Arrows are a popular symbol in mythology. The Zodiac sign of Sagittarius depicts a centaur shooting an arrow. The God of Love, Cupid, uses a bow and arrow to snare his “victims”. The Greek Goddesses Diana and Artemis both carried bows and arrows. It’s clear from these and other imageries that arrows represent the ability to reach out, communicate and travel at great speeds. Let us examine further how arrows have been used in different cultures.
What is the Spiritual Meaning of Arrows?
Arrows can symbolize a lightning strike from the heavens. The more popular interpretations usually revolve around the quality of the arrow when shot from a bow or crossbow – traveling at great speed outward or upward. In this image, the arrow is a symbol of traveling fast, being able to traverse great distances and the ability to reach out and communicate, eventually touching someone. For example, with Cupid, the cherubic little God succeeds when the lead tip of an arrow hits his target’s first – it is both a symbol of reaching out to communicate and completing the purpose of the trip.
The symbol is extended in a number of ways. Arrows could represent the ability of the higher spirits to travel wide and fast. They could also represent the ability of a person to free his or her spirits and travel far and wide across the galaxy in his dreams. This ability to aspire, that is, “soar” to the heavens, is a particularly strong symbolism.
Arrows also represent a singularity or purpose – a way of going directly from Point A to Point B, as if piercing the heart of a matter, without a lot of dithering about what has happened in the past. Hence the expression “Straight as an Arrow”. As an extension of this, arrows are seen as a symbol of masculinity, power and warlike capabilities.
To summarize, arrows represent strength and masculinity, the ability to travel at great speed, to reach out and communicate, to look forward and remain true to a purpose and succeed in striking a target (reaching a goal) and finally the ability to soar – reach out to the Gods in heaven for quest of a deeper meaning or aspiration.
What does a Bow and Arrow Symbolize?
A bow and arrow in tandem represent a complete arsenal, a combination of strength and power. The arrow, cocked and pointing forward, symbolizes the archer looking ahead – intending to move forward and achieve his goals without looking back.
A group of arrows symbolizes unity of purpose and strength. Represented as bundle, the arrows will show invincibility and toughness – the ability to stand together and fight.
What does it Mean to Dream about Arrows?
Dreaming about an arrow and various related symbolisms have been interpreted in many different ways over the millennia. The dreams can be grouped into a few categories.
Shooting an Arrow
If you dream about shooting an arrow, it usually signifies steadfastness of purpose and surety as to the direction you are taking. It could show your intent to aggressively pursue a goal or an adversary. The typical interpretation revolves around your having determined what target you want to strike (the “heart” of the problem) and acting upon a desire to hit that target.
Arrows Pointed in a Specific Direction
This is often considered to be a really significant dream, especially if the direction is clearly specified by recognizable landmarks or a target. It could be a call to action, you have been worrying about a problem and now you are being shown a specific direction and being asked to take specific action.
If you see yourself looking up at arrows flying overhead, your position is that of an observer. There is an action going on around you – there could be crossing arrows symbolizing warring factions or one or more arrows going in a specific direction. There could also be arrows going around in random directions.
The symbol is usually that you are unsure, but there is specific action going on and directions that are being pointed out. You are of two minds as to which course to adopt (which side to join or which direction to travel) and the dream captures your feeling of angst or indecisiveness.
A spinning arrow symbolizes indecision and exhorts you to choose one of the options facing you in real life.
Failure to Shoot Straight or Launch an Arrow
This image typically shows your failure of faith or lack of resolve in being able to decisively move towards a goal. Your drive, energy and beliefs are at issue – you must revisit your foundational thinking and set your priorities straight, so you can refocus on what’s important.
Being Pierced by an Arrow
This shows your vulnerability to attack, unless of course have already been attacked and wounded in real life. Your defenses are down and someone among your circle, or perhaps an adversary, has found a window of vulnerability – you must reassess your situation and figure out how best to fortify your defenses to thwart an impending attack.
A sign of a bloody arrow depicts your innermost thoughts and feelings boiling up to the surface, usually with a negative connotation. A confrontation may loom ahead.
Bow and Arrow Breaking
Broken arrows could symbolize peace, as if the warring sides have put away their weapons in a gesture that their aggression has come to an end.
Alternatively, if you dream about your bow and arrows breaking, it could symbolize disappointment – your expectations have ground to a halt. This could be because other people have let you down, or perhaps you have been beset with what you deem to be insurmountable obstacles.
Arrows with flaming heads crashing down on their target and setting them on fire can symbolize ultimate strength and power. It may be time to take decisive action against your adversaries, you are at a position of peak strength and are expected to prevail.
Crafting or Buying an Arrow
Crafting or buying an arrow usually symbolizes that you are preparing to undertake a targeted, monumental (perhaps once in a lifetime) task. You are literally lining up your options, honing your skills and strategizing to give yourself the best shot at success.
Receiving an Arrow
This dream typically symbolizes a future action – someone is going to ask you
What does a Heart with an Arrow in It Symbolize?
This is the classic symbol of someone who is “wounded in love”, having been shot by Cupid or Eros, depending on your source of mythology. Cupid, represented as a chubby little boy, was known for his mischievous prank of shooting his magic arrows into the hearts of passing people – making them fall in love with the next person they saw.
