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Symbols have been used by humans to change the world since before history was recorded. Listed here are twenty of the most powerful non-religious symbols currently in use. Many of them have strange and mysterious histories dating back centuries. Some were once symbols for good and have been corrupted to represent evil - others hold hidden secrets in their design. One thing is for certain, symbols will continue to influence the minds of manking long into the future. (In no particular order ...)

The Peace / Ban the Bomb Symbol  


The Peace, or Ban the Bomb, symbol was originally designed in Britain by Gerald Holtom (a WW2 conscientious objector) during the month of February 1958 for the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War (DAC) march on the Atomic Weapons Research Institute at Aldermaston. The symbol was almost instantly adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) as its badge. The Peace sign is created by merging the semaphore signals for the letters "N" and "D," for Nuclear Disarmament. Its use rapidly spread to America where it became a “protest symbol” for the 1960’s counter culture the Hippies.  The Peace Symbol became so widespread during the American Vietnam War (1964 -1975) that detractors fought back by calling it the “Footprint of the American Chicken”.  Some went further and assigned it occultist properties such as the “Broken Cross” and “Nero’s Cross”.  Its designer repeatedly denied these allegations which in retrospect have all the hallmarks of a smear campaign.  At the height of the Cold War the symbol was seen to be associated with subversive Communism.

  The Swastika Symbol  


An extremely ancient symbol that dates back to Neolithic times it has use has been found worldwide and it has featured in many religions including Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism and Jainism.  Until the rise of the Nazis in Germany (1920 – 1945) it was broadly seen as a positive symbol meaning good luck.  The word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit “suastika” - "su" meaning "good," "asti" meaning "to be," and "ka" as a suffix. In 1920, Adolf Hitler decided that the Nazi Party needed its own insignia and flag. For Hitler, it had to be "a symbol of our own struggle" as well as "highly effective as a poster." (Mein Kampf). He expressed his design of the flag as: "In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic." The modern (Nazi) Swastika is still one of the most powerful symbols and is still associated with hatred, Aryan beliefs, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and the Nazis (both historic and modern).

  The All Seeing Eye Symbol  


The image of a pyramid and an eye still remains one of the most debated symbols.  It is also one of the most widespread and yet little seen – although it is printed on every American dollar bill.  Many believe that is has hidden Masonic meaning and that it was incorporated into the Great Seal to indicate the influence that the Masons had, and would continue to have, on America.  However, just as many people refute this claim.   There is certainly significant circumstantial evidence to advocate that there may be something in the accusation.  This ranges from the repeated use of the number 13 to widespread use of the pyramid and “Eye of Providence” in Masonic art.  While each component can be explained, the combination of the elements remains suggestive – if not provable. The words under the pyramid are Novus Ordo Seclorum, freely taken from Virgil, and meaning "a new order of the ages".  Some people have interpreted this to read “A new World Order” which is believed to be a Masonic statement.  The original creator of the concept of a pyramid and an eye is unknown but the final design as featured on the dollar bill is attributed to Charles Thomson and William Barton in 1782.

  Yin and Yang Symbol  


The Yin and Yang or Yin-Yang symbol essentially represents the existence of opposites (or opposing forces) in both nature and in life. Taoist philosophy states that the Ultimate Principle is divided into two diametrically opposed forces - as are all things that arise from this principle. The fundamental belief behind the symbol is that two opposing forces in a state of balance will always make a perfect whole. As an example; the balance between good and evil is a moderate society. A further aspect of the Yin Yang symbol is in the way that it curves thus representing the nature of one thing transforming into another. This transformation taking place in much the same that a pendulum swings - sometimes from one extreme to another. Under yang are the principles of maleness, the sun, creation, heat, light, Heaven, dominance, and so on, and under yin are the principles of femaleness, the moon, completion, cold, darkness, material forms and submission. Although either Yin or Yang may dominate at any particular time it is the nature of things that they will seek to return to a state of balance and that no matter how dominant one component - the opposite will never completely disappear. 

  The Jolly Roger Symbol  


Although the "Jolly Roger" is sometimes referred to as any flag flown by a pirate, it has generally come to represent a picture of a skull and crossbones emblazoned on a black background. It is still used on warning signs ranging from "high voltage" to "land mines". It has come to represent a "joke" version of historic piracy and is worn by tens of thousands of little pirates every year at children’s fancy dress parties. The truth is that is was once more hated than the Swastika and was the symbol of violent death, abuse, greed, rape and slavery. It was not uncommon for passengers on a ship that was being pursued by a pirate flying this flag to commit suicide rather than face the horrors that would be inflicted on them should they be captured. In particular, women captured by pirates could face years of sexual torment and abuse. Dating back to at least the 16th Century, there are many theories for the origin of the name. Some say it comes from "Joli Rouge" or pretty red (the red pennant in English and flag meaning no prisoners) others claim it comes from "Ali Raja" the name of a feared Tamil pirate. Whatever its origin it was once the most feared symbol of its time. The Nazi SS even selected it as their "Deaths Head" insignia.

