Friday, 8 September 2017

Cantabrian labarum

The symbol featured on Cantabrian labarum (informal flag of Cantabria) consists of four crescents arranged in a cross-like fashion.

According to Wikipedia, the Cantabrian stele of Barros suggests worship of a sun god. Other symbols found on Cantabrian stelae include swastikas, triskeles, spirals and helices.

More photos related to Cantabria, sun and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

黄 | huáng

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: huáng 🔊) is an adjective meaning “yellow”. You must have heard this word as a part of 黄河 (黃河, Huáng Hé 🔊), the Yellow River. also can mean “pornographic”.

is a simplified form of . According toWiktionary, is a phono-semantic compound of phonetic (guāng) and semantic “field”, yellow (supposedly) being the colour of earth.

More photos related to colour yellow and chanterelle mushrooms @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

♑ | Capricorn

(Capricorn) is the tenth astrological sign in the Western zodiac, ruled by the planet Saturn. Just like the Taurus and Virgo, it is an earth sign. The Sun is in this sign between 21 December and 20 January.

Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

Its dual nature, expressed allegorically in the form of a goat whose body terminates in a fish’s tail, refers to the dual tendencies of life towards the abyss (or water) on the one hand, and the heights (or mountains) on the other; these two currents also signify, in Hindu doctrine, the involutive and evolutive possibilities: the return to or the departure from the ‘wheel of rebirth’ (that is, the Zodiac).
More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

♏ | Scorpio

(Scorpio) is the eighth astrological sign in the Western zodiac. Just like the Cancer and Pisces, it is a water sign. Traditionally ruled by (the real planet) Mars, its modern ruler is (the dwarf planet) Pluto. The Sun is in this sign between 23 October and 22 November.

The symbol looks very much like that of Virgo, , but its origin is much more obscure. The only thing we can be reasonably sure of is that the arrow attached to the “letter m” is related to a scorpion’s stinger. Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

It corresponds to that period of the span of man’s life which lies under the threat of death (that is, the ‘fall’). It is also related with the sexual function. <...> In the symbolism of megaliths it is the antithesis of the bee whose honey succours Man. Finally, its symbolism is equivalent to that of the hangman.
More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

♍ | Virgo

(Virgo) is the sixth astrological sign in the Western zodiac. The Sun is in this sign between 22 August and 22 September.

According to Wikipedia, the symbol is derived

from the Greek letters ΠΑΡ, which are the first three letters of the Greek word parthenos, which means “virgin”.
Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:
For the Egyptians it was identical with Isis. Since it is governed by Mercury and corresponds to the number six, it is symbolic of hermaphroditism, or that state which is characterized by dual — positive and negative — forces. Hence Virgo is sometimes depicted with the symbol of the soul or the Seal of Solomon (two triangles, representing fire and water, superimposed and intersecting to form a six-pointed star). In mythology and in religions generally, this symbol is always associated with the birth of a god or a demigod, as the supreme expression of the dynamic consciousness.
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Saturday, 5 August 2017

♓ | Pisces

(Pisces) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Western zodiac, ruled by the planet Neptune. The Sun is in this sign between 19 February and 20 March.

Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

The last sign of the Zodiac, closely bound up with the symbolism of water and of the ‘dissolution of forms’ which takes place in the Akasha. Neptune whipping up the waves with his trident, and calling forth bulls and horses out of them, is a symbolic expression of the resurgence of cosmic energy from the watery deeps of the primordial ocean. If Capricorn marks the beginning of the process of dissolution, Pisces denotes the final moment which, for this very reason, contains within itself the beginning of the new cycle. Related to Pisces are the avatar in the form of the fish of Vishnu in India, and the Chaldean myth of Oannes the man-fish. This twelfth house of the Zodiac, when transposed, by analogy, to the existential and psychic plane, denotes defeat and failure, exile or seclusion, and also mysticism and the denial of the self and its passions. The dual aspect of this symbol is well expressed by the zodiacal sign itself, composed of two fishes arranged parallel to one another but facing in different directions: the left-hand fish indicates the direction of involution or the beginning of a new cycle in the world of manifestation, while the fish that faces the right points to the direction of evolution — the way out of the cycle.
Incidentally, Pisces was the first Latin zodiac name that I learned 40 years ago, thanks to the song by Livin’ Blues.

More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

♈ | Aries

(Aries) is the first astrological sign in the Western zodiac, ruled by the planet Mars. Just like the Leo and Sagittarius, it is a fire sign. The Sun is in this sign between 20 March and 19 April.

