In a world filled with conflicts and divisions, the quest for freedom is always an eternal human aspiration. We have associated a lot of imagery with symbols of freedom, such as the dove, the bald eagle of America, or the broken chains. These symbols all have deeper meaning and even stories behind them.
In this article, we will explore 25 popular symbols of freedom around the world, uncovering their fascinating meaning in societies and cultures throughout history.
- Bald Eagle
- Open Hand
- Standing In Front Of The Wilderness
- Statue Of Liberty
- Broken Chains
- Liberty Bell
- Declaration of Independence
- Mandela Prison Number (46664)
- Rising Sun
- Open Road
- Birds Flying Away
- Fists Raised In Solidarity
- Expanding Mind
- Blue Sky
- Dandelion seeds blowing in the wind
- Open Book
- Rainbow Flag
- Dharma Wheel
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Throughout history, the eagle has symbolized great empires like Babylon, Egypt, and Rome, appearing on their emblem. It is a majestic creature, soaring high in the sky, and its powerful wingspan and sharp eyesight evoke a sense of awe. In Native American culture, eagles are revered as sacred beings since they soar highest in the sky, closest to “the Creator.” They view the eagle as symbols of freedom, power, leadership, and foresight (as they have a unique ability to spot prey from great distance). Interestingly, bald eagles was also indigenous only to North America.
Similarly, in early Christianity, eagles embody salvation, representing hope and resilience. In Islam, the eagle is considered a flawless creation by Allah and represents noble ferocity, dignity, and authority. The emblem on the flag of Mexico City portrays an eagle perched on a cactus, devouring a serpent, derived from the ancient Aztec legend.
In America, the Bald Eagle was chosen as the national emblem in 1782, when the Great Seal of the United States was adopted. At that time, the Founding Fathers sought a symbol that represented strength, courage, and freedom. Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his friend stating that the bald eagle should not be a representative of the country because it is a bird of bad moral character and often quite lousy. He suggested that the turkey is a more suitable symbol of America.
However, the Congress was looking for a symbol that represented strength, courage, and freedom, so the Turkey was obviously not selected.
Open hands represent an open and welcoming gesture, indicating a lack of restrictions. This openness can be associated with the concept of freedom, as it signifies liberation from limitations or oppression.
If our hands are open, it means they are receptive and ready, not limp or unengaged, not holding on tightly or trying to control. We are not pushing away or resisting. Our hands are ready to hold and embrace whatever is valuable in our lives. We get to choose to approach life gently with a readiness to appreciate the things we can hold, love the people around us, enjoy life’s moments, and cherish the gifts we receive. That is why it makes great symbols of freedom: we refuse to let past rejections, fears, and insecurities hinder our life.
Standing In Front Of The Wilderness
Standing in front of the wilderness, we experience not just freedom, but also a profound sense of awe—an overwhelming feeling that brought forth our admiration for the natural world. Gazing at the stars or connecting with the magical forest is truly a humbling and prehistoric experience. We are utterly insignificant in comparison with the greatness of the nature and the universe infinitely stretching out in all directions. It is liberating.
Flags have always been symbols of freedom, representing the beliefs and collective determination of a particular group throughout history. The design, colors, and symbols on a flag convey the fundamental principles and hopes of a community. For example, the American flag, with its stars representing the states and stripes symbolizing the original thirteen colonies, embodies the principles of liberty and independence. Similarly, flags used by independence movements, like the flag of South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle, became powerful symbols of resistance against oppression and the pursuit of equality.
In times of conflicts, flags carry an even stronger meaning. To those rising up in revolution, risking their own life to secure human rights and protect their loved ones, the flag is their life purpose. As long as their flag is still there, they understand that they still have to continue to fight, no matter how much struggle they have to go through. They inspire bravery and resilience, symbolizing the unbreakable determination to protect freedom.
