Ancient History > Ancient Symbols > Top 17 Symbols of Grace and Their Meanings

Top 17 Symbols of Grace and Their Meanings

Rainbow field.

The word ‘grace’ comes from the Latin word “gratis,” which means ‘pleasing.’ The term grace is synonymous with poise, refinement, and elegance. The word grace also has a spiritual element to it. It is close to the Greek word ‘charis,’ which translates to ‘God’s favor.’

This is also linked to the divine grace of God, and his quality to forgive people’s sins. In olden times, kings were often referred to as ‘Your Grace.’ This was a short version of ‘By the Grace of God.’ This term implied the concept that kings derived their despotic nature to rule from God. 

Let’s have a look at the top 17 most important Symbols of Grace:

1. Swan

White swan on water.
White Swan
YerpoCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The swan has been an avid symbol of beauty, love, and purity. Their slender curved necks and white plumage reflect grace. Within Greek mythology, the swan was Aphrodite’s (the goddess of beauty and love) symbol. Ovid’s work ‘Metamorphosis’ mentions Aphrodite riding a chariot with winged swans.

Numerous ballets and operas portray the grace and beauty of swans. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, in 1877, depicts the grace of these water birds through ballerinas wearing white dresses.

The British crown also has a connection to swans. The British queen has the right to claim any swan in open waters that is not marked. (1)

In the Christian religion, swans are also a reflection of grace and purity. They are seen as an emblem representing the love of God.

In Celtic myths, Swans represented the healing power of the sun. Swans have also appeared as messengers in Irish and Gaelic tales. They mainly relayed messages of love and beauty. (2)

2. Rainbow

Cloudy rainbow and field.
Cloudy Rainbow Field
Image by realsmarthome from pixabay.com

In Christianity, the rainbow is widely seen as a symbol of God’s grace. This symbolism comes from the account of Noah and the great flood. The book of Genesis says that God promised to never again bring a flood that destroyed mankind and all living creatures in it. (3)

The rainbow reassured Noah that a flood of this magnitude would never take place again. Once the flood ended, God made this covenant with Noah and his family, descendants, and all living creatures. The rainbow symbolized this promise and served as a reminder of hope and God’s commitment to the earth. The rainbow is also symbolic of God’s holiness and beauty.

Theologians call the rainbow a symbol of god’s grace. Through the rainbow, God promises to restrain his wrath. The rainbow symbolizes hope and God’s promise. God promises to provide the sun and rain, seasons, harvest, and cultivation. (4)

3. Gazelle

Close up of a Gazelle.
Close up of a Gazelle
Image Courtesy: Piqsels

A gazelle is symbolic of agility, speed, awareness, beauty, and grace. Capable of reaching high speeds, gazelle’s can zigzag their way swiftly from one side to another in order to evade predators. (5)

The symbolism associated with a Gazelle is a reminder to direct all your energy into positive thinking. Gazelles remind you to let go of fear, to act, and move forward. Gazelles are also a reminder of being alert and attentive to your surroundings. (6) A gazelle is also a symbol of grace when under pressure. It is worthy to note that even during flight, gazelles exude elegance and beauty.

Gazelle’s also denote efficiency. A Gazelle is capable of outrunning a cheetah simply through its efficiency of movement. (7)

4. Lotus

Lotus floating in water.
Lotus floating in water
Image Courtesy: pixabay.com

The lotus flower is seen as sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism. It was also considered sacred in ancient Egyptian religion and culture. The lotus flower symbolizes the epitome of divine beauty.

The unfolding of Lotus petals implies the expanding of one’s soul and realizing its potential within. Within the realm of Buddhist belief, the Lotus flower is synonymous with grace, elegance, and beauty. It also represents the purity of one’s mind and body. (8)

The Lotus flower is also linked to refined style. It’s stylish how it navigates through life. It slides through quagmires and grace and delicate elegance. We can learn a life lesson from this characteristic of the lotus. We don’t always have to smash our way out of a bad situation. We can handle the situation with forethought and ease into finding a solution. (9)

5. Pearl

A pearl on the seashore.
A pearl on the seashore
Photo by Schäferle of Pixabay

Often regarded as the ‘queen of gems,’ a pearl is symbolic of grace and beauty. In Western cultures, this symbolism is derived from the pearl’s link to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

When Aphrodite was created out of seafoam, she rode a seashell to reach the island of Cythera. Therefore, pearls and shells were linked to Aphrodite. Many ancient cultures of Asia associated the magical appearance of pearls to indicate a divine presence.

