Religious symbolism has always been a big subject in art. Right from the times of the caveman, all the way up to the modern times, man has sought to refine important religious concepts and associations in the form of religious symbolism and iconography. These symbols serve as a pictorial representation of religious philosophies and give an arrangement to religious expressions. This is why if you have a religious institution, be it a church, a mosque, a synagogue or a temple, or an organization focusing on philosophical beliefs, it is important to have a logo that portrays the true essence of your religious services.
In fact, it can even be argued that religious symbols are more than pictorial representations of beliefs – they serve as symbols to connect humans with their respective beliefs. As such symbols evoke certain emotions in people, they are supposed to hold a lot of power. In this article, we will discuss how religious logos can be balanced with the use of masculine and feminine symbolism. As most of the religious systems claim to hold masculine and feminine sides, certain symbols have been developed over the years to represent these. As these symbols carry certain associations and meanings, having a proper understanding to decode of these will give you an edge over the others to design a religious logo.
Symbols Denoting Spiritual Essence
One of the most common categories of religious symbolism is the one that represents the essence of religion. Such symbols seek to mediate between the spirituality and humans by providing a reference to the essence of the religion where essence of the spirit is taken as a refined concept.
In the modern world, such symbols can work the best. The modern day depiction and realization of religion seeks to form a unified approach towards spirituality. There is also a conscious effort in establishing religion as an institution which can appeal to a mix of people. So, if you are establishing a charity society that has its roots in religious service, or are forming a spiritual organization, your logo would work best if it embodies the ‘spirit’ or the ‘aura’ of your beliefs, instead of a symbol that claims to be divine.
Here are some examples of masculine and feminine icons with their meanings that have existed in the history to depict the essence of a religious philosophy, which can be used in your logo icons.
Masculine Symbols Denoting Spiritual Essence
Wheels are very common South Asian religious symbols. You see the manifestation of wheels in Hinduism, Jainism, Persian religions and even in Buddhism. Wheels symbolize coming “full circle” in spirituality. They stand for coming to term with our inside energies and bringing out peace through the religious journey. Wheels also stand for the chakra (energy points) inside us, and how these energies are in constant flow. This is why the most common Buddhist symbol is the dharma wheel.
While the dharma wheel can have many stylistic depictions, it is primarily a masculine symbol. This is because the male energy in these religions is known to be the energy that keeps things transformative and together in these philosophies, it is known as the major transformative force. In some instances where the masculine and the feminine needs to be balanced, the dharma wheel is shown with lotus flowers or roses – which are known to be the feminine spiritual symbols.
Ideally, wheels can be used for yoga-related businesses as well, because they signify purity and a certain poise.
The anchor is also a popular religious symbol as it is known to have strong associations with Jesus. This is because the anchor has come to known as a universal symbol of hope. Though it is known as an early Christian symbol, it is also used by many other religious groups and organizations and it signifies a strong hold and hope for the future. This is why the Christian anchor has a shape of the cross set in between.
In traditional religious logos, the anchor can be seen with ribbons and banners, set inside an emblem.
However, the modern day anchor is much more minimalistic in nature:
The more feminine depictions of the anchor include anchor with a string or doves or rose, to give it a balanced connotation:
Feminine Symbols Denoting Spiritual Essence
The feminine ‘aura’ in religious philosophies is usually depicted with the use of natural symbols because design preferences change based on gender and age. The feminine is equated with Mother Nature, delicacy, and beauty. Nature nurtures mankind, gives birth to it and sustain it and this is the very reason that feminine energies associated with religions are depicted with these symbols.
Some of the most common feminine symbols are the following:
Lotus is the most common feminine symbol. It is seen in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and in the Japanese and Chinese culture. The lotus symbolizes purity, unity and prosperity, fertility and beauty. The reason it is used for denoting the spirit or essence of certain religious philosophies is that the lotus grows in impure water. This signifies how a human has the ability to attain a pristine and pure nature, even while being submerged in impure waters.
