I tend towards, “when in doubt, throw it out” so when I was asked in my celebrant course last year about what symbols I have in my life, I thought there were very few. But it turns out that I have gotten rid of mostly items that did not have tremendous meaning to me, perhaps so that I would have the space for those items of greatest importance. And those remaining objects do have symbolic significance.
Jewelry has always been a very overt area where I display my symbols and where I hold on to generations of meaning. My great aunt Ellie gave me her jewelry box and I love spending time going through each item, holding each carefully in my hand and feeling the texture of the material (see Texture is essential). Some of the jewelry I have taken out of the box and placed on my shelf where I keep jewelry that I wear daily. Other pieces I have reused in beading creations of my own. Yet much of it I have left in the original blue jewelry box that still has her fragrance and collection of oddities and keepsakes so that I can experience her and the history more directly when I choose to. My great aunt has provided me with so many symbols that it is astounding for me to realize: menorah, dradles, crisp cotton floral bed linens and her tea cup collection – chalices perchance?
Much of my jewelry is from my mother and father that I received starting at a very young age and continue to receive. Much of the jewelry has rubies, my birthstone and many are antiques that they found on their hunts. In the past decade when I have gotten jewelry from my mom, it is often something that she is passing along to me. The year she turned 65 and I turned 40, she gave me my great aunt’s engagement ring. I never had an engagement ring, an interesting result of my husband and I not having any money at the time and my not caring at all about such traditions at that time. Even when we had enough to afford an engagement ring, I choose not to get one. And a good thing, for now I have a most wonderful family heirloom.
More recently I have been very present about jewelry purchased for meaningful events. A few Christmases ago, my husband got me an unusual ring that really reflects me now. It has tiny diamonds and rubies designed as a flower with little butterflies perched around the edges. It is a big ring although very delicate in detail that makes a big statement. We selected it together to celebrate my advancement to a leadership role at work. I also see it as a ring to mark the beginning of my 50th year, though that came later in the year.
Some of my other most meaningful pieces of jewelry are about peace (see Jewelry and clothes of peace). My family was active during the peace marches in the late 60’s and I went to a peace march in DC with my family in a big bus that our very progressive town chartered. From that march and other events I have several silver necklaces: one with a peace dove holding a flower, a simple peace sign, a peace sign coupled with a flower, and perhaps my most iconic item, a necklace with the famous “War is not healthy for children and other living things” emblem in gold with black lacquer.
Photos are another important symbol that I keep around me. I love wandering through the boxes of photos that I have stashed in a box in the basement. Periodically I pull out different ones that have significance to me and put them in frames that sit atop our toy chest. My mom has a similar collection of photos of family members in pretty frames that she jokingly calls the rouges gallery. Looking at old photos of course brings up so many memories of events that I then blog about. In many cases, however, the photos were taken well before I was born so reflect the collective conscious and memory of my ancestors. The photos and my jewelry are symbols of my past that allow me to connect with my beautiful life and rich heritage.