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Top 15 Symbols of Innocence With Meanings

Cute little lamb on fresh spring green meadow during sunrise.

Innocence has been represented through many avid symbols throughout history. The concept of childhood as well as animals such as lambs and doves, all represent innocence. Innocence is also an important concept within the realm of religion, such as Christianity. It is present in Christian literature and the bible. Purity and innocence are embodied by religious figures such as Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. 

Within Christianity, the Garden of Eden also symbolizes this concept. It is seen as the ultimate garden where everyone is pure and innocent and can have anything they wish for. Innocence is also seen as a pillar of faith in Christianity and has to be adhered to by all. The Christian faith stresses individuals to remain innocent of sexual conduct until marriage. It also stresses to remain innocent of all criminal conduct.

Let’s have a look at the top 15 symbols of innocence throughout history:

1. The Lamb

Lamb on fresh spring green meadow during sunrise.
Lamb on fresh spring green meadow during sunrise

The symbol of a lamb is often used as a reference to innocence. Within the Christian religion, the sinless nature of Jesus is emphasized by calling him the ‘lamb of God.’ [1] In his poem, Songs of Innocence, William Blake widely uses lambs as symbolism. Lambs are used to link religion to humans and the natural world.

Lambs are associated with country people, with farming, and with green fields of the English countryside. Blake uses the traditional reference of lambs representing innocence. In the Gospel, Jesus Christ is compared to a lamb because of his will to be sacrificed on humanity’s behalf. Lambs are baby sheep and are connected to the innocence of childhood in Blake’s Songs of Innocence. [2]

2. Children

Photo of happy girls with handsome lads in front smiling at camera.
Happy Children

Children are known as symbols of innocence due to a multitude of reasons. They are linked to the concept of innocence due to their simplicity and lack of knowledge. The mundane affairs of the world have not yet mitigated their purity. In older times, the concept of innocence was interlinked to religious ideas. From the 19th century onwards, the concept of innocence in children was emphasized due to their absence of sexuality. [3]

Children also represent innocence because they have experienced the world’s true nature. Children are clueless of ill intentions and vices. They do not possess the impurity associated with lies and murder. Children’s minds are far apart from these truths. Children are not aware of their intentions or actions. This is why society classifies children in the utopia of childhood. This utopia is free from all existing horrific evils. [4]

3. Virgins

A virgin is someone who has not experienced sexual intercourse. The word ‘virgin’ is commonly linked to sexually inexperienced women. Unmarried females who are virgins are given importance by religious and cultural traditions. Such women are considered ‘pure’, ‘honorable’ and ‘Innocent’. The concept of virginity is similar to the concept of chastity. Societies in the past required women to remain virgins before marriage. There were social and legal implications if they didn’t. Many societies today have no such implications with the ‘being a virgin’ status. 

The significance of the concept of virginity is entirely social and cultural. It has no biological proof or advantages. American Historian and writer Hanne Blank said that virginity is not a reflection of any biological imperative or any visible evolutionary advantage. [5] Kuo Jung Chen, in the essay ‘The Concept of Virginity and Its Representations in Eighteenth-Century Literature,’ details how virginity is looked at through patriarchal values and regressive cultural codes.  [6]

4. The Color White

A white marble surface.
A white marble surface
Image by PRAIRAT_FHUNTA from Pixabay

The color white is an avid symbol of innocence and purity. It has been such throughout the course of history. There are many reasons. Generally, when something is clear and white, it is seen as ‘clean,’ whereas if something is black, it is seen as dirty or unclean. The white color also closely represents translucence or light. And light is linked to knowledge, clarity, and the state of being pure. Hence white color gets its symbolism. 

The connection of white color and innocence is largely due to the influence of Christianity. Within Christian religion, anything that is white is seen as innocent and pure. Hollywood movies often show Jesus wearing a white garment. This depiction implies Christ’s pure innocence and his pure status. In everyday life, the connection of white and innocence is seen. Brides usually adorn white at their wedding as it implies innocence before marriage.  [7]

5. Doves

A dove.
Dove
StockSnap Via Pixabay

Doves have been symbolic of eternal peace and innocence since time immemorial. In many different cultures of the world, Doves represent purity, gentleness, beauty, and faith. Doves are definitely one of the major Top 15 symbols of innocence. They are rounded birds that are gentle and peaceful looking.

