Symbolism of an Egg

Easter eggs were first red or reddish colour due to the way they were dyed - with the help of onion peel.
Easter eggs were first red or reddish colour due to the way they were dyed - with the help of onion peel. | Source

Dying eggs for Easter is a very old tradition. It is based upon many Christian legends. One of them tells that Mary Magdalene came to Roman emperor Tiberius soon after the resurrection of Christ. She stretched her hand toward him to give an egg. It was her modest gift to him. Then she told him about the marvel of resurrection. Tiberius didn't believe her and said: "It is nearly as impossible as this egg suddenly turning red". And that's what happened next, according to the story. The white egg turned red.

An egg dyed red has become the symbol of resurrection of Jesus Christ and Easter. Later people began to dye eggs in all colours possible.

But the symbolism of an egg is much older than that.

The Symbol of the Beginning

Latin saying Ab ovo literally means "from the egg", and it's used to say from the start, from the very beginning. This is due to the fact that an egg is a symbol of the fundamental principle, the beginning, the origin of being.

In many myths of different ancient cultures, from Egypt to the countries of Oceania, the egg is the symbol of creation and its mystery, as well as perfect microcosm. In some of these stories an egg would appear all by itself and become the source of life on the earth by breaking in two halves. In other myths a huge fantastic bird or a snake would produce an egg that in its turn would give birth to everything else.

Red Paschal Egg with Cross, blessed and distributed on Pascha 2013, at St Kosmas Aitolos Greek Orthodox Monastery, Bolton, Ontario, Canada.
Red Paschal Egg with Cross, blessed and distributed on Pascha 2013, at St Kosmas Aitolos Greek Orthodox Monastery, Bolton, Ontario, Canada. | Source

The Golden Egg of Brahma

In Indian mythology the egg named Brahmanda appeared from water warmed by fire. It swam during one year across the waters of the huge ocean until the forebear Brahma was born. He broke the egg from inside. When the egg was divided in two halves, one of them became the sky, and the other the earth. To separate the sky from the earth Brahma created air. This is how ancient Indians imagined the creation of the universe.


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The Tibetan Myth

The Tibetan mythology presents a more complicated variant of creation.

In the beginning five eggs appeared because of wind and wetness. Those were of different colours and materials: a red one from copper, a dark-red one from sardonix, a blue one from turquoise, a white one from silver and a yellow one made of gold. These eggs gave birth to the five elements: earth, water, wind, air and fire.

Once they were formed, Dungy Gongma, the original cosmic egg, was born. White mountains appeared from its shell. Its water turned into a lake washing the yellow. And the yellow gave birth to the original man.

The Greek myth states that Zeus seduced Leda by turning into a swan which made Leda have eggs.
The Greek myth states that Zeus seduced Leda by turning into a swan which made Leda have eggs. | Source

The Egg-like Cosmos of Ancient Greeks

Ancient Greeks imagined cosmos as an egg. Homer described the world as a huge egg separated in two spheres by a layer of the ground. The upper sphere is associated with the sky that comes close to the snowy Olympus where gods live headed by Zeus. The lower world is Tartarus, the underworld, where the deposed Titans live together with Cronus.


The Egg-like World of the Slavic people

Slavic people also imagined the world as a giant egg.

In the middle of the Slavic universe there was the yellow-like earth. On the outside of the yellow the world inhabited by people was situated. Inside there was the world of the dead. These two worlds were separated by an ocean that at the same time washed the earth. Over the earth, nine different skies hovered, like the thin film right under the egg's shell. Every sky had its own particular function: the first one held the Sun, the second one - the Moon, the third one - the stars, the fourth one - the clouds, the fifth one - the winds, etc.

All parts of the Slavic world were held together by the Tree of Life.

How to Dye Eggs in a Fun Way

Non-creational Implications of the Egg

Besides myths of creation, there are other legends and stories featuring the egg as some kind of a symbol.

In the Greek myth about Zeus and Leda's eggs were the fruit of their relationship. Leda was a beautiful woman, and Zeus wanted to seduce her. He turned into a swan and came to her. From the first egg that Leda had Helen of Troy was born. Leda's daughter, in her turn, became the famous character of Homer's Iliad. The symbolic meaning of the egg in this myth is that of the divine conception.

In some european myths silver and golden eggs help people protect themselves from the wrath of a dragon.

The legendary phoenix bird is resurrected from its own egg, making it the symbol of eternal life.

In the international folklore the egg is perceived as a good sign and a beneficial symbol that brings health, wealth and good luck to the owner.

© 2014 Anna Sidorova

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2 comments

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago

I think of some of these things sometimes when I reach for an egg in cooking, particularly this time of year when egg hunts and decorative eggs are popular. Such rich symbolism for such a little, simple thing. This hub is beautiful, and so interesting to read!


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avorodisa 2 years ago from Russia Author

Thank you for stopping by, Sage.

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