Lightning is a powerful event of nature that usually takes place just before or during heavy rain. While rain without lightning and thunder is often considered peaceful and relaxing, a thunderstorm only spells turbulence and problems.
People of the past had different views on what lightning was or what it meant; consequently, they used it to symbolize several different things. In this article, we look at what lightning meant as a symbol for different people worldwide.
Table of Contents
Lightning Symbolism: At a Glance
- Lightning is often seen as a symbol of power, strength, and energy.
- It can also be interpreted as a sign of divine intervention or punishment.
- In some cultures, it is associated with fertility and rain.
- Ancient Greeks believed that it was the weapon of Zeus, the king of gods.
- In Christianity, it is sometimes used to represent God‘s wrath or judgment.
- In Native American culture, it represents transformation and renewal.
- Some people believe that seeing a bolt of lightning brings good luck or fortune to their lives.
Lightning symbolizes: punishment, disaster, surprise, inspiration, divinity, speed, hope, power, strength, energy, fertility, transformation, renewal, and luck.
In Christianity, the Psalms mentions that “God will smite you down’ (52:5-7). People believe this is in the form of lightning as it cracks down from the sky without warning. It is incredibly powerful, and there is no way for the average person to forecast where it will strike.
Greeks also believed in Zeus (the God of lightning and the highest God)  and envisioned him as using lightning bolts as spears to strike down on enemies and protect his people.
The lightning bolt is used in the modern day as a warning sign for high-voltage equipment. It itself has become a symbol of dangerous consequences.
Most religions believe in a God that exists in the sky or even further up above that. As lightning ‘falls’ down from the skies, believers of those religions believe lightning to be sent by him, just like the rain and sunlight.
Since it is hard to determine where the thunder comes from, people assume thunder is also sent down by God or created by him and is part of lightning.
Both lightning and thunder are very grand and spectacular to witness. It is an experience that feels like it is taking over the entire horizon, and due to this massive scale, people believe it’s a godly event. Many religions have certain prayers or practices that they will do when there is a heavy thunderstorm. For believers, it symbolizes something otherworldly.
The sign of lightning is also commonly interpreted as disaster, damage, or destruction. 
When lightning strikes a tree, a metal pole, or even larger objects like houses and buildings, there is often nothing left after that split second. If it happens to strike a person, there is nothing left to recover from.
Lightning and the incredible amount of electric energy it carries can easily obliterate even very large objects. It is a force of nature that demands respect and caution and has come to be a feared entity. The sign of lightning is often understood as a sign of disaster and destruction or a warning to stay clear and be cautious.
Lightning is unpredictable, just like thunder and rain. In the past, rain and lightning were considered Godly events, as people could not forecast them, and they heavily depended on rain. Today we have ways to forecast rain, but to do that for lightning is still nearly impossible.
However, lightning is a surprise to the sight and sound. It often takes people by surprise and can be incredibly scary for children and even some adults.
It has earned a reputation for being something abrupt, usually resulting in bad news – it can cause instant damage to whatever it strikes.
Lightning also symbolizes inspiration. For many artists, thinkers, scientists, and philosophers, the great idea or that solution to a big problem sometimes comes naturally to the mind ‘in a flash’. 
One moment a person is grasping for solutions, and in the next, they have the answer.
Moreover, just like how lightning strikes from above, many spiritual thinkers claim that their great ideas came from ‘above.’ Even if they don’t believe in a higher power, the only answer they have is that the ‘universe’ gave it to them.
Lightning also brings with it a big flash of bright light. A bolt of lightning can light up what seems like the entire horizon, even if for a split second, on a dark rainy day or a pitch-black rainy night.
Great ideas and thoughts are akin to light in a dark sky. A bolt of lightning represents that enlightenment – perhaps a dream of yours is coming to life.
Lightning symbolizes speed. Like the phrase ‘in a flash,’ which stems from the flash of lightning, it happens so quickly that you don’t have the chance to blink or move, and it has already occurred!
Lightning in modern media is often associated with characters that move very quickly, such as The Flash, and is used to symbolize their speed.
Even modern storage systems such as thumb drives are sometimes referred to as ‘flash’ drives since they read and write much faster than traditional mechanical drives. Both lightning and light itself indicate fast speed.
The light element of lightning represents hope and better times ahead. During a dark storm, it is a wake-up call to the ears and the eyes. For a second, it flashes light on everything around it and helps us see something other than the darkness.
Similarly, when ideas come to mind like a bolt of thunder, it is uplifting. People who experience such inspiration are suddenly excited and happy to start working on the brilliant thought that has ‘struck’ them.
In a flash, lightning can change how we feel, and a big reason for that is the light that it brings with it. In this way, it symbolizes hope and better times to come.
Lightning has been understood in many ways and used to symbolize different things. For some, it is a sign of danger; for others, it is a sign of good fortune and change.
Symbols like lightning depend heavily on the context in which they are used to give them the appropriate meaning. The same symbol can mean one thing and suddenly mean something very different when given a specific context.