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What is a symbol of balance?

What is a symbol of balance?

Balance and harmony are important themes across many cultures. Symbols representing balance can be found throughout history in religion, mythology, art, architecture, and more. These symbols remind us of the value of equilibrium and moderation. When we think of balance, the scales are one of the most universal symbols that come to mind. However, there are many other meaningful representations of balance as well.

The Scales

The scales are likely the most recognizable symbol of balance. Scales represent the equal distribution of weight on either side. This idea of equilibrium and equality is why they have become such a prevalent icon. Scales can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Egypt where they were associated with the goddess Ma’at. Ma’at was the personification of truth, justice, balance, and cosmic order. Egyptians believed the weighing of one’s heart after death was part of attaining entrance into the afterlife. Heavy hearts burdened with sin would not balance the scales against the feather of Ma’at.

In ancient Greek mythology, scales were also used to symbolize balance and justice. The Greek goddess Themis, Titaness of divine law and order, was often depicted holding scales. Likewise, the Greek goddess of justice, Dike, carried scales. In Roman mythology, the goddess Justitia, who embodied justice and law, would hold scales. Justitia’s blindfold represents objectivity, while the scales represent weighing competing claims. Lady Justice statues holding scales can be found on many courthouses today.

Culture Deity Scales Association
Ancient Egypt Ma’at Truth, justice, balance, cosmic order
Ancient Greece Themis Divine law, order
Ancient Greece Dike Justice
Ancient Rome Justitia Justice, law

In Chinese culture, the yin-yang symbol represents the balance between complementary opposites. The two swirling sides represent yin, the feminine, dark, passive force and yang, the masculine, light, active force. Though opposing, they are interdependent and give rise to each other in an eternal dance of duality. The small dots remind us that there is always a bit of one side in the other. Yin and yang exemplify the balance of nature and life.

Across religions, scales represent weighing one’s good and evil deeds. The Archangel Michael is often shown holding scales during the weighing of souls. Likewise, Anubis, the ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife, weighed hearts on scales against the feather of Ma’at. In Hinduism, Yama, the god of death, presides over the afterlife process which includes weighing accumulative karma on scales. The scales help determine subsequent reincarnation.

In tarot, the Justice card shows a figure holding scales aloft, sword in the other hand. Upright it represents truth, accountability, and fairness. Reversed it symbolizes dishonesty, unaccountability, and injustice. The World card also includes the visual metaphor of an angel balancing scales, representing fulfillment, wholeness, and harmony.

Clearly, scales have universal connotations of balance, equality, justice, truth, karma, and cosmic order. That is likely why they remain such a prevailing symbol across cultures and belief systems to this day.

Yin Yang

As mentioned, the ancient yin-yang symbol is another strong representation of balance. Yin and yang represent duality and polarity. Yin is associated with dark, feminine, lunar, cold, passive qualities. Yang represents light, masculine, solar, warm, and active qualities. Neither is superior, and each contains an element of the other. The symbol conveys the interdependence and cycle of the natural world. When in balance, there is harmony. An imbalance leads to disharmony and conflict. The yin yang reflects the ebb and flow of life, moving through periods of opposites yet always returning to equilibrium.

The earliest use of the yin-yang symbol can be traced back to around the 3rd century BCE in China. But the general concepts of yin and yang energy originated much earlier in ancient Chinese philosophy and cosmology. Yin originally referred to the shady side of a mountain or riverbank. Yang referred to the sunny side. Later, yin represented earth, femininity, darkness, and passivity. Yang symbolized heaven, masculinity, light, and activity. The yin yang schema reflects the ancient Chinese belief system of a dynamic, interdependent universe.

In Chinese medicine, yin and yang energies must be balanced to achieve health and well-being. An excess or deficiency of either leads to illness. Yin conditions involve stagnation, coldness, and excess. Yang conditions manifest as agitation, heat, and deficiency. Treatments aim to restore proper equilibrium. Chinese martial arts like tai chi emphasize balance through the cultivation of yin and yang. The movements integrate stillness and motion, internal and external.

The Middle Way

In Buddhism, walking the Middle Way represents a path of moderation between extreme self-indulgence and extreme self-mortification. Finding this balance leads to enlightenment and the end of suffering. Both excessive sensual pleasure and excessive self-denial are seen as unskillful and fruitless. Buddha reached this understanding through reflecting on his previous experiences.

