Native American Zig Zag Symbolism
The zigzag symbol is a common symbol across Native American cultures. Images of this symbol recur in various forms of art including weaving, pottery, basketry, and beadwork. It can also be found on ancient rock art. As a popular motif, the zigzag was extensively used mostly by North American Plains tribes in their artwork and on their tipis, moccasin shoes, bags, clothing, and baby rattles.
Although each tribe seemed to tend toward a specific style, there didn’t seem to be much relative agreement on the zigzag symbol’s meaning(s). In fact, some groups claimed that patterns such as this had no meaning at all: that they were just aesthetically pleasing and thus were merely decorative. Several concrete ideas exist, though, that seem to have spanned across cultures and time.
The “Z” Native American Symbolism
Each individual line that constructs the “z” shape can be viewed as possessing its own unique spiritual symbolism, especially to the Plains tribes. The center line of the “Z” can run one of two ways, meaning that there are two potential interpretations of its meaning. When this middle line slants toward the left, it is indicative of the path that our soul chooses to take. There will be many paths presented to us throughout our lives, but we inevitably only choose a single path. This path is filled with many separate journeys, all of which nurture our spirit.
Alternatively, if the center line slants to the right, it is serving as an indication that there are both internal and external forces that are calling to your soul. These forces may be blatant or subtle, but they all serve the same purpose: guiding you to choose the correct path. Finally, the two horizontal lines that run along the top and bottom, connecting the center slant line, symbol the journey through life and your comprehensive understanding of it. The horizontal line also serves to symbolize the connection between Mother Earth and Father Sky.
Zigzag Symbol Meaning – Lightning
One of the most common reasons for using the zigzag symbol is that its shape symbolizes lightning. This further accentuates its connection with Father Sky. As an important symbol of change – and rapid change at that – lightning is connected with rain and the fertility and cleansing that it causes. To be cleansed allows for both rebirth and renewal in plants, animals, and humans, both spiritually and, in a more literal sense, physically.
The Native Americans placed a large degree of significance on lightning, as it was a strong and powerful nature occurrence. It was closely aligned with the sacred (and feared) thunderbird, who was a symbol of the ascension toward enlightenment. This association brought themes of truth, honesty, and moral code to the lives of the Native Americans who believed in it.
Additionally, many of their legends stated that lightning flashed from the beaks and/or eyes of these birds, making them a seemingly celestial and controlling entity. These creatures were thought to strike down liars and wrongdoers while rewarding the worthy – there was no fooling them regarding truth and character. Fittingly, lightning (and thus the zigzag symbol) were also connected with ideas of divine wisdom.
Along with the thunderbird, lightning is also frequently tied to serpents. This creature, while often associated with evil in Christian and other Western cultures, was a signifier of wisdom in Native American beliefs. Some tribes added a depiction of a snake‘s head and rattle tail to their zigzag symbolism patterns in order to fully encompass its resolute symbolism.
As we can see, many opinions and theories existed and continue to exist regarding this and other Native American symbols. Sometimes, we need only do a bit of research to find what we are seeking. More often than not, the interpretation is in the eyes of the beholder. Open your mind and the Earth will speak to you: this is what the Native Americans believed.