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Dialect Lesson: the Eight Pointed Star

Because it is Indigenous People's Day (some call it Columbus Day), I thought it would be a great time to provide an example of what the Dialects of Art Program is attempting to do with the symbols and cultural differences (and similarities as it turns out!) inherent in all of our native tongues.

So as I began searching for a Baltic symbol I could use for the School of Visual Philosophy's promotion of our new Dialects of Art program, (since that is my ethnic descent) I kept seeing this symbol popping up in all different cultures besides my own, so I had to investigate. I first came in contact with the 8 pointed star on my Estonian and Latvian dolls that were sent to me by my relatives in the Baltics. It is literally EVERYWHERE- on woven belts, on toys, on rugs, on wall decorations, knitted mittens, dishes, you name it, it's there! I never really thought about its significance until recently.


This humble little star is called the Kaheksakand in Estonian or 8 pointed star (kaheksa=8) and is a symbol of life, fertility and wards against evil. In Latvia, the "hashtag" looking symbol with eight lines is called the Aka, or the Well and is a symbol of the place where Heaven meets the Earth- the source of life (divine feminine) and the formation of the home (made of logs). In old Estonian this "well" symbol is also associated with the threshold of the spirit world- the gateway we pass through in death. In other Northern European countries, the star is used for hope, balance and harmony. It's also been called the Nordic Rose and resembles a blooming flower and the compass rose, (which has 8 points!)

The compass is a directional device used to navigate the corporeal world, and the 8 pointed star has certainly been used for thousands of years by pretty much EVERY culture to navigate through the spiritual world as well!


In Asian countries such a Ukraine, the Mallow or eight pointed star "is created by superimposing a straight cross (symbol of masculinity and the Sun) and an oblique cross (symbol of femininity and the Moon). The joining of these two entities naturally gives life. The full mallow is also known as the Mother’s Star. This is the symbol we often see in icons of the Virgin Mary. The octagonal star is one of the most popular geometric motifs in Ukrainian embroidery. 8 is not a haphazard number. Biophysicists say that such a star – octahedron – is the model of an energy field built around any living organism. The human zygote undergoes its first cell division, forming 8 cells, 8 energy flows, which then shape the physical and spiritual essence of the embryo." -

It's interesting but not surprising that a symbol for the source of life, fertility and protection is related to femininity and used by women to decorate clothes, homes and household items. Every aspect of life used to be (and in some cases still is) devoted to a connection to spirituality, nature and relationships. Ancient people understood that balance in life was dependent on, and tied to the seasons, the cycles of the moon and the life giving sun. The overlapping 4 pointed stars combine to create the 8, and symbolize the balance of nature, the heavens and earth reflecting each other.

In Persian history, these cycles were represented by the 8 pointed star in ancient Babylon for the goddess Ishtar. She is also said to represent the planet Venus, the brightest heavenly body after the sun.


In the Americas, the Northern Canadian Mi'kmaq Indians used the 8 pointed star pictogram on doorways and thresholds to ward against evil coming from the sea, and as a symbol of Hope. They called it Wejkwapeniaq which in English means “the coming of the Dawn” -

The Dawn is significant as a reference to the Northern Star in ancient Christianity as well- as it represents Lucifer, the brightest star who fell into darkness. Perhaps this symbol is a warning and protection against humans following a similar fate.


Among the German immigrants in Pennsylvania, commonly called the Amish, or Pennsylvania Dutch, the star icons painted on the sides of barns have similar heavenly significance.

"Barn stars were not expressions of 'superstition' as the tourist literature suggested, but abstract images of the heavens, refined by generations of artistic interest in geometry and agricultural interest in the stars. These beacons of celestial order and heralds of the annual progression of the seasons were once an essential part of the folk-cultural world view, and the inspiration for artistic expressions that permeated the material culture and architecture of Pennsylvania." -

When you live your life according to the laws of nature, the seasons and the cycles of the moon and sun, you can't help but see how these symbols were derived in all cultures around the world. This 8 pointed star in particular is intriguing as it is almost universal in its meaning and widespread in its distribution. It's nice to know my ancestors were in good company when they looked up into the sky and contemplated all that was governed by and held accountable to the stars. My subconscious connection is so strong that it guided me to even tattoo these symbols on my body for a permanent reminder of the wisdom they bring me.

I can't help but notice that both of them (Estonian derivative on the right arm, and Latvian derivative on the left) have 8 main points...

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