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Top 15 Symbols of Empowerment and Their Meanings

Top 15 Symbols of Empowerment and Their Meanings

Being empowered refers to taking control of your life and making the decisions you desire. Empowered individuals are respected in their community and are thought of as equal members of society.

When you are empowered, you have the authority and the right to perform important acts and duties. Empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that enables you to be successful and benefit society positively.

When you are empowered, you can become an achiever and succeed in whatever you do.

Let’s take a look at the top 15 symbols of empowerment in detail:

1. The Clenched Fist

The clenched fist has long since been a symbol of resistance, strength, and empowerment. It has been closely linked to social tumult and enduring hope throughout history.

In 2020, the clenched fist was tied to Black Lives Matter (BLM), a movement that stands for solidarity against racial injustices. The clenched fist represents perseverance, power, and pride.

Within the United States, the clenched fist was also a significant symbolic gesture in the 19th century. It was avidly used to represent resistance against the European monarchies. (1)

2. Rosie the Riveter Poster

Rosie the Riveter Poster.
Rosie the Riveter Poster
Image Courtesy: Flickr

Rosie the Riveter poster has represented women in the workforce and their independence since the 1940s. This poster was created to symbolize women’s defense during the second world war.

During the war, men were recruited to go to war, so women were needed to work in factories. Mostly working-class women worked in the workforce, but as factory production increased, more women were needed.

To convince more women to enter the workforce, the US war office designed a PR campaign. The campaign promoted production jobs as a patriotic duty.

The Rosie the Riveter poster was part of this campaign and soon started symbolizing women during world war 2. (2)

3. Artemis

Artemis Statue.
Artemis Statue
Sting, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Greek Goddess Artemis is a primary symbol of women’s empowerment and strength. Artemis was the eldest twin of Zeus and Leto and was the twin sister of Apollo.

She was highly revered and was known as the Goddess of hunting and wilderness. She was also known as the Goddess of childbirth and a virginal goddess. Artemis is often shown carrying a bow and quiver of arrows.

She is known to protect the forest and all its creatures. Quite paradoxically, she is also known to hunt animals. Artemis was avidly known for her virginity and was fiercely protective of it.

It was thought that if any mortal tried to take her virginity, her wrath would be fearful. (3)(4)

4. Durga

Durga Figurine.
Durga Figurine
Ssgapu22, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Durga is a Hindu warrior goddess. She is also known by other names such as Bhavani and Shakti. Durga is always ready to fight off evil and is often portrayed with several arms – often eight or more.

She is called upon for protection and is known to defeat evil – no matter where it comes from. Durga is a very popular goddess in India and has often been depicted in Bollywood movies.

Hindus avidly celebrate her each year during the festival of Durga Puja. This festival is in the fall of each year. It is celebrated with feasts and sharing anecdotes of her strength and exploits.

Symbolically, Durga’s right eye represents the moon, her left eye represents action, and her middle eye represents knowledge. (5)

5. Hel

Cosplayers portray goddess Hela.
Cosplayers portray goddess Hela

In the realm of Norse Mythology, Hel (also known as Hela) is the Goddess of the underworld. It was a common belief that Odin, the father of all gods, sent Hel to the underworld to rule over the spirits of those who had died.

She governed all the spirits except those who had died in battle and went to Valhalla. She was in charge of the underworld and determined the fate of those who were in her realm.

It was thought that Hel was a no-nonsense, determined goddess with bones on the outside of her body rather than the inside.

Hell is usually drawn in black and white in pictorial depictions, symbolizing duality. It is believed that Hel’s name is the origin of the ‘Christian Hell’ we all are aware of. 

6. Taweret

Taweret Figurine.
Taweret Figurine
Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 FR, via Wikimedia Commons

Taweret is the Egyptian Goddess of fertility and Childbirth. It was believed that Tawaret was accompanied by a hippopotamus and watched over women in labor or who had newborn babies.

When women gave birth, they often made offerings to Taweret. It was thought that Tawaret was the wife of Apep, who was the god of evil. Therefore she could often take the shape of a demon as well.

Some also believed that Tawaret also had parts of a lioness and crocodile in her body. In later depictions, Taweret is shown with full breasts and an impregnated belly. She also carried a knife to ward off any evil that may come to a pregnant woman or a newborn baby.

7. Mami Wata

Mami Wata Figurine in the Horniman Museum.
Mami Wata Figurine in the Horniman Museum
Ethan Doyle White, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mami Wata is a water spirit present in West African belief. She was pretty well-known in the areas of Senegal and Nigeria. Mami Wata is linked to both fidelity and sex.

It was believed that if Mami Wata found you interesting, she could take you to the spiritual realm. Upon return, you would have a renewed sense of clarity. Mami Wata is often depicted as a mermaid with a snake twined around her body.

Mami Wata is often called upon in matters related to sexuality and female power by those who practice traditional African faiths. A common myth about Mami Wata was that she often presented herself to men in the form of a prostitute.

She made them promise loyalty and made them swear secrecy of being her longer. If a man broke this promise, he would have misfortune and poverty fall upon himself and his family

8. Runes

Rune Stones.
Rune Stones
Image Courtesy:

The Runic alphabet is an ancient set of alphabets used for communication in many Germanic nations and Scandinavia. Runes were used from the 3rd to the 13th century, after which the Roman alphabet replaced them.