The normal way the symbol is shown could be a heart pierced by an arrow, with a few drops of blood showing from the spot of the piercing. The blood represents the thorniness or agony of love – the extreme emotions felt by a love-sick person, which could get even worse when that love is unrequited.
The variation of an arrow piercing a visibly broken heart (the heart halves literally shown to be riven by the arrow) could still depict the extreme emotion of love – but it is often taken to mean that someone has been rejected and thus mortally wounded in love. His or her heart has been broken, a near fatal would s/he is trying to recover from.
What’s interesting about the arrow in heart symbol is that the meaning of the arrow itself changes from its normal association with masculinity and war. In this case, the emphasis is on the arrow as a messenger of love.
Arrows in Mythology
Arrows, with or without Bows, and Archers are rife in world mythologies, coming down from ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China, on through the times of the Greeks and Romans, and subsequent cultures and societies such as Norse, Anglo-Saxon, various Native American cultures, Pacific Islanders, the Meso-American cultures such as the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas and a plethora of African tribes. It is hard to find a culture that does not have archers or arrows associated with some gods or royalty.
Some specific examples follow. The list has been kept short so as not to be overwhelming.
Hindu mythology absolutely teems with the use of arrows as weapons of destruction. The two Indian epics, both featuring wars between good and evil forces, are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There have been comparisons made between arrows propagating mass destruction and the possibility of the Hindus envisioning the absolute power of nuclear arms.
Some examples of Dhanusa and Sharas (bows and arrows, respectively) being shown as weapons (astras) include Indraastra (an arrow fired by Indra, the king of the gods, that splits into hundreds of arrowheads to destroy enemies); Arrow of Brahma (used to kill the Demon King Ravana in the Ramayana); Vasavi Shakti (Indra’s Dart), Pinaka (Shiva’s bow whose arrows couldn’t be destroyed), Pushpa Shar (the floral arrows shot from Pushpa Dhenu by Kamdev, the God of Love) and Teen Baan (three arrows given by Shiva to Barbarika, each of which would destroy the enemy and return to the archer). The list is very long.
Babylonian and Egyptian Mythology
Marduk, the war god of Babylon, was granted bows and arrows (the weapons to initiate war and defend) by their supreme council of Gods. The Egyptian war goddess, Neith, carried a symbol of crossed arrows and shield on her head.
The powerful kings of Babylon, Assyria and the Pharaohs of Egypt were frequently depicted fighting battles carrying bows and arrows. Ornate bows and arrows have been found in Royal Tombs in Egypt.
A famous archer in Chinese mythology is Hou Yi. His tales have been woven into many songs, plays, dances and modern films and TV. This legend is an integral part of the Chinese Mid Autumn festival. Hou Yi and his lover, Chang’e, are China’s version of Romeo and Juliet, star crossed lovers who eternally seek one another. Hou Yi is depicted as the God of Archers in Chinese legend.
Greek and Roman Mythology
Many gods and goddesses carried bows and arrows, including but not limited to Athena, Diana, Artemis (the deity who the Temple at Ephesus – one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World – was built for), Selene (one of the Titans), Eros and Cupid. Other gods are often depicted shooting arrows, including Apollo who was the God of Archers.
Besides the specific deities mentioned above, there are many mentions throughout Western Civilization and Islamic cultures about the use of arrows, including in the Bible.
Native American Arrow Symbols
Bows and arrows were the primary weapons available to early Native American tribes to feed and clothe their family and clan. As such, they are extremely relevant and important to them. Arrows are often depicted in their etchings and paintings and great Chieftains dreaming of arrows is a common phenomenon. Native American braves often carried bows and arranged the arrows in their quiver to convey certain symbolic meanings. In general, arrows were used to show direction, purpose, force, movement and power.
Some of the more common symbols involve:
(a) A group of 5 arrows, each representing one of the 5 founding tribes of the Iroquois League. While one arrow could be easily broken, the 5 together represented unity and strength in numbers.
(b) A single arrow, parallel to the ground showed protection and defense. If pointing left, the arrow was meant to ward off evil, while the same arrow pointed to the right was a symbol for protection.
(c) Two arrows in opposite directions symbolized war, while an arrow pointing down signified peace. Broken arrows also represented peace.
(d) Crossed arrows represented friendship.
What is the Spiritual Significance of Archers?
The symbolism of the archer can vary depending on culture, but as the mythological tales above pointed out, almost all cultures viewed archers as symbols of War, which is why all War Gods had bows and arrows. Also, a number of religions (we mentioned Hindu, Greek, Roman and Chinese above) view the use of archery (bows and arrows) to be associated with quests or Love.
In a more general sense, based on the image of Sagittarius, an archer is thought to show poise – calm and cool in the face of an enemy – display planning and insight (a la the centaur), show purpose and be prepared to either attack or defend his or her people from enemy aggression.
Since they were first discovered, arrows are synonymous with and/or are used to described objects that travel at great speed. In modern times, the Red Arrows are a Royal Air Force team of jets which perform aerial aerobic maneuvers, combining the artistry and skills with their ability to dart like an arrow.