Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Key Symbolism and Meaning

The first lock with key was discovered in Egypt and dates from about 3000 BC. It was made of teak wood, measured about 60 cm and controlled the access to a temple. It could be actuated by means of a curved key, provided with pins, with lengths and specific provisions. The principle of the Egyptian lock was extremely innovative and influenced the field of the locksmith around the world.

Some keys dated from the second millennium BC. were indeed discovered in Iran, Morocco, India, Africa and China.

This system also influenced the Romans whose keys were made of bronze. 

Medieval Europe largely operated and realized goldsmith masterpieces. It was at this time that the first keys with rings appeared, depicting religious buildings facades.

But it was during the Renaissance that the art of locksmithing peaked. During this period, the key was a full-fledged artistic object and had finely crafted rings. It was not unusual for sculptors and artists, in Italy in particular, to propose very sophisticated models of keys to master locksmiths, which could take years of work. Sometimes characters and faces were well represented in finely crafted rings. In France, King Louis XVI, who was himself a locksmith, possessed an extraordinary workshop and regularly indulged in this passion.

Picture above: The key to the Petit Trianon. Given to Marie-Antoinette by her husband Louis XVI in June of 1774. When he gave it to her there was a ribbon on it with 531 diamonds.

The Victorian era was a period in which the artistic side of the key yet rubbed its security function, but over time, with huge advances in metallurgy of iron, the key radically transformed and lost its beauty and finesse to become only functional.

Today, despite the emergence of electronic locking systems, the key still withstands modern technology thanks to its reliability and simplicity.

The Symbolic Meaning of Keys

Keys have represented various spiritual symboligies for as long as man has had locks. They are connected with gateways and portals, doorways to the unknown, knowledge, mysteries, powers, initiations, new ways, forbidden things and answers to curious questions.

keys represent knowledge and success. They can open doors which are closed to other than the key holder. Possessing a key gives a person access to locked rooms. The key is also a symbol of freedom and liberation.

Keys have been used as a symbol of authority and power for ages in many societies and ceremonies around the world.

They are often associated with various literary idioms, specific deities or spiritual figures, and are often used as part of charms or other magical tools. 

In modern romantic notion a key necklace may symbolize “the key to my heart”. 

Let’s look at some spiritual figures that are most often associated with keys:

Janus is the two-faced Roman god of gates. He could look in both directions at the same time. All doors have an entrance and an exit. He was the gatekeeper. He could see the past as well as the future. Janus was the beginning and the end. He was wisdom. He could grant success and new opportunities. He is sometimes shown carrying keys in his left hand and his staff in his right hand. The month of January is named after Janus.

In Christianity, the visage of Saint Peter holding the keys to the gates of Heaven can be easily found in religious art from Christendom to the modern era. 

A newly consecrated Pope will receive two diagonally crossed keys in silver and gold. This emblem symbolizes supreme authority and the “Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven”. The crossed keys are shown in the coat of arms of the Holy See.

In Voodoo practices, Papa Legba, often depicted as an elderly man with a cane, a dog and keys is also a gatekeeper, acting as a liaison for those between the spiritual and the physical realms. He is said to speak every human language and be a conduit between the mortal and deities, allowing for communion and safe passage if travel into the astral planes is granted.

Lord Ganesh in the Hindu spiritual path is the great elephant god, the mover of obstacles and for this reason very often associated with keys. Commonly locks or keys can be found with a Ganesh design on it to symbolically representing the unlocking of a path or knowledge. Ganesh is associated with wisdom and spiritual knowledge, making him not only a prime example of key symbolism but also a deity, like so many others, associated with journeying.

Hecate, a goddess often described as the Queen of the Witches, is another underworld deity associated with gate keeping and keys. Much like Papa Legba and Saint Peter, she holds the keys that allow passage into the spiritual realm.  She is a great protector and is associated with keys, and dogs among other things. Trivia is the Roman equivalent of the Greek Hecate, goddess of the three-way crossroads.

Anubis, the dog headed ancient Egyptian god of the dead was often associated with keys. He would escort the soul of the dead to the underworld after its heart had been weighed and measured.

There are about 20 additional Chinese deities for the protection of city walls and all associated with keys.

Korean mythology has another two and Hindu religions include the solar deity Pushan, who not only oversees the journey of the dead but is also responsible for journeying and cattle care.

In other paths like Santeria, voodoo both Haitian and Louisiana paths there is Ellegua who is a messenger god.

Key Superstitions

Earlier it was not uncommon that Jewish midwives would place a key in the hand of a woman giving birth. Preferably the key should be to a synagogue. The sacred key was meant to “unlock” the infant and ensure a safe delivery of the baby.

In Eastern Europe there was a superstition that a key brought good dreams to the owner. The key had the power to prevent all bad dreams. To make this work a key was hung upside down on the wall over the bed.

In Ionia, located in present day Turkey, there was a tradition to bury the dead with an iron key. It was important the dead could unlock the door to the Underworld.

And in Japan, the key is a symbol of prosperity because it opens the rice granary. In tales and legends, it marks the steps of purification and initiation.

The Ceremony of the Keys

The Ceremony of the Keys is quite famous. It takes part in the Tower of London every single night. It is a gate closing ritual performed by Yeoman Warders, often called Beefeaters.

The chief Yeoman Warder carries a candle lantern and the Queens keys. This ceremony is a very old tradition. It has been performed every single night at 21:52 for the past 700 years.

Earlier it was more about securing members of the royal family and other important people staying at the Tower of London. Today it is mostly about securing the crown jewels.

This ceremony is extremely popular. It is possible to attend, but you will have to book your ticket months in advance. They do not allow any pictures to be taken.

Girl Scouts Key Symbolism

In the Girl Scouts there is a tradition to have a ceremony when a girl scout advances from one level to the next. When a Junior Girl Scout advances to the Cadette Girl Scout she is presented a silver key.

The leader declares:

”I present to you a Silver Key, which symbolizes that you are seeking to unlock the doors to Cadette Girl Scouts a as you begin work on the Silver Leadership and Silver award.

Wear it as a symbol that you are passing through the doorway to new experiences where you will gain an understanding of your own self-worth and individuality. Now as Cadette’s, let us recited the Girl Scout Promise and Law.”

Skeleton Keys

Skeleton keys are keys that can unlock multiple locks. Some call them pass keys. The name skeleton keys came about because the keys have been filed down of its essential parts. Some people also call antique keys for skeleton keys.

Skeleton keys are used as amulets and talisman all over the world. They are used to help the owner make all their innermost and important dreams come true.

It could be in any area; love, finances, career, exams. The skeleton key is there to assist you see possibilities and solutions. It opens the doors of opportunity so that you can reach your goal.

Key Charm and Key Necklace

“Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

The symbolism of the key is quite obvious; it opens a door. It is a symbol of opening the door to your heart.

A key charm or a key necklace is a popular gift to give on important birthdays as the 16th, 18th and 21st birthday. It symbolizes opening doors for a brighter future. It represents opening of the doors to a successful career and new possibilities.

Many may wear a key charm or necklace when looking for a job or a change of work place. It is believed to be an amulet that will assist the wearing find doors of opportunity.

Some people will buy a key charm for themselves when they move into a new home. This will ensure a happy home.

In Japan it is not uncommon to find charms made up of three keys joined together. The three keys are said to unlock the secrets to wisdom, life and love.

Also read:

No comments:

Post a Comment