25 Powerful Symbols Of Hope, What They Mean, And How To Use Them

From time to time, hope lends a helping hand.

And in the darkest times, we benefit from a heaping trough of the stuff.

So in honor of the soul-quenching sentiment, today we’re looking at various things across culture and time that humans have identified as symbols of hope in nature, culture, and art.

What Are Symbols for Hope?

Before humans developed languages, we used symbols to communicate — and the tradition continues today.

From logos to street signs, our lives are filled with unique marks that convey meaning beyond language.

In these digitally commercial days of easy international travel, we’re most familiar with practical (bathroom pictographs) or commercial (the Nike swoop) symbols — but ancient, spiritual, and cultural ones are also still in the mix.

Take the idea of hope.

Over millennia, people have linked various marks, animals, and plants to the concept.

Commonly associated themes include:

  • Rebirth and renewal
  • Fresh starts in the wake of adversity
  • The power to choose your own path
  • Knowledge that we are enough as is

Though spiritual and historical symbols may not be part of our day-to-day lives, they’re frequently used as artistic, literary, and poetic metaphors.

Moreover, companies incorporate them into branding art to convey specific qualities (i.e., Dove body wash).   

25 Powerful Symbols of Hope and What They Mean 

Are you in the market for a hope symbol that resonates with your soul and speaks to your journey? We’ve got you covered.

Below is a list of 25 from a mix of cultures and centuries.

1. Olive Branch

olive branch symbols of hope

According to ancient history, King Xerxes — aka Khshayārsha — was a brutal 5th-century ruler who burned Athens to the ground in a bid to consolidate power.

In the wake of his destruction, an olive tree first pushed its way through the ashes and sprouted.

Since then, olive branches have been used to symbolize rebirth and rising from ruin — a potent form of hope. 

2. Sunrise

sunrise symbols of hope

A new day begins every 24 hours, and with it comes fresh starts and chances to try again.

Historically, humans have (correctly) interpreted the sun as the Earth’s primary life-giving force and linked it to various gods, like Ra, the Egyptian Sun God; Anyanwu, the Igbo God of the Sun; and Helios, the Greek Sun God.  

Furthermore, the gold color tones associated with rising rays represent the type of hope inherent in new beginnings.

3. Eight-Pointed Star

eight pointed star symbols of hope

Also known as the “star of knowledge,” the eight-pointed star is associated with many First Nations cultures in North America.

Traditionally, it symbolizes the notion of something good presenting itself on the horizon. Historically, it’s also been used as a tool to track the cosmos and constellations.

4. Shamrock

shamrock symbols of hope

Four-leaf clovers symbolize good luck; three-leaf ones — aka shamrocks — represent faith, love, and hope. The trio of heart-shaped petals stand for each of the concepts.

The Druids were the first to use the small green plants to symbolize luck and hope, and the tradition remains alive and well today.

5. Dove

dove symbols of hope

Doves are one of the most widely recognized animals that symbolize hope. But from where did the association stem? 

According to Abrahamic religious traditions, Noah sent out a dove from his arc after the big flood.

When the animal flew back with an olive brand in its mouth, he knew the waters had retreated and the Earth was “safe and dry” once again.

As such, doves are seen as a symbol of new beginnings and harbingers of hope.

6. Swallow

swallow symbols of hope

Swallows fly further out over the sea than any other birds. Resultantly and historically, explorers and sailors came to see the small flyers as the first signal of land.

So after a long journey, when food is short and water even shorter, the sight of a swallow had the power to immediately fill the soul with hope.

7. Nyame Biribi Wo Soro

Nyame Biribi Wo Soro symbols of hope

The Nyame Biribi Wo Soro comes from the Akan tribal tradition concentrated in southern Ghana.

Part of the Adinkra symbol language (similar to Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs), the Nyame Birbi Wo Soro translates to “God is in the heavens,” and it’s revered as a symbol of everlasting life and hope.

Two conjoined ovals form an infinity sign with a diamond center, and the symbol is said to represent the ears of God, who is always listening to the hopes and dreams of mankind.

8. Lighthouse

lighthouse symbols of hope

These days, lighthouses are mainly aesthetic relics of the past maintained as museums. But in days of old, they were beacons of hope and relief for seamen after long trips and fierce sea storms.

