Peace Symbols


This page contains background information on some of the symbols used throughout the ages to represent peace and goodwill. 
If you know of other symbols, or other good examples of these symbols, please let us know by email

This page:
Colour symbols
Plant symbols
Animal symbols
Gemstone symbols

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Colour symbols 

Blue is sometimes cited as the colour of peace as it represents the colour of the sky above and the sea below. 

White is more commonly cited as a symbol of peace - because it conceals nothing it is seen as symbolising purity, innocence and truth. 

This is seen in its use as a flag of truce, peace or goodwill. 

In the flag of Ireland, the green band of the Catholic and the orange band of the Protestant are separated by a white band to symbolise peace between the two. 

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Plant symbols 
The olive branch has for thousands of years been used as a sign of peace and goodwill.  This may be partly due to the fact that in early cultivation of the olive it took decades to bear fruit for harvest, and it was held that anyone who planted olive groves must be expecting a long and peaceful life and must be looking to posterity. 
The symbolism is also probably related to the Biblical story of the dove 
(see below in Animal Symbols). 
In ancient Greek myth, the olive was a plant of Athene -  maiden goddess of wisdom, reason, purity and crafts.  She was also a warrior, but only to defend the State and home from outside enemies.  The olive was her gift to the people of Athens in a contest with Poseidon - it was of such great value to the people as a source of food, oil and (in turn) wealth from exports that the city came under her patronage and was named for her. 
This 5th century BC coin from Athens shows Athene wearing an olive wreath on her head, and on the other side her bird - the owl - and her plant - an olive branch. 

The olive wreath or crown was the highest award given to a citizen in ancient Greece.  The prize was also given to winners at the ancient Olympic Games - a time when wars were suspended between competing states. 
The symbolism of the olive branch is part of a number of well-known flags and symbols, including: 
  • the United Nations symbol with the world flanked by a wreath of crossed olive branches; 
  • the Great Seal of the USA where the eagle carries in its right talon an olive branch with 13 leaves to represent peace between the original member States (this also appears on the flag of the Virgin Islands); 
  • the flag of the league of Arab States which has an upturned crescent encircled by a gold chain and olive wreath; 
  • the flag of Cyprus which has crossed olive branches beneath a map of the island to represent peace between the Greek and Turkish populations; and 
  • the flag of Eritrea which includes a golden olive wreath and stem, originally inspired by the flag of the United Nations. 
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Animal symbols 

The dove is a universal symbol of peace and innocence. 
In ancient Greek myth it was a bird of Athene which represented the renewal of life. 

In the Bible it was a dove released from the Ark by Noah which returned with an olive branch to show that the Biblical flood was over.  Ever since, the dove has symbolised deliverance and God's forgiveness. 

According to legend the devil and witches can turn themselves into any bird shape except the dove. 

In ancient Japan the dove was sacred to Hackiman the god of war, but it was a dove with a sword which announced the end to war. 

You can see more versions of this symbol at our Peace Pix page. 

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Gemstone symbols 

The bloodstone is cited as a symbol of peace.  It is said to have been created from drops of blood which fell from Christ's wound on the Cross onto a green stone. 
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The peace sign or victory salute is made by holding the index and middle fingers in the shape of a V. 

This sign is said to have begun in Europe during World War II  when the 
V for victory (victoire in French, vrijheid in Dutch) sign was painted on walls in the dark as a symbol of freedom from occupying forces. 

It was also used as a sound, with the dot-dot-dot-dash (di-di-di-dah) of Morse code.  Coincidentally this sounds a lot like the opening bars of Beethoven's Symphony No.5 (and the Roman numeral for 5 is V!). 
As a result  these bars were (along with the Morse code signal) broadcast by the BBC constantly during the war and became known as 'Fate knocking at the door'. 

The victory sign was described as 'the most amazing piece of propaganda devised in this war'. 

It became immortalised when Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill was repeatedly filmed using the sign as a victory salute. 

The sign was very widely used by peace movements in the 1960's and 70's as a symbol of victory for peace and truth. 


The well-known Ban the Bomb symbol was designed in 1958 for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament  (CND).  Its shape came from the semaphore for N and D (nuclear + disarmament) enclosed in a circle to represent global and total agreement.  You can see more versions of this symbol at our Peace Pix page.  N 

Another symbol which has come to be associated with peace is the ankh or ansate cross.  This is an ancient symbol which was widespread through Asia but generally associated with Egypt, where the cross represented life and the circle eternity, providing a symbol of immortality.  It also represented the union of the important gods Osiris and Isis, linking heaven and earth and initiating the life-giving annual flood of the Nile. 
In the late 1960's the symbol was adopted by the 'flower power' generation as a symbol of peace and truth. 

Like the ankh, the rainbow has come to be seen by many as a symbol of peace.  It has been widely used in the past few decades by popular movements for peace and the environment. 

Greek mythology associated the rainbow with Iris, the goddess who brought messages from the gods of Mount Olympus to the mortals below. 

In ancient China the colours symbolise the union of yin and yang (making it a common symbol for marriage).  It was often drawn as a symbol of the sky dragon, connecting heaven and earth. 

The Incas of central America associated it with their sun god. 

In Norse mythology it was a bridge built by the gods between earth and their home in Asgard. 

In Christian tradition it symbolised God's forgiveness, as it was placed in the sky as the arch of peace after the Biblical flood - a symbol of the covenant between God and mankind. 

Thus in a great many cultures the rainbow stands as a symbol of people's hope for a better world - in the sunshine after rain. 

The Banner of Peace symbol is being promoted as a universal symbol of peace.   The central three circles are taken to represent either past, present and future surrounded by eternity, or religion, science and art encircled by culture.  The motif has been found in many cultures around the world over thousands of years.  Part of its appeal is that it is owned by no one group or tradition. 

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The Native American pipe of peace, or calumet, stands for reconciliation or purification.  Its round bowl represents the centre of the universe, the heart; the smoke the transport to heaven; the canal or stem the spinal column and a channel for the vital spirit. 
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    HTML Copyright 1998-2006   Mark and Lyn Butz - Email 
    Created with Netscape Communicator 

    Last modified 27 September 2006 


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