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20 Symbols of Wisdom & Intelligence – Their Origins and Meanings

Symbols of wisdom - White faced Owl

Exploring symbols of wisdom and intelligence is like going on an adventure through time and culture, discovering how people from all around the world have represented the traits of being smart and wise.

In this post, I will talk about the deep meanings behind these fascinating symbols.

1. The Raven

Black Raven

In Norse, Celtic, and Druidic mythology, ravens hold a special place as creatures of intellect and wisdom.

They are often seen as messengers carrying secrets or as guides to hidden truths.

Ravens are incredibly smart birds, capable of solving complex problems, which might be why so many cultures associate them with knowledge.

Key Facts

  • Seen as guides to the underworld or other realms.
  • Represent the ability to uncover hidden truths and solve mysteries.

2. Goddess Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati, in Hindu cultures, stands as a towering figure of knowledge, wisdom, and the arts.

She is usually depicted with four arms, each holding symbolic items that represent different aspects of human learning and creativity.

Saraswati’s presence encourages seekers to pursue knowledge and embrace creativity.

Key Facts

  • Represents the arts, music, and science.
  • Encourages learning and intellectual exploration.

3. The Lotus Flower

Lotus Flowers

In Eastern cultures, particularly Buddhism, the lotus flower is a powerful symbol of enlightenment, self-awareness, and ultimate knowledge.

The flower’s journey from muddy waters to blooming on the surface mirrors the human path from ignorance to enlightenment.

Key Facts

  • Symbolizes purity and spiritual awakening.
  • Represents the journey from ignorance to enlightenment.

4. Athena and the Owl

Athena and the Owl

Athena, the Ancient Greek Goddess of War and Wisdom, is often associated with the owl, a symbol of wisdom.

The owl’s ability to see in the dark makes it a fitting companion for Athena, representing the pursuit of knowledge and the illumination of truth.

Key Facts

  • The owl symbolizes the ability to see the truth.
  • Athena represents strategic war and the defense of civilization through wisdom.

5. The Tyet

The Tyet

The Tyet, known as the Knot of Isis in Ancient Egypt, symbolizes knowledge and wisdom.

It is closely associated with the goddess Isis, representing the eternal nature of wisdom and the interconnectedness of all things.

Key Facts

  • Represents protection and the eternal nature of wisdom.
  • Associated with healing and magic.

6. Wolves

Wolf as a Symbol

Among North American tribes, wolves are revered as ‘teachers.’ They symbolize death, rebirth, and a connection to the higher spirit.

Wolves, with their complex social structures and communication skills, embody the teaching and learning aspects of wisdom.

Key Facts

  • Symbolize strong social connections and communication.
  • Represent the cycle of life: death, rebirth, and survival.

7. Wisdom Eyes

Depicted on Buddhist shrines, the wisdom eyes symbolize Buddha’s ultimate knowledge and omniscience.

These eyes look in all four directions, representing an awareness of all things in the universe and an enlightened state of mind.

Key Facts

  • Represent awareness and enlightenment.
  • Symbolize the omniscient state of Buddha.

8. The Quill


Traditionally made from feathers, the quill became a symbol of intelligence, knowledge, and social standing.

Its use in writing and creating documents marked the spread of knowledge through generations.

Key Facts

  • Represents the importance of writing and communication.
  • Symbolizes social standing and the spread of knowledge.

9. Lapis Lazuli

Lapis Lazuli

Known as the Wisdom Stone, Lapis Lazuli encourages self-awareness, truth, and morality.

Its deep blue color has been associated with the heavens and spiritual insight, making it a cherished stone for those seeking wisdom.

Key Facts

  • Encourages self-awareness and truth.
  • Associated with spiritual insight and the heavens.

10. Nyansapo

Nyansapo - Wisdom Knot

In Western Africa, the Nyansapo, or Wisdom Knot, is a sacred symbol representing intelligence, wisdom, and the complexities of life.

It reminds us that knowledge and learning are intertwined with the experiences we gather through life.

Key Facts

  • Represents intelligence and the complexity of life.
  • Encourages humility and learning from life’s experiences.

11. Mountains


Mountains have long been symbols of divine wisdom and mental strength across various cultures.

Their towering presence and steadfastness represent the vast knowledge and enduring wisdom that come with experience and contemplation.

Climbing a mountain often symbolizes the journey of gaining wisdom, a path filled with challenges and learning.

Key Facts

  • Symbolize the journey towards wisdom and enlightenment.
  • Represent the challenges and rewards of seeking knowledge.

12. Keys


Keys hold significant symbolic meaning across cultures, representing knowledge, success, and the power to unlock mysteries.

