10 Ancient Love Symbols

A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com  - Today, most people associate the heart as a symbol of love. Still, in ancient times, people used signs and symbols to express their warm feelings toward one another.

10 Ancient Love Symbols


1. The Claddagh – an ancient Irish love symbol

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Claddagh -

Image credit:  Royalcladdagh - CC BY-SA 3.0

This symbol is associated with the legend of the Claddagh, a fishing village just outside the city of Galway.

According to the legend, a young man named Richard was fishing at sea with other men from his family when pirates captured them and brought them to Africa as enslaved people. Years passed, many Irish fishermen died, and Richard was miserable because he only wanted to return to his beloved in Ireland.

To keep his spirits up and to keep hope in his heart, each day, Richard stole a tiny speck of gold from his enslavers in the goldsmith shop where he tended the fires. Years passed, and he could finally fashion a ring with his minor pieces of gold. Despite what seemed nearly impossible, he hoped to return to his village and present the ring to his true love.

It remains unknown how Richard escaped or earned his release from slavery, but one day he could get back to Ireland. Richard was overcome with joy when he learned that his beloved had remained faithful to him in his long absence, waiting for him to return.

On that day, Richard gave his beloved a ring he created, now known worldwide as the Claddagh Ring. The Claddagh design appears not only in rings but in other types of jewelry as well. The crown symbolizes his undying loyalty, and the hands symbolize friendship, which is, after all, the very foundation of love, with commitment holding the two hands together. The heart in the Claddagh symbolizes the love Richard longed to share with his true love.

2. The Harp - an ancient artistic symbol of love

10 Ancient Love Symbols - harpImage credit: kharchenkoirina - Adobe Stock

The Harp is a well-known symbol of love in the form of lyrical art, poetry, and music. The Harp shares more mythical connections to the Celts, representing the bridge of love, connecting heaven and earth. In Norway and Iceland, the Harp strings formed a ladder symbolizing the ascent to higher states of love and a pathway to paradise.

King David played the Harp to the Lord to express his devotion and love.

3. The Maple Leaf – an ancient symbol of love in China and Japan 

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Maple Leaf

Image credit: Andrey Cherkasov - Adobe Stock

You might already know that the stork uses maple branches in its nest, making the maple tree a symbol of fertility in a couple. However, the maple leaf is also an ancient symbol of love, often used in China and Japan. North American settlers also used to place the maple leaves at the foot of their beds to ward off demons and encourage sexual pleasure as well as peaceful sleep.

4. Dove – a symbol of peace and deep love 

10 Ancient Love Symbols

Image credit:  sakepaint - Adobe Stock

Doves have long been treated as a symbol of peace but also represent deep love. Doves mate for a lifetime, with one bird often unable to survive when the other dies. Male doves also help their female partners incubate and care for their young, which allows their image as devoted, loving birds. They are therefore considered to symbolize loyalty and fidelity. In the Hindu tradition, the dove represents the heart's infinite capacity for love.

In Greek and Roman mythology, the dove was a sacred animal of the love goddess Aphrodite/Venus.  Aphrodite/Venus is often depicted with doves fluttering around or resting on her hand. Doves are also often used in Western weddings to symbolize the ongoing love of couples.

5. Apple  - an ancient love symbol with several meanings 

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Apple

Image credit: Sven Teschke - CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Apples appear in many religious traditions, often as a mystical or forbidden fruit. Christians associate the apple with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The larynx in the human throat has been called Adam's apple because of the folk tale that the bulge was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking in the throat of Adam.

In Norse mythology, gods and goddesses regularly eat great golden apples from Idun's garden to ward off diseases, disabilities, and old age and remain vigorous, beautiful, and young through countless generations.

In Chinese tradition, the apple blossom signifies adoration. Celtic mythology includes a story about Conle, who receives an apple that feeds him for a year but also gives him an irresistible desire for fairyland. In early Greek history, the apple was prominent in courtship and the rites and customs of marriage. A happy couple in the seventh century B.C. might share an apple as a symbol of their marriage and hopes for a fruitful relationship.

6. Seashell – a symbol of the protectiveness of love 

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Seashell

Image credit: iofoto - Adobe Stock

According to an ancient legend, Venus, the Roman goddess of love, emerged from the sea and was ferried to shore, fully formed on a scallop shell, as depicted in Botticelli's famous painting Birth of Venus.

Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of beauty, love, and fertility, was also created from the sand and pearls within an oyster shell.

The Shell symbolizes the protective aspect of love. It has had slightly varying symbolism in different cultures.

7. Swan – a symbol of grace, love, and beauty

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Swan

Image credit: adimas - Adobe Stock

Swans have many different meanings in myth and folklore. They symbolize freedom, fidelity, love, companionship, and loyalty.

The Swan has several representations: love, grace, purity, beauty, and sincerity. The Swan is another Virgin Mary symbol representing her purity and love. According to English and Celtic traditions, the Swan is a powerful and ancient power animal. Here the Swan is associated with goddesses of healing waters. They are connected with music, love, purity, and the soul.

8. Cupid – the most famous Valentine's symbol

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Cupid

Image credit:  magann - Adobe Stock

Cupid is the most famous of Valentine's symbols, and everybody knows that boy armed with bow, arrows, and piercing hearts. He is known as a mischievous, winged child armed with a bow and arrows.

Cupid has always played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. In ancient Greece, he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. The arrows symbolize desires and emotions of love, and Cupid aims those arrows at Gods and Humans, causing them to fall deeply in love.

To the Romans, he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus.

9. Rose – a symbol of love and romance

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Rose

Image credit: Bernard Spragg  - CC0

Rose means pink or red in various languages (such as Romance languages, Greek, and Polish).

Ancient Greeks treated the rose as a sacred emblem of the beauty of Aphrodite. According to an old legend, the red rose grew from the blood of the god Adonis. The rose is associated with Roman deities such as Hecate, Bacchus, and the Three Graces.

In Rome, it was a custom to place a wild rose on the door of a room where people discussed secret or confidential matters. Early Christians identified the five petals of the rose with the five wounds of Christ. Despite this interpretation, their leaders hesitated to adopt it because of its association with Roman excesses and pagan rituals. The red rose was eventually adopted as a symbol of the blood of the Christian martyrs. Roses also later came to be associated with the Virgin Mary.

10. Love knot – a Celtic symbol of eternal love

10 Ancient Love Symbols - Love Knot

Image credit:  smeshinka - Adobe Stock

The love not is a well-known Celtic tradition. It represents eternal love because it has no beginning or end. It was also used in ancient Muslim culture when young women would send a secret message, hidden in knots of clothes, to their beloved.

As you have seen, we have deliberately not mentioned the heart as a symbol of love. It's because it's very well-known. It is worth noting that the heart dates back to the time of the Bible. The heart has long been used to symbolize life's spiritual, emotional, and moral aspects.

Written by – A. Sutherland  - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer

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