They are also an avid representation of love and femininity. In Egyptian mythology, the Dove was also associated with innocence. Doves were depicted on the branches of the tree of life and were seen along with the tree’s fruits. Doves are also seen as the symbol of Israel. In temples, they were offered by Hebrews in order to gain purification. [8]

6. Gardens

Trees, green grass, and a swing.
A Garden with a Swing
Image by Rene Asmussen from pixnio

Being in a beautiful garden is often seen as an act of innocence. Gardens are pretty, pure, and a serene place where people can rest. The concept of a garden as a pleasant place came about in the middle ages. A garden filled with flowers or open green fields with clear blue skies were seen as places of serenity and innocence. These were places where people could rest and find comfort. 

Such spaces were also linked to the Garden of Eden; thus, this concept is a reference to the Christian religion. [9] Within the realm of Christianity, gardens are also a reference to Virgin Mary. It was thought that gardens were safe enclosures in which an earthly paradise was created by God. At times Gardens are also thought to reflect one’s soul and innocence. As gardens are enclosed spaces, they also symbolize consciousness as opposed to the infinite nature of a forest. [10]

7. Jesus Christ

Stained glass depicting Jesus holding a lamb.
Stained glass depicting Jesus holding a lamb.

For Christians, Jesus Christ is a leading symbol of innocence. God is pure and holy, and since Jesus is considered an extension of God himself, he is also seen as pure and innocent. As Jesus was conceived while Mary was still a virgin through the Holy Spirit, this also adds to his purity.

Jesus’ character and personality were also one of innocence, love, and purity. He did not commit any sins and always wished well for his people. Even today, when Jesus is depicted in movies or in pictorial form, he is always seen wearing white to emphasize his purity. [11]

8. Virgin Mary

Stained glass depicting the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.
Stained glass depicting the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus

Mary gave birth to Jesus miraculously. She conceived him through the power of the holy spirit. The New Testament describes Mary as a virgin. Christian theology states that Mary conceived Jesus while she was a virgin, through the Holy Spirit. Mary reached Bethlehem, and Jesus was born there.

Since earliest Christianity, Mary has been known as the holiest and most innocent of females. She is considered one of the greatest saints due to her remarkable virtues. This is one of the reasons the Virgin Mary is in the Top 15 Symbols of Innocence. Mary also holds the highest position in other monotheistic faiths such as Islam. [12] Two chapters of the Quran are named after her as well as her family. [13]

9. Water

Close up photo of ocean on water level.
Close up photo of ocean on water level
Anastasia Taioglou thenata, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Water has had a wide array of symbolism attached to it. Water often symbolizes wealth, knowledge, and even life itself. Water has the power to restore objects to their original state of purity. It can cleanse away all dirt and impurity. Similarly, it is also connected to cleansing one’s soul and achieving an innocent and pure state.

10. Unicorn

A unicorn above the clouds.
A unicorn above the clouds
Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

Unicorns are an ancient symbol of purity and innocence. Within Celtic Mythology, unicorns have white horse-like bodies, a single horn protruding from their foreheads. These magnificent creatures represent power, purity, and innocence. Celtic legend states that unicorns also possess healing powers.

The strength of their healing powers can purify even poisoned water. [14] Throughout different cultures, Unicorns have life and joy as well. These magical creatures have held an important position in Chinese, Greek, and Persian Mythology. They have represented freedom, innocence, purity, and magical qualities. In Medieval times, only virgins could approach unicorns because they were as pure and innocent as unicorns. [15]

11. Diamonds

Diamonds symbolize a number of attributes. Diamonds are formed of pure carbon and are colorless. They are known to represent perfection and purity. They also symbolize clarity, elegance, and innocence. It was thought that Diamonds were created through tears of God that were shed.

Hence the attributes of purity, innocence, and holiness are still linked to diamonds. At times Diamonds also represent one’s pathway to attaining innocence and purity. Just like it takes pressure for carbon to turn into a diamond, similar it takes strength of character for a person to achieve perfection, innocence, and a purified state.  

