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Top 10 Symbols of Reconciliation With Meanings

Christian Cross.

The act of reconciliation refers to redeeming oneself for any wrongdoing. This act includes genuine remorse, as well as repentance. We will discuss the top ten symbols of reconciliation in this article. These symbols are based on history, mythology, everyday life, and Christianity. 

Within the realm of the Catholic religion, the sacrament of reconciliation is also known as a confession. The Roman Catholic Church’s concept of a confession was to seek forgiveness for sins. God forgave people for their sins and helped them heal. People’s confessions let them reconcile with the church while the church took people’s’ sins onto itself. 

Let’s take a look at our list of the top 10 most important symbols of reconciliation:

1. Aeneas

Terracotta Aeneas Figure
Terracotta Aeneas Figure
Naples National Archaeological Museum, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When there were local wars during the colonial period, people liked to turn to symbols of reconciliation. The story of Aeneas was socially, politically, and religiously constructed to take a new identity.

Aeneas was venerated as the hero and a great leader in Italy, Sicily, and northern Aegean. The Romans needed the intelligence and cooperation of the Greeks. Therefore, both nations agreed on using this myth to reconstruct their identity. This myth shaped Rome as a powerful empire of that time

The story of Aeneas is a notable symbol of reconciliation.

So exactly who was Aeneas? Aeneas was the son of Anchises and Aphrodite. He was the primary hero of Troy and was also a hero in Rome and belonged to Troy’s royal lineage. He was second to only Hector in terms of ability and power.

Literature also says that Aeneas was worshipped as a god during the time of Augustus and Paul. This myth and cult of Aeneas shaped the empire’s image as a diversified culture. [2]

2. The Dove

 A white dove with wings widespread
A white dove with wings widespread
Anja’s picture on Pixabay . 

The Dove symbolizes peace and reconciliation even in the Babylonian flood stories. It carried a branch of olive in its beak when it returned to Noah’s Ark as a sign of land ahead. The Dove has become an international sign of peace.

Greek legends also consider the Dove a love symbol representing faithful and dedicated love. There is a legend that two black doves flew from Thebes, one settled in Dodona in a place which was sacred to Zeus, the father of the Greek gods.

The Dove spoke in a human voice and said that an Oracle would be established in that place. The second Dove flew to Libya, another place sacred to Zeus, and established a second Oracle. [3]

3. Irene

Irene the goddess statue.
Statue of Irene the goddess
Glyptothek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Irene denotes a symbol of reconciliation and is depicted by the peace sign, white gates, and an entryway. Irene was Zeus’s daughter and one of the three Horae who looked into the matters of peace and justice. They guarded the gates of Mount Olympus and made sure that only good-hearted people could pass through those gates. 

Irene (or Eirene) was depicted as a beautiful young woman who carried a scepter and a torch. She was regarded as a citizen of Athens. After a naval victory over Sparta in 375 BC, the Athenians established a cult of peace, making altars to her.

They held an annual state sacrifice after 375 BC to commemorate the Common peace of that year and carved a statue in her honor in the Agora of Athens. Even the offerings presented to Irene were bloodless in praise of her virtues.

From 1920 till this date, the League of Nations uses this symbol of reconciliation to honor Irene or when they want to end any bickering issue. [4] [5]

4. Orange Shirt Day

Teachers in a Canadian school wearing orange shirts for Orange Shirt Day.
Teachers in a Canadian school wearing orange shirts for Orange Shirt Day.
Delta Schools, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Orange Shirt Day is a day celebrated in memory of the indigenous children who survived Canada’s residential school system and those who didn’t. On this day, Canadians adorn orange clothing in honor of the residential school survivors.

The ‘Orange Shirt Day’ concept originated when an indigenous student, Phyllis Webstad, wore an orange shirt to school. Wearing this colored shirt was not permitted, and the authorities took the shirt from her. 

Between 1831 and 1998, there were a total of 140 residential schools for indigenous children in Canada. Innocent children were mistreated and abused. Many children also could not survive the abuse and passed away. Survivors advocated for recognition and reparations and demanded accountability.

Hence, Canada commemorated the Orange Shirt Day as the national day of acknowledging the truth and reconciling. Today, buildings across Canada are illuminated in Orange on September 29th of September 30th from 7:00 pm onwards till sunrise. [6]

5. The Bison

Bison on snow field.
Bison on snow field
© Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Bison (often referred to as the Buffalo) has served as a symbol of reconciliation and truthfulness to Canada’s indigenous people. There was a time when the Bison existed in millions and sustained the lives of the indigenous people of North America.

The Bison was an essential source of food throughout the year. Its hide was used to create teepees, and its bones were used to make fashion jewelry. The Bison is also an important part of spiritual ceremonies. 

Once Europeans arrived on the land, the Bison population started to dwindle. Europeans hunted the Bison for two reasons: trade and competition with the natives. They thought that if they exterminated the primary food source for the native populations, they would decline. 

