What Are Some Common Traditional Cherokee Symbols?

Common traditional Cherokee symbols include the circle, the owl and cougar, the river and the numbers four and seven. All of these symbolic elements are integral to the traditional Cherokee belief system. Trees also have symbolic significance to the Cherokee, especially pine, cedar, spruce, holly and laurel trees.

Of these, the most important tree symbolically is the cedar, the wood of which the Cherokee used to carry dead members of their clan whom they wished to honor. Cedar, along with the pine, spruce, holly and laurel, was considered to have attained a state of spiritual or sacred purity. This state of being was symbolized by the number seven.

The number seven, which was the number of Cherokee clans, was also symbolic of the four cardinal directions (north, east, south and west) along with three others (up, down and center). The way up was believed to lead to the Upper World and down to the Lower World; center was considered the world of man.

Like the trees listed, owls and cougars were thought to have attained the highest levels of spiritual purity and were viewed by the Cherokee as symbols of such. They noted the similarities between these animals and humans, such as the owl’s large, forward-facing eyes and the cougar’s human-like screams.

The river, also referred to by the Cherokee as “Long Man,” was a symbol of purity. Another common traditional symbol, the circle, often featured in ritual ceremonies such as the Stomp Dance.