Know Your Symbols

Know Your Symbols

We each have our own personal symbology, the archetypes, shapes, animal guides, objects that hold a deeper meaning, a message beyond the literal. We find these images appearing again and again in our stories, our paintings, our dreams, our photographs, our jewellery, our homes, our lives.

Despite their repeated appearances, we can often be unaware of the conversations going on between our symbology and our selves. We figure we simply like cats or tulips or tigers. But what is it about these things? Why tigers? Why turquoise? Why bowls?

Our collection of symbols is a powerful expressions of our spirit. It is a language unique to us and serves as a profound connection to our selves, our aesthetic and also to the Universe. Deepening our awareness of our symbology helps us infuse our creative lives with authenticity and sacredness.

On Pinterest I recently came across this wonderful journal page. Written across the top is “These are my symbols. What are yours?” Below, the artist has shared her symbols, drawing them out and adding a few words of explanation (e.g. “Cup – comfort, home fulfillment”) What a gorgeous exercise, a powerful acknowledgment of what is meaningful in her life.

Create a Symbol Journal or Journal Page

Create a special page or section in your journal where you can gather your symbols. You may find you’d even like to dedicate an entire journal to exploring your personal symbology.

List your recurring symbols in words, drawings, photographs or snippets from magazines. Use what you have on hand and what is easy for you. Don’t let supplies or perfectionism get in the way of the process. Go ahead and draw an owl as best you can. Trust that you and the owl will know one another better; that is the key.

Write about what each symbol means to you.

For example, if one of your recurring symbols is a lighthouse…

  • What are your memories of lighthouses?
  • What stories do you know about lighthouses?
  • What do you associate with lighthouses?
  • When did you start noticing lighthouses?
  • What does a lighthouse mean to you?

If you’re get stuck, do a Google search (e.g. “symbolism of lighthouses” “meaning of lighthouses”). Trust your own reactions to what you discover.

Getting to know your own personal symbology is an ongoing creative practice that will allow you to understand and express your true self in more and more powerful ways.

And if you don’t know your symbols yet, a regular practice of dreamboarding can help you find them. Over time, I have been able to see how again and again certain forms and figures find their way to my boards. This has been my primary tool for connecting with my own sacred symbols.

Some of My Personal Symbols

  • Arms upstretched, standing tall
  • Owls, Bears, Elephant, Turtles, Gorillas (my instinct is to group these together, feeling like they are connected to deep wisdom and age)
  • Horses, Falcons
  • Antlers
  • Trees
  • Stars
  • Spheres
  • The pelvis
  • Bowls

What are some of your personal symbols? What do they mean to you?


  1. Mary-Anne says:

    Oh Jamie, I really love this idea! I especially love your grouping of some animals into that category of deep wisdom and age. My group I feel that way about are Bear, Wolf and Owl. One or the other of them always seem to be there in Journey work or meditation. now I want to look through my dreamboards and see what other symbols I will find there. Thanks for the new inspiration!

  2. John A says:

    I, too, love this idea. For all the journaling I’ve done throughout the years, this is a topic that never really occurred to me to write about. And now I will have to think about it. I do like the idea of dream-boarding with it too. Great stuff as always! Off the top of my head, I’d have to say some of my symbols would include books (like your bowls – there’s a whole gestalt inherent in a book that makes it more than just “a book”), flutes, and the color blue. I shall have to work with this… Super idea!

Leave a Reply