Symbols act as representations of the many aspects of life that we encounter every day, be they physical, metaphorical, moral, or social.
We entwine symbolism in our songs, stories, epics, and beliefs to convey meaning, knowledge, and teachings to our audiences.
Admirable human traits and attributes are shown in symbols as well. For this, we usually borrow images from nature, like animals, plants, and flowers, to represent those qualities.
That said, the symbolic human virtue that I’m going to talk about with you in this post is integrity. It’s defined as the individual’s strong capacity for honesty and moral uprightness, including tenacity and stability. (1)
Let’s have a look at our 10 most common symbols of integrity.
Symbols of integrity are: The Moose, The Djed Pillar, Lotus Flower, The White Swan, Daffodils, The Rooster, Gladiolus Flower, Dara Knot, Bamboo, and The Circle.
Table of Contents
The moose is an animal that’s found in the northern parts of America and Eurasia. It’s one of the largest members of the deer family. (2)
Their towering height, massive flat antlers, and long legs are their most distinguishing features. They’re brave animals that are always ready to defend their own against predators.
They have a watchful and stable disposition that hints at their wisdom, even for an animal. It’s no wonder that these animals symbolize integrity.
In some native customs, the moose represents many valuable virtues like strength, wisdom, endurance, and survival. (3)
In fact, young boys of some native cultures would seek moose totems for themselves as a rite of passage, conveying their transition from being a child to a man. (4)
2. The Djed Pillar
The symbol of the Djed is a visual representation of the concept of stability in ancient Egyptian culture. You can see it scattered throughout their artwork and architectural designs. (5)
They commonly depict the Djed as a vertical pillar with four straight, horizontally oriented lines on its upper part. (6)
The symbolic relevance of the Djed ties to three of Egypt’s prominent gods: Ptah, Set, and Osiris.
The other name for the Djed is the “backbone of Osiris.” (8) That said, it’s no wonder that they used it to symbolize integrity and stability.
The lotus is a popular ornamental flower that grows in bodies of fresh water like rivers, ponds, and lakes. They grow in many parts of the world, such as China, India, Iran, and Russia. (9)
For that reason, the lotus flower carries various important meanings across different cultures. Although, I will just focus on how this flower represents integrity and perseverance in some specific traditions.
In some spiritual cultures, they refer to the lotus as a sacred symbol of royalty and integrity, referencing the poor conditions from which these beautiful flowers come and thrive. (11)
Ancient Egypt refers to the lotus as an important symbol for their religion as well. They associate the flower with Nefertem, the god of morning creation and perfumes, alluding to its trait of faithfully blossoming every morning. (12)
4. The White Swan
That said, swans are believed to be sacred in some native American cultures and traditions. The natives use swan feathers in ceremonies and on their garments and ornaments. (13)
They also relate these birds to the North direction, which, according to them, carries purifying and enduring winds. (14)
Even in Buddhism, the figure of the swan carries a significant meaning. Gautama Buddha likened an enlightened individual to a swan, who flies “on an invisible course” and “live on emptiness.” (15)
The Daffodil, or Narcissus, is a perennial flower that’s coveted for its attractive trumpet-like flowers. They’re native to the northern parts of Europe, but they’re also cultivated in places with mild climates. (16)
Daffodil flowers bloom in late winter and early spring. (17) Because of this, they’re correlated to the concepts of “new beginnings” and “rebirth,” referencing their ability to flower regardless of the harsh winter.
Inner reflection, vitality, self-awareness, and forgiveness are also among the qualities that the narcissus flower represents. They’re thought to be the best flower to offer when asking for forgiveness. (18)
6. The Rooster
The rooster has various meanings and symbolism in many cultures.
In Chinese culture, the rooster is one of the famous 12 Chinese zodiac animals. They believe that the people who are born during the years of the rooster are honest and faithful.
Mythologies in Japan also place a sacred significance on roosters. These birds are associated with the Japanese god Amaterasu, and the Japanese regard them as a symbol of courage and bravery in times of despair. (21)
The gladiolus flower is a flower that’s native to areas with tropical climates. Because of its funnel-shaped flowers lined up on a single stem, it has a long, pointed form akin to a spear or sword. (22)
Sincerity, faithfulness, and recollection are the things that these flowers represent. Their long and sturdy stems symbolize character strength as well.
Their unique shape is the reason they’re called gladiolus, a name that stems from the Latin word “gladius,” meaning sword.
Some sources say that during the Roman Empire, when gladiators won battles, the viewers would throw gladiolus flowers into the arena as a celebration. This close association with the gladiator warriors made the flower a symbol of strength and integrity. (23)
8. Dara Knot
The Dara knot is a Celtic symbol that you can trace back to antiquity. It’s one of the most notable Celtic symbols, made of knotted patterns and interlaced lines.
Although the Dara knot’s meaning differs at different points in history, the thematic elements and tenets remain. Fortitude, inner strength, immortality, endurance, power, and wisdom are all attributed to this popular symbol. (24)
The cultural and religious significance of the Dara knot relates to its connection to the oak tree. In fact, its design is a representation of the intricacies and powerful root systems of oaks.
This is because the Celtic people view oak trees as sacred, connecting them with the spirits of their ancestors. Hence, it’s a crucial component of their communal and spiritual lives. (25)
Bamboo is one of the tallest, tree-like grasses in the world. It’s commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas, particularly in East and Southeast Asia. (26)
Bamboo is famous for its flexibility. It can endure strong rains and winds despite its spindly and hollow stems.
Strength, flexibility, durability, firm roots, and strength are the qualities that people attribute to bamboo.
