are supplied to demystify symbolism (and the artwork in this
Click here to return to the online symbolism dictionary.
Three is considered a magical number, denoting
something special. This makes a lot of sense psychologically
speaking: for something to happen once can be an accident,
for the same thing to happen twice might mark coincidence
but the human psyche seems to equate three with a manifestation
of intent/purpose beyond the ordinary; three seems to come
across as NOT an accident (although that is NOT always so
:) A common superstition/saying, "third time is a charm"
is an encouragement to put discouragement aside and try AGAIN
or make that EXTRA special effort.
are opposites/stasis/balance, three allows for change and
growth (example: a group of two may not be able to make a
decision but a group of three can because there is always
an available majority). Three is a number that goes beyond
balance into stability. Three also allows one to see MORE
than just two sides of an issue. Another use of three as going
beyond the ordinary: the "third eye" is the one
that sees the dreamworld or into the subconscious, it is usually
located above and between the two eyes on your face (a Cyclops
is actually one who lives in fantasy and cannot SEE the "real"
world). Three is special (unless you're in a contest and come
in third <g>).
there's even MORE about the number "3" below (NOT
bought to you by Sesame Street :)
I have to admit, that I don't always completely agree with
Vollmar's definitions but he DOES look at symbols from a completely
different angle than the other authors (since these interpretations
are pulled from a DREAM dictionary) which adds to a more complete
posted picture because (to quote Joseph Campbell) "myths
and dreams come from the same place." This note is NOT
meant as disrespect, but because (occasionally) my fingers
have a hard time typing some of the more Freudian stuff <g>.
Posted: May 02, 2004.
links to the (expert) quotes below:
Estés: Women Who Run With the Wolves
Campbell: The Power of Myth
Vollman: The Little Giant Encyclopedia
of Dream Symbols
Biedermann: Dictionary of Symbolism
Who Run With the Wolves, p. 417
The gardener, the king, and the magician are three mature
personifications of the archetypal masculine. They correspond
to the sacred trinity of the feminine personified by the maiden,
mother, and crone.
Posted: May 02, 2004.
Power of Myth, p. 28
There is a verse in Lao-tzu's Tao-te Ching which states
that out of the Tao, out of the transcendent, comes the One.
Out of the One come Two; out of the Two come Three; and out
of the Three come all things.
Posted: May 02, 2004
Little Giant Encyclopedia of Dream Symbols, p. 434-436
Three is a tense, dynamic, rhythmic, and complete (the Holy
Trinity). Three is a symbol of the spirit, since it is assigned
to the third stage of human consciousness (after the physical
and emotional). In the Middle East, three is considered a
holy number. It is always connected to time: past, present,
future. In ancient Rome the Fates always appear as three goddesses.
Since ancient times femininity has been seen in three aspects:
the virgin (Artemis), the woman (Hera), and the old woman
(Hecate). Faust calls out three times until Mephisto appears.
Peter denies Christ three times. Doing things three times
has magical effects -- it represents the connection to reality.
to Freud, refers to male genitalia. Jung considers three a
mystical number; the three servants of the Queen of Night
in The Magic Flute; the three witches in Macbeth;
the three wishes that are free. All this relates back, as
do many god-trinities, to the original trinity: father-mother-son.
It is the male child, since the number three, according to
Western tradition, is uneven and, as a prime number, a genuine
male number. In this tradition, the male child is seen first
in terms of male fertility.
to Jung, the number three is connected to the diabolical.
The den of craving in alchemy is depicted by a three-headed
snake. The three-headed snake in mythology is always Satan.
Also, according to Jung, three belongs to the young; and in
ancient China and the Greek patriarchy, it points to masculine
attributes and their function.
the other hand, Three as a feminine number is part of the
tradition in the area of the Mediterranean, through the veneration
of Mary in Catholicism and the rediscovery of the matriarchy.
Also, Goethe's play Faust, Part II, ends with a prayer to
the great goddess appearing threefold: "Virgin, Mother,
Posted: May 02, 2004.
of Symbolism, p. 352-353
Along with triadic structures of female mythical figures,
characteristic of classic antiquity and its conceptual world.
There seems to have been a more pronounced desire to see powerful
female divinities in threes than was the case for their male
counterparts: consider the GRACES, the HORAE, the FATES, the
GORGONS, the Graeae, the FURIES. Even the number of the NINE
MUSES suggests a structure of three-times-three. Later mythologists
attempted to interpret the goddess of the night and magic,
Hecate, as a triadic figure (girl, woman, crone), which is
no unequivocally supported by classical sources. (See SPINNING.)
In south-central Europe at the time of the Romans three MOTHERS
(matres, matrone, matrae) were revered; cults of similar
female triads carried over into alpine regions in the form
of worship of legendary female saints, the three "Beths,"
with names like "Ainbeth, Wilbeth, and Warbeth"
(or Catherine, Barbara, and Lucia; there were many variants).
The symbolism of the female triad may also have influenced
the Norse myth of the three Norns, spinning human destiny
like the Fates of the Greeks. The Hindu Trimurti shows a triadic
organization, portraying jointly Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu,
in a way that has often been likened to the Christian Trinity.
Its roots in intellectual history, however, involve the efforts
of Indian theologians to bridge the widening gap between followers
of Shiva and of Vishnu. The Buddhist notion of knowledge (bodhi)
as the tri-kaya ("three bodies") is composed
of dharma-kaya (true being), nirmana-kaya (the
earthly mode, Gautama Buddha), and sambogha-kaya, the
blessed functioning of the community of believers. From this
is derived the symbolic image of the "three jewels"
(tri-ratna): law, Buddha, and community, which are
interpreted in Jainism as "right conduct," "right
faith," and "right knowledge." In the imagery
of ALCHEMY, the division of the world into corpus, anima
and spiritus (body, soul, spirit; also, salt, SULFUR,
AND MERCURY) is often portrayed with three figures (often
disguised by symbols of the TRINITY). (See also BLACK.)
Posted: May 02, 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.