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The Symbolism of Bells (Top 12 Meanings)

The Symbolism of Bells (Top 12 Meanings)

In many cultures and religions, like Christianity and Hinduism, bells are revered as a source of divine power and cosmic energy. Their sound signifies creative power and has been used in many traditions to ward off evil spirits and energies. 

Besides holding a spiritual link, they symbolize new beginnings, like wedding bells, celebrations, and even warnings about imminent danger. 

For better understanding, let’s investigate the symbolism of bells from religious, cultural, and several literary perspectives.

Bells symbolize: new beginnings or endings, warnings, time, music, joy, calmness, peace, sadness, evil, harmony, and celebration.

General Symbolism Associated With Bells

Let’s take a closer look at the general symbolism associated with bells:

A Call From a Higher Power

Hearing bells symbolize a higher entity trying to communicate. In several spiritual interpretations and the dream world, the sound of the bell is a sign that you must seek to foster a connection with God. [1]

Ancient temple bells
Ancient temple bells

A Beginning or End

Bell ringing can also symbolize a sacred event, like a call to prayer by the church, to indicate the start of a holy union like a wedding, or to announce the end of an event. 

Warning Sign

Throughout history, bells have been used as an effective way to send warning signals to nearby dwellings if an imminent danger lurks. Until now, several regions ring bells in case of danger like a fire hazard or a natural event like flooding.  [2]

Keeping Track of Time

In many cultures, bells are rung every hour of the day to keep track of time. The number of bells used also depicts the current time.  [2]

As a Musical Instrument

Throughout history, bells have been used as a musical instrument, providing resonating tones to enchant the listener. [2]

Symbolism in Literature

In novels and poems, bells portray a celebratory occasion like a marriage or have a melancholic association like death. Bells in literature are also used as a call to action or command. 

Gold retro school bell with scroll and books isolated on white.

They are also used to express emotions of joy, calmness, and peace and negative emotions like sadness. 

However, literature from different regions can have varying meanings. For example, western literature depicts the bells in moments of joy or when there’s a nearby danger, whereas literature from the Asian region uses bells to ward off evil spirits. 

They are also symbolic of holidays, happiness, and joy. One classical depiction of bells is during Christmas time. Hearing the bells hanging from Santa’s sleigh is a joyous moment for children as it brings them happiness. [3]

Symbolism During Christmas

Ringing bells in a church, especially during Christmas, indicates celebration. The church bells are rung to announce the arrival of a sacred celebration period and the birth of Christ. 

An Old Church Bell Tower with a Cross and Heavenly Light.
An Old Church Bell Tower

Most catholic churches also ring their bells at midnight during the Christian Eve mass. The bells hanging inside homes signify the joy and happiness of these Christmas celebrations. [3]

Symbolism in Different Cultures

Bell symbolism varies in each culture and changes depending on the type of sound the bell makes. 

Old bells hang on steel rails in The stone with the footprint of Lord Buddha at Khitchakut mountain. It is a major tourist attraction in Chanthaburi, Thailand.
Old bells hang on steel rails in stone with the footprint of Lord Buddha at Khitchakut mountain. It is a major tourist attraction in Chanthaburi, Thailand.

Hindu Culture

In traditions across the Indian region, the sound of the bell and its vibrations are used during meditation. The pandits and yogis meditate on the bell’s vibration as they believe these meditative practices and rituals emulate the sound of bells. [4]

Chinese Culture

In Chinese tradition, the sound of the bell is considered a representation of universal harmony. The bells in Chinese culture are also used to protect evil entities.

Western Culture

During the Biblical era, bells held great significance as they were used to call for prayer, make announcements, and signify significant events. They believed they had universal powers to aid exorcism and purify the soul from evil spirits. 

This use of bells in rituals and religious places in Western regions might have adopted its use from other cultures. The followers of Buddha saw bells as sacred and used to ring them during meditation and prayers. [4]

Symbolism in Dreams and Their Interpretations

In the dream world, seeing or hearing bells carry several positive meanings. Here’s a brief list of the symbolism of bells in dreams and their purpose:

Bell in church tower.
Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash
  • Hearing holiday bells in a dream symbolizes your struggles in life will become fruitful, and the hardships you are facing will end soon.
  • Hearing a pleasant bell signifies that your love life will succeed. You will soon find your soulmate and start a new chapter in life. 
  • The sound of church bells in a dream means you will succeed and gain victory over your competitors.
  • Bell sounds triggering a feeling of sadness during a dream is a warning that bad news is coming and you have to stay prepared for the worst. 
  • Seeing yourself ringing bells can signify that you will face arguments, disagreements, and quarrels over domestic issues with your family
  • Seeing a beautiful bell symbolizes that you will soon get a delegatory role in your life. It can be related to family issues or something related to your career.
  • Hearing loud bells is linked to anxiety and depression. Most people carry unnecessary emotions and thoughts, only increasing their anxiety. Dream analysts also interpret this dream as a sign that you must let go of your worries and vent out emotions to stay happy and stress-free. [5]

Interpreting the Symbolism of Bells

While many cultures and traditions worldwide connect bells with spiritual meanings and religious beliefs, bell symbolism and its spiritual meaning varies, depending on the person’s beliefs, culture, and tradition. 

Most interpreters suggest meditating and reflecting upon your beliefs to interpret the true meaning. [5]


Bells have been integral in human culture, traditions, and history for centuries. In a religious context, they are used as a call to prayer and signify events, whereas, in other cultures, they are associated with joy, happiness, and celebration.

For centuries, bell sounds have fascinated listeners and can evoke certain emotions and feelings. They continue to remind us of our cultural heritage and its powerful symbolism.