In times of peace, flags symbolize a group’s historical journey and the challenges they have overcome in their quest for freedom. They tell generations after the wars of past sacrifices and triumphs in the pursuit of liberty. They are flown on significant occasions, such as national independence days or liberation anniversaries, honor the collective memory and pay tribute to the resilience of those who fought for freedom.
Horses have long been associated with freedom unmatched strength and sense of independence. They have a natural grace that allows them to roam and run freely across great distances. The mere sight of a horse galloping across an open field is so powerful. These creatures are uninhibited but they can display amazingly controlled manner if they are accompanied with a good rider. Together the horse and the rider form an intimidating force on the battlefield, fearlessly charging into danger.
Throughout history, birds soaring through the sky have always symbolized the idea of freedom, and doves are a prime example. They possess the remarkable capacity to glide through the air with ease, giving them the freedom to move in any direction they desire. This represents the ultimate symbol of emancipation and self-sufficiency, surpassing the limits imposed by its environment.
Read more: Dove Symbolism & Meaning: Ultimate Guide
Statue Of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is situated in Upper New York Bay, widely recognized as a symbol of freedom. It was originally intended to symbolize the friendship between France and the U.S. and their shared yearning for liberty. The statue also commemorated the end of slavery after the U.S. Civil War. Throughout time, the Statue has acquired greater significance. It is known as the Mother of Exiles, welcoming countless immigrants and embodying hope and opportunity for those pursuing a better life in America. It ignites the aspiration for freedom in people worldwide and symbolizes the United States itself – the land of freedom
During the Enlightenment era in the 18th century, the torch imagery was quite prevalent in philosophical and literary works. Great thinkers like Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant advocated for intellectual freedom and the power of reason, and it was a time when scientific thinking truly blossoms, paving the way for great discoveries and advancements in the next centuries. They saw the torch as a symbol of illuminating the darkness of ignorance and superstition, emphasizing the liberation that comes from critical thinking and the freedom to question authority.
Lady Liberty herself also holds a torch in her raised hand, symbolizing enlightenment and freedom. It represents the power of knowledge, the quest for justice, and the inherent human right to think, express, and strive for a better world. The brightly burning torch’s flame symbolizes the ongoing struggle for freedom and the constant need to guard against the forces that seek to extinguish it.
Chains represent slavery and oppression. They are extremely heavy, restricting people’s movement and living their life normally. Prisoners and people in capture are bound by chains, and usually this restriction was imposed on them by a stronger force. Broken chains therefore symbolize the destruction of these limitations and attainment of liberty.
In the Industrial Age, labor workers is often depicted as physically and psychologically oppressed by capitalists who went to great lengths to exploit them. Together they must break the chains, signifying the victory of human spirit and the longing for liberty. You should find the broken chain symbol in many old propaganda imagery of the working class fighting for their rights.
Interestingly, the broken chain symbol also appeared in the Statue of Liberty. Bartholdi – the sculptor of the statue – added the shackles to represent newly achieved freedom of America. He initially intended to put the chains in the Statue’s left hand, but that spot was used for her tablet instead. Bartholdi decided to place the chains and shackles at Lady Liberty’s feet, symbolizing her liberation from bondage.
The Liberty Bell, inscribed with the message “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” is a powerful symbol for freedom. This inscription inspired abolitionists, suffragettes, and Civil Rights leaders. On July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell rang from Independence Hall, calling the people of Philadelphia to witness the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon. Over time, it became an American symbol of liberty. Unfortunately, in 1751, the bell cracked and was recast locally, and attempts to repair it were unsuccessful, resulting in a second crack that silenced the bell permanently.