The Chinese also place great importance on the virtues that the bamboo tree inspires. They made stories like “The Story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree” to emphasize the lessons of patience, endurance, perseverance, and growth. (27)
Similar stories about bamboo are also popular in Philippine literature. In fact, a particular folklore about the origin story of the Filipino people talks about their first people emerging from inside the bamboo tree. (28)
10. The Circle
The circle has great spiritual, religious, and symbolic relevance across history. It’s a universal sign carrying the meaning of wholeness, eternity, perfection, and more. (29)
Another notion that’s commonly evoked by the image of the circle is the integrity and strength of an entity. The entity could be an individual, a group, a community, or even the universe.
In Jungian archetypes, the form of the circle is associated with the perfected individual. It’s the psychological state of an individual where you center your ego properly. (30)
In Eastern philosophy, the Yin Yang is also another example of how circles correlate to integrity, stability, and balance. It relates to various binary concepts such as light and day, good and evil, earth and sky, chaos and order, and masculinity and femininity within the self. (31)
If you look up and down our history, you will immediately realize that we’re a species that’s symbolic by nature.
We use symbols to show or teach certain realities that we want others to know and emulate.
The symbols that I talked about here present the virtue of integrity, inner strength, and moral rectitude in the shape of animals, flowers, trees, stories, and even patterns.
They’re a testament to our continual attempt to live righteous lives. They remind and inspire us to look at life positively and always try to exhibit good qualities, such as integrity.
So, what particular symbols of integrity speak to you the most?
- Integrity (n.d.) INTEGRITY | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/integrity
- Geist, V. (2022, September 6). moose. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/animal/moose-mammal
- Native American Moose Mythology (n.d.) Native American Indian Moose Legends, Meaning and Symbolism from the Myths of Many Tribes. http://www.native-languages.org/legends-moose.htm
- Moose (n.d.) Symbolism Wiki. https://symbolism.fandom.com/wiki/Moose
- Mark, J.J. (2022) Djed, World History Encyclopedia. https://www.worldhistory.org#organization
- Team, E.T.P. (2021) The Djed Pillar, Egypt Tours Portal. Egypt Tours Portal. https://www.egypttoursportal.com/en-us/the-djed-pillar/
- Egyptian – Ptah, Sokar, Osiris (n.d.) RISD Museum. https://risdmuseum.org/art-design/collection/ptah-sokar-osiris-802621
- Djed-pillar amulet (backbone of Osiris) (n.d.) Brooklyn Museum. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/117868
- Where does the lotus flower grow: Where to find this symbolic plant (2022) Earth.com. https://www.earth.com/earthpedia-articles/where-does-the-lotus-flower-grow/
- Mack, L. (2019) Importance of the lotus flower in Chinese culture, ThoughtCo. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/chinese-flower-lotus-687523
- Usigan, Y. (2022) What Does a Lotus Flower Mean Spiritually? The Symbolism Behind It, Woman’s Day. Woman’s Day. https://www.womansday.com/life/a41505375/lotus-flower-meaning/
- Nefertem (2022) Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. https://kids.britannica.com/students/article/Nefertem/312663
- Clifford, G.C. and About The Author Garth C. Clifford. (2021) Swan symbolism & meaning (Totem, Spirit & Omens), World Birds. https://worldbirds.com/swan-symbolism/#symbolism
- Four directions (2022) St. Joseph’s Indian School. https://www.stjo.org/native-american-culture/native-american-beliefs/four-directions/
- Gautama Buddha quote, Love Expands. https://loveexpands.com/quotes/gautama-buddha-420311/
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, June 22). daffodil. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/plant/daffodil
- C.J. (n.d.) Daffodils, Almanac.com. https://www.almanac.com/plant/daffodils.
- Flower Meanings (n.d.) Chicago Flower Shop. https://www.chicagolandflorist.com/more/flower-meanings/
- Echo and narcissus in Greek mythology (n.d.) Greek Legends and myths. https://www.greeklegendsandmyths.com/echo-and-narcissus.html
- The old cock of barcelos (n.d.) Gabbedy Milson Lee. https://gmllegal.com.au/the-old-cock-of-barcelos/
- Jez (2022) Symbolism of Japanese birds: Japanese symbolism, The Japanese Shop Blog. https://www.thejapaneseshop.co.uk/blog/symbolism-of-japanese-birds/
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, September 16). gladiolus. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/plant/Gladiolus
- Fresh, F.T.D. (2020) Gladiolus meaning and symbolism, FTD.com. https://www.ftd.com/blog/share/gladiolus-meaning-and-symbolism
- Rhys, D. (2021) Celtic dara knot – meaning and symbolism, Symbol Sage. https://symbolsage.com/celtic-dara-knot-meaning/
- Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh) meaning (2022) The Irish Road Trip. https://www.theirishroadtrip.com/celtic-tree-of-life-symbol/
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2022, November 23). bamboo. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/plant/bamboo
- The story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree (2020) Women’s Network Australia. https://www.womensnetwork.com.au/the-story-of-the-chinese-bamboo-tree/
- The Philippine bamboo: From folklore to livelihood, Steemit. https://steemit.com/steemph/@dandalion/the-philipppine-bamboo-or-from-folklore-to-livelihood
- Miller’s Guild (2022) 15 spiritual meanings of Circle, Miller’s Guild. https://www.millersguild.com/circle-symbolism/
- Cherry, K. (2022) What Are the Jungian Archetypes?, Verywell mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-jungs-4-major-archetypes-2795439
- Yin-yang meaning (2021) Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com. https://www.dictionary.com/e/pop-culture/yin-yang