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The Hidden Truth Behind an Emblem -
By James Monahan

An emblem is a visual representation that defines an idea, thought, or an entity. It's synonymous with the words symbol and sign.

They are written everywhere in our daily lives. Around the world, it is universally accepted that the symbol of a heart represents love; or that a peace sign tattooed on an arm or posted on a wall is a visual reminder of the pronouncement of peace.

An emblem crosses boundaries and cultural barriers. It speaks without speaking. It is probably the first mode of visual communication known to man. Its more popular use dates back to the time of the conception of the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Now let us take a look back at the history of the emblem and try to decipher what lies behind the surface of these symbols. Later we'll take a look at the more renowned emblems that have now become a part of the visual landscape of our culture.

To have a better understanding of their more profound meaning, let us trace back their origin and study the ideas that were rooted behind these colorful signs.

The word emblem first began to surface within the confines of the argot of architecture during the 15th century. They meant a sculptural illustration of an idea or concept pertaining to the structure of houses.

Emblems also became identified with the esoteric and iconic language of the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The first emblem book was published in 1531 in Augsburg. The book was entitled the Emblata. It was authored by Andrea Alciato, who was an Italian jurist who came from the city of Milan, but resided in France during the early 16th century.

In our century arguably the most notorious of all emblems is the swastika, whose most renowned identification lies with the affiliation with the Nazi movement. Interesting to note that originally the swastika was a holy symbol in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.

Its earliest use can be traced back with the early dwellers of Eurasia. This emblem was also adopted in the culture of Native Americans with a seemingly independent usage.

In India the swastika is universally used in celebrations, festivals and weddings. Many Indian temples are decorated with swastikas. During the early 20th century, it gained the recognition of an emblem that stands for good luck and prosperity.

Other notable emblems are: the red cross on a white flag. This symbol is identified with the American red cross. The red cross is a symbol that stands for the spirit of humanity.

The star of David, is most commonly recognized as the symbol for Judaism. It is also referred to as Magen David, or shield of David. The skull, the symbol of death and the transient state of the human life.

A skull and crossbones, this emblem stands for poison. Whenever this appears on a product, it warns us that we are in the presence of a potentially harmful, or even deadly substance. This appears often on cleaning solution and insecticide sprays.

That is why it is very important to know what certain emblems mean because in our society emblems have become permanent fixtures, and not knowing what they stand for could be detrimental to our daily lives.

Just go to any mall and you will see that these symbols are everywhere. Whether it takes shape in the form of a man or a woman posted on the lavatory to indicate if it is a male or female bathroom.

You will also see them while travelling on the highways. Multi-directional arrows that are posted on billboards alongside the names of the place they are pointing towards. This tells you which direction you are heading. It functions as a guide so you will not get lost. It also keeps road transportation organized.

They are inescapable these emblems that decorate our everyday lives. It is part of our human consciousness, a part of our history, a part of our mode of communication. That is why it is best if each and everyone of us get better acquainted with the more vital symbols that are now in use in our society.

After all, to know more about the things around you enhances your consciousness and experience of life. Plus, these symbols will also warn us against the hazards that are part of our environment.

Remember that emblems are not just a visual display. They are part of a more serious, profound, and bigger truth. You just have to learn to look beyond the surface to know the message they are trying to convey. Emblems exist for a reason, it is up to you to read the signs.

James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about emblems.


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