Original Research

Can symbols be ‘promoted’ or ‘demoted’?: Symbols as religious phenomena

Jaco Beyers
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 1 | a1239 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i1.1239 | © 2013 Jaco Beyers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 March 2012 | Published: 06 March 2013

About the author(s)

Jaco Beyers, Department Science of Religion and Missiology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Religious symbols are part of our world, relating to another world. In order to understand the process by which symbols grow and develop, the particular context of a symbol is important. In this article a particular theory as to what symbols are, is presented. Religion presupposes the existence of two worlds: this-worldly (profane) and the other-worldly (sacred). The means of communication and reference between these two worlds are symbols. Two examples are investigated so as to indicate how symbols can over time either be demoted or promoted. In the case of the Asherah and asherah as related in the Old Testament a demotion of a symbol is illustrated. The growth of ancient Egyptian religion is an example of a possible promotion of symbols. The conditions under which these processes can occur are investigated.


Symbol; context; profane; sacred


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