The Cross-Cultural Background and Modern Transformations of Religious and Spiritual Symbols of Lithuanian Identity


  • Vytautas Tumėnas An Academic Researcher at the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Lithuanian Institute of History


rue, six-petal rosette, sun with wavy rays, iconicity, visual culture, Lithuanian identity signs, ornament symbolism, logotype, religious symbols


Traditional symbols and codes are very powerful elements of culture. In modernity they have become connected with the paradigm of intertextuality: being actual because of their modern and contemporary treatment, at the same time they are associated with intracultural communication, the national historical background and ethnic traditionalism, as well as having a lot of intercultural features. Paradoxically serving to define cultural boundaries and uniqueness, they also can testify to historical processes of cultural globalization.
The aim of this research is to contextualize the iconicity and contemporary meaning of modern national visual symbols (a rue, a six-petal rosette; a sun with wavy rays) and uncover the main differences and similarities between their ancient historical and folkloric meaning and actual modern interpretations based on art, folk art and art-historical, historical, archaeological and folkloric data. This interdisciplinary approach is based on semiotic (i.e. ethnosemiotic), ethnological interpretation and contextual analysis of the function and meaning of visual symbols as elements of culture.
The study clarifies how these ornamental signs of national identity, which are related to cultural heritage, but with intercultural historical origins, come alive and come to be newly interpreted by the social imaginary, influenced by scientific concepts in modern religious, spiritual and cultural life and their representations, and how these signs are prevalent internationally. It also analyses how, as logos in highly symbolic forms relating to mythical paradigms, these visual signs are involved in processes of the auto-communication of culture, its transmission, creation and memory, and how they are related to the boundaries of semiotic space or the semiosphere (Lotman 2005: 210; 2009: 131-142).