After living a lavish royal life filled with possessions and entertainment, Prince Siddhartha Gautama wandered homeless in poverty and engaged in ascetic practices, denying his body food and shelter. Neither path brought him closer to truth. He realized equilibrium through the Middle Way, avoiding extremes while maintaining mindfulness, meditation, and morality. This moderate approach allowed him to reach enlightenment.

The Middle Way values wisdom, ethical conduct, and concentration. It encourages the avoidance of extremes like greed vs poverty or indulgence vs deprivation. By living moderately, one can be in greater control of their thoughts and actions, avoiding restlessness, anxiety, and temptation. With an alert and balanced mind, greater awareness can be cultivated. The Middle Way represents balance, pragmatism, and walking the path of virtue.


The ancient Caduceus symbol consists of two serpents entwined around a central staff, often with wings at the top. Originally associated with the Greek god Hermes, it was an astrological symbol and later became a symbol of medicine and healing. The two snakes represent balance of duality and polarity. They coil in opposite directions with heads facing each other to symbolize reconciliation of opposites. The wings convey spiritual and intellectual elevation. The staff represents wisdom and discipline aligned to a higher purpose.

Some key symbolic meanings of the caduceus include:

Two snakes Balance of opposing forces
Coiling in opposite directions Harmony through reconciliation
Facing heads Convergence of higher vision
Wings Rising above; transcendence
Staff Wisdom; discipline

The caduceus emerged in ancient Mesopotamia where it was associated with the Sumerian god Ningishzida. Brother of the goddess of rebirth and healing, he carried an Apkallu staff entwined by two snakes. Later in ancient Greece it became a herald’s staff carried by Hermes. Seen as a symbol of truce, it marked neutral ground in times of war.

The caduceus’ association with medicine harks back to Greek mythology where Hermes ushered souls into the underworld. He was patron of alchemy which included medicine. Hermes’ staff remains a prevalent symbol of medicine and physicians today. However, its popular usage as a medical symbol is actually mistaken. The true Greek symbol of medicine and healing is the Rod of Asclepius which has only a single snake and no wings. Nonetheless, the caduceus endures as a symbol of equilibrium through its representation of balance and duality.

Waist Beads

In many African cultures, waist beads serve as more than just decorative ornamentation. They represent femininity, fertility, spiritual grounding, ancestral connection, and bodily balance. Glass waist beads trace back to ancient Egypt and have been worn for centuries throughout the African diaspora. The beads are wrapped in strands around the hips over the second chakra. This energy center in the lower abdomen governs fertility, creativity, and relationships. Waist beads aid in balancing these physically and spiritually.

Different colors hold symbolic meaning. Red helps energize, empower, and balance one’s chi. Blue provides inner calm and balance. Green beads represent healing and bring balance. Yellow infuses positive energy, joy, and harmony. White represents purity and balance between body, mind, and spirit. Waist beads ground the wearer and connect them to ancestral roots. The pleasant weight and presence of the beads creates a balancing awareness of the body. And their rattling sound serves as a musical mantra to improve focus and meditation. Through beauty and spiritual symbolism, waist beads bring equilibrium and rootedness.


The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph representing life, the ankh is a cross with a teardrop looped on top. Also called crux ansata (“looped cross”), it symbolizes eternal life and balance of opposites. The ankh has complex meanings. The cross represents masculinity and the fertility of the Nile. The oval loop symbolizes the female womb and feminine power. Together they form a unified whole, bringing balance. The ankh thus reflects the binary solar/lunar forces of nature.

Ankh amulets provided protection in the afterlife. By invoking the life-giving powers of the sun and moon gods, Egyptians could achieve immortality. The ankh often appears in Egyptian gods’ hands representing their life-bestowing powers. Similarly, Egyptian kings are depicted holding an ankh to their lips, absorbing the divine breath of life. The ankh reflects natural cycles, infinity, and the mystic balance between masculine and feminine energies that creates and sustains life. Its ancient symbolism remains powerful.


While scales and yin yang are likely the most ubiquitous representations of balance, many diverse symbols carry this universal meaning. Balance provides equilibrium and harmony. It enables opposing forces to complement one another. Balance brings stability and levelheadedness in times of conflict. By striving for moderation, cultivating awareness, and integrating dualities, greater peace and enlightenment can be achieved. Balance allows us to walk our own middle way in life, avoiding harmful extremes. Its symbols offer wisdom to reflect upon as we continuously seek equilibrium along our journey.