submitted by George Poulos on 11.08.2008
The original symbol for Aphrodite - Venus (Venus is the Romanised version of Kythera's Aphrodite).
To appreciate the power and primal nature of this symbol - go to:
Symbols.com Online Encyclopaedia of Western signs and ideograms
This is also the symbol used by astronomers to designate the planet Venus (Aphrodite).
The symbol above, has been created by moving the cross from the outside of the circle, and placing it on the inside of the circle. The symbol created in this way would be unique to Kythera.
Symbols as the prime form of human communication
The word symbol first entered the English language in about 1434. It derives from both the Greek word symbolon; a "token, or watchword", and from the Latin, symbolum meaning "creed, summary, religious belief, token, and mark". It was applied, for example,in c.250 by Cyprian of Carthage to the Apostles' Creed, in particular, the notion of the "mark" that distinguishes Christians from pagans.
The Greek and Latin derivation for the word symbolom is - syn - "together" + the stem of ballein "to throw." The word thus evolves from the notion of "throwing things together" to "contrasting" to "comparing" to "token used in comparisons to determine if something is genuine." Ultimately it came to mean - an "outward sign" of something. The meaning "something which stands for something else" was first recorded in 1590 (in "Faerie Queene"). The word Symbolic is attested from 1680.
The nature of the symbol and the process of symbolization are deeply rooted in the human nervous system. The relationship of that system to consciousness, thought and subjectivity is complex, and not clearly understood by "experts"; such as cognitive psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists, etc., let alone "lay" persons.
Homo Sapiens have become sapient (wise, clever), because of his/her ability to allow symbols to "stand in the place" of something else. Homo Sapien became clever by being first of all Homo Symbolos.
Symbolic systems, once adopted, can generate very complex systems, and extraordinary levels of knowledge. Consider mathematical symbols such as π (pi) and + (plus) and - (minus) and 0 (zero), the latter derived from Arab intellectuals, which represent "mere" quantities - but which have generated that vast, dynamic body of knowledge called, Mathematics. The practical use of mathematical knowledge has had an extraordinary impact on human life on planet Earth.
Speaking about flags, but he could equally well be speaking about Coats of Arms, or colours, or Medals; the American vexillologist Dr Whitney Smith argued that these symbolic artefacts are a "manifestation of a wider and still older form of human activity, the making of symbols."
Symbolism, he says, distinguishes between those characteristics that are significant, and those that are not. Smith believes that the symbolism attaching to the artefacts mentioned above, can best be understood if we have an appreciation of some of the other forms of symbolism that are commonly used. Briefly, according to Smith, these are divided into 4 categories: active, verbal, concrete and graphic.
Active symbolism, as the name suggests, denotes action: extending the right hand in friendship (shaking hands), the raising of a clenched fist, saluting a flag or even burning a flag.
Verbal symbolism takes the form of written or spoken words, such as the text of a national anthem or reciting an oath of allegiance.
Concrete symbolism occurs when an existing object is imbued with a special symbolic meaning; for example, Mytrtidia on Kythera, a sacred tree, like the Portokalia (Orange Tree) of Karavas, or, in the Australian context, Uluru (formerly called Ayers Rock).
Finally, graphic symbolism can be used on artefacts of power, involving the drawn symbol, such as for example, the "Greek" cross, the crescent of Mohammed, or the symbol for Aphrodite/Venus, later adopted in the West as the symbol for all womanhood; and particular colours, (red for workers rights, Green for Mohammed, green and gold for Australia, and ...?... and ...?... for Kythera.)
Wikipedia concurs that "symbols can also be analysed by parsing them into the artifact and the metafact. An artifact is a humanly constructed object that can be perceived by the senses. It can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched, or felt. In contrast, a metafact is a human constructed object that can only be held in the mind. A favorite song, the concept of a nation or a cause, or the idea of economic value are each metafacts. When artifacts and metafacts combine, they form a symbol. A woven piece of cloth is just an artifact until it is invested with the metafact of a cause or a nation, then it becomes a flag, and that flag is a symbol. A stamped piece of metal is just an oddly shaped bit of metal until the stamped image stands for a measure of economic value, then it becomes a coin. The difference is in the metafact captured in the symbol".
Symbols then, can be "ciphers" or "denoters" or "markers" or "operators". And they can perform all of these functions simultaneously.
By performing these functions symbols are also tranducers of power. When a relgious person on Kythera, for example, venerates the Christian cross, he or she is not venerating two lines juxtaposed at right angles to each other.