In Chinese Mythology, female dragons were also thought to adorn necklaces of large pearls. Another Chinese myth is that when dragons were fighting in the clouds, a pearl fell from the sky. A boy found the gem and swallowed it in order to protect it. This boy then became a dragon

6. Cat

White and black cat.
White and black cat
ChloeanneH, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As cats are symbolic of poise and grace, they also serve as inspiration for models walking in fashion shows. The model’s walk should have the poise of a cat’s walk, with an aura of grace and confidence.

The most successful models throughout history are known for their outstanding catwalks. In ancient Egypt, cats were considered religious and revered for their wisdom and strength. They were also symbolic of poise and grace. Cats were respected by pharaohs and are also depicted in ancient Egyptian architecture and Hieroglyphics.

Bastet, an Egyptian goddess, is also depicted as having a cat’s head. The Egyptians encountered jungle cats, lions, and panthers. Smaller cats were common to live among humans whom the Egyptians admired due to their complex nature and dual characteristics. These felines combined grace and productivity, gentleness and aggression, as well as danger and swiftness with ease. (10)

7. Rue Plant

Rue plants
Rue plants
Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rue plant is also commonly known as the herb of grace. A popular herb throughout history, it has a lot to offer. It can add flavor to your favorite dish and is also an organic pest repellent when added sparingly. This aromatic herb is a great addition to any garden.

The Rue plant has also been symbolic of purity and virtue in France. In Lithuanian weddings, a spring of the rue plant is present to couples that are marrying to clarify their marriage. As a part of Lithuanian cultural wedding rights, the bride wears a crown made out of the Rue plant. This crown is burned during the ceremony and symbolizes her transition to adulthood and the responsibilities motherhood brings. (11)

Native to Southern Europe and North Africa, it has also adapted to the cooler climates of Australia, North America, and Northern Europe. Today the Rue plant is enjoyed immensely due to its ornamental value. It is also respected for its herbal uses throughout history. (12)

8. Snowflakes

Snowflake on colorful background macro.
Snowflake

The mysterious formation of snowflakes, their beauty, and their hypnotizing silhouette are featured in myths and legends. Hence, they have been profound symbols of purity and gracefulness.  Zen philosophy describes snowflakes as a perfect symbol of life itself and all the events that comprise life.

Hence the Zen proverb á snowflake never falls in the wrong place.’ This implies that everything is planned; nothing ever happens accidentally. (13) Snowflakes were seen as symbols of grace in Medieval China. An ancient poem from the Lui Song dynasty addressed the best and worst rulers of the time.

Snowflakes are referred to as a symbol of grace, as the poem praises Emperors Wu and Xiaowu. In the poem, snowflakes are used as a metaphor for Xiaowu’s reign, how he brought peace and prosperity to the region, similar to how snowflakes brighten up an area.

9. Sun

Image of the sun shining brightly.
Sun shining brightly
Image by dimitrisvetsikas1969 from Pixabay

The sun has represented divine grace since ancient times. It is the primary source of warmth and of light. It is revered for its power that sustains life and crops. Many cultures throughout history have used solar motifs and personified or worshipped the sun.

Ancient Egyptians saw the sun god Ra as the dominant God of the pantheon.  Egyptian kings from the 4th dynasty also held the title ‘Son of Re.’ Under the reign of King Akhenaton (1353-1336 BCE), the sun’s divine qualities were further glorified.