The symbol represents a ram’s horns. Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

In Hindu symbolism it stands for Parabrahman, that is, for the undifferentiated whole. Because the Zodiac is the symbol of the cycle of existence, Aries, its first sign, stands for the original cause or the thunderbolt which emerges from the Akasha of Pisces, that is, from the ‘primordial waters’. Aries, because it stands for the initial impulse through which the potential becomes actual, is also related to the dawn and to Spring, and generally to the beginning of any cycle, process or creation. In Egypt the ram was the symbol of Amon-Ra, and the god was depicted with ram’s horns. As regards human physiology, Aries controls the head and the brain, that is to say, the organs which are the centre of the individual’s physical and spiritual energies, as Parabrahman is the centre of the cosmic forces.

More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 28 July 2017

♉ | Taurus

(Taurus) is the second astrological sign in the Western zodiac. The Sun is in this sign between 21 April and 21 May.

The symbol looks very much like the Greek letter α on its side (and vice versa) and most likely has the same origin, that is, an Egyptian hieroglyph of an ox’s head. Juan Eduardo Cirlot provides an alternative (or complimentary) explanation in his Dictionary of Symbols:

the fact that the sign of Taurus corresponds to the number two relates it to the principle of duality composed of the masculine (Viraj, or Yang) and the feminine (Vac, or Yin). There is also a morphological relationship between the bull, on account of its head and horns, and the waxing and waning aspects of the moon, which is further evidence of the bull’s symbolic function of invigoration, at least in the sublunary sphere. The sign of Taurus governs the throat and voice, and is in turn dominated by Venus.
More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

♎ | Libra

(Libra) is the seventh astrological sign in the Western zodiac, ruled by the planet Venus. Just like the Gemini and Aquarius, it is an air sign. The Sun is in this sign between 23 September and 22 October.

The symbol looks like underscored upper-case letter Ω (Omega), but most probably has nothing to do with it. According to one source,

The symbol for Libra represents the scales of a balance, but it also shows the setting Sun in the horizon. There are many views on the symbol of Libra, but the most revealing one of all is the view of it as an obstacle that needs to be overcome. The lower line of the symbol represents the earthly, rational approach that has no obstacles on its way, but the higher line that reaches for the sky seems to be a huge hill to be crossed in order to reach the other side of the balance.
More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

♋️ | Cancer

♋️ (Cancer) is the fourth astrological sign in the Western zodiac. The Sun is in this sign between 22 June and 22 July.

According to Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols,

Orphic teaching sees it as the threshold through which the soul enters upon its incarnation. It is governed by the Moon in the performance of its symbolic rôle as mediator between the formal and the informal worlds.
The symbol ♋️ looks like number “69” but most probably is something else. There are several hypotheses of its origin, none of them too convincing.

More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

♐ | Sagittarius

(Sagittarius) is the ninth astrological sign in the Western zodiac. It is ruled by the planet Jupiter. The Sun is in this sign between 23 November and 21 December.

In Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols we read that

this is a cosmic symbol expressive of the complete man — he who is at once animal, spiritual and worthy of his divine origin. Man thus constitutes a link between heaven and earth, implying a state of tension which finds its symbolic expression in the arc (or rainbow). Sagittarius, the Centaur, or the Archer signify this triple nature of the symbol; the horse symbolizes the instinctive organism, the human part denotes the three higher principles embracing the monad as expressed by the arrow.

More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 10 July 2017

♒ | Aquarius

(Aquarius) is the 11th astrological sign in the Western zodiac, ruled by the planet Uranus. Its ancient ruler was Saturn. The Sun is in this sign between 20 January and 18 February.

Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

Its allegorical representation is a figure of a man pouring water from an amphora. In the Egyptian Zodiac of Denderah, Aquarius carries two amphorae. This version merely affects the numerical symbolism; it affords clearer proof of the dual force of the symbol (its active and passive aspects, evolution and involution), a duality which is of the essence in the important symbol of the Gemini. All Eastern and Western traditions relate this archetype to the symbolic flood which stands not only for the end of a formal universe but also for the completion of any cycle by the destruction of the power which held its components together. When this power ceases to function, the components return to the Akasha — the universal solvent — which is symbolized by Pisces. In these two signs of the Zodiac, then, the cosmic pralaya, or Brahma’s night, runs its course. Its function, according to Hindu tradition, is to reabsorb into Oneness all those elements which originally seceded from it to lead separate individual existences. Thus, each end carries the seed of a new beginning (Ouroboros). The Egyptians identified Aquarius with their god Hapi, the personification of the Nile, whose floods were the source of the agricultural, economic and spiritual life of the country. Consequently, Aquarius symbolizes the dissolution and decomposition of the forms existing within any process, cycle or period; the loosening of bonds; the imminence of liberation through the destruction of the world of phenomena.
Man, that’s deep... and rather scary. And if you’ve read that far, you might as well wonder if “liberation through the destruction” is related at all to “the mind’s true liberation” as sung in Aquarius from Hair.