Symposiums held at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum discuss the significance of the Bison with a mission to reenact its importance. Exploring indigenous cultural symbols like the Bison can help the native populations heal and also reconcile, which is extremely beneficial to society. [7]

6. The Purple Stole

A priest wearing a purple stole
A priest wearing a purple stole
Gareth Hughes., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A stole is a narrow strip of cloth worn over your shoulders and with equal lengths of fabric in front. A priest is a representative of Jesus Christ and can grant absolution. The priest adorns the purple stole, which represents achieving priesthood.

The purple stole shows the priests’ authority to absolve sins and reconcile with God. Every act of reconciliation includes the priest, the cross sign, and words of absolution uttered by those seeking it. The purple color of the stole represents penance and sorrow. Also, for the confession to be valid, the penitent must experience true contrition. [8]

7. The Keys

 Emblem of the Papacy used by the Catholic Church.
The Emblem of the Papacy used by the Catholic Church
Gambo7 & Echando una mano, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Major components of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are keys drawn in an X shape. Matthew 16:19 states Jesus Christ’s words to St. Peter. In those words, Jesus gave the church the power to forgive people’s sins. Hence the Sacrament of Reconciliation was established, and the keys symbol represents that. [9]

Catholics believe that in verses 18 and 19 of the Gospel of Matthew that Christ informed St. Peter that he was the rock on which the Catholic Church was to be created. Christ was handing him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. [10]

8. The Raised Hand

Man raising hand in worship.
Man in worship
Image by modelikechukwu from Pixabay

The act of Reconciliation has several steps. First, the penitent carries out the act of contrition. For this, the penitent needs to be wholeheartedly remorseful and want their sins to be forgiven. After the act of contrition, the priest offers an Absolution prayer.

This prayer consists of a blessing during which the priest raises their hand over the penitent’s head. The act of the raised hand is symbolic of being a priest and of reconciliation.

9. The Cross Sign

Christian cross.
Christian cross
Image Courtesy: Flickr

Once the prayer of absolution is finished, the priest makes a cross over the penitent and says the final words. The final words state that all the penitent’s sins are absolved in the Holy Father’s name, Son and Holy Spirit. When one is baptized, they are marked with the cross sign, which signifies that they belong to Jesus Christ. 

Christians make the cross sign many times during the day. They make this sign on their forehead so that Jesus influences their thoughts and improves their intelligence. They make it on their mouth, so good speech comes out of their mouth. They make it on their heart, so Jesus’ unending love influences them. The cross sign represents unity between humanity and God and is also a sign of reconciliation with God.

10. The Scourging Whip

Scourging Whip.
Scourging Whip
Image Courtesy: publicdomainvectors

This symbol is symbolic of Christ’s suffering and his crucifixion. Catholics believe that Christ suffered for their sins. However, by suffering, Jesus Christ took his followers’ sins upon himself and won pardon for them. 

The Takeaway

We’ve discussed the top 10 Symbols of Reconciliation in this article. These symbols stem from religion, mythology, and worldly events.

Which of these symbols were you already aware of? Let us know in the comment section below! 

References

  1. https://books.google.com.pk/books?id=PC7_f0UPRFsC&pg=PT119&lpg=PT119&dq=symbols+of+reconciliation+in+greek+mythology&source=bl&ots=n5n0QqwPWI&sig=ACfU3U138HszC-xW8VvhlelaJ_83Flhmkg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjRhfCiyer0AhWIsRQKHQNiCJIQ6AF6BAgWEAM#v=onepage&q=symbols%20of%20reconciliation%20in%20greek%20mythology&f=false
  2. https://books.google.com.pk/books?id=s4AP30k4IFwC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=symbols+of+reconciliation+in+greek+mythology&source=bl&ots=-jYdXWBE1n&sig=ACfU3U2VLGxC-GXuieqnXD66R0y8xU7yrA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjRhfCiyer0AhWIsRQKHQNiCJIQ6AF6BAgcEAM#v=onepage&q=symbols%20of%20reconciliation%20in%20greek%20mythology&f=false
  3. https://journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com/tag/reconciliation/
  4.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eirene_(goddess)
  5. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html 
  6. https://globalnews.ca/news/5688242/importance-of-bison-to-truth-and-reconciliation-discussed-at-symposium/
  7. https://everythingwhat.com/what-does-the-stole-represent-in-reconciliation
  8. https://thesacramentofreconciliationced.weebly.com/symbols.html
  9. https://www.reference.com/world-view/symbols-used-sacrament-reconciliation-8844c6473b78f37c

Header image of Christian cross courtesy: “Geralt”, Pixabay User, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cite this article

The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 10 Symbols of Reconciliation With Meanings," Give Me History, January 7, 2022, https://www.givemehistory.com/symbols-of-reconciliation.

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