Article by Rebecca

I’m about to correct an ongoing error here at The Magical Buffet. As most of our readers realize, each month we discuss a creature, a mythology, and a symbol. Well, a creature is fairly easily defined as a creature, and in our second issue I discussed religion and myth with regards to our Magical Buffet Mythology section in the letter from the Publisher, but symbols, well there is where the ball has been dropped.

I’m proud at the diverse symbols we’ve discussed, some surprising like the peach, some enlightening like the swastika. From the jaguar in our first issue up to hex signs in last month’s, we’ve covered a wide gambit of symbolism. Of course, at no point have I ever discussed what a symbol is. Why is a jaguar a symbol for some and an animal for others? Why do two intersected lines create a powerful Christian symbol? Obviously answers to these questions are detailed and complex, there are many that have devoted their lives to understanding the nature of symbols. As you may have guessed, I have not. Regardless, let’s take a brief moment to talk not about a specific symbol, but the whole idea of symbols.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary a symbol is:

* Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible.
* A printed or written sign used to represent an operation, element, quantity, quality, or relation, as in mathematics or music.
* Psychology An object or image that an individual unconsciously uses to represent repressed thoughts, feelings, or impulses.

This gives us an idea, but what do these definitions mean to us? Jack Tresidder in “Symbols and Their Meanings”, one of my favorite books, discusses these definitions in an easily digestible way. He tells us that symbols work like signs by being a visual short hand, but unlike signs, we react to symbols on an emotional level. For instance, the red octagon of the stop sign tells us to stop, but doesn’t generally effect us on a deeper level. Whereas a Cross, or perhaps your home nation’s flag, inspire within us with a deeper feeling. In fact, fundamental ideas represented by symbols occur similarly in so many far ranging societies, it encouraged Carl Jung to explore the idea of “archetypes”.

Essentially, as Tresidder explains, “Graphic images are symbols when they stand for an idea or abstract quality, and ritual actions can symbolize a shared emotional or spiritual experience.” So, a sign tells us something, but a symbol makes us feel something more than just the image it is.