9. Torch

torch symbols of hope

At every Olympics, a torch is lit to represent the opening of the games. It’s a sign of unity and triumph that symbolizes the ingenuity of community and spirit of competition.

Historically, torches were often the only source of light, another reason they became associated with possibilities and hope.

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10. Om

om symbols of hope

In several spiritual traditions, Om is believed to be the default universal tone and the “mother of all mantras.” Both a symbol and a sound, Om is said to attract positive, soulful energy.

Energetically, the powerful vibration is believed to be a verbal path to divine power.   

11. Cornucopia

cornucopia symbols of hope

Also known as “horns of plenty,” cornucopias first appeared in ancient times. According to old superstitions, the funnel-shaped holders are never supposed to be empty, as a full one symbolizes abundance, luck, and hope.

Today, cornucopias are most often linked to prodigious harvests and Thanksgiving.

12. Butterflies

butterflies symbols of hope

Butterflies are delicate creatures that endure a dangerous metamorphosis to become their “best selves.” Over the centuries, humans have tied the beautiful flying insects to the ideas of patience and forward-thinking hope. 

In Native American lore, butterflies are valued as messengers of the gods. Whispering your deepest desires to one before setting them free is a way to transport your prayers to the spiritual realm.

13. Menorah

menorah symbols of hope

Most often associated with the Jewish “Festival of Lights” — aka Hanukkah — menorahs are a type of candelabra with eight lamps in a row and a ninth one set apart in the middle or side, sitting a little higher than the rest.

Olive oil or wax candles are traditionally used to light them.

Why did menorahs become associated with hope and Hanukkah? According to ancient lore, the Maccabees kept one day’s worth of oil burning for eight days while trying to secure the temple.

14. Awen

awin symbols of hope

The Awen is an ancient Druid symbol. The word roughly translates to “flowering spirit,” and its three rays represent the mind, body, and soul or earth, sky, and sea.

In some interpretations, Awens symbolize the balance between male and female energy.  

Whatever the exact details, it’s long been a talisman that brings hope to whoever is wearing it. 

15. Almond Blossoms

almond blossoms symbols of hope

Frequently seen as a symbol of the heart, almond blossoms are a traditional sign of love and hope throughout both western and eastern art and literature. 

Interestingly, they’re considered the “cherry blossoms” of Israel because they’re the first spring flowers to bloom in the region, and locals make a big deal out of the annual renewal.

In ancient Rome, wedding guests tossed almond blossoms on newlyweds instead of rice.

16. Ichthys

ichthys symbols of hope

Sometimes spelled ichthus, an ichthys is composed of two intersecting arcs and is colloquially known as “the sign of the fish.” It dates back to the 2nd century and is linked to Christianity.

Back in the day, when the religion was in its infancy, and Christians were regularly persecuted, believers would carve ichthuses on rocks and sand to let the faithful know they’d found safe shelter.  

17. Djed

djed symbols of hope

The spine of Osiris — Egyptian God of the Underworld and Afterlife — the djed looks like a decorative pillar or cross. It’s said to bond people to the essence of life and is a visual representation of divine power. 

Before modern times, djeds were used during celebratory gatherings to represent safety and hope.

Ancient soldiers also carried figurines and drew the symbol on their armor in case they needed to make a safe passage to the next life.    

18. Anchor

anchor symbols of hope

In the Bible, hope is defined as “an anchor of the soul, sure and firm.” So as you’d imagine, anchors have become a stalwart symbol of hope over the past several centuries.

To some, they represent the unity of matter and spirit. Others see the navigational tool as a mark of hope that fuels exploration.

19. Gingko Tree

gingko tree symbols of hope

If you believe the reports, the only living things to survive the Hiroshima nuclear blasts were ginkgo trees. 

But even before then, Japanese traditions saw the durable plants as a symbol of resilience, self-sustenance, and hope.

Gingkos are also linked to the concept of yin and yang, which speaks to the balance needed to maintain a mindful existence. 

20. Firefly

firefly symbols of hope

Few things capture the imagination like fireflies. The star-like buzzers have long been associated with positive energy and wonderment.

