What amuses me is how little people usually know about the origin of said symbols. Their meaning can change profoundly over time as they appropriated by new socal groups.
Which brings me to today's interesting bit of trivia. The star and crescent are universally recognized as the symbol of Islam. When there was a memorial planned for Flight 93 with a big red Crescent, the wingnuts got...well...nutty. But has anyone bothered to find out where this symbol comes from? You might guess that Muhammad used it, or perhaps one of the Caliphs?
You would guess wrong. The star and crescent was the symbol of the Byzantine Empire, the bulwark of Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean for a thousand years, and the determined enemy of Islam. The old city of Byzantium (then Constantinople, then Istanbul) had a crescent standard as a tribute to their patron goddess, Artemis (avatar of the Moon). When the city was re-founded by Constantine as a Christian metropolis, it added the star to symbolize the Virgin Mary. (Anyone notice similiarities between Mary and Artemis?).
So how did the star & crescent come to mean "Islam"? When the Turks finally took Constantinople in 1453, they wanted to claim the legacy of the old Eastern Empire, so they took over the flag of their old enemies. As the Turks assumed the Caliphate and became the representative of Islam to Europe, so to did the star and crescent.
So what's my point? Everybody should just relax a little. It's just a symbol. It can mean anything. And it probably has.
This is a nice little bit of sophistry that completely misses the point. Yes, all symbols have history. You forgot to mention that the cross was actually a Pagan symbol adopted by Constantine. In addition, almost all of Christianity is an appropriation of Pagan figures, religious holidays, and symbols. The original symbol of Christianity was not the cross, but the fish, as in "come with me and be fishers of men". The fish symbolized, among other things, the equality of mankind under Christianity, instead of the hierarchy that was the Roman Empire.By Marriah, at 2:28 PM
However, as with words, it really doens't mean what symbols used to mean, or what words used to mean. The Swastika, after all, used to be a symbol of good luck. However, all symbols evolve as the events of history change their meaning. Thus, it doesn't matter what the Crescent and Star used to mean, it matters what they mean now, in the present day. There is no way you can show a Swastika now and not have it symbolize Nazism. Some symbols are simply too steeped in history, or trapped by history.
Ah, symbols. Thank you for giving this trivia.By Ligeia, at 7:01 PM
My own story...when I purchased my first ankh, my Grandmother thought it was just a "funny looking" cross. I told her it was an Egyptian symbol; she said she didn't know Egyptians were Christians. I didn't discuss it further.
Fast forward 20 years and I buy my first pentagram/pentacle. The sister of my husband-at-the-time thought it was just a star for the Christmas tree. I told her, no, it was a pentacle. She accused me of being a devil worshipper. I told her that, if everyone that purchased a 5-pointed star was a devil worshipper, there were A LOT of poor Christians out there.
Publius, you are correct - a symbol is just that, a symbol. If I want to wear a pentacle, I should not be ashamed to shunned - just as those who wear crosses are not (well, not usually).
And, Marriah, I thought the cross was picked as the symbol for Christianity b/c Christ was crucified on one...just like all the other Jews. *shrug*
Thanks Ligeia! What you said reminded me of how I was treated in high school when I had long hair and black t-shirts. People kept asking me if I was a devil worshipper. After a while I got annoyed and started saying "yes."By Arbitrista (formerly Publius), at 6:40 AM
"The use of the cross as a symbol was condemned by at least one church father of the 3rd century CE because of its Pagan origins. The first appearance of a cross in Christian art is on a Vatican sarcophagus from the mid-5th Century. 11 It was a Greek cross with equal-length arms. Jesus' body was not shown. The first crucifixion scenes didn't appear in Christian art until the 7th century CE. The original cross symbol was in the form of a Tau Cross. It was so named because it looked like the letter "tau", or our letter "T". One author speculates that the Church may have copied the symbol from the Pagan Druids who made crosses in this form to represent the Thau (god). 7 They joined two limbs from oak trees. The Tau cross became associated with St. Philip who was allegedly crucified on such a cross in Phrygia. May Day, a major Druidic seasonal day of celebration, became St. Philip's Day. Later in Christian history, the Tau Cross became the Roman Cross that we are familiar with today."By Marriah, at 9:40 AM