  The Radiation Symbol  


As we currently know it, the three-bladed radiation warning symbol was allegedly created at the University of California Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley around 1946. A letter written in 1952 by Nels Garden, Head of the Health Chemistry Group at the Radiation Laboratory suggests that the symbol was meant to represent radiation emitting from an atom. Various versions of the symbol were used until in the 1950's ANSI Standards and United States Federal Regulations had specified the version with which we are currently familiar. The use of black and yellow is a common colour combination for danger and is believed to originate from the colour code of the stinging bee and wasp. Various other theories regarding the inspiration for the design range from "Dangerous Ship Propellers" to the bomb aiming sights onboard the Enola Gay - the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb. Whatever its inspiration, it remains a feared and powerful symbol that can still be found in almost every office in the world. Just look at your nearest smoke detector and almost certainly - if you were to open the casing which you shouldn’t - you will find this symbol inside ... along with a warning about the correct disposal of radioactive material. We bet that you didn't know that little bit of information.

  Biohazard Symbol  


The Biohazard symbol was originally developed by the Dow Chemical Company in 1966. An engineer by the name of Charles Baldwin claims to have been directly involved in its creation. According to his account they were concerned by the lack of standardisation and prepared several possible designs that were market-tested before selecting the one that is currently accepted as the standard. Apparently they wanted a design that was meaningless so that they could educate the public as to its purpose and chose orange / red as tests had show it to be the "most visible' colour. It was also designed to be recognisable from any angle. When the developers were satisfied, it was "published in the Journal (magazine) Science and was rapidly accepted by the CDC - Centre(s) for Disease Control, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Today it is recognised by most educated people and has been associated with "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and numerous science fiction films. Many people see it as a more frightening symbol that the one above for radiation. Some have even referred to it as the "True" Doomsday sign.

  Smiley Symbol  


The Smiley Face symbol is one of the most widely used symbols today. Either displayed as in the picture on the left or as an emoticon :-) it has been adopted by email and internet users worldwide to express the emotion of happiness in a simple symbol. Two sources claim to have created the symbol (this is ignoring the millions of children who draw it instinctively every day). Once claimant is Harvey Ball, who allegedly created the "face" in 1963 for a Worcester, Massachusetts, USA-based insurance firm, State Mutual Life Assurance. The second claimant is David Stern of David Stern Inc., a Seattle-based advertising agency that also claimed to have invented the smiley. Neither party thought to trademark it. If there was ever a symbol that deserved to be "trademark free" it is the Smiley but it has been a registered trademark since 1971 when French businessman Franklin Loufrani created "Smiley World" to sell and license the smiley face image in the United Kingdom and Europe. It is registered and used in over 100 countries for 25 classes of goods and services. A version with three eyes was once used as the logo for the satirical 2001 science fiction film - Evolution.

  Ankh Symbol  


This is not considered to be a religious symbol - although its origins had distinctly religious connotations. It is associated with ancient Egypt and was the symbol for "life". Depictions of gods and, on occasions, pharaohs, are seen to be holding the Ankh symbol. Its exact origins are unknown and still baffle Egyptologists. There are so many theories as to its symbolic design that they are far too numerous to list. However, they range from the vertebrae of a bull's spine to the sun cresting the peak of a Pyramid. An even more speculative theory claims that it represents the vagina - or conception. One more sensible theory states that it is the shroud of a Mummy and became associated with the afterlife. The truth is that we may never know for sure. Still, this is one of the oldest symbols known to mankind and has seen many resurgences in its use. It has featured in films such as Logan's Run and more recent video games such as Tomb Raider. According to various sources, Vinnie Vincent, the former lead guitarist of KISS made his face up using the design of the Ankh symbol. At least 4,000 years old it has true longevity and is still considered deeply mystical.

  The Heart Symbol  


There are many researchers that believe that the "Heart" Symbol had nothing to do with the Human Heart but was a secret representation that originated in ancient times to depict something significantly more erotic. However, in its modern context it has become the ultimate symbol of - Love! Every year millions, perhaps billions, of people use this symbol to express their love for another person. One popular belief is that it represents the "sacred" heart of Jesus whose love for mankind was the ultimate salvation. Another theory - and one more practical - is that it represents the ache humans experience in their chests when they are "in love" with "or sexually attracted to" another person. Its origins are uncertain and are extremely old. It would appear that it is one of the few major symbols that does not appear in any established sign-system. It is commonly associated with the arrow which is believed to symbolise penetration and this adds considerable weight to the erotic "Secret Heart" source.  We will be adding a full and detailed account of this concept shortly.


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“A symbol is indeed the only possible expression of some invisible essence ”
William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)


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