Dominate Symbols in Society
By Irene Rose
(Symbol of a circle with a dot in its center may be missing in this document)
Although not as dominate as the emblem of a cross, the ancient symbol of a circle with a dot in the center , can be found in almost every culture on earth. As a child, I remember playing games that revolved around not getting cooties from boys. My female playmates and I would draw this symbol with our fingers or with a marker on each other’s arms, in order to “vaccinate” ourselves against cooties. As we drew the image on our skin, we would chant the words, “Circle, circle, dot, dot…now you’ve got the cootie shot!” It was not until I began doing research on symbols, did I realize what this pictograph meant. Cooties, which meant any physical or intimate interaction with males, were something we as young girls wanted to avoid. We believed in the symbol of a circumpunct , the ancient representation of the male force bonding with the female force, and had faith that it would keep us safe in the presence of boys.
In most cases, this symbol means the sun or something that is closely associated with the sun. The sun sign is one of the oldest symbols in Western ideography. The scholars of the Middle Ages, who were narrow-minded in their beliefs, confused the roles of the earth and the sun in the galaxy, and used as a sign for the “earth surrounded by the great ocean [universe]” (Symbol 26:8). It can also depict a stylized representation of an atom of hydrogen, the oldest, simplest and most abundant chemical element in the universe. This makes sense since hydrogen makes up most of the mass of Earth's sun.
This symbol can mean “sunshine” in a meteorological context, “gold” in alchemy, or “plant with a one-year life cycle” (one sun cycle) in botany. On marine charts, it is used for chimneys, towers, and high structures in general, visible from the sea (Symbol 26:8). When this symbol is not used in direct association with the sun or gold, in modern ideography it most often indicates a center. This is the case in cartography and blueprints of different types. It can also represent a “driving wheel” on locomotives as a railway ideogram and “here live bad-tempered people” in both the British and the US systems of hobo signs.
In esoteric astrology, the circle with a dot in the middle represents the creative spark of divine consciousness that exists in every individual linking him or her to the source and origin of life, and making him or her co-creator of the world. In astrological psychology, this symbol stands for the desire to live and the individual's life energy. This life energy is "colored" by the zodiac sign in which the symbol is positioned at the moment of the individual's birth, according to astrologers (Symbol 26:8).
In the body, it symbolizes the heart, blood circulation, and the backbone. In many cultures, it represents men in general, people in positions of authority, and political and religious leaders. It is also related to the image of the father and is closely related to the symbol , the zodiac sign for Leos.
In the complex symbolic system of Hinduism and Buddhism, the circle with a dot in the center, called the bindu, also represents the male force. According to their beliefs, together the circle and the bindu symbolize the merging of male and female forces. The circle represents “Mother Earth”, “woman”, “unity”, and “female power” to many contemporary pagans as well as Hindus and Buddhists. They believe that the bindu is “the spark of masculine life within the cosmic womb” (Wikipedia, Symbol).
This symbol is used in many instances, particularly in signs. On European road signs, the circle with a dot in the center is often seen as a depiction of the city’s center. Upon finishing a cup of tea, in some Asian cultures, this image is used as indication to make a wish when reading tealeaves. This symbol is used to mark the end of a trail for many denominations of Boy Scouts and can be used in navigation to symbolize a certain destination or point of origin.
Human beings' ability to manipulate symbols allows them to explore the relationships between ideas, things, concepts, and qualities far beyond the explorations of which any other species on earth is capable. According to Robert Lavenda and Emily Schultz, “human culture clearly depends on our use of symbols” even though “there is no necessary link between the symbol and that which it stands for.” Human beings are the only species that can give an obituary thing meaning and purpose. Our survival relies on learned shared traditions that are in most cases symbolically encoded.
Lavenda, Robert and Emily Schultz. Core Concepts in Cultural Anthropology. 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill Companies: Boston. © 2003.
“Symbols and Their Meanings”. http://www.crossroad.to/Books/symbols.html Visited May 2006.
© Irene Rose