Symbols - What does heaven look like
Boats are a symbolic means of transport. Not only are they used as a figurative symbol within visions to indicate a means of travel within the spiritual world, but occasionally people feel as though they are actually being transported in a boat. Boat symbolism can be found wherever there is literally water and it is used for transport – rivers, lakes and the sea, as it is an easily understood symbol.
The levels and layers
One of the vibrational levels and layers is symbolically represented as the ‘water’ level. As there is a symbolic water level, it makes much sense for there to be spiritually perceived boats and water craft designed to travel in this ‘element’ and to be able to withstand the dissolution that water represents. In this respect a boat has a rather unique position symbolically as it is in effect both a means of transport, but also an island in a sea of dissolution - chaos.
But, boats can also be found ‘in the air’. They are not confined as a means of ecstatic flight to the ‘sea’ or ‘ocean’. Shamans from Indonesia to South America, for example, use ‘boats’ to travel through the air.
Boats and the spiritual path
The symbolism of the boat is exceptionally important in the context of the Spiritual path.
One cannot progress anywhere spiritually by being on an island. As such one has to figuratively ‘move’ around the 24 hours that we have seen represent the stages of the spiritual path – The four seasons and the hours.
St Brendan undertook a number of ecstatic journeys, discovering various spiritual islands on the way and facing some quite interesting challenges.
He too used a ‘boat’.
To the left, we see the ‘Celtic Bantry boat’, a representation of his boat and journey – note that it is not in the sea but up in the air amongst the stars.
The spiritual path or if you prefer the search for enlightenment see Types of Spiritual experience – is sometimes known as the ‘Fool’s journey’ as it corresponds to the Fool in the Tarot [who is no Fool].
‘The Flying Ship’ or ‘The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship’ is a Russian fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Yellow Fairy Book and is a Fool’s spiritual journey by Air.
Heroes also use boats. Homer’s Odyssey was a spiritual journey by boat.
Extending the symbolism
Other rather more prosaic aspects of boat travel also fit in well with the symbolism. When one is having a spiritual experience, it is not unusual to feel extremely cold [hence we have the symbolism of the wind], to feel like one has been drenched by water and to hear really odd noises – as Sam Willets the poet once said ‘the water roared’. You can also get singing in the ears like the lines or spars of a boat.
There is the added symbolism that by ‘casting off’ from the island on which one has lived – apparently in security but in reality fairly isolated, that on the ocean of chaos, one does find peace away from the rat race and the mad bustle of everyday life – exactly as one can on a boat, at least a non motorised boat.
You can’t be a mystic or a hero whilst figuratively staying at home, you have to travel – learn – have adventures.
The perils on the way are that one is ‘becalmed’, like the Ancient Mariner – in effect one goes nowhere on the spiritual path, you can’t go forward and you can’t go back, you are stuck. You can get horrendous storms – bad patches which look like they may wreck the whole project. You may encounter considerable head winds – difficult passages where [to mix my metaphors] one has an uphill struggle. Or you may be ‘shipwrecked’ which does not mean you literally become chaos, but that the whole project of your journey along the spiritual path gets wrecked.
In the Narnia books, the voyage of the Dawn Treader was just such a journey, with lots of challenges on the way. But only Reepicheep went that extra mile and went for enlightenment and the final ‘annihilation’, because he was a brave mouse. Some mice are.
The ship of fools
A boat without oars and rudder that is simply sailed is referred to as a ‘ship of fools’ – not to be mistaken for the ship used in the Fool’s journey.
The Ship of Fools is fairly common in mediaeval iconography. It expresses the idea of sailing as an end in itself, as opposed to the true sense of sailing, which is as Cirlot says “transition and evolution”. So for example people who experiment with drugs, or who take drugs for entertainment purposes only, or people who play with spiritual experience without using the privilege to understand and learn are on a ‘ship of fools’. Most of these ships get wrecked sooner or later.
The transport of death
‘Boats’ are often used symbolically to carry the souls of the dead to heaven. This latter use of symbolic boats is worldwide and can be found in Egyptian mythology, for example, Greek and Roman myths, in Hindu stories, Buddhism and all over Melanesia. King Arthur was symbolically transported on death by boat. Boats were also used by Norse races as the means of transport of the souls on death. For this reason they often used actual funerary boats in which to put their dead, these were then cast out into the sea, symbolically mimicking the souls journey to ‘heaven’, the final resting place of the soul – the journey across the water.
