Though the meaning of stars varies through cultures and history, these celestial bodies have been rife with spiritual symbolism since humans came into being.
They can represent navigating or finding guidance through the trials of life, our goals and motivations, concepts of harmony and balance, and much more.
For millennia stars have been used as a crucial means of navigating the oceans, guiding humanity across the most perilous environment on earth – the ocean.
So in this way, a parallel can be made to stars acting as spiritual guides, ushering humans through great difficulties and obstacles, and helping us move from one phase of life to another.
In this way, celestial bodies like the North Star and stars, in general, can also be seen as a spiritual symbol of hope, optimism, and the need to start again.
For those who have chosen to leave a difficult place for more prosperous new horizons, stars have always been seen as a light that guides the way to new beginnings.
In some Native American cultures, stars were sometimes used as spiritual guides during initiation rites.
Stars can also represent goals in modern times – we often look at stars as a representation of our achievements or of something to strive for.
Just think of pre-school and middle school, where ‘gold stars’ are often given to reward good behavior and signal the achievement of goals.
Stars often take on the role of great spiritual motivators in the public subconscious. Just think of how people say “reach for the stars,” when they talk about striving for your utmost goals. Stars can represent the goals you are moving toward, as well as act as motivating factors.
They are bright, shiny, and far away – just like a positive future. Whether you can obtain those goals and reach that future that the stars represent, is up to you.
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The pentacle, or pentagram, is a five-pointed geometric star, sometimes encompassed in a circle.
The pentacle has great spiritual significance and has appeared in cultures and religions across the globe, including Mayan, Grecian, Egyptian, Indian and more. The star is said to be a symbol of life, unity, and divine knowledge.
And in easter cultures, particularly in China and Japan, it was seen as a representation of the five elements (water, fire, earth, metal, and wood).
In that way, we can see that the pentacle represents the harmony and balance that can be found when these elements are working together, encompassed within a single body (the circle). In many cases, the symbol has been used as protection against evil.
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The six-pointed star is one of the oldest signs in Christianity, and most people will recognize it as the Star of David, the ultimate symbol of Judaism.
However, the roots of the star as a spiritual symbol go back as far as ancient Egypt. Because it has been used in so many cultures and religions, its spiritual meaning is complex and varied.
In Hindu temples in south India, for example, the six-pointed star (or ‘hexagram’) has come to represent a state of spiritual balance and harmony exemplified by the star’s perfect symmetry.
In Judeo-Christian religions, the interlocking triangles are meant to present the father, son, and holy spirit, all converging at the moment of creation.
But it can also represent negative and positive principles in some religions and cultures, with one star pointing downward and the other up. In this way, the hexagram can also be seen as a sort of yin and yang, an acknowledgment of the duality of existence.
Stars have long had spiritual significance amongst many of the world religions, and these meanings can both meet and diverge in these different belief systems.
In many cultures, stars are seen as a symbol of divinity, or even as representations of angels that have been cast out of heaven.
Stars were also seen as symbols of God and holiness in cultures where the Sun was worshiped as a deity, such as in ancient Egypt. Because the sun was seen as a God of its own, stars were often seen as smaller deities that accompanied it.
In Hinduism, stars are also often seen as glinting representations of divine beings or deities, who help to guide and protect those they watch over. They can also indicate femininity, beauty, and motherhood.
The subject of astrology also relates to the spiritual meaning of stars. Astro means ‘star’ in Greek, but in Christianity, the word logos has become closely associated with God and the wisdom of God. Over centuries the study of astrology/stars was very much seen as studying God.
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This is related to astrology and religion, but in general stars and other ‘celestial’ bodies are very much defined as divine, mysterious entities across most cultures.
It should be easy to see why – these beautiful lights far above our heads are otherworldly and unknowable. They represent the areas of life we will never understand, particularly concepts related to God, creation, existence, and the universe.
They show us that though some things in life can be incredible, wondrous, and awe-inspiring, we are unlikely to ever understand exactly how or why they have come to be.
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As you can see, a symbol as ubiquitous and ancient as a star has no one fixed spiritual meaning. The symbol has inspired virtually every culture and religion on earth, as every person has been able to look into the night sky and see the same thing.
The difference is in how these glimmering stars have been interpreted – whether it is as celestial bodies, symbolic goals, or tools to navigate through life both literally and metaphysically.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.