Declaration of Independence
Here it is not just the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, but of any country around the world that has overcome great oppression to regain freedom and sovereignty over their land. The Declaration was created to justify the independence of the early American republic from its British rule. However, its core principles of unalienable rights, equality, and liberty have transcended time and borders. It has served as a blueprint for approximately 193 other nations, including Haiti in 1804, New Zealand in 1835, Vietnam in 1945, Israel in 1948, and more recently, Kosovo in 2008. The Declaration’s message resonates with individuals striving for freedom from oppressive governments. Its enduring power lies in its ability to adapt to changing circumstances and, as Fredrick Douglas asserted,
Mandela Prison Number (46664)
Nelson Mandela holds immense importance in history due to his remarkable contributions to the fight against apartheid and his belief in equality for South African people. As a leader of the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela strongly advocated for the rights of Black South Africans, demanding an end to discriminatory policies. Mandela’s activism, both peaceful and armed, challenged the apartheid regime and inspired international movements against racism.
While incarcerated on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela was known by the code name 46664. When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island in 1964, he was assigned the prison number 46664. This number was given to him based on the year of his arrest, 1964, and the fact that he was the 466th prisoner to arrive on the island that year. The last two digits, ’64,’ represented the year of his arrest.
During his imprisonment, Mandela became a powerful symbol of resistance against apartheid. His imprisonment lasted for 27 years, and throughout this time, he became an international icon and a symbol of the struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa. After Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and his subsequent election as the first black president of South Africa in 1994, the number 46664 continued to hold significant meaning.
Mandela used this number as a tool to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was devastating South Africa. In 2003, he launched the 46664 Campaign, a global HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention initiative. The campaign aimed to use the symbolism of Mandela’s prison number to unite people in the fight against the disease.
Mandela’s leadership and moral authority inspired people worldwide. He became a symbol of hope, resilience, and the power of forgiveness. Mandela’s advocacy for social justice and human rights resonated far beyond South Africa’s borders, influencing movements and individuals fighting against oppression and discrimination globally.
Having a key, especially a skeleton or master key, represents the idea of unlimited opportunities and unrestricted exploration. In the old days, ancient fortified cities gave important guests and residents a special key to the city, which symbolized their exclusive freedom to move around and enter or leave whenever they wanted.
This tradition still exists today, with countries like the United States giving a similar decorative key as a way to honor this long-standing practice. In many situations, a key is all it takes to set people free from limitations and being confined, making it a universally recognized symbol of freedom.
The rising sun signals the start of a brand new day, when we rise and embrace a new opportunity to create and explore the world. It is a metaphor for liberation from the past, leaving behind old constraints or limitations and embrace freedom. There is a sense of hope and optimism in the rising sun, promising a brighter future ahead.
In front of you is the wide open road, leading to your destination, and although you have no idea what the future holds, you still see that it will bring you to a brave new life, where you embrace freedom and boundless possibilities. It represents a departure from the constraints of daily life to embark on the journey of self-discovery and adventure. On the open road, we find peace in the promise of the unknown.
In the final scene of “El Camino,” the character Jesse Pinkman, portrayed by Aaron Paul, drives along a vast road towards Alaska. The open road becomes a visual manifestation of Jesse’s newfound freedom, allowing him to escape the horrors of his past as a criminal. Jesse symbolically left behind his troubled history and embraces a new life where he can live quietly in peace, simply doing what he loves.
Birds Flying Away
Birds effortlessly flying through the air, no restrictions, nothing holding them back, represent true liberation and limitless potential. They are among the few creatures that can travel so freely across the world, unrestricted by earthly boundaries. Looking at a caged bird flying away to the wide wide sky gives us all a serene feeling of liberation.
During the winter, despite storms and strong winds, birds still manage to fly great distance to warmer areas for comfort and food. It is an interesting metaphor for humanity’s pursuit of a better world, rising above life’s difficulties and find solace in a promising future.
Read More: Wind Symbolism and Meaning Around The World
There is an old song from the 1940s called “Donna Donna” telling the story of a calf destined for slaughter. On its way to the slaughterhouse, it saw a swallow flying above so proud and free. The flight of the swallow symbolizes hope and the dream of escaping the confinement that is the calf’s fate.
How the winds are laughing
They laugh with all their might
Laugh and laugh the whole day through
And half the summer’s night.