More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

♌ | Leo

(Leo) is the fifth astrological sign in the Western zodiac, ruled by the Sun. Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

It corresponds to solar power, the will, fire, and the clear, penetrating light which passes from the threshold of the Gemini into the realm of Cancer. It is connected with feelings and emotions.
The Sun is in this sign between 23 July and 22 August.

According to Wikipedia, the symbol “is based on the Nemean lion, a lion with an impenetrable hide”. To me it looks more like a squirrel. Elsewhere, it also says that is a

script form of the Greek letter “lambda”, which is the first letter of the Greek word leon, which means “lion”.
Ian Gillan, who is a Leo, sang:
Acting like a fool I had to make her cry,
Maybe I’m a Leo but I ain’t a lion...
More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

♊ | Gemini

(Gemini) is the third astrological sign in the Western zodiac, ruled by the planet Mercury. The sun is in this sign between 21 May and 20 June. Some of the coolest people out there were born under this sign. They are often referred to as “Geminis”, for no good reason. As the word “Gemini” is derived from Latin geminī, which is already plural of geminus (“twin”), there no need in further pluralisation.

The glyph looks like a variant of the Roman numeral Ⅱ, which it most probably is.

More photos related to zodiac and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 9 June 2017

糖 | táng

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: táng 🔊) means “sugar”.

You might recall seeing the left part of this character before. That’s right, it’s (), “rice”. The original meaning of was “sweet rice cake”. The right part, , is here because it is pronounced the same as the whole affair: táng. Most of the original meanings of are obsolete by now, except that for the Tang dynasty.

More photos related to sugar @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

ψ | psi

The letter ψ (psi) was yet another Greek addition to the alphabet, placed after the letters of Phoenician origin, along with φ, χ and ω. According to Wikipedia,

The letter’s origin is uncertain. It may or may not derive from the Phoenician alphabet. It appears in the 7th century BC, expressing /ps/ in the Eastern alphabets, but // in the Western alphabets (the sound expressed by Χ in the Eastern alphabets).

The letter ψ has a number of uses in maths and sciences, such as:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

χ | chi

The letter χ (chi) was a Greek addition to the alphabet, placed after the letters of Phoenician origin, along with φ, ψ and ω. According to Wikipedia,

In Ancient Greek, ‘Χ’ and ‘Ψ’ were among several variants of the same letter, used originally for // and later, in western areas such as Arcadia, as a simplification of the digraph ‘ΧΣ’ for /ks/. In the end, more conservative eastern forms became the standard of Classical Greek, and thus ‘Χ’ (Chi) stands for // (later /x/). However, the Etruscans had taken over ‘Χ’ from western Greek, and it therefore stands for /ks/ in Etruscan and Latin.
The Greek χ gave rise to the Latin X, Gothic enguz 𐍇 and Cyrillic Х.

The lower-case χ has a number of uses in maths and sciences, such as:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

μ | mu

The Greek letter μ (mu) arose from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤌 (mēm) which, in turn, was derived from the Egyptian hieroglyph for water.

The lower-case μ has many uses in maths, engineering and sciences, for example:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 5 June 2017

盐 | yán

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: yán 🔊) means “salt”.

If you think it looks complicated, I’ve got news for you: is actually a simplified form of another character. Here:

And here’s a small seal script form of this hanzi:

Uncle Hanzi explains its origin as follows:

From salt (a bag of alkaline soil) / substituted with soil and phonetic / [simplified to bowl / and man looking in bowl substituted with ]. Meaning salt.
I hope now everything’s clear.

More photos related to salt @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

: | ː

The colon (:) is a punctuation mark used in many ways:

  • to introduce lists (like this one)
  • before a definition
  • before a description
  • to make explicit or expand on something, as exemplified on the following line:
  • in Finnish and Swedish: to indicate possession (playing the role similar to that of the apostrophe in English)
  • before an explanation or an example, as shown on the following line
  • to form contractions, as in Swedish: Thomas Gustafsson can be abbreviated as Thomas G:son
  • before direct speech or quotations. For example, Wikipedia says:
    In British English, it was once common for a colon to be followed by a hyphen or dash to indicate a restful pause, in a typographical construction known as the “dog’s bollocks”, though this usage is now discouraged.
  • to introduce spoken words in written dialogues
  • to separate a title and subtitle of a work when written the same line
  • in American English: in formal letter writing
  • to separate hours:minutes:seconds when written in numbers
  • to separate chapter:verse in Biblical citations
  • in mathematics and elsewhere to indicate a ratio or a scale
  • in a variety of other ways in mathematics
  • in certain O:B:Sc:U:Re ways in chemical nomenclature
  • in many ::wonderful ways:: in C:\omputing
A triangular colon (ː) is used in International Phonetic Alphabet to mark /mɑːk/ the preceding sound as “long”.

