It would be impossible to explain all of the meanings of the circle symbol in this one page – the meanings are so far reaching and profound. I will highlight how they relate to our culture because the circle is one of the most important shapes in symbology.
If we were able to see through the eyes of one of the first humans to walk the earth and look up into the sky, we would see our first circles... circles not yet named. We would see the moon, the sun and the stars, stars that seemed like dots in the sky that blinked on and off and we would realize in our un-spoken word that our world was filled with circles. We could put a stick to the dirt and drag it around and make a circle that represented our world, our universe. All of our understanding of the meaning of the circle symbol stems from that one moment of looking out from the eyes of the first human.
The circle symbol meaning is universal - it represents the infinite nature of energy and the symbol of the universe.
The Circle Christian Symbol represents eternity. The circle symbolizes eternity as it has no beginning or end. Because of this many early Christians believed that there was something divine in circles. Early astronomy and astrology was connected to the divine for most medieval scholars, the circular shape of the sun, moon and the planets were related to God's act of Creation.
To the Native North American Indians, the circle is the sun, the moon and her children... man and woman. Consider the circle symbol meaning in conjunction with the Native medicine wheels. The medicine wheel gives the sense of the integration of spirit and man, combined for the purpose of greater spiritual understanding and evolution.
Circles were protective emblems to the Celtic mind. Circles were often drawn as protective boundaries, not to be crossed by enemy or evil forces.
In Chinese symbology, the circle expresses the shape of heaven, with earth signified by a square. When we see a square inside a circle in Chinese art, it represents the union between heaven and earth. The deeply significant yin yang symbol is circular, encompassing the whole of duality with a unified balance.
This juxtaposition is mirrored in symbology expressed by Dr. Jung. He viewed the circle as an geometric archetype of the psyche. When combined with a square it explains the relationship or balance between psyche and body.
What's even better, is that the circle includes us in the grand scheme. In fact, when any symbol is shown with a circle around the symbol it asks the viewer to be drawn in and to be included in the experience of whatever symbolic message the center may hold. For example, if a cross is depicted with a circle around it signals an enhanced meaning of inclusion, unification and wholeness. The circle invites the observer to step inside the sacredness the cross represents, like a capsule of honor.
Consider some well known objects that are circles. The planets, the sun, the moon, clock faces, many kinds of seeds, wheels, coins, rings and eyes just to name a few. In a broader sense these random circular objects can be assembled like puzzle pieces to provide a big picture of our view of nature. Artists play with these, and other circular objects in order to send messages to the people that view their artwork.
Take time to really look at a piece of artwork, a design, a symbol or a sign and you may discover a new perspective on the meaning of the work.
To learn more about symbols, read the article Symbology - The Study of Signs and Symbols.
To learn about the basic shapes in symbols, read The Basic Shapes of Symbols
To learn about cross shapes in symbols, read Cross Symbols - What Do They Mean?
To learn about color symbology, read Color Symbology.
To find symbol clip art, go to Signs and Symbols.