Often referred to as the Cradle of Civilization, Syria has been a major crossroad for cultural exchange between the Mediterranean and the East; Syria has been linked to religion from prehistoric times, influencing many faiths.
- The ABCs of early Syrian impact on modern religious symbols
The first known alphabet, the Ugarit alphabet, was created in the region of Syria's beaches near Lattakia, and became the precurser of most existing alphabets, having had profound effect in spreading culture throughout the world.
The Ugarit alphabet, a cuneiform method of inscription, is related and highly similar to the ancient Hebrew alphabet, and therefore assists with the reconstruction of the original Hebrew alphabet. Archaelogical finds of Ugarit inscriptions have shown that the modern order of the Hebrew alphabet hasn't changed since ancient times.
Because Ugarit is a Semitic language like Hebrew, its words are closely related to the Hebrew, and are helpful in interpreting Biblical words and passages. This in turn has greatly affected the Judeo-Christian world.
The Hebrew alphabet itself remains a rich source of religious symbolism in the Jewish religion and the mystical Kabbalah which has its roots in ancient Judaism.
- Mermaids from Hierapolis to Heraldry
Atargatis, the Syrian Mermaid Goddess of the early third century, had a great temple at Hierapolis in ancient Syria. An important nature and fertility goddess, she was looked upon as protector of community and the founder of social and religious life. It was believed that she held the power of destiny. The water surrounding her symbolizes the protective attributes of water in life production, such as embryonic fluid surrounding a developing fetus.
The Greeks honored Atargatis under the name Derketo, where her identity was often merged with Aphrodite.
Similarly, there is the Sumerian and Akkadian god Enki who also appears as the Babylonian male deity Ea, often depicted as a merman.
The Melusine, usually portrayed as a woman who is part serpent or fish has been used as a heraldic figure, typically in German Coats of arms, and is sometimes associated with "Lady of the Lake" from Arthurian legends.
- A moving force
The Swastika, an ancient Syrian symbol used by the ancient Hittites who lived in the area of present day Syria, and found in Baalbeck and Mesopotamia, represented continuous movement and dynamism.
The German Nazis later borrowed the symbol, but it has also been unearthed in far earlier Nordic culture. The Snoldelev Stone, inscribed with a swastika, dating back to the Viking Age, is on display at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.
See: Snoldelev Stone - Viking Age
The swastika has been found in use in many other cultures, for example:
* it is one of the most prevalent symbols seen in India since ancient times and is widely used by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists
* in the Caucasus Iron Age Koban culture in Asia minor
* on prehistoric Vinca artifacts in South-Eastern Europe
* in China's Tang Dynasty
* the ancient city of Troy
* near Israel's Dead Sea, in Ein Gedi
* in France's 13th Century Amiens Cathedral
* in architectural designs of ancient Greece
* the Christian Catacombs of Rome
* on Native American Indian Navajo and Hopi artifacts
* the Aztec, Mayan and Inca civilization in central and South America
* on Anglo-Saxon and Druidic artifacts predating Christianity
* the Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875
"The Swastika has a long history as a symbol for Christ. During the first three centuries A.D., it is said, the Swastika was the only form of cross used by Christians in catacombs and churches." In Rome, it is called Crux Dissimulata, and was a disguised form of the cross - "a unifying symbol among those who survived a common persecution."
There's also evidence of the Swastika in Judaism and its free use in synagogue with the Star of David. The Essenes, a secret monastic brotherhood of Jews who lived in Palestine from the second century B.C. to the end of the first century A.D. considered the Swastika a sacred sign representing the Wheel of Eternal Life.
- The Yantra, Seal of Solomon, Star of David
The Jewish star of David is also an ancient Syrian symbol found in temple ruins in Baalbeck. It is made up of two triangles, as the triangle was an important symbol representing stability. A bust within a star of David has been found in the ceiling of the Temple of Bacchus.
In Hinduism, the Yantra, known in Judaism as The Star of David, is depicted with the Swastika drawn inside.
In ancient Megiddo, incised on the side of an Astarte temple, is a double-lined six-pointed star; the symbol is known as the seal of Judaism and used today on the Palestinian flag. Its origins, however, go back to the mother-goddess worship which was practiced prevalently in the the ancient Near East.
The combination of fire and water symbols (up and down triangles) known as the Seal of Solomon, represents the combination of opposites and transmutation in alchemy. The six-pointed star is also featured in many Tarot decks, particularly on the Hermit and Magician cards and is considered part of the Tetraktys, a mystical counting system harkening back to the Pythagorians.
A similar hexagram has been found on a church door at Almeria, andalucia Spain, and dated 1741.
This type of symbol is very common in Hindu iconography (though its exact meaning may differ) and can be found at the entrance to a Hindu temple in Kerala, South India dedicated to Hannuman, a monkey god, who symbolizes devotion, dedication and strength.
In Buddhism the heart chakra is shaped the same as the Star of David.
Ethiopian kings used a cross inside a hexagram; the Order of Solomon's Seal.
A tetragrammaton inside a Star of David is depicted in stained glass dedicated to King Edward VII at St. Ann's Church in Manchester. Many hexagrams can be found on the ceiling of the Old Templar church in Garway, Wales.
- Dynamic crossroads of change
Recent archaeological evidence indicates that prehistorical Syria was likely the region where wheat was first domesticated and copper first discovered, which along with the local invention of pottery effected a change from a nomadic hunting lifestyle to a sedentary agricultural society. This region may possibly be the first to have experienced settled village life and towns.
Positioned at the crossroads of three continents, at the core of the Near East and the center of the ancient world, early Syria became the principal transmitter of culture. Her symbols therefore have traveled far and wide.
Today, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party uses a red zouba'a (or Zawbaa - a swirling type of swastika symbol referred to as a cyclone or tempest) symbolizing the force for Syria's transition from a more traditional society to a dynamic one, and to reinforce the true character of the nation.