Rendering the lotus flower in feminine colors gives it even more feminine energy.
Birds are used as a depiction of spiritual feminine energy. In particular, the dove is used by South Asian religions as it represents peace and harmony of religious faiths. In fact, it is even used by secular organizations because dove has become a universal symbol of love, hope, and peace.
Similarly, other elements of nature, such as water and trees are also used in religious logos. The tree represents the tree of life, Mother Nature, tree of shade etc. It is used in Wiccan symbols as well as secular symbols because of its universal meaning of nurture. The tree is regarded as the feminine symbol of spirituality.
Symbols Denoting Time & Space
There are religious symbols that are used to denote time and space. For example, they may refer to an important time in the religious history, such as a significant pilgrimage, or they may refer to an important place, such as a temple or a place to worship. Following are the masculine and feminine symbols in this category.
Masculine Symbols Denoting Time & Space
The masculine depictions in this regard are mostly architectural depictions that are relevant to certain religions and are made into symbols to refer to that religion. Following are some symbols.
- Minarets & Towers
Domes are known to represent both churches and mosques. Often you will see domes working alone in symbols of mosques and churches. The difference is that church domes will often hold a cross, while the dome of a mosque may feature a moon or a star, or nothing at all.
Here are some examples of church domes:
And here are some examples of mosque domes:
2. Minarets & Towers
Similarly, minarets and towers are also used to represent the Muslim faith and Christian faith. The Christian tower has a cross on top of it and has a bulkier look.
Here are some examples of the mosque minarets:
And here are some examples of church towers:
Feminine Symbols Denoting Time & Space
The feminine places take over a more general form. These are places that exist in the human consciousness and experience. For example, the nurturing womb, the wild sea, the fertile earth, the shining moon. You will see these symbols work across a wide range of religious and spiritual philosophies. Here are some most common symbols that can be used in the logos.
The womb is depicted in many ways, through the use of a spiral, an upside down triangle, a bowl and many other symbols. Here are some examples:
In the past, these symbols were used to depict goddesses as well.
The moon is also seen as a feminine symbol, a depiction of the sacred feminine or the goddess. Many secular organizations also use it for the same energy which is a symbol of hope and presence. Similarly, other symbols are also used such as the sea and earth. All of these have feminine connotations.
INFOGRAPHIC: The 10 Commandments of Logo Design
Symbols Denoting Sacred Figures
And finally, there is a category of symbols that denote the sacred incarnate. Almost all religions use such symbols, with the exception of the Islamic faith that does not approve of physical manifestation of God. Following are some masculine and feminine symbols that are used to denote the sacred itself, literally.
Masculine Symbols Denoting Sacred Figures
Everyone is familiar with the symbol of Buddha sitting under a tree. This symbol is known to literally mean ‘Buddha.’
Similarly, the fish represents Jesus Christ. It represents the giving nature of Christ and his very being himself.
Feminine Symbols Denoting Sacred Figures
In feminine symbols, the flowers are mostly used to represent the divine goddess. For example, in the case of Christianity, the lily and rose bush are used to represent Virgin Mary. These symbols are seen in Christian art, and can also be made into logos. For example, a logo of the church of Virgin Mary can have the symbols of lily and rose bush.
Here is a logo of Church of St Mary Virgin from the Victorian era:
Stars are also used to denote many goddesses. In fact, even Virgin Mary is referred to as the Morning Star. This is why you will often see a shining star on top of Mary’s head.
Spirals are an ancient way of denoting the very being of the goddess, because spirals represent the womb, the flux, and the motion. The pagan Luna goddess was also denoted with a spiral. Here is a symbol:
All of these were examples of some popular religious symbols. A designer can use any of these to design a religious logo. With the help of modern design techniques, appropriate color rendition and good use of design principles, you can give these symbols a very modern look that will be in sync with the sensibilities of the modern-day people. It is up to you how you use these symbols in your religious logos. If this article is of great help to you, don’t forget to leave us a comment in the box below.