Sacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis


Vesica piscis is a familiar, yet somewhat obscure, shape that appears throughout our cultural history in mathematics, sacred symbolism and form.

 

In mathematical terms, vesica piscis refers to the area at the intersection of two overlapping spheres, lenses, or disks with the same radius, intersecting in such a way that the center of each disk lies on the perimeter of the other.  The length of the vesica is the square root of 3.

 

Sacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis 01

Sacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis 02Latin translation of vesica piscis literally means “bladder of a fish”.  When the disks are overlapped on a vertical plane, it is referred to as the ichthys, which was the secret symbol for Christians during the times of persecution by the Roman Empire around 2nd century AD.  The ichthys was used to designate meeting places, tombs, and to distinguish Christian brethren from adversaries.

 

Form, Art and Architecture

The well cover for the Chalice Well at Glastonbury designed by church architect and archaeologist Frederick Bligh Bond, is adorned with a vesica piscis pierced by a spear or sword (a possible reference to King Arthur’s legendary sword Excalibur, which is believed by some to be buried at the nearby Glastonbury Abbey).  This ancient symbol represents the overlapping of the inner and outer worlds, protecting the well, which is considered by Irish and Welsh folklore to be a mythological gateway to the spirit world.  Additionally, the seven bowls of Glastonbury’s sacred waters feed into a larger pool in the shape of a vesica piscis.

 

Sacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis 03 Chalice WellSacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis 04 Glastonbury Pool

 

Vesica piscis was often used as a proportioning measure in Gothic architecture.

 

Frequently depicted in spiritual, religious, and medieval works of art and iconography, the mandorla (Italian word for “almond”) represents the aureola, circle of light, or luminous cloud, symbolizing the illumination or divinity of a person or deity.

 

Sacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis 05, 06, 07, Christ, Madonna & Akshobhyavajra

Jesus the Christ on the left, Maria Madonna Fresco, center, and a 17th century Central Tibetan thangka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra from the Rubin Museum of Art on the right.

 

Within Freemasonry, the enclosure of the seals of Masonic lodges and the shapes of the collars worn by officiants of the Masonic rituals resemble vesica piscis.

 

Many businesses, universities, city offices, and countries around the world include vesica piscis in their seals, coats of arms, and logos.

 

Symbolism and Creation

The Flower of Life geometrical pattern is based on the principle of the vesica piscis.  Drunvalo Melchizedek, author and founder of Flower of Life workshops, considers it to be the geometric image through which light was created.

 

Vesica piscis is also a symbol of the sacred Trinity and point of creation.  In early traditions, a sphere was used to represent the perfection of the supreme being, continually existing with no beginning and no end.  The addition of a second sphere represented duality, the division of male and female energies, god and goddess.  When the two spheres are overlapped, this is the point of Creation.

 

Sacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis 08 Flower of Life

The pinecone-shaped pineal gland resembles a vesica piscis.  French Philosopher Rene Descartes believed the pineal gland to be “the seat of the soul”, the intersection of the mind and body.  

 

The shapes of the female vulva and birth passage closely resemble and are often symbolically depicted as, a vesica piscis.

 

Finding Common Ground

Venn diagrams (also called logic diagrams or set diagrams) are used to show intersection, union, or relationships, between sets.  A Venn diagram consists of multiple overlapping circles, spheres, or ellipses, each representing a set.  Each of the circles represents unique qualities, characteristics, or elements of its set.  The overlapping areas represent commonality between the sets.  For example, Set A represents “dogs” and their physical attributes and Set B represents “cats” and their physical attributes; therefore, the vesica area contains elements from both sets such as four-legged, fur, paws, tail, etc.

 

Sacred Symbolism of Vesica Piscis 09

By applying this logic, vesica piscis is a gateway for finding common ground or unity, both in our external experience and our internal landscape.  If there are challenges in a relationship, then this method can be used to explore interests that are shared with the other person,  in order to find new ways to connect and expand the positive aspects of that relationship.  If there is internal conflict about pursuing career goals v.s. developing creative expression or spiritual nature, then creating a diagram that represents the various elements of each of these paths may reveal activities in the areas of overlap that bring more fulfillment to life, or the possibility of a creating a start-up that merges creative abilities or spiritual aspects with entrepreneurship.

 

May we all discover shared interests, beliefs, opinions, and find unity within ourselves and the world around us.

 

Gratitude & Love,

Dev Archer

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