12. Pearls

A pearl.
A pearl
Photo by Schäferle of Pixabay

Pearls symbolize the very best of human characteristics such as spiritual transformation, honesty, wisdom, innocence, and purity. Pearls are also a reflection of femininity and self-acceptance. They are capable of making an individual feel calm and beautiful. They are a mark of dignity and positivity.

Pearls serve as a mirror for self-reflection and give us insight into how we appear to other people. A pearl is essentially a ragged piece of sand that transforms into something beautiful and valuable over time. Due to their humble beginnings, pearls are heavily symbolic of innocence and purity of the heart. The insight provided to us by a pearl helps us reconnect with the honest and simple things in life. [16]

13. Untouched Land

Landscape, sunny dawn in a field.
Landscape, sunny dawn in a field

At times, untouched land can also represent innocence. Untouched land is primal, pure, and has not been subjected to any sort of artificiality. It helps us connect with the raw and rustic beauty of nature. A large part of the earth today has been refined and molded to fit human needs.

There is avid deforestation and land is used for agricultural purposes. A piece of untouched land helps one connect with the unrefined wild beauty of nature, which is entirely perfect through its own perfect way.

14. Fire

Fire on black background.
Fire
Virginie Moerenhout, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the Zoroastrian faith, fire is symbolic of purity as well as innocence. In order to be pure and innocent, one needs to be good. For Zoroastrians, purity can be achieved through fire. It can help cleanse people’s’ souls and help them attain a state of innocence.

It is believed that those who are kind, pure, and innocent will not be burned by fire, but those who are will feel its wrath. In this faith, fire is also at home to symbolically cleanse and protect people. Many fire temples are also maintained for this purpose.

15. White Rose

A white rose laying on a rock.
A white rose laying on a rock
Image courtesy: maxpixel.net

Roses are one of the most popular flowers and come in various colors. These colors are reflective of many different emotions and qualities.  White roses are an extremely prominent symbol of innocence. They are also avidly used in weddings as they symbolize purity and innocence as well as loyalty and young love.

In Greek Mythology, the white rose was also linked to Goddess Aphrodite. This rose reflected ideals of femininity, beauty, and sexuality. Within the Christian religion, the white rose is also symbolic of Virgin Mary. This rose is a representation of the Virgin Mary’s pure and innocent status. [17]

Summary

Symbols have held utmost importance throughout the course of history and are equally significant today. Innocence is an important human attribute and has been represented avidly in these symbols of innocence.

The concept of innocence is often linked to childhood, animals, and religion. Which of these Top 15 Symbols of Innocence were you already aware of? Let us know in the comments below.

References

  1. Chalmers l. Paton. Freemasonry: Its Symbolism, Religious Nature, and Law of Perfection (March 10, 2003)
  2. https://www.shmoop.com/study-guides/poetry/lamb-blake/analysis/symbols-imagery-wordplay
  3. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199791231/obo-9780199791231-0161.xml
  4. https://www.bartleby.com/essay/A-Child-Is-A-Symbol-Of-Innocence-PKN7C49CF9LX
  5. Hanne Blank (2008). Virgin: The Untouched History. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 304 pages.
  6. Kuo-Jung Chen (2010). The Concept of Viriginity and its Representation in Eighteenth century English Literature. Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture. Vol. 3.2 Pg. 75-96
  7. https://symbolismandmetaphor.com/symbolism-of-innocence/
  8. https://worldbirds.com/dove-symbolism/
  9. https://symbolismandmetaphor.com/symbolism-of-innocence/
  10. https://symbolism.fandom.com/wiki/Garden
  11.  https://www.givemehistory.com/symbols-of-purity
  12. Barbara Freyer, “Mary”, in: Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān, General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, Washington DC.
  13. Jestice, Phyllis G. Holy people of the world: a cross-cultural encyclopedia, Volume 3. 2004 
  14. https://www.nts.org.uk/stories
  15. https://unicornyard.com/what-do-unicorns-represent/
  16. https://www.gemstonegifts.com/pages/meaning-of-pearls-crystal-healing-use-as-a-totem-or-talisman
  17. https://www.venusetfleur.com/blogs/news/white-rose-meaning-history-of-the-white-rose

Cite this article

The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 15 Symbols of Innocence With Meanings," Give Me History, January 21, 2022, https://www.givemehistory.com/symbols-of-innocence.

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