They offer access to the unknown, opening doors to new opportunities and paths in life. Keys remind us that wisdom and knowledge are tools to unlock our full potential.

Key Facts

  • Symbolize knowledge and the power to unlock potential.
  • Represent new opportunities and the mysteries of life.

13. The Infinity Symbol

The infinity symbol, resembling a sideways figure eight, represents the infinite nature of humanity and the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

It symbolizes the boundless journey of learning and the eternal quest for knowledge, reminding us that wisdom has no end.

Key Facts

  • Represents the endless nature of wisdom and knowledge.
  • Symbolizes the continuous cycle of life and learning.

14. Oil Lamps and Candles


Oil lamps and candles have been symbols of awakening, goodness, and the pursuit of knowledge throughout history.

Their light pushes away the darkness, symbolizing the quest to overcome ignorance and enlighten the mind with wisdom and understanding.

Key Facts

  • Symbolize the pursuit of knowledge and the light of wisdom.
  • Represent the dispelling of ignorance and the awakening of the mind.

15. The Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi tree holds immense significance in Buddhism as the place where Buddha attained enlightenment.

It symbolizes the ultimate knowledge and self-awareness one can achieve through meditation and spiritual practice, serving as a beacon of hope and enlightenment for seekers.

Key Facts

  • Symbolizes the attainment of enlightenment and ultimate knowledge.
  • Represents the importance of meditation and spiritual practice.

16. Gyan Mudra

Gyan Mudra

The Gyan Mudra, a hand gesture used in meditation, symbolizes receptivity to wisdom and learning.

Touching the index finger to the thumb promotes calmness, concentration, and the opening of the mind to new knowledge.

Key Facts

  • Represents the openness to learning and wisdom.
  • Encourages concentration, calmness, and meditation.

17. The Philosopher’s Stone

Philosophers Stone

A mythical symbol in alchemy, the Philosopher’s Stone represents the ultimate transmutation of substances, the quest for immortality, and the pursuit of wisdom.

It symbolizes the alchemist’s journey towards enlightenment and the transformation of the self.

Key Facts

  • Symbolizes transformation and the pursuit of ultimate wisdom.
  • Represents the quest for enlightenment and immortality.

18. The Third Eye Chakra

In spiritual practices, the Third Eye Chakra symbolizes wisdom, intuition, and higher consciousness.

It represents the ability to see beyond the physical world and understand deeper truths, opening pathways to enlightenment and inner knowledge.

Key Facts

  • Represents intuition, wisdom, and higher consciousness.
  • Symbolizes the ability to see beyond the physical and understand deeper truths.

19. Dolphins


Dolphins, known for their intelligence and empathy, represent peace, balance, harmony, and wisdom in many cultures.

Their playful nature and social behavior highlight the importance of community and communication in achieving understanding and harmony.

Key Facts

  • Symbolize intelligence, peace, and harmony.
  • Represent the importance of community and empathetic communication.

20. Sapphires


Sapphires, with their deep blue hue, symbolize intuition, insight, and spiritual clarity.

These precious stones are believed to bring about mental clarity and wisdom and enhance one’s understanding of the self and the universe.

Key Facts

  • Represent intuition, insight, and spiritual clarity.
  • Encourage mental clarity and self-understanding.


Can animals other than dolphins and wolves symbolize wisdom?

Yes, many animals, such as the elephant and the owl, symbolize wisdom in various cultures due to their characteristics or mythological significance.

Are there specific colors associated with wisdom?

Blue, often seen in lapis lazuli and sapphires, is commonly associated with wisdom, representing depth, stability, and spiritual insight.

Can plants or trees other than the Bodhi tree represent wisdom?

Certainly, the juniper tree and other plants like sage are symbols of wisdom and protection in different traditions, representing knowledge and spiritual growth.

Is there a universal symbol for wisdom?

While there’s no single universal symbol, the owl is widely recognized across many cultures as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.

Do geometric shapes ever symbolize wisdom?

Yes, geometric shapes such as the spiral, representing growth and evolution, and the circle, symbolizing completeness and unity, can symbolize wisdom.

Can wisdom symbols vary significantly across cultures?

Absolutely, symbols of wisdom can vary greatly across cultures, reflecting diverse values, beliefs, and historical contexts unique to each culture.

Concluding Thoughts

As we look at these different symbols of wisdom and intelligence, we see how people from various cultures have expressed what matters to them.

Each symbol, whether it is the old-fashioned quill or the mysterious Nyansapo, tells us a story of how humans have sought to learn, grow, and understand themselves and the world.

By learning about these symbols, we feel closer to our ancestors, who also valued wisdom, and we continue their tradition of being curious and eager to learn.