At times, Runes were also used as tools for Divination, and it was believed that the words had supernatural powers. Runes were often linked to magic and mystery as well. Often Runic inscriptions were hung at houses and attached to weapons and garments to provide protection.

The common mythical belief was that Runes were created by the Norse god Odin and offered insight into what was hidden. They were considered ancient magical symbols that offered secrets to the human psyche and the cosmic structure of the universe. (6)

9. Valknut

The Valknut symbol.
The Valknut symbol
Nyo and LiftarnCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Valknut is a symbol consisting of three triangles that are interlocked. The term ‘Valknut’ was created in the modern era to describe the symbol.

The ancient term for the symbol is still unknown. The Valknut symbol has been discovered on many Viking runestones linked to burials. The Valknut symbol also appears avidly next to Odin. As Odin was the god of war, we can link this symbol to a warrior’s death.

It was commonly believed that they were taken to Valhalla when brave warriors died in battle. Valhalla was the hall of Odin, located in Asgard. Odin’s servants, the Valkyrie, took these brave soldiers.

In Valhalla, they would drink and make merry until they were called to fight in the last battle alongside gods. (7)

10. Triquetra

Peter Lomas via Pixabay

The Triquetra is a Latin term which translates to ‘three cornered’ or ‘triangular .’Since the Triquetra is an ancient symbol, it has had many different interpretations.

Within Christianity, it is used to emphasize three parts of the trinity. Hence it’s also called the ‘trinity knot’ or the ‘trinity circle .’The Triquetra is also linked to several neopagan interpretations. The three corners can represent three different stages of life.

For women, these would be maidenhood, motherhood, and becoming old. The Triquetra can also represent the past, present, and future and the mind, body, and soul. It can also stand for the Celtic concept of the sea, land, and the sky.

As primarily a Celtic symbol, the use of the Triquetra has become more common in the past 2 centuries as the Irish and the British have been more curious about their Celtic past. (8)

11. Butterfly

Yellow butterfly.
Yellow butterfly
Image courtesy:

The butterfly was an important symbol in Native American culture and had several different meanings. The butterfly was regarded as a positive and empowering symbol that was also comforting.

Different Native American tribes and religions had different associations with the butterfly. The butterfly also represented the native American peoples’ strong spiritual connection to nature.

Local people’s clothes, teepees, and possessions often had butterflies on them. The butterfly was also part of many legends. It was thought that the butterfly delivered prayers to the Great Spirit.

If anyone saw a dream with a butterfly in it, it was believed that the dream would come true. (9) (10) (11)

12. The Circle

Ar azraphel, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Native American culture, the circle represents the cycles of the different seasons. It also represented the sun, the moon, and the concepts of death and rebirth.

The four primary elements, air, water, fire, and earth, were also represented by a circle. These four great primary forces were known to emanate from the creator. The fire circle signified warmth and light.

The air circle hinted at life. The water circle meant the sustenance of life. The cross within the circle was also hugely significant in Native American culture and represented the sun, moon, and fire. (12)

13. The Cactus

Cactus plant.
Cactus plant / CC0 Public Domain

Native American tribes in the Southwestern region attached significant meaning to the cactus. The cactus implied endurance, warmth, protection, and empowerment. The cactus also implied maternal love and motherhood.

This was primarily because it can persevere in hard conditions and still thrive. Jewelry with a cactus on it was a great gift to give to a mother within the native American culture. (13) (14)

14. Thunderbird

Thunderbird in Art Park.
Thunderbird in Art Park
A.Davey from Portland, Oregon, EE UUCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The thunderbird was highly revered, an extremely important symbol in Native American culture. Native Americans thought the thunderbird was actually a powerful spirit that took the shape of a bird.

It controlled the elements and was responsible for watering the earth and growing vegetation. It was believed that its wings rolled off thunder, and lightning was struck from its wings. This colorful, gigantic bird was considered incredibly powerful.

Many tribes believed the thunderbird was a god in animal form. They believed it had curled horns, brightly colored feathers, and a bald head. This mighty bird also symbolized nobility, strength, power, and empowerment.

The thunderbird was also a dominant icon in native American artworks and traditions. (15)  (16)

15. Horse

A galloping white horse.
A galloping white horse
Image Courtesy:

An essential part of history, folklore, and mythology, horses have fascinated humans since the beginning. Horses have symbolized power, freedom, nobility, competition, triumph, heroism, and confidence throughout the ages.

Horses bring empowerment, wealth, and power to their owners and are capable of infinite loyalty. The Native Americans believed the Horse was a highly symbolic being. For them, it represented freedom, mobility, and stamina. They also thought of horses as tokens of war.

The Japanese believed horses were spirit animals, and spirits entered the world while riding them. For the Chinese, horses represented integrity, perseverance, and courage. (17)


Many symbols have represented empowerment across many cultures and eras. Empowered individuals can easily take control of their lives and overcome obstacles with a positive and practical outlook.

Which of these Top 15 Symbols of Empowerment were you already aware of? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Header image courtesy: Image by rihaij from Pixabay