Light from the sun symbolizes taking man from the darkness of its grave towards light and warmth. Divine grace from the sun has been expressed in many religions of the east, such as Zoroastrianism. It has also been expressed avidly in Greek mythology. (14)

10. Marigold

A marigold.
Marigold as a symbol of grace
Sonamis Paul via Pixabay

This flower is considered sacred in India because it is associated with grace and fidelity. It is used in weddings to depict a long-lasting relationship and used in temples as a symbol of grace.

Even early Christians placed these flowers on statues of the Virgin Mary to show her spiritual glow and beauty. In so many other cultures, these flowers are placed inside pillows so that the person sleeping should have good dreams and those dreams are fulfilled.

11. Dove

Flying white dove.
Flying white dove
Image courtesy: uihere.com

Doves symbolize love, peace, grace, and purity. They appear as myths and folktales in cultures all around the world. A white dove symbolizes purity and innocence and gives an idea of something that is in an exalted state. The Dove appeared in mythology as far back as 3000 BC.

The Mesopotamians associated doves with their fertility goddess Inanna, who ruled love and was the goddess of war. The Dove has also appeared as a symbol in the Bible. In the story of Noah’s Ark, Noah sends a dove to look for suitable dry land, and she returns with a freshly plucked olive branch. So, Noah realizes that the earth can be lived on again.

12. Otter

A close-up picture of an otter.
An otter
Drew Avery, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Otter is a symbol of grace, empathy, and ongoing curiosity. It also symbolizes mischievousness, kindness, friendship, and peace. Otter’s are playful animals that love to live in water. They have unique personalities and are great hunters and swimmers.

Sea otters often symbolize peacefulness and grace. They also denote loyalty and joy.  (15) Otters have been the subject of folklore and mythology in many cultures as they are found in riverways and coastal areas almost everywhere in the world.

The only continents where Otters are not found are Antarctica and Australia. The Otter has also appeared as a spirit animal in numerous spiritual beliefs around the world. (16)

13. The Ocean

Shot of the ocean at the seashore.
Shot of the ocean at the seashore
Christopher, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ocean is also considered a symbol of grace because it is seen as the womb of Mother Nature, where all life emerges. The ocean can also be seen in humans as cells in the human body are mostly made up of water.

It is said that salt water lives within a person in the form of sweat and tears. (17) Through the course of history, water has widely been seen as a symbol of grace, power, and wisdom. Water in the ocean has played a fundamental role in creating and maintaining the physical world as well as biological life.

The post-renaissance view of water differed from ancient views. But water has steadily symbolized the essence of the natural world as well as wisdom and beauty.  (18)

14. Pink Roses

Pink flowers
Pink rose
Carla Nunziata, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pink roses are an avid portrayal of grace and beauty.  Different shades of pink roses can imply different meanings. If you give someone a pale pink rose, it can symbolize that you admire that person for their gentleness and grace.

You think that person is poised, elegant, and refined. Pink roses give the impression of innocence and appreciation. They can also be expressions of genuine admiration for a special individual. A thornless pink rose can also symbolize love and first sight.

This rose can symbolize a special, private meaning shared between two people. (19) Pink roses are also a symbol of femininity and feminine grace, and sweetness. It hints at the gentle, soft nature of females and conveys feelings of happiness and joy. 

15. Peacock

Close up of a blue peacock.
A blue peacock
Jatin SindhuCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Peacock symbolism is very important as it motivates us to think about spirituality, love, self-expression, and pride. A peacock symbolizes many attributes such as grace, sophistication, dignity, pride, love, and beauty. 

In Native American symbolism hints at poise, wellness, and splendor. Peacock feathers are known to have healing powers. Peacock symbolism teaches you when to be humble and when to display your aptitude and energy in a positive manner. According to Native American myths and legends, the peacock symbol carries nobility, guidance, protection, and holiness along with it.

Many Native American chiefs wore peacock feathers to express self-wisdom and to communicate with the spirit world. Peacock feathers also symbolized the power of the thunder god, who was in charge of the regulation of wind.

In Hinduism, the peacock has a connection to Lakshmi, the goddess of compassion and fortitude. It also has a connection to the God of rain and thunder, Indra.

