Spirals are iconic symbols that have been used for thousands of years. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they hold great significance and a number of powerful spiritual meanings.
This guide will tell you what these symbols represent, and what they can mean in relation to your own life.
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The Spiritual Meaning Of The Spiral
Spirals are one of the oldest decorative elements used by humans all around the world. They’re not just for decoration, though — these symbols are also full of powerful spiritual meanings. No matter where you go, you’ll find them worked into embroidery, beads, architecture, and much more, as representations of life, death, the cycle of rebirth, and even protective elements.
Here are some of the most common spiritual meanings attributed to spirals.
Spirals begin at their center, with just a tiny, simple curl. They continue outward, getting larger and larger with every successive turn.
In this way, spirals are used to represent growth. They’re a symbol of the path that every being takes as they mature and evolve, and also a representation of the inevitability of growing up and growing old. Like the predictable path of the spiral, all living things grow and age.
Similarly to growth, spirals also represent expansion. As we get older and learn more about the people and world around us, our awareness and consciousness expands. You can see this reflected in the turns of the spiral — it starts out small and shielded on all sides, and becomes larger as it reaches outward.
3. The Cycle Of Rebirth
Spirals also symbolize the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. While a drawn or carved spiral looks like it has a beginning and an end, it really doesn’t — the tiny curl at the center and the end of the line could continue on indefinitely.
Cycles are also often depicted as circles. In the spiral’s case, each circle starts and ends in a slightly different place, connecting it to the next circle as it continues spiraling outward. This illustrates the cycle of rebirth, as every life begins, ends, and starts again in a slightly different place and time.
Following the idea of life, death, and rebirth, spirals also represent connection. This can be a connection to the universe, the divine, or even just other people.
If you visualize a group of spirals, it’s only a matter of time before they expand until they’re touching each other. The image of the spiral is a neat way to visualize the ways that everyone’s actions, lives, and energy touch the lives of those around them.
5. The Sun
Spirals are sometimes used to illustrate the path of the sun. You can often see this in the context of Neopagan rituals, where the spiritual meaning of a clockwise spiral shows the path of the sun, and the counterclockwise spiral represents its opposite. Actions are performed following the clockwise spiral in order to increase or attract things or following the counterclockwise spiral in order to decrease or banish things.
This idea isn’t limited to Neopaganism, either. The sun is often portrayed with a spiral shape or spiraling rays in artwork and architecture. There’s also evidence that ancient cultures in the American Southwest may have used carved spirals as a way to track events like solstices and equinoxes.
Unlike circles, which you can trace over and over and always end up in the same spot, spirals are ever-changing. They continue to loop outward as they progress, so you’ll never end up in the same spot no matter how long you follow one. Like the concepts of growth and expansion, spirals illustrate the inevitability of change.
The spiritual meaning of spirals is also helpful for visualizing change as a positive thing. While change can be frightening or unwanted, spirals are smooth and beautiful. They portray change as a natural, necessary transition, and not something to be feared or avoided.
7. The Divine Feminine
Spirals are often found in connection with goddesses, especially mother goddesses. In this context, they’re interpreted as representations of the Divine Feminine. While this is a concept that’s typically attached to female deities, it doesn’t actually have much to do with sex or gender the way we think about it.
The Divine Feminine is the deific manifestation of intuition, care, preservation, receptiveness, and creation. All humans are believed to have a balance of both masculine and feminine energy within them, which can present in a variety of different ways. The spiral symbol is a representation of the feminine aspect of this energy.
Since spirals are so often seen in depictions of mother goddesses, their spiritual meaning is often connected to fertility.
In some ancient cultures, spirals were used to decorate tombs. While nobody can be sure of the exact reason, it’s theorized that these tombs were viewed as a kind of womb in the Earth. In this case, the spiral symbols would represent the fertility of the Mother Goddess and her ability to power the cycle of rebirth.
9. Forces Of Nature
Spirals are also used to portray galaxies, tornadoes, and other powerful forces of nature. Hopi pottery, artwork, and jewelry, for example, sometimes features representations of rain-bringing whirlwinds as spirals.
According to some scholars, the triple spiral may have been intended as a depiction of the three realms of nature: the land, sea, and sky.
10. Otherworldly Journeys
The spiritual meaning of spirals is connected to the idea of travel and journeys. In a spiritual context, they are sometimes used to illustrate the concept of shamanic journeying, or journeying to the Otherworld. In this case, the spiral depicts not just the path taken on the journey itself, but also the broadening consciousness of the journeyer.
This is especially true of the counterclockwise spiral. While clockwise spirals are often used to portray the natural world, order, and path of the sun, the counterclockwise spiral runs counter to all of that. That’s why it’s more commonly used to indicate a journey inward, or to the shamanic lower or upper worlds.
While it’s interesting to imagine what ancient cultures may have intended to represent with spiral designs, there’s no way we can really know. Many of these cultures had oral traditions, so they didn’t write down important pieces of their history or beliefs. This is why some scholars think that spirals may have just been intended to make important things more beautiful.
