Hammers are common symbols in many logos, emblems, flags and even appear as metaphors in spoken language.
But what exactly does the hammer symbolize and how can it be interpreted?
The hammer is a creative-destructive symbol that represents masculine strength, craftsmanship, wealth, divine power manifested as thunderbolts and storms as well as law and order. In combination with the chisel it represents intellect, with the sickle communism, and when paired with anvils, duality.
The Hammer represents storms, lightning & fertility
Many cultures associated the hammer with storm and thunder gods, and since these gods also ruled over the rainwater that fell from heaven, the hammer indirectly also represented fertility.
One reason is that hammers striking a surface, especially a metallic one such as anvils, create loud bangs that resemble those of thunder.
Thus, Thor, the Norse god of thunder, created lightning and thunder by throwing his divine hammer, Mjolnir.
Similarly, Indra, the Hindu god of storms, used a hammer like weapon called the Vajra to channel the power of lightning and thunder.
The same can be seen with the Slavic Perun and Finnish Ukko, both of whom are storm deities associated with thunderbolts and hammers.
Another reason is that hammers can release great destructive power that can shatter or flatten weaker surfaces, in much the same way a storm can flatten a village, uproot trees, or cause destructive floods.
Overall, the symbolism of the hammer as a storm symbol stems from its characteristics of impact and power, its dual nature of destruction and creation, and its role as a divine weapon, all of which align with the physical and symbolic attributes of storms.
Hammers are symbols of protection and good luck
Storm gods were usually considered to be the warriors of good fighting against the forces of evil.
For example, Thor is famous for his wars against the Jottuns, or Giants, while Indra performs a similar role in his fight against the demonic Asuras.
As such, the main weapon of these deities, the hammer, has come to represent a divine symbol that has the power to ward off evil, bad luck, or misfortune.
Thus, in many societies, common folk used hammers as protection symbols against disease or evil influences. The hammers in this case could take the form of amulets, good luck charms, or even simple carvings or drawings.
For example, Thor’s hammer, whether in pendant or tattoo form, can be used to invoke Thor as a protection deity.
The Norse people frequently included hammers in countless runic inscriptions, rock carvings, and gravestones.
In this case, the hammer runes functioned as protection symbols to defend the deceased from attacks by evil spirits or even living people who were the enemies of the deceased in life.
But hammers were also used during marriage ceremonies to drive evil spirits away from the bridal couple and as promises of fertility for the bride.
Hammers are a symbol of creation and craftsmanship
Hammers have a long tradition of being used as symbols of craftsmanship and creation.
The most obvious connection is the use of hammers by blacksmiths when creating swords, or by builders when erecting a new construction. Eventually, this use of hammers to create things became associated with certain gods.
In Greek mythology, Hephaestus, the god of craftsmen and artisans, was usually depicted with a hammer and a forge, creating countless magical items.
For Hephaestus, the hammer represented craftsmanship but, more importantly, the divine creative intellect necessary to invent new things.
In Celtic mythology, Goibniu, the god of smithing, and Dagda, the god of Druidry, magic, and agriculture, were both associated with hammers.
Goibniu, for example, used his hammer to craft weapons for the Tuatha Dé Danann in their war against the Fomorians.
The Dagda, on the other hand, wielded a hammer-like club that could both kill with one end and give life with the other, symbolizing the duality of destruction and creation.
In all of the examples above, the hammer is a symbol of artisanship. However, in some cases, the hammer can represent universal creation.
A good example of this is the Chinese myth of Pangu, the primal being who created the world.
According to the myth, Pangu used a hammer-like tool to shape the world from chaos, splitting the heavens and the earth and setting the foundations for life.
Hammers are a symbol of law and order
In a more earthly sense, the hammer is strongly associated with law, order, and sovereign power.
This symbolism derives from the authority and control that the hammer represents, as well as its ability to shape, build, and maintain social structures.
For example, in Chinese mythology, the storm god Leigong was believed to impart divine justice upon mortals.
Known as the Lord of Thunder, Leigong wielded his hammer to punish evil mortals, enforcing divine law and maintaining order in the human world.
Leigong’s hammer thus embodies the power to correct injustice, the strict discipline of the law, and the punishment that comes with breaking it.
Besides these mythological reasons, the hammer has come to symbolize law and order for more ordinary reasons.
In many judicial systems worldwide, judges wield gavels, small ceremonial hammers. The gavel is used to draw attention, signal decisions, and maintain order in the courtroom.
The sound of the gavel is often seen as the sound of authority and the rule of law. It’s a symbol of the judiciary’s power to adjudicate disputes, enforce justice, and ensure societal order.
Hammer and Chisel represents intellect
In the world of Masonic symbols, the hammer stands for the power of our thinking and the focus of our mind. It shows how our thoughts drive us as we seek the truth within ourselves.
Looking at it this way, the hammer can’t be separated from the chisel, which symbolizes careful judgment. Without the chisel’s influence, all our efforts could be dangerous and go to waste.
The hammer can also symbolize action guided by our willpower. It’s like a sign of authority held in the right hand, which is typically the active side of our body. It’s connected to active energy and the moral decisions that lead to real achievements.
In Masonic meetings, the hammer is also used as a symbol of the authority of the Worshipful Master, the leader of the lodge.
Hammer and Anvil represents duality
A common symbol of duality—male and female, active and passive is the hammer and anvil.
The hammer, being the active tool that applies force, is often associated with masculine energy, or the ‘yang’ in some philosophies.
This energy is not strictly about gender but is rather associated with certain qualities traditionally attributed to masculinity, such as strength, action, and assertiveness.
On the other hand, the anvil, which passively receives the hammer’s blows and helps shape the material, represents the feminine principle, or the ‘yin.’
The anvil is thus the receptive, yielding, and nurturing energy, traditionally associated with qualities like acceptance, patience, and creation.
Together, the hammer and anvil create a balance between these energies. The active force of the hammer works with the passive receptiveness of the anvil to forge something new.
This balance of active and passive, positive and negative, masculine and feminine, is necessary for creation and transformation.
In summary, the symbol of the hammer and anvil stands for the balance and interaction of dualistic principles and the creativity that stems from their harmony.
The Hammer and Sickle represents workers, farmers, and communism
The hammer and sickle was the most important symbol of the Soviet Union and communism as a whole.
The symbol was first adopted during the Russian Revolution in 1917, and it became an official symbol of the Soviet Union in 1922.
The hammer represents industrial workers, while the sickle represents peasants, together comprising the proletariat working class.
A fundamental tenet of Marxist theory is that these two classes must come together in order to overthrow the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class) and establish a classless society in which the workers themselves own the means of production.
In its visual design, the hammer and sickle are often depicted crossed, suggesting solidarity and mutual support between these two facets of the working class.
However, given the historical associations with the Soviet Union and its various policies, the hammer and sickle is a controversial symbol, often evoking strong reactions, both positive and negative, depending on one’s perspective on communism and the history of the 20th century.
The hammer’s symbolism spans diverse cultures and histories, representing creation, transformation, law, order, protection, wealth, intellect, and societal struggle. It illustrates the power to shape and transform, balance masculine and feminine principles, and symbolize unity among the working class. Thus, the hammer is a multi-dimensional symbol deeply woven into the fabric of human culture.
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