This is the primary symbol of Taoist religious and philosophical beliefs. The yin-yang is also used in Confucianism. Tao, "the way," theorizes that everything in the universe is made of two conflicting forces: the yin and the yang. The yin is the negative, passive power, depicted in black. The yang is the positive, active power, depicted in white. Harmony can only be achieved when the two are perfectly balanced, as in the circle. The small circle of the opposite color is contained in each, signifying their interdependence. The yin may represent the soul, night, darkness, the Earth, and sustenance, whereas the yang may represent the spirit, light, day, heaven, creation, and dominance. As darkness preceded creation, the yin precedes the yang.
Gerald Holtom designed the peace symbol in 1958 for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The "N" and "D" are represented by the corresponding flag signals, according to the discipline of the "Semaphore" hand-held flag signalling system -- for more information, see the site: http://osprey.erin.gov.au/flags/semaphore.html. (Many thanks to Patrick for pointing this out!)
In the fifth century, St. Patrick used this clover with three leaves to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity in converting people to Christianity. It has been associated with Ireland ever since.
According to legend, after Eve was banished from paradise, she plucked a four-leaf clover from the Garden of Eden and took it with her. Although cloves normally have only three leaves, the presistent sleuth can eventually find one with four leaves and, along with it, find good luck. (Maybe the good luck is just in finding one.)
This mythical horselike creature, usually depicted as white, is unique because of the horn on its forehead. It is said that the unicorn can only be caputred by a virgin, thus it symbolized femininity, purity, and goodness. Sacred to Artemis and Diana in the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, the unicorn often represents the moon in heraldry.
In 1828, U.S. President Andrew Jackson made a humorous allusion to his perjorative nickname ("jackass"), and the Democratic Party decided to incorporate the donkey in its symbolism. The donkey has also been considered a symbol of stubbornness, and in other circles a symbol of patience and gentleness. The "gentleness" symbolism is possibly due to the fact that the Bible reported that the Virgin Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem and that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem.
The elephant has been a symbol of the Republican Party of the United States ever since 1874, when Harper's Weekly published a cartoon of an elephant trampling on inflation and chaos. Due to its long lifespan, the elephant has come to represent longevity and long memory. Buddha is said to have taken the form of a white elephant, and it thus assumes the qualities of wisdom and patience. The term "white elephant" (meaning an worthless object) is believed to have come from Thailand.
The cat was sacred to the Egyptian god Bast, but it later became associated with witches (as "familiars") in the Middle Ages. A black cat is considered bad luck in some countries, good luck in others. In Ancient Greece and Rome, the cat was attributed to the goddess of liberty, and it was sacred to the goddess of the moon, Diana (Artemis). A cat supposedly saved Mohammed from the serpent, and it is thus revered in Moslem cultures. It was also the guardian of homes and thus came to symbolize domesticity.
The four suits in playing cards, clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades, collectively represent the four elements (wind, fire, water, and earth), the seasons, and cardinal directions. They represent the struggle of opposing forces for victory in life. The thirteen cards in each suit represent the thirteen lunar months. Playing cards originated in Central Asia, and they were introduced into European culture in the 14th century.
Otherwise known as trefoils, clubs represent many things: fall, winter, night, darkness, males, fire, energy, will, wealth, work, luck, and happiness.
Diamonds represent warmth, light, femininity. In the Tarot, they symbolize earthly matter, money, courage, and energy, but fortune-tellers often associate diamonds with spitefulness and annoyance.
Hearts represent the warmth of spring and summer seasons and the power of light. They are the center of life and the world. In the Tarot, hearts can also symbolize knowledge, love, life from water, and fertility, and in fortune-telling, joy.
The spade represents a leaf of the "cosmic" tree, and thus life. Along with its companion suit, clubs, spades represent fall and winter and the power of darkness. In the Tarot, they symbolize intellect, action, air, and death.
Tradition holds that Adinkera, a king of Gyaman (now the Ivory Coast), angered the Ashanti king by committing the sacrilege of trying to copy the designs of the sacred Golden Stool, the unifying force of the Asante nation. Adinkera was slain in the ensuing war, and the decorated cloth that he wore in battle was taken by the Asante people as a trophy. The Asante people then developed the 19th century art of stamping cloth with symbols. Adinkra symbols are woven into African brocade cloth. "Adinkra" itself means "goodbye." The meanings of the various symbols are derived from proverbs, historical events, attitudes, and animal behavior, among other sources.
Akoma (the heart) or Owuo atwedie baako nfo (All men climb the ladder of death) -- a symbol of love, patience, good will, faithfulness, and endurance.
Osram ne nsromma, osrane ne nsoroma, osham ne nsoromma (the moon and the star) -- a symbol of faithfulness, love, harmony, fondness, loyalty, benevolence, and feminine essence of life.
Odo nyera fie kwan (love does not get lost on its way home) -- a symbol of love, devotion, and faithfulness.
Gye nyame (except God) -- a symbol of the omnipotence and immortality of God.
Nyame dua (an altar to the sky God or "God's tree") -- a symbol of the altar, a place of worship.
(Note: The dates for these Sun signs are for 1997; they vary slightly from year to year.)
ARIES (March 21-April 19)
TAURUS (April 20-May 20)
GEMINI (May 21-June 20)
CANCER (June 21-July 21)
LEO (July 22-August 21)
VIRGO (August 22-September 22)
LIBRA (September 23-October 22)
SCORPIO (October 23-November 21)
SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21)
CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19)
AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18)
PISCES (February 19-March 20)