What does it mean?

(Puzzle 003)

We haven't just made this up. Honestly!

What does this symbol mean?

Unknown symbol

With a bit imagination, the figure on the left could represent a Patriarchal Cross with splayed ends and a few other bits added.

What do all those lines represent? And why is the symbol not symmetrical?

Somebody kindly suggested this may be a copy of a tattoo, commonly seen on older Catholic ladies in country towns and villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This may well be the case, since there are many similarities, although most of those tattoos tend to be circular and almost invariably symmetrical. We feel the answer to this particular symbol's mystery is in its asymmetry.

  • Are these a collection of old European runes?

  • sanko Is the centre piece perhaps the key of a lock? Or a skeleton of some sacrificed horned beast? (We cannot think of any three-fingered animal, except the rhinoceros and dinosaur, neither of which seem likely beasts to be sacrificed.)

  • Is it a monogram? A Christian cross often has the three letters 'IHS', being Jesus' monogram. Are the glyphs on this cross derived from an alphabet such as Tifinagh (see Tuareg Cross) used in north Africa? If so, this piece could be an Islamic amulet. Do you recognise them as an acronym from such an alphabet?

  • Is it a radio antenna or are they mystical markings? Are we looking at a sigil (a magical sign) or something copied from an old grimoire (black magic manual)? Charm makers often copy such marks and sell pendants like these as a talisman. There doesn't appear to be any mystical geometry in the shape (for example, the so-called Golden Ratio). But could they represent some mystical Tree of Life?

Face (left) and reverse (right)

  • The symbol was found on a medalion from Verona, northern Italy. (See photo on the right.) Is there a Romeo and Juliet connection? Or is it a street map of somewhere in central Verona?

  • If the main cross is Christian, are we seeing Easter triple-branched candelabra on tripods?

  • Double-ended tridents? (Or double-ended toasting forks for the ambidextrous?)

A double-ended trident, similar to the Asian sanko (a.k.a. vajra)

In addition to the Christian fish symbol, tridents are sometimes seen in Christendom, where the three tines represent the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The trident was adopted by Early Christians from Neptune's fishing spear. Neptune was the Roman god of the sea, and a trident on a cross could signify that on a stormy journey through life, refuge can be found in the cross of Christ.

But in this case we have double-ended tridents. Plus something else on the left arm.

We'd welcome your opinion on this.

As you can see, the medalion is circular, like a coin. Many ancient Christian coins had a Patriarchal Cross, and many ancient Indian coins include a trident. But we cannot find any coin that shows anything similar to the photo. If you are a coin buff and can shed light on this, please tell us.

The reverse of the medallion shows a flaming sun surrounded by the twelve Zodiac signs - a common design for jewellery. We can either discount this as simply a decorative addition to the pendant, or take is as an important clue to the mysterious symbol shown on the face.

Feel free to email us with your thoughts.

Puzzling symbols index


search 🔍



privacy policy