rei is a Reiki symbol
Juan Camilo GuerreroCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another Reiki Symbol, the Cho Ku Rei is a powerful symbol that is used for healing. By using this symbol at the start of a healing session it gives you instant power that enhances your healing process. 

In addition to that, you can use it at any point that you feel you need power or strength to heal. Even though it is a symbol of healing, it is especially linked with the healing of the physical body.

10. Prema Agni

Prema Agni.Pin

Prema Agni

This Buddhist symbol is one that welcomes and honors people from all religions. It is an expression of unity and peace. 

Through it we attract unity into our lives. How it works is that anyone can draw it on anyone’s back. By having this symbol drawn on you, a person’s sacred heart is then opened and they are hence able to give and get love at a deeper level.

11. Candles

Candles.Pin

Candles symbolize light and healing
Photo by Hakan Erenler from Pexels

Being used for decades for many distinct purposes, candles symbolize light and healing. They literally provide light in the darkness and are metaphoric of it too. Candles are an important symbol in lots of religions as well and have been for centuries.

In modern times, a candle is a symbol of healing, and it is for that reason that they are also popularly used on occasions such as funerals or vigils, when one may need healing the most. 

In addition to that, it is also used in healing sessions as well as during yoga and meditation. Candles bring a sense of warmth and hope, helping a person heal. 

They are essentially a way to remind us that there is light outside of the darkness and that we can always find it.

12. Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen

Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen.Pin

Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen is the Reiki symbol for distance healing
Juan Camilo Guerrero, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the Reiki symbol for distance healing. It allows the person doing it to send energy in time and space and is therefore very powerful. 

What it means is ‘There is no past, no present, no future. The past, present, and future are here now. The Divinity in me salutes the Divinity in you.’ Through this, a practitioner can send high reiki healing energy over great distances. 

Using this symbol during meditation, you can enhance your spiritual connection and let go of trauma from your past encounters. 

It is especially great to be used for patients that could possibly feel uncomfortable getting hands on reiki treatment.

13. Sri Yantra

Sri Yantra.Pin

Sri Yantra symbolizes the healing of the heart and the mind
Image courtesy: maxpixel.net

This symbol is believed to hold amazing healing powers that can heal the heart and the mind. It is also considered to be the ultimate fractal of healing. 

This symbol is a set of interlinked triangles that have a perfect ratio of 3.14 or Pi. What’s interesting about it is, that it was not purposely constructed, how it came to be was that it popped up to a yogi during deep meditation around 5,000 years ago. 

It came to him as a representation of the sound Aum. When the Sri Yantra is used in collaboration with sounds like Aum it is said to give out powerful healing energy.

14. Eye of Horus

Illustration of the eye of Horus, an antique egyptian symbol, surrounded by the figures of the vulture and the cobra, in gold and precious stones.Pin

The eye of horus is a popular Egyptian symbol of healing 
Eye of Horus
ID 42734969 © Christianm | Dreamstime.com

The Eye of Horus is another interesting symbol of healing. This ancient Egyptian symbol represents health, protection, healing and restoration. 

The story behind it is that during a struggle with Seth, Horus lost his left eye. However, this eye was miraculously put back together, and therefore this process of restoration popularly began to symbolize the process of healing. 

In modern-day, this symbol is used for spiritual protection, healing, wisdom, good health and prosperity as well as restoration.

15. Prema Pranahuti

Prema Pranahuti.Pin

Prema Pranahuti

This is the third symbol of the trinity after Prema Agni and the Rising Star. It holds great significance because firstly, the number 3 is considered a special number and also because this symbol depicts the eight-fold path which is also referred to as the Middle Path in Buddhism.  

The Prem Pranahuti is a representation of chi which is the vital force of energy that penetrates through the universe. It depicts the arousing of the sacred heart to attract and give out unconditional love. 

While the rising star represents the human body that requires healing from the Divine Source, the Prema Pranahuti essentially represents the divine breath, the primary source of life for mankind.

Thus, this symbol is an expression of the way of life, as well as an excellent reminder to send out love. This beautiful symbol which comes directly from the source aims to enlighten us to the Divine path, one that is embedded deeply within us, so that we can serve humanity in the best possible manner. 

16. Dai Ko Myo

Dai KoMyo.Pin

The Dai KoMyo represents enlightenment and healing
Stephen Buck The Reiki Sangha, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This master symbol is another powerful Reiki symbol that represents enlightenment and healing. It amalgamates the power of Cho Ku Rei, Sei Ki and Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen. 

The Dai KoMyo is also known to be the heart of Reiki. Its healing powers are all-inclusive and heal the upper chakras as well as the soul. 

How it works is that it is passed through the crown chakra into the energy field, aligning a person’s energy to their own unique vibration. It in turn helps that person to discover their true life purpose.

