All over the world, petroglyphs and cave paintings abound, telling the stories of events as they unfolded or were worthy of remembering. Scrapings on stone walls were the newspaper of the day for all who wandered by, and who still wander by.
In looking at images of these ancient glyphs, I find myself being drawn to the spiral and wondering is the spiral an icon or is it a symbol? And what is the difference?
An icon is a representation of something that already exists, or has existed such as religious paintings.
A symbol represents an idea, like the peace sign.
Oddly, the spiral is both icon and symbol. Spirals are objects to be found everywhere: in the sky as in the Milky Way, in the animal world, such as snails and the coil of a snake; and in turbulent water and air patterns, such as whirlpools and tornadoes and are abundant in plant life.
Besides merely observing the spiral, the Greek sculptor and mathematician, Phidias (480 BC-430 BC) wanted to understand it through the language of numbers. He created what is known as the Golden Ratio and used it in the design of the Parthenon as well as other works.
Leonardo Fibonacci (~1170-1240), an Italian mathematician formulated the observation known today as the Fibonacci Sequence. It explains the spiral mathematically.
This article explains in fascinating and easily understood detail the universality of the Fibonacci Sequence, including the human hand as it grasps!
No wonder the spiral is such a powerful symbol!
Personally, I find it visually fascinating and like to wear it, especially as a ring.
I can observe and touch it, giving me a feeling of connectedness to all things.
The asymmetrical design of the ring is purposely reminiscent of hand hewn pieces made by our ancestors. Maybe they strived for perfection, but could not achieve it or maybe there was not yet the concept of perfection, just raw expression and need for communication and connectedness through an object.
Many believe that in difficult times, art is superfluous, non-essential and a luxury or even an afterthought once the necessities of life are secured.
I believe that art is a necessity.
To pull oneself out of physical want or psychological misery, having a connection will help dispel that feeling of being insignificant, giving us the energy needed to carry on and move forward. It can help us to accept life’s cycle of birth and death and perhaps ease the pain of a transition.
Ancient symbols such as the spiral remind us that we are part of a life cycle, our own and humanity’s. We are all connected. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.