Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Religion

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer’s advantage by planting symbols in the reader’s path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character’s state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character’s emotional plight?

Disclaimer: Once again, this is a subjective topic that people tend to feel strongly about. Please note that I’ve listed symbols that are commonly identified with religion. Not all religions have been represented here because in order for a symbol in writing to be effective, it needs to be one that the majority of people will understand.

In Nature:

Mother Earth
Water (viewed as life-giving)

In Society:

Star of David
Crescent and Star
Yin Yang

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with religion. Some are more powerful than others. A cross is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a grove of rowan trees could stand for a number of different things and not foreshadow religion on its own. Let the story’s tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Symbolism is a universal language that can add great depth and meaning to your story.

So you can reap the full benefit of this powerful tool, we’ve expanded the entire collection by 70% and integrated it into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry comes with a long list of ideas for symbols and motifs, and we’ve included popular symbolism examples from literature and movies, as well. These entries have also been cross-referenced for easy searchability across all our other thesauri. To see a free sample of the updated Symbolism and Motif Thesaurus along with our other collections, pop on over and register at One Stop.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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6 Responses to Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Religion

  1. Karen Lange says:

    I like your suggestion of allowing the story’s tone to help dictate symbol choice. Great list, thanks.

  2. Laura Drake says:

    I found you about a month ago, and I’m hooked! Amazingly wonderful stuff here – keep up the great work!

  3. Thank you, Beth! And yeah, Stonehenge popped up last week in the ‘mysterious’ entry. If it makes an appearance next week, I might have to admit that I have a problem…

  4. I notice you’ve had Stonehenge on a couple of these listings lately… Hmm. 😀 Great list as usual. I would add allusions to biblical stories, but maybe that’s too specific.

  5. Beth says:

    I gave you the irresistibly sweet blog award today.

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