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The Significance of the Ring

Updated on June 26, 2016
Rings Within Rings Within Rings by rlz
Rings Within Rings Within Rings by rlz

The ring on your finger, the clock face on the wall, the path of the sun and moon across the sky — representations of the ring, the circle, and the orb are all around us, always have been, and always will be. Come explore their significance.

If one looks outward to the skies, the sun and moon, the planets, and the cosmos beyond for any considerable time, the significance of the ring becomes increasingly profound. Celestial objects above a certain size accrete into near-spheres due to gravitational forces. Those same forces pull them into ring-like orbits about one another. Gravity and dynamics dictate that exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and our sun’s warmth all radiate outward in globular expansion. It is no wonder then that most of history’s cosmologies and religious beliefs have secure foundation in the concepts of the circle, the globe, the orb and the ring. Some have thought the world supported on the rounded back of an immense tortoise; others believed stars were perforations in an inky sphere of solid sky. Find out even more at rickzworld.

Time for mankind has also taken on a circular bent. The changing of each year’s seasons alerts us to the cycles built into our existence. As we are born, grow, age, and die, we speak of the cycle of life: endless repeating loops of lives of ancestors and descendants, friends and family, neighbors and strangers. Our clocks codify that cyclical pattern in the continuous sweep of hands, hour by hour and day by day, endlessly ending and yet endlessly beginning. Traditional calendars, like those of the Egyptians and the Mayans, also cast the year as a disk, eventually coming round upon itself to begin again anew. Other beliefs imagined a serpent or dragon consuming its own tail, giving it the name of Ouroboros, and using it to embody concepts of perpetual cyclicality and the eternal return. Our astrological diagrams, with mythical creatures and/or constellations strewn about a rotating globular sky-space, embody that same ever-changing endlessness.

Other traditional symbols have also derived from the ring and the circle. The classic yin-yang symbol of the East represents the duality of human nature, confined within circular limits. The peace sign of the 1960s and beyond is bound within the same ringed perimeter. We use circles and rings to find our way through the world. Imaginary latitude and longitude circles superimposed on the globe have enabled centuries of sailors, explorers and navigators to know their locations and destinations, allowing them to populate the earth and establish its commerce and social interactions. Our handheld GPS devices make use of those same imaginary circles (as well as all the satellites coursing overhead in circular orbits) to find us the correct turn-off to Aunt Emma’s house.

In addition to the concept of eternity, the circle and ring have also symbolized unity and faithfulness throughout much of mankind’s history. Virtually all human cultures use rings as symbols of fidelity and the unity of marriage. Rings also unify by binding wearers into groups, whether they are class rings, signets or badges of membership or privileged status. Ring forms proliferate throughout corporate logos and brand markings throughout the world, and are present in a wide array of sign and warning types, in almost every language on the planet. We still today use circular wreaths to mark a festive welcome to winter celebrations; the ancient Druids used the circular form of Stonehenge to read the stars and perhaps foretell their fates. The ring around the campfire is one of our oldest invitations to friendship, as well as an acknowledgement of kinship; it can still keep us warm and cozy today as we gaze out onto the tremendous orbiting globe of stars wheeling around us, all the way to eternity.


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    • rickzimmerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Rick Zimmerman 

      8 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks, jen! — that's a typical thought process: circles within circles within circles.

    • wyanjen profile image

      Jen King 

      8 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

      On the surface, it's a simple concept. You've added so much depth to it! Each example gives the ring more and more significance.

      Great hub! This will be rattling around my brain all day. :D


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