In Persian mythology, it was thought that the peacock could provide safety from misfortune and illness. Peacock feathers were also thought to provide immortality and absorb all harmful energy. (20)

16. The Spiral

Spiral Staircase.
Spiral Staircase
Ludde Lorentz luddelorentz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The spiral is an ancient symbol of the womb and fertility. It implies that we are the holders of wisdom, knowledge, and power and that we are capable of much more than we realize. The spiral is also linked to the concept of the circle. It represents ‘coming full circle.’

This means there is no beginning or end. The circle implies continuity and everlasting and eternal nature. The spiral reflects completeness and continuous change. It hints at the evolving nature of the universe. (21)

17. Bamboo

Image of green bamboo shoots.
Bamboo shoots
Photo by Clement Souchet on Unsplash

In Asia, bamboo has been a symbol of longevity, endurance, flexibility, and grace. Bamboo forests are known for their beauty and mystical charm. The bamboo is also seen as a symbol of harmony between humans and nature. Ancient Chinese literature had a very high regard for bamboo.

The bamboo has been described as bending with the wrath of the storm yet resuming its upright position when the storm ceases. (22) Chinese culture regards the bamboo as a gentleman that has perfect virtues. The bamboo embodies integrity and flexibility at the same time. It is the perfect balance of yin and yang or, in other words, of grace and strength.

The bamboo also implies a simple life. It requires little care to flourish and grow. It is commonly used in almost every phase of Chinese living. Bamboos don’t produce fruits or flowers. Their hollow trunks are a reminder of humility and harboring a heart devoid of arrogance. (23)

Conclusion

The concept of grace, elegance, and refinement are reflected remarkably in the above-listed symbols. Grace and beauty can be found in what we see around us all the time, such as animals, plants, the rainbow, snowflakes, and the ocean.

Which of these symbols were you already familiar with as a reflection of these qualities? Let us know in the comments below!

References

  1. https://symbolsage.com/symbols-of-grace-list/
  2. https://worldbirds.com/swan-symbolism/
  3. https://symbolsage.com/symbols-of-grace-list/
  4. https://www.christian.org.uk/features/the-true-meaning-of-the-rainbow/
  5. http://www.shamanicjourney.com/gazelle-power-animal-symbol-of-awareness-speed-grace
  6. https://www.spirit-animals.com/gazelle-symbolism/
  7. https://www.hep6.com/gazelle-symbolism-facts-meaning-totem-spirit-power-animal/
  8. https://diwerent.com/blog/the-lotus-flower—potent-symbol-of-faith-and-biological-wonder-284
  9. https://www.whats-your-sign.com/lotus-flower-meanings.html
  10. https://www.arce.org/resource/cats-bastet-and-worship-feline-gods
  11. https://theherbexchange.com/grace-your-garden-with-rue/
  12. https://www.greenwomansgarden.com/node/35
  13. https://www.faena.com/aleph/snowflakes-symbols-of-individual-perfection
  14. Dante’s Sun Symbolism. John Anthony Mazzeo. American Association of teachers of Italian. Vol. 33, No. 4 (Dec., 1956), pp. 243-251.
  15. https://www.mysacredspacedesign.com/what-does-an-otter-spirit-animal-mean-and-symbolize/
  16. https://www.uniguide.com/otter-meaning-symbolism-spirit-animal-guide/
  17. https://infinitegrace.co.za/expressions-of-grace/symbols-of-grace-images/
  18. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/047147844X.wh100
  19. https://holidappy.com/gift-ideas/Meaning-Pink-Roses
  20. https://worldbirds.com/peacock-symbolism/
  21. https://infinitegrace.co.za/expressions-of-grace/symbols-of-grace-images/
  22. https://ibuku.com/resources/bamboo-facts/
  23. http://www.bamboowisdomacu.com/about/about-bamboo-wisdom/

Header image of rainbow courtesy: Image by James Wheeler from Pixabay

Cite this article

The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 17 Symbols of Grace and Their Meanings," Give Me History, November 29, 2021, https://www.givemehistory.com/symbols-of-grace.

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