Dona, dona, dona…
“Stop complaining,” said the farmer,
“Who told you a calf to be?
Why don’t you have wings to fly away
Like the swallow so proud and free?”
Calves are easily bound and slaughtered
Never knowing the reason why.
But whoever treasures freedom,
Like the swallow has learned to fly
Fists Raised In Solidarity
Similar to the image of the broken chains, fists raised in solidarity reminds us of the warring days when oppression and conflicts were ongoing everywhere in the world, and many communities would form to share their ideals and beliefs in how to create a better world.
The symbol’s roots can be traced back to a time when workers and activists would come together in meetings, rallies, and protests to fight for their rights and express their views. During these gatherings, when agreement was reached, participants would raise their hands, sometimes with clenched fists, as a gesture of agreement, strength, and unity. The raised fist represents collective action, and union against oppression. They are ready to demand justice by standing together and challenge the status quo.
The raised fist is also commonly associated with anti-fascism, socialism, communism, anarchism, and other revolutionary social movements. It is a salute to convey unity, strength, or resistance. During the labor movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, workers used the raised fist to symbolize their unity, resilience, and their fight for fair wages, shorter working hours, and better treatment. The raised fist became a visual representation of their collective strength and determination to achieve greater freedom and rights.
Expanding minds symbolize freedom of thought, representing the limitless potential of human intellect and liberation from constraints. The concept of an expanding mind captures perfectly the exciting feeling when we are exploring great ideas. Have you ever had the moment of coming to a moment of revelation and “breakthrough” that seemed to unlock a new pathway in your mind? That is a fascinating and novel experience. The pursuit of knowledge leads us to great regions, allowing us to see the world from a new perspective.
On the journey to gain knowledge, we gradually break free from conventional thinking and open ourselves up to alternative perspectives. In fact, when we dig deep enough, we may even find little gems and treasures that are so different from conventional knowledge, and this is a wonderful reward in itself. We grow beyond ourselves on the journey.
Blue is the color that represents freedom. It symbolizes the sky and the sea, which are commonly associated with experiencing a sense of freedom. The sky is vast, and the ocean is never-ending, and these 2 images have long been used in literature and art to represent our yearning step out there and explore the world beyond our immediate reality. We associate the sky with hopes, ambitions, and long-term goals that may take years to unfold, but can will take us to great heights and freedom.
The vastness and serene blue color of the sky symbolize the freedom to think, dream, and explore beyond the limitations imposed upon us. We have the freedom to imagine a future that is not constrained by societal expectations or personal circumstances. The open sky reminds us that our potential is limitless, and that we have the freedom to chase our aspirations and soar to new heights.
Dandelion seeds blowing in the wind
Dandelions spread their seeds through the wind in a simple and fascinating way. When a dandelion flower matures, it transforms into a fluffy white ball called a puffball or seed head. Inside the puffball are lots of tiny seeds, each attached to a feathery structure called a “pappus.” When the puffball is ready, it releases these seeds into the air.
When the wind blows, it catches the fluffy pappus attached to the seeds. This causes the dandelion seeds to float and travel with the wind, sometimes over long distances. As the seeds drift away, they eventually land on the ground or in new places, where they can bloom into new dandelion plants.
it is a beautiful image of freedom. The dandelion grows up, then spreads its seeds to lands far away, continuing its species simply by going with the flow of the wind. The dandelion’s floating seeds represent the potential for new journeys. We can all embrace the freedom to let go of limitations, fears, and past attachments, and allow ourselves to be carried away by the currents of life.
Imagine having wings—where would you go? The answer to this question reveals the essence of freedom of wings. Wings grant birds the ability to soar above land, mountains, and oceans. It is their wings that enable them to embark on migrations in search of better horizons with abundance of food and resources.