Boats [and similar moving homes caravans, mobile homes] – in visions thus represent the idea of a soul ‘moving’ – progressing along a path and as death is a form of progress, it is used for both birth and death and is as a consequence a symbol of reincarnation – the death of the body, the movement of the soul to another place by boat and then the rebirth in a new place – a new body again - by boat.
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- Ancient Egyptian - The boat as a symbol
- Ancient Egyptian - The symbolism of the bennu bird
- Ancient Egyptian - The symbolism of the god Seker
- Baudelaire, Charles - Les Fleurs du Mal - Tell me, Agatha, does your heart, at times, fly away
- Beausobre, Iulia de - and the crystal canoe
- Beowulf - Arriving at the King's Palace
- Beowulf - Burial at Sea
- Beowulf - The Start of the Quest by Boat
- Böcklin, Arnold - Isle of the Dead (1880-1886)
- Book of Five Spheres - The Fire Scroll - Crossing a Ford
- C P Cavafy - Ithaca
- Chuang Tzu - The Empty Boat
- Cirlot on boats
- Cohen, Leonard - Suzanne
- Coleridge, David Hartley - How long I sailed and never took a thought
- Coleridge, Samuel Taylor - The Ancient mariner
- Coleridge, Samuel Taylor - Water Ballad
- Cowper, William - The Castaway - Obscurest night involved the sky
- Da Vinci, Leonardo - Allegory with Wolf and Eagle
- Dali - St John of the Cross
- Dali - The Dawn of a New Day
- Debussy - Voiles
- Dickinson, Emily - Because the bee may blameless hum For Thee a bee do I become
- Dickinson, Emily - The inundation of the Spring Enlarges every soul
- Egyptian Book of the Dead - Spell 015
- Egyptian Book of the Dead - Spell 109
- Egyptian Book of the Dead - Spell 110
- Epictetus - The Enchiridion - 07
- Flammarion, Camille - On free will and the systems of the universe
- Frost, Robert - Never tell me that not one star of all
- Frost, Robert - No speed of wind or water rushing by
- Genesis - Ripples
- Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite - Morning Mood
- Guru Granth - Bilaval 03
- Harner, Michael - The ayahuasca experience
- Healer H - Old clothes and a crocodile
- Healer H - The lights upon them is what keeps them connected
- Heine, Heinrich - The North Sea - Stay thou below in thy ocean depths
- Heine, Heinrich - The North Sea - The sunbeams were playing
- Hiroshige - Amanohashidate Peninsula
- Hiroshige - Descending geese at Katada
- Hiroshige - Famous views Mount Fuji
- Hiroshige - Panorama of the Eight Views of Kanazawa under a Full Moon
- Hiroshige - View of a long bridge across a lake
- Hobson, Dr Allan - The effects of a stroke 03 - A monkey mama is floating in the air in front of him
- Hokusai - Tama river in the Musashi province Katsushika
- Hokusai - The Great Wave off Kanagawa
- Holderlin, Johann - Mnemosyne
- Holmes, Oliver Wendell - Sun and shadow
- Homer - The Odyssey - The city of the Laestrygonians
- Homer - The Odyssey - The Sirens
- Hypnerotomachia Poliphili - Boat to the Isle of Venus
- Hypnerotomachia Poliphili - Egg and the Labyrinth
- I was laid on my bunk reading Playboy, when my grandfather appeared looking at me
- Japanese tea ceremony 2
- Jeans, Sir James - The Mysterious Universe - The ship on the sea
- Jefferies, Richard - The Story of my Heart - The ocean
- Kao-Shih - Impressions of a traveller
- Ken Emerson - Noaidi uses of the Sámi Drums
- Khan, Hazrat Inayat - The Art of Being and Becoming - On the sea
- Klee, Paul - The Seafarer 1923
- Knut Ekwall - The Fisherman and the Siren
- Lalla - I’m towing my boat across the ocean
- Lamb, Charles - To Anna
- Lawrence, D H - from The Ship of Death
- Lear, Edward - The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
- Led Zeppelin - Down By the Seaside
- Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
- Legrand - And the art of creativity
- Lewis, C S - Dawn Treader - Sea horses
- Li Po - Early departure from White King City
- Li Po - Hard is the Journey
- Ludlow, Fitz Hugh - Caves
