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Dictionary of Symbolism

Product no.: 0-452-01118-3
Explores the rich and diverse meanings of more than 2,000 symbols, delving into the power of symbols in the past and present worlds of mythology, fairy tales, religion, literature, history and archaeology.

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Publisher's Synopsis

A scholarly work intended to acquaint the reader with significant cultural symbols throughout the history of civilization. The work was originally published in German in 1989, as Knaurs Lexikon der Symbole, and, with this first English edition, the title has now been translated into 18 languages. Over 600 illustrations.


"This reference work defines symbols not only as visual icons (including shapes, color, and geometric designs) but also as biblical, classical, and mythological figures; botanics; minerals; and animals (real and mythical) as they relate to literature, dreams, art and so forth. The choice of the over 2000 cross-referenced terms included here was necessarily subjective, for almost anything in the universe can be construed as having an emblematic meaning.

Prehistorical to modern periods are covered and, although there is a Western emphasis, the author attempts to place symbols in appropriate cultural contexts. This work, which consolidates much arcane information, is valuable for its elucidation of both the esoteric and commonplace."        ~Library Journal


"(Greek diabolus) The great adversary (Satan) and 'father of lies,' is the counterpart in hell of God, who rules in heaven. The devil's attributes seem to come primarily from those of Charu, the Etruscan demon of the underworld: a NOSE like a VULTURE'S beak, pointed EARS like those of an animal, WINGS, tusk-like teeth (like those of the demon Tuchulcha), carrying a HAMMER as a symbol of death. To these are added physical features of the GOAT: HORNS, legs, tail--making him resemble the Greek god of nature PAN. In some contexts he is portrayed with HORSE'S hooves (or to symbolize his divided nature, with one hoof and one human foot). His wings are often formed like those of the BAT to distinguish them from those of ANGELS. In paintings of witches' sabbaths (see MOUNTAIN) he is often shown with a second face on his buttocks, which his servants must kiss (the kiss of 'shame,' osculum infame).

Legendary elaborations on Isaiah 14 trace the existence of the devil (Lucifer, Phosphorus, 'bearer of light') back to his uprising against God and his fall into the underworld. (See GRAIL.) He is not always portrayed as a terrifying figure, however. In popular legend he appears as a hunter in GREEN or RED garments; in medieval sculpture, as the 'Prince of the world,' whose back, however is being devoured by TOADS, SNAKES, and worms. Snakes and DRAGONS are associated with the devil in other contexts as well; saints are frequently portrayed in conflict with them..."

Author Biedermann, Hans
Translator Hulbert, James
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 465 pp.
Publisher Meridian Books 1994
Browse these categories as well: Metaphysics, Mysticism and Initiation, Mythology, Folk and Fairy Tales, Dream Dictionary and Symbols

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Number: 17 Page 4 of 17