are supplied to demystify symbolism (and the artwork in this
Click here to return to the online symbolism dictionary.
Known as a phallic and/or "male"
symbol, the sword represents war, aggression, power and in
the case of the King Arthur legend, a symbol for the rightful
king :) Scholars have pointed out that the mythological "drawing
of the sword from the stone" can be seen as a symbolic
representation of the actual act of making or "pulling"
the first sword out of stone -- a bronze SWORD, more than
likely the first metal implement to be literally pulled from
the smelted stones: tin and copper. The very act that heralded
the advent of the Bronze Age (stone weapons didn't have a
chance against the new metal ones). Indeed, in earlier versions
of the myth, the sword is actually drawn from an anvil placed
on a stone (Robert de Boron and Thomas Malory), bringing the
appropriate blacksmith imagery directly into the story. Either
way, a sword was pulled out of stone(s) and the act reverberated
around the world. The discovery of bronze made such a HUGE
impact on the world, that it is fitting that the legend and
imagery symbolizing this act should be just as memorable :)
An equally famous sword from the same legend is Excalibur,
a gift from the Lady of the Lake, via Merlin, to the King
of Britain :) Excalibur became a symbol for Arthur and his
golden age of Camelot. Nowadays swords are mostly symbols
of the human past or physical figments of legend, fantasy
or myth avidly pursued by the appropriate collector.
Posted: January 17, 2004.
links to the (expert) quotes below:
Jung: Man and His Symbols
Vollman: The Little Giant Encyclopedia
of Dream Symbols
Biedermann: Dictionary of Symbolism
and His Symbols, p. 367
...the word "spade" derives from the Italian spada,
which means "sword" or "spear." Such weapons
often symbolize the penetrating, "cutting" function
of the intellect.
Posted: May 02, 2004.
Little Giant Encyclopedia of Dream Symbols, p. 424
Appears rarely in dreams. It is a symbol of power and intellect.
See KNIGHT. Seeking power, as in MONUMENT and aggression.
Frequent symbol for intellectual work since the sword separates
and, therefore, leads us to make decisions. We use the sword
to fend off somebody and it is, in that sense, a sign of distancing
to Freud, a phallic symbol, as is KNIFE. In psychoanalysis,
separation or fear of separation, as in GOODBYE, ABORTION,
CORPSE, DEATH, DIVORCES, and FUNERAL.
Posted: January 17, 2004.
of Symbolism, p. 334-336
Neither the weapon itself nor the sword as symbol goes back
to "the earliest times," since swords could obviously
not have been produced before the Bronze Age. (The "wooden
swords" of the first inhabitants of South America are
closer to clubs than to what we think of as swords.) When
cherubim (see ANGEL) are placed at the east of the Garden
of Eden with "a flaming sword which turned every way"
[Genesis 3:24] after ADAM AND EVE are driven out of their
earthly PARADISE, this is an indication that the Biblical
account itself does not date from the era that it describes.
The swords of the Bronze Age were often richly decorated,
which indicates that their function was not merely utilitarian.
In the Germanic tradition we find accounts of "sword
dances," and the names given to the swords of legendary
heroes (names like Balmung, "anointing," or Nagelring,
"ring of nails") suggest that swords were endowed
with magic or symbolic values. Medieval KNIGHTS were dubbed
using the tip of a sword. A sword placed between a man and
a woman in bed symbolized chastity (signum castitatis).
are Egyptian pylon reliefs of the Rameses period (14th-11th
century B.C.) showing a pharaoh in a ritual pose, raising
a hand to seize a sword that a god is holding out to him:
the SICKLE-like sword called a chopesh, which suggests
some Asian influence. The foreign shirdana mercenaries
from the North, however carry long swords.
ancient Chinese depictions we find magicians with swords to
drive off demons. There was also a tradition of distinct "male"
and "female" swords, forged from the liver and kidneys
of a mythic HARE that ate metal and lived in the Kuenlun Mountains.
When a woman dreamt of drawing a sword, it was believed, she
would give birth to a boy (as in the Freudian psychology of
the 20th century, the sword was a phallic, or masculine, symbol);
the possession of a sword, in a woman's dream, promised good
fortune, whereas, in a man's dream, a sword falling into WATER
foretold the death of a woman.
Japan the proper use of the sword was the art of the samurai,
who had two different weapons: the katana, a long sword
used in battle, and the wakizashi, a short sword for
hand-to-hand combat and for ritual suicide (seppuku,
referred to in the West as "hara-kari"). The makers
of swords had to obey certain commandments of abstinence because
of the sacred nature of their craft. The hilt (tsuba)
separating the blade from the handle was richly adorned. Today
a sword fight (iai-do) with a training partner is carried
out only as an exercise with narrowly-defined safety precautions;
fencing with BAMBOO swords (kendo) is derived from
the old samurai tradition. In Shinto myth the STORM god Susano-o
(see CAVE, RICE) kills an eight-headed SNAKE and draws from
it tail the sword "Ame no murakomo no tsuguri,"
which today, accompanied by PEARLS and a MIRROR, is among
the imperial treasures of Japan.
the Occident the sword is the weapon of the archangel Michael,
King David, and Judith, who used one to behead Holofernes.
In the Book of Revelation a sword comes out of Christ's mouth
[1:16], a symbol of indomitable powers and divine truth, coming
down from heaven like a bolt of LIGHTENING. The sword is a
symbol of sovereignty in the hand of St. Stephen of Hungary
or Charlemagne; of a martyr's death when it is an attribute
of the saints Paul, James the Greater, Thomas Beckett, Catherine,
or Lucia. In the Gospel according to Luke, Simeon tells the
Virgin Mary that her soul will be pierced by a sword, a prediction
of the extraordinary suffering that she will undergo. In baroque
iconography we occasionally find depictions of SEVEN swords,
a reference to the seven sorrows of Mary.
general, the sword is a symbol of vitality and strength, most
frequently an attribute of gods of war (see MARS) or (as a
symbol for lightening) THUNDER. In Catholic doctrine the "two
swords" symbolized spiritual and temporal dominion; Pope
Innocent III, among others, spoke of EMPERORS or KINGS as
his vassals to whom he turned over the temporal sword as a
most familiar sword in English tradition is King Arthur's
Excalibur, which only the young Arthur was able to draw out
of the stone in which it was lodged. In Thomas Malory's Morte
d'Arthur, however, it is the Lady of the Lake who hands
Excalibur to Arthur.
in exceptional cases do we find the decidedly masculine symbol
of the sword in a woman's hand. JOAN OF ARC (burned at the
stake in 1431) claimed that ... (If you've read this far then
you should DEFinitely go pick up your own copy of the book
because there's even MORE to the definition that I haven't
typed in <lol>). ....
Posted: January 17, 2004.
Want to know more? Go out and pick up a copy of the book(s) quoted and expand your mind :) These are MY teachers, the people who teach me about symbolism :) I hope the supplied definitions help you understand the art found on this site.