17. Winged Medicine Wheel

Native American medicine wheel example.Pin

Native American medicine wheel example / The winged medicine wheel represents various aspects of life
Image courtesy: Umair Abbasi / CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped)

As the name suggests, this one consists of an armed cross within a circle. It represents the four directions, the four seasons and the four races of humanity, all of which symbolize areas of health and the cycles of life. 

The wings around it express the spiritual beings that keep an eye out for humanity and work to keep the perfect balance of the world. It has been used by generations of Native American tribes for health and healing purposes. 

It is also commonly referred to as the sacred hoop. This symbol comes in a variety of forms from artworks to physical construction on the land.

18. Phoenix

Phoenix .Pin

The phoenix is a worldwide symbol of rebirth and healing 
Craftsmanspace / CC0

This mythological bird has vibrant colored feathers and lives up to 1000 years. It is a popular worldwide symbol of rebirth and healing and that’s not hard to imagine given that it gives birth to a new life when it dies. 

Basically, at its time of death, it creates a nest around itself, which then blows up into flames. The bird doesn’t just die but it also burns and the twigs and branches used for the nest burn as well. 

The only thing that remains are the ashes, but that’s not all. From these ashes arise a baby phoenix, and this pattern continues. It is for that reason that the phoenix is the perfect symbol of healing and starting over. 

If looked at metaphorically, it can represent how you need to shed off some of your qualities if you want to enable a new and more mindful way of life.

19. Feathers

Black feathers.Pin

The feathers symbolize healing and prayer 
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

You must have heard the saying ‘As light as a feather’. Not only is this literal, but can be metaphorical too. The symbolism of feathers goes a long way back. 

They were worn by Native American Chiefs to represent their communication with Spirit and to show their intelligence in celestial matters. To add to that, they also symbolize prayer, which is one of the facets of healing. 

White feathers in particular symbolize innocence or a fresh start in a spiritual aspect.

20. Plants

Indoor Plant.Pin

Plants symbolize healing 
Image by DesignStrive Boutique Creative Studio from Pixabay

In many folk cultures as well as on a general basis, plants can be used as a symbol to depict healing. There’s something about the fresh aura of plants that goes perfectly with the notion of healing. 

Even if taken quite literally, some plants such as the aloe vera are known to heal the human body as well. It is for that reason that the aloe vera plant is symbolic of healing.

21. Onyx

Onyx.Pin

In ancient Persian and Indian folk tales, the Onyx was the protector from evil 
Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In ancient Persian and Indian folk tales, the Onyx is looked on to be the protector from evil. It is said that if you wear it or carry it on you, it will keep you protected from all kinds of misfortunes and dangers. 

Not only does this symbol protect you, but it also gives you strength and courage. By doing so it gets rid of all negative energy and increases your spiritual wisdom. 

It is also known to take away all kinds of grief and stimulates sensible decision-making.

22. Dove 

Dove.Pin

The dove represents peace and healing 
Anja’s picture on Pixabay . 

The dove is a famous symbol of peace and innocence, but it also represents healing and new beginnings. This symbol has been around for thousands of years in many different cultures but is also one of the few universal symbols. 

In ancient Greek mythology, it was considered a symbol of love and starting over in life. It also has different connotations in different religions.

For example, in Christianity, the dove is linked to baptism. In Christianity, it symbolizes God’s forgiveness. There’s something about the color of this bird, the pure white, that makes it a perfect symbol for healing and peace.

If you were to look at it from a modern-day perspective, this bird became a symbol of peace after it was selected as the symbol for the World Peace Congress back in 1949.

23. Snake Around a Staff

Rod of Asclepius.Pin

Rod of Asclepius / A rod with a serpent wrapped around it.
Rod of Asclepius by David from the Noun Project

This popular image of the snake wrapped around the staff is a powerful healing symbol. The staff is a personal belonging of Asklepios. Asklepios was the mythical Greek god of medicine.  

It is believed that the sick would visit shrines called “asklepieia” for healing in ancient Greece. The priests often used sacred serpents in their ceremonies.  This may have been based on the fact that a snake’s saliva can heal wounds. 

There’s a story that dates back to the ancient past where a boy’s wound was healed by the mouth of a large snake. Asklepios’ dependence on snakes for healing could prove to have some reality and benefits to it. 

Proteins isolated from certain snake venoms have strong anti-clotting effects on the blood and, maybe in the future, can be used in the treatment of thrombosis. 

Summary

Each of these 23 symbols have their own interesting connotations and history. It is fascinating to see that some of them are beyond ancient, yet hold significance even today.

References:

  1. https://www.ancient-symbols.com/healing_symbols.html
  2. https://www.therapies.com/reiki-healing-symbols.html
  3. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health-history/symbol-healing
  4. https://shop.shamansdawn.com/pages/healing-symbols
  5. https://zenzar.co/blogs/news/7-healing-symbols
  6. https://shannoncarsonwellness.com/testimonials

Header image courtesy: Photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash

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.

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The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 23 Symbols of Healing Throughout History," Give Me History, February 23, 2021, https://givemehistory.com/symbols-of-healing.

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