Moreover, wings are closely associated with escape, as they empower birds to transcend walls and confinements. Just envision yourself in prison and suddenly sprouting wings—wouldn’t you fly away to freedom? In Greek mythology, Daedalus and Icarus crafted wings from wax and feathers to flee the Island of Crete. Their wings granted them the means to soar beyond their limitations.
Read more: Feather Symbolism & Meaning: Ultimate Guide
An open book symbolizes freedom of thought and creativity in a simple and powerful way. When a book is open, its pages reveal a world of ideas and stories waiting to be explored. Have you ever gotten so lost and immersed in a story that you forgot about your surroundings? A book is capable of taking us to imaginative worlds that is impossible in reality. It allows us to live through thousands of lives. Book is the freedom to delve into different perspectives, to imagine new possibilities, and to think independently.
An open book also symbolizes the freedom to express ourselves. The author had the freedom to pour their thoughts and ideas onto the pages. Writing a book, no matter the genre, is a fascinating experience of self-discovery. Readers also have the freedom to interpret, analyze, and respond to the content in the book in their own unique ways. Books is a great channel to express our individuality and to contribute to the creativity of our world.
The rainbow flag is a truly iconic symbol that represents the freedom to express one’s sexuality within the LGBT community. This flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, consisting of six colorful stripes that span the spectrum of colors, creating a beautiful and inclusive symbol of unity and diversity.
Each color of the rainbow flag holds its own significance. Red represents life, orange represents healing, yellow represents sunlight, green represents nature, blue represents harmony, and purple represents spirit. Together, these colors form a powerful symbol of acceptance, love, and the freedom to be true to oneself.
In Buddhism, the Dharma Wheel is a widely recognized symbol that represents the Buddha’s teachings, Gautama Buddha himself, and the path to enlightenment. It is also associated with concepts such as the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Dependent Origination, which are known to lead practitioners towards enlightenment and freedom from the endless circle of death and rebirth. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the pre-Buddhist dharmachakra is considered an auspicious symbol and one of the oldest known Indian symbols in art. Its use can be traced back to the time of King Ashoka and the post-Indus Valley Civilisation.
According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha set the “wheel of dharma” in motion when he delivered his first sermon, symbolizing a profound and universal change brought about by an extraordinary individual. The wheel is derived from the Indian idea of a chakravartin or “universal monarch” and represents the ideal king. In Buddhist texts, the wheel is described as having a nave, a thousand spokes, and a felly, all perfect in their attributes. While the Buddha had the potential to become a wheel-turning king, he chose instead to become a spiritual leader and a Buddha.
The term “turning the wheel of Dharma” signifies the Buddha’s imparting of wisdom, knowledge, and insight. This wisdom encompasses self-realization of the Truth and the proclamation of the Truth. The dharmachakra symbol also reflects the concept of “Dharma,” which encompasses the cosmic law, universal moral order, and the teachings of the Buddha.
There’s a story about the phoenix, a special and amazing bird that lives alone. It lives for an incredible 500 years, then builds a nest and sets itself on fire. From the ashes, a new phoenix rises, strong and refreshed, bringing hope and new beginnings.
The phoenix is a mythical creature, but historians believe it was inspired by real birds like the eagle, hawk, crane, flamingo, and peacock. Some think that the phoenix myth came from the flamingo, which nests in hot salt flats. The water’s reflection makes their nests look like they’re on fire. In Chinese folklore, the peacock, with its similar size and beautiful feathers, is also connected to the phoenix.
Another bird similar in size to the phoenix is the majestic eagle, although their colors are different. Some eagles have feathers that are blue and purple, like the phoenix. The phoenix symbolism is more than just life and death; it symbolizes change and the ability to overcome challenges and start anew.
Read more: 30 Symbols Of Death Around The World
In conclusion, symbols of freedom are prevalent in cultures around the world, representing our endless struggle against oppressive and authoritarian governments and our innate desire to reach our wild dreams. From the broken chains to the imagery of the blue sky, each symbol carries its own unique significance and interpretation. They all carry the idea that freedom
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