- Masefield, John - Shakespeare and spiritual life
- Melville, Herman - The World in a Man-of-War
- Michelangelo - 1534 Sistine Chapel - 04 Last Judgement
- Mircea Eliade - Kahuna symbolic Boat
- Moitessier, Bernard – The Long Way - The Fairy Tern
- Morrells, Luce and the house boat
- Morrells, Luce and the lovely hotel
- Morrells, Luce and the raft
- Music Therapy - Catherine O’Leary and Martha with Psychological trauma and extreme unhappiness
- Newton, Sir Isaac - Principia - Seas of energy
- Nietzsche - Thus spake Zarathustra - LIX The Second Dance Song
- Norse - Fiórir Jƒkull’s poem
- Norse - Ladby
- Norse - Tanum
- Norse - The Night journey
- O'Reilly, John Boyle - The faithful helm commands the keel
- Ovid - Metamorphoses - The Giant's War 6
- Paul Devereux - Native American Indians - Mazinaw Rock
- Paul Devereux - The realm of the dead
- Pillar of the Boatmen
- Rachmaninoff - Isle of the Dead, Op. 29
- Ravel - Miroirs III
- Redon, Odilon - Les Noirs 4
- Redon, Odilon - the Boat series
- Reeve, Christopher – Mindfulness as a means of managing trauma
- Rig veda - Boats, Birds and Chariots
- Rig Veda - Gone to the other shore
- Rig veda - Ploughs, Yokes and Fountains
- Rig veda - Tree of Life
- Sacred geography - Ancient Egyptian - Rivers and streams
- Sacred geography – Picts – Caves 01
- Saint Brendan - 01 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 02 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 03 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 05 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 08 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 09 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 10 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 12 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 13 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - 16 The Voyage of Saint Brendan
- Saint Brendan - A summary of his 'voyage'
- Saint Brendan - from a 15th century manuscript
- Saint-Exupery, Antoine de - Le Petit Prince
- Saint-Martin, Louis Claude de - Misc. Quotes - Love is the helm of our vessel
- Schwabe, Carlos - Destiny
- Segantini - Ave Maria bei der Überfahrt 1886
- Shah, Idries - The Sufis - Alif, Ba, Lam
- Silene capensis & Nicotine - by Sabje
- Spencer, Stanley - Landscapes 02 - Boatyards
- Spilliaert, Leon - The Crossing
- Sri Aurobindo - The Dreamboat
- Sting - Island of Souls
- Sting - Soul Cages
- Stockham, Alice Bunker - Karezza - The skilful boatman
- Surdas - Fatephur Sikri manuscript - NPS 371
- Tarot - 04 Minor Arcana - 06s Union
- Tennyson, Alfred Lord - Morte d'Arthur - Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge
- The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead
- The Big Ship Sails
- The lighthouse of Alexandria
- The Papyrus of Ani – Spell 77 - To Assume the Form of a Hawk of Gold
- The Ship of Fools
- The Sutra of Hui-Neng - Paramita
- Thoreau, Henry D - Walden - The landscape of soul
- Thoreau, Henry D - Walden - The reptile in us
- Through the Looking Glass - Ch 05 - 3 Feather feather!
- Through the Looking Glass - Ch 05 - 4 Moving eggs
- Tranströmer, Tomas - The Forgotten Commander
- Two ships
- Verlaine, Paul - Aspiration
- Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry - A Psalm of Life
- Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry - Becalmed
- Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry - The Building of the Ship
- Waterhouse, John William - Ulysses and the Sirens
- Wilcox, Ella Wheeler - The Winds of fate
- Willetts, Sam - Anchor Riddle
- Wordsworth, William - I am not One who much or oft delight
- Wordsworth, William - Peter Bell
- Yassawi - 15 from HIKMET 48
- Yeats, W B - Collected poems - That crazed girl improvising her music
- Yeats, W B - Sailing to Byzantium
- Yerka, Jacek and Thomas Campbell - The River of Life
- Ynglinga saga - 07 Chapter Seven
- Yu Xuanji - Free of all those hopes and fears
- Yu Xuanji - Late spring