Fertility symbol  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A fertility symbol is an object used by early historical human societies representing fertility, reminders of which remain in folklore today.


Ancient forms

Fertility symbols have traditionally taken on many different forms. The prehistoric Venus of Willendorf is commonly regarded as an example of a feminine fertility symbol - its rotundity and obesity being seen as attractive in times when food was scarce.

Certain animals that reproduce prolifically are also seen as fertility symbols, such as frogs and rabbits - the Easter Bunny as symbol of rebirth and fertility - while the same is also true of the widespread classical image of intertwining snakes. Freud considered the pig to be a further primitive symbol of fertility.

The Sacred marriage of sovereign Queen/mother and the annually dying fertility godling was itself a fertility symbol. Not unconnected was the phallus as a symbol of vegetative fertility, linked to the notion that the ritual performance of the sexual act promotes agricultural growth.

Hindu mythology

Śiva the Hindu god was worshipped as the principle of generation through the symbol of the lingam (phallus). His complement is the river Ganges, his mistress and the mother of all fertilising rivers.

Modern survivals

Two treasures of Bran the Blessed, his magical horn and platter providing food and drink on demand, were fertility symbols that have been associated with the legend of the Holy Grail.

The Cerne Abbas giant is a fertility symbol, which offered help in conception to childless women. Similarly, the Maypole is a phallic pole celebrating the sexual renewal of life in spring.

Western marriage ceremonies regularly include the throwing of rice and the bouquet - vegetative symbols of fertility. The shoe tied to the happy couple's car can been seen to represent the fertile vagina, as with The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.


For Jung himself, 'the phallus always means the creative mana, the power of healing and fertility'; while Lacan considered that 'the phallus is...the image of the vital flow as it is transmitted in generation'.

Conversely, Eric Berne saw the vagina as a fertility symbol promising both protection and productivity.

Western art


See also

Further reading

James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (1922)

Jessie L. Weston, From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Fertility symbol" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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