Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Arch: The Symbol

I decided not to wait and to begin! Of course, the next step was deciding how to select the images / symbols. So I decided to go about it alphabetically….and the first thing that came to my mind was the ‘Arch’. Interesting? It is…read on to know why…

This slideshow of images shows arches in different places – either man made or natural occurrences. Of course, it also shows Tarot cards where arches are present!

So what are arches all about?

The Wikipedia page for ‘Arch’ states in its first sentence: An Arch is a structure capable of spanning a space while supporting significant weight (e.g. a doorway in a stone wall). The article also mentions that arches made their appearance as early as in the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia and Persia. They then appeared in Babylonia by the 6th century BC. The arch then spread to Europe and was adopted by the Greeks and Romans. Arches have even been used by the Harappan, Egyptian and Assyrian civilizations. The arch also became an important motif in medieval European cathedrals and Islamic architecture and was used in various cultures spanning the globe such as the Mesoamericans, Incans and Mayans. Today, the arch is used in structures such as bridges (which is again, quite interesting!).

If you are keen, you can read more about arches and their types etc. etc. on the Wikipedia page.

So, what does an arch stand for in symbolism? Let’s decipher it, shall we… look at the images in the slideshow above – doesn’t the arch remind you of something – like a gate or a doorway? Well, that is exactly what it symbolizes. An arch is a gateway – a door to something beyond it – a passageway to something more to follow….which is why their use in bridges today is interesting! - Because with a bridge you can walk through the door and reach the other side.

Arches appear on Tarot cards as well – and consequently, each of these cards has a significant aspect of transition within their meaning as well.

It is easy to see how, on a deep psychological level, arches can signify a period of transition – a passage from where one moves to another place. Transitions signify change – and the arch represents the passageways or doorways of that process. The process can be inner or outer – that is, something within could be changing (perhaps the personality, the vision, the perspective) or the change could be in the outer world aspect of life (perhaps profession change, appearance change, change in residence). Or, the process can be happening on both levels.

That in itself was interesting when I began thinking about for the first word / image combination for this blog post! Because the first thing I typed out in the Google search box was an ‘a’ (alphabetical) and then I ended up typing the rest of the words making up the word ‘arch’. And that means – a beginning has been made, and this gate will lead me towards another area of interest – something that has always caught my attention, but I never did much with it! Hopefully, the weekly target that I have set for myself will keep me on my toes! A passage to something new indeed – a world of discovery lies ahead of me….

This takes me back to the initial definition of the arch on the Wikipedia page: “a structure capable of spanning a space while supporting significant weight”. The arch is a gateway between two worlds – a door symbolizing a transition – and the structure is capable of handling the weight! Transitions can be quite difficult or can cause much change in one’s life.

On a personal note, my professional life is also going through such a transition – which (co-incidentally) is practically the major part of my life! :-) Now, isn’t it interesting that I chose this word / image combination for the first symbol to study!

Synchronicity, anyone?


Unknown said...

I liked your symbolizing of Arch, Actually I am working on the form of pointed arch as an artist in my painting and playing with the idea of transition between diferent layers of existance and reality. I am interested in Sufi metaphisics and trying to manifest some of the ideas in my paintings.

Rachel said...

Great article! I am changing my name to Archelaus, so was looking for insight on the symbolism. I really enjoyed what you wrote and it makes total sense. Thanks!