More photos of ink and water drops @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

. | 。

The full stop or period (.) is a punctuation mark typically found at the end of a sentence, unless it is a question or exclamation.

In the 3rd century BC, the Greeks developed a punctuation system where ὑποστιγμή (the low dot .) functioned as the modern comma, while στιγμὴ μέση (the interpunct or the middle dot ·) played the role similar to that of the modern semicolon; στιγμὴ τελεία (the high dot ˙) marked the end of a completed thought, like the modern full stop.

Classical Latin had no lower-case letters, interword spacing or punctuation; hovvever·the·interpvnct·vvas·sometimes·vsed·to·separate·vvords

Apart from the ends of sentences, full stops are found after initials, some abbreviations and acronyms. In English-speaking countries, they indicate a decimal point, although in Britain until 1970s they used the interpunct for this purpose.

In Chinese and Japanese, a small circle is used to indicate the end of sentence instead of a solid dot .

More photos of ink and water drops @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 2 June 2017

υ | upsilon

The Greek letter υ (upsilon) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤅 (wāw) which meant “hook”. This letter is the most prolific of all Greek alphabet: it gave rise to the Latin letters F, U, V, Y, W as well as Cyrillic Ѵ and У. In the same time, as its upper case Υ is too similar to the Latin Y and lower case too similar to the Latin u and v, it does not make a good mathematical or scientific symbol. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the lower-case υ is used to represent a labiodental approximant, as in Finnish veli /ˈʋeli/ or Norwegian Stavanger /stɑˈʋɑŋər/.

The letter ʊ (Latin upsilon) was derived from the Greek lower-case υ. It is used in the IPA to represent a near-close near-back rounded vowel, as in English put /pʊt/ or German kurz /kʊrts/.

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

τ | tau

The Greek letter τ (tau) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤕 (tāw) which, in turn, was derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph meaning “mark”.

The lower-case τ has many uses in maths, engineering and sciences, such as:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

ω | omega

The letter ω (omega) is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. It was first introduced in the 7th century BC as a broken-up at the side variant of omicron. This letter was adopted into the early Cyrillic alphabet as Cyrillic omega (Ѡ, ѡ), with both upper- and lower-case letters similar to the Greek lower-case ω.

The lower-case ω has quite a few uses in maths, engineering and sciences, for example:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

ρ | rho

The Greek letter ρ (rho) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤓 (rēš), which is thought to have come from a pictogram of a head. As a numeral, ρ has a value of 100. Incidentally, this is our 100th post.

The lower-case ρ (or its variant ϱ) has many uses in maths and sciences, such as:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 29 May 2017

ξ | xi

The Greek letter ξ (xi) was derived from the ancient Phoenician letter 𐤎 (sāmek), which, in its turn, could have evolved from the Egyptian hieroglyph djed, representing the spinal column. Other theories say 𐤎 meant “fish” (actually showing a fish skeleton?) or “a tent peg”.

The lower-case ξ has a number of uses in maths and sciences, including:

More photos of letters, numbers and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

𝄢 | F-clef

The F-clef is named so because the line passing between the two dots corresponds to the note F. The symbol 𝄢 evolved from the Latin letter “F”, its two horizontal strokes reduced to dots.

To me, 𝄢 is a more elegant symbol than 𝄞 (G-clef). The dots aside, 𝄢 looks very much like a golden spiral, i.e. a spiral whose growth factor is the golden ratio 𝜑. This inspired me to make the F-clef from an old gold-plated guitar string:

When placed on the fourth line of the stave, 𝄢 is called the bass clef. The bass clef is the only F-clef in modern use.

More photos of guitar strings and gold @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

𝄞 | G-clef

In musical notation, a clef provides the reference point for the notes on the stave. For example, the G-clef is named so because the line passing through its curl corresponds to the note G. The fancy symbol 𝄞 evolved from the Latin letter “G”.

When placed on the second line of the stave, 𝄞 is called the treble clef. Its Russian name is скрипичный ключ because the music for violin (скрипка) is written in treble clef. This is the most commonly used clef today. No wonder this symbol grew to represent music in general — much to the chagrin of bass players.

More photos of guitar strings and silver @ Shutterstock.