There’s no doubt that spirals are beautiful. They also strike a balance between natural and intentional — while they appear almost everywhere in nature, you’d never assume that the spirals in a Greek column happened by accident. It’s very possible that these shapes were simply beautiful to look at, and that’s why they appear so often throughout history.
The Origin Of The Spiral Symbol
It’s impossible to tell who started using spirals first. We do know that the earliest examples that researchers have found date back to the Neolithic period, or end of the Stone Age.
One of the oldest examples of the spiral symbol can be found at Newgrange, in Ireland. This is a large man-made stone and earth mound that was, in part, used as a tomb. Its entrance stone is adorned with carved spirals that date back to around 3200 BCE.
There are also spiral symbols found in Greece. Stones on the isle of Naxos have been found with carved spirals that date back to 3000 BCE.
The Meaning Of Spirals In Both Directions
Spirals can go clockwise or counterclockwise. This can be a bit difficult to determine, since a single spiral can go in either direction depending on which way you trace it. However, the direction of a spiral does have some impact on its overall symbolism and spiritual meaning.
For many practitioners of modern witchcraft whose traditions use spiral symbols, clockwise spirals represent abundance, attraction, the path of the sun, and manifestation. Counterclockwise spirals are banishment, opposition, and destruction.
Clockwise spirals can also represent connection with others and the natural world, where counterclockwise spirals represent a journey into the self.
It’s said that the spirals found on Anasazi pottery have different meanings depending on their direction. Clockwise spirals represent the direction of the sun, while counterclockwise spirals represent human activity.
In general, clockwise spirals indicate nature and the outer world while counterclockwise spirals indicate humankind and the inner world.
The Meaning Of Spirals In Different Cultures
While spirals are a pretty universal symbol, they mean slightly different things in different parts of the world.
In the Southwestern United States, the meaning of spirals is often associated with the sun, wind, or water. As mentioned above, Hopi pottery and artwork use spirals to depict powerful whirlwinds that bring rain.
Spiral petroglyphs by ancient Pueblo people are now thought to be representations of the sun, used to mark the winter and summer solstices and possibly fall and spring equinoxes. This would’ve been a way to mark the seasons and help with planning planting, harvesting, and key celebrations throughout the year.
The Maya people of Mesoamerica used a spiral as part of their symbol for the Supreme Being, Hunab Ku. The spiral at the center is said to represent the movement of the energy of life.
Spirals, or speira, were ubiquitous in ancient Greece. They were used as a symbol of the vital force and the power of life. They could be found in mosaics, on columns, on textiles, in sculpture, and on furniture.
Newgrange, the site of an ancient tomb and man-made mound, has some of the earliest examples of man-made spirals. Ireland is also where the triple spiral known as the triskele or triskelion is believed to have originated.
The triskele is depicted as three spirals, joined in a roughly triangular shape. These may represent the three realms of the land, sea, and sky. Some authorities claim that the triskele actually depicts forward motion and the continuation of life, while others say that it represents the physical world, Otherworld, and world of the sun, moon, and stars.
The spiritual meaning of spirals was also significant to ancient Welsh culture. The triple spiral symbolized the cauldron of the Goddess Cerridwen or plane of Annwn, the physical world of Abred, and the spiritual plane of Gwynvyd. In Arthurian legend, the Grail Castle was said to be a spiral structure on the plane of Annwn.
The lunar Goddess Arianrhod was also said to reside in a castle in the center of a spiraling path.
Galicia, Spain, is home to some very intriguing carved stone spiral petroglyphs. These date back to the Bronze Age, between 2,500 and 1,200 BCE. Nobody is certain what they represent, but they are primarily carved on horizontal stones and are very similar to spiral representations of labyrinths found elsewhere in Europe.
Spirals are common elements in European architecture that was heavily influenced by Christianity. There, they symbolize the ascent into the heavens. Picture a spiral staircase extending from the ground, up to the realm of God and the angels.
Buddhist India And East Asia
In cultures influenced by Buddhism, spirals are often used to represent the journey toward enlightenment. They can also depict the cycle of reincarnation.
What Is The Spiral Of Life?
The Spiral of Life can refer to a few things. To some, it’s the triskele — the triple spiral found at Newgrange. It’s often interpreted as a depiction of life, death, and rebirth, or a father, mother, and child, or the inner world, outer world, and Otherworld.
The Spiral of Life is also a way to connect the concept of life force energy to the imagery of the spiral. In Hindu Tantrism, the chakras are energy centers located in key areas of the body. These are often visualized as spinning spirals.
Human lives are said to follow paths similar to spirals. The Spiral of Life is a representation of human existence as a process of growth, progress, and transformation.
Now that you’re familiar with the spiritual meaning of spirals, it’s time for you to start incorporating it into your own life. And if you’ve recently been noticing these symbols in your life, think about what they might mean for you!
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