In various folklores, fireflies appear as reminders that life is beautiful, and they urge characters to strive for their goals. 

In some fables, fireflies are deployed as cautionary metaphors for not burning one’s path ahead.

21. Easter Lily

easter lily symbols of hope

Easter lilies are a symbol of spring, renewal, and hope. 

In the Christian tradition, the delicate flowers are linked to the resurrection of Jesus. In secular stories, lilies often appear at the end of wars and the beginnings of new relationships. 

Additionally, many spiritual healers credit Easter lilies for repelling bad vibes.

22. The Hindu Holy Cow

hindu holy cow symbols of hope

Cows are sacred animals in Hinduism, and it’s illegal to kill them in many Indian jurisdictions. The milking mammals are linked to the Earth Goddess Prithvi, who appeared on land as a cow. 

Why do bovines enjoy a vaunted status in Hinduism? The animals were (and continue to be) revered for their ability to produce life-sustaining milk. Plus, they’re seen as natural examples of universal motherhood, safety, and hope.   

23. Peacock

peacock symbols of hope

Known as snake slayers in India, peacocks are another Hindu symbol of hope. Lord Krishna is linked to the bird’s feathers, which are said to be infused with love and faith. As such, throwing one away is bad luck and disrespectful to the gods.

Peacocks frolicking in the rain is another metaphor for happiness and joy; seeing one is believed to enhance one’s wisdom.

24. The Robin

the robin symbols of hope

Robins have long been tied to personal manifestation, freedom, and passion. The tiny, orange-breasted, migrating birds encourage people to sing new songs and find new paths.

Energetically, robins are said to radiate peaceful vibes and patience.  

25. Rainbow

rainbow symbols of hope

Rainbows are one way Mother Nature smiles down on her creation. The mesmerizing ribbons of color darting through the sky bring smiles to even the grumpiest folks.

They’re a ray of hope after a storm and signify that the worst is over.

What Animals Symbolize Hope?

While some animals, like the butterfly and the dove, have a well-documented history of symbolizing hope and renewal in various cultures throughout history, certain other animals stand out as beacons of hope, representing resilience, rebirth, and the promise of a brighter future.

They possess attributes and characteristics often associated with hope and optimism. Here are a few that have these qualities:

  • Horses: Horses have been revered for their strength, speed, and companionship throughout history. They have been symbols of freedom, endurance, and the ability to overcome obstacles, all of which are closely linked to notions of hope.
  • Dolphins: Dolphins are frequently depicted as playful, intelligent creatures in many mythologies and cultural beliefs. Their association with the sea, as well as their friendly nature, has led them to symbolize protection, guidance, and harmony, qualities often associated with hope.
  • Deer: Deer are often depicted as graceful and gentle creatures in folklore and mythology. Their presence in nature is often associated with peace, gentleness, and the beauty of the natural world, all of which can evoke feelings of hope.
  • Lions: Lions have long been symbols of strength, courage, and leadership in various cultures. Their majestic appearance and behavior have made them iconic symbols of power and resilience, qualities that are often associated with hope in overcoming challenges.

How To Use These Symbols of Hope and Healing

Now that you’re familiar with various hope symbols, let’s review how you can “put them to work.”

  • Body Art: You can get a temporary body art painting or a permanent tattoo. Make sure to put it somewhere visible to constantly remind you of hope’s power.
  • Jewelry: Buy or make earrings, pins, necklaces, and bracelets with your favorite hope-related talisman or charm.
  • Decorative Art: Create or invest in artwork incorporating one or more hope symbols.
  • Open-Eye Meditation: Some meditation practices are done open-eyed, like trataka. Give it a shot and focus on a symbol of hope.

Final Thoughts

We all wish life were an easy ride, but it’s far from it. Existence is a journey of ups and downs. Sometimes things work out in your favor; other times, you may feel like an unjustly convicted target in front of a firing squad.

But throughout it all, hope is available for the taking. A tweak of one’s mindset and a little symbolic encouragement can help sustain you through rough patches.

Try to remember that whatever is plaguing you is just for now. Nothing is permanent, and better times are ahead if you forge a path, taking it one step and breath at a time.