He or she is reverencing the icon in order to transcend the limitations of his/her own sense of self, the limitations of average human ability and the average state of consciousness, the limitations of materiality, the limitations of time and space, ie. the limitations of self-enclosed and self-absorbed "personal" powerlessnes.
The word transcendence entered the English language in about 1340 AD. It derives from the Latin, transcendere - to "climb over or beyond, surmount," from trans- "beyond" + scandere "to climb".
Transcendentalism was first recorded 1803, in reference to the philosophy of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant; and was applied in 1842 to the religio-philosophical views of Ralph Waldo Emerson and similar New England (USA) thinkers.
To transcend, is
1. To pass beyond the limits of: emotions that transcend understanding.
2. To be greater than, as in intensity or power; surpass: love that transcends infatuation.
3. To exist above and independent of (material experience or the universe): “One never can see the thing in itself, because the mind does not transcend phenomena” (Hilaire Belloc).
Transcend also denotes
4. Surpassing others; preeminent or supreme.
5. Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception: “fails to achieve a transcendent significance in suffering and squalor” (National Review).
a. Transcending the Aristotelian categories.
b. In Kant’s theory of knowledge, being beyond the limits of experience and hence unknowable.
7. Being above and independent of the material universe. Used of the Deity (God).
Transcendence is a meta-physical concept.
The human motivation to understand, believe in, and to reverence an icon leads to an infusion of (transcendant) power.
Great icons infuse great power. Human beings can transduce great power from great icons.
Symbols of Heraldic and Governmental Power
Albeit at a lower level of the psychological heirarchy, individuals can also transcend their self-absorption, isolation and enclosure, by a civic regard for their family; and at another level, their town or community; at a still higher level for their province; and at a still higher level again, for their nation-state.
At every level of that heirarchy appropriate symbols of power and authority can serve to empower the individual, and to validate his or her core values and identity.
Individuals alllow certain artefacts to "stand in the place" of a sense of collective empowerment. This process occurs at levels of the political heirarchy.
The central and iconic symbols of power and authority in Nation-States, "provinces", and local government authorities are the following:
Coat of Arms
Medals of Honour, both Civic and Military.
Natural symbols of identity; gemstones, metals, flora, fauna, etc.
Countries, provinces, and municipalities that value their unique sense of identity, ensure that a Central Heraldic Authority is in place - to determine, maintain, and change, where appropriate - the central symbols of identity. Examples of Central Authorities which have fulfilled this function admirably are The College of Heralds, London - for the residents and citizens of England, and The Canadian Heraldic Authority - for the residents and citizens of Canada.
Australia should have inaugurated an Australian Heraldic Authority in 1897, in the lead up to Federation in 1901. This authority should have supervised the choice of Flag, in 1901, and would have ensured that official Australian Coats of Arms, Anthem, etc were in place by that date. As it was, Australia did not enter Federation with an official Coat of Arms. The hastily adopted Coat of Arms of 1908, was an inferior design. This abomination was dispensed with in 1912. It would be another 83 years before Australia adopted its own National Anthem and its own National colours.
Contrast the Australian and the American experience of civic iconography. The "flag of a foreign nation" was removed from the flag of the United States, even before the American War of Independence had ceased. The American Coat of Arms is unique and intrinsically American, as is the National Anthem. Americans would never countenance national iconography that was not derived from their history, their sense of "place", and their intrinsic sense of identity.
Some countries, such as Australia, and municipalities, such as Kythera, lack the self-belief and self-confidence to establish a Central Heraldic Authority, and further, to ensure that ALL symbols of identity, power and authority reflect their intrinsic sense of identity, and their intrinsic sense of "place".
The result is, in Australia's case, the perpetuation of "foreign" or external symbols of identity, well beyond the time, when such symbols infuse or evoke a sense of power, and therefore, serve to unify the citizenry around a central symbol.
The result in Kythera's case is the perpetuation of an "inferiority complex" - ...our little island is not worthy of taking ownership of, and of exercising such exalted symbols of power...."
It is now time that this attitude, and the practice of "living without symbols of power" - cease.
Kythera must, as soon as possible, adopt a Municipal and Island Flag, a Municipal and Island Coat of Arms, an anthem, Municipal Colours, etc etc.
It must be understood that the Heraldic significance and power for these symbols, the Kytherian Flag, and the Kytherian Coat of Arms will derive directly from the Hellenic Republic, and be vested in the Head of State, the President of the Hellenic Republic.
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