The symbolism behind objects and animals often has a historic meaning. Just as the fox represents cunning and prowess, the key can be traced back through history to determine its meaning.
It is a symbol of the door to a person’s heart, hanging in plain sight but unobtainable, to an illustration of a person’s complexity and the need to work hard to earn their trust and gain the key to unlocking their personality.
So what is the history of a key symbol and how has it been used across the centuries?
Let’s find out.
History of the Key
The key became a useful practical device in both the Western world and the East at around the same time – though they did not exchange ideas. The Egyptians were said to have first used key-like devices around 4,000 BCE.
The Bible itself also mentions keys in several important passages including chapter 3 of the Book of Nehemiah and chapter 22 of the Book of Isaiah.
In Roman society, the goddess Diana often had a relationship with keys as she was considered the Goddess of Hunt and was known for her protective skills.
Keys are important both biblically and spiritually as well as practically.
The Skeleton Key
Of all the keys that one can own, it is the mythical skeleton key that is the most prized at all. This is the so-called ‘master key’ which is able to open any number of doors.
They are both metaphorical and practical, allowing you to open physical doors wherever you go and access new opportunities and new challenges in your life that would otherwise have remained closed.
The Key to the Heart – Keys as Symbols of Virginity
Another way in which keys came to symbolise a metaphorical, as well as physical safe symbol, is the use of the key to represent access to someone’s heart.
A key hanging around a young girl’s neck was supposed to symbolise her status as a virgin which in European Medieval and Early Modern times represented purity and virtue.
A young girl was supposed to remain a virgin until marriage. A whole series of rituals called courtly love traditionally placed women on a pedestal with men going to elaborate lengths to court a girl for her affections and ultimately her virginity.
The man had to win the key to her heart, which remained closely guarded around her chest.
What Does the Key Symbol Mean to You?
The key symbol means so many things. It can be a symbol of personal knowledge, a key to unlock inner strength and contentment. It can also symbolise virginity and virtue, two very important concepts in medieval and Early Modern times.
The key has historical associations with both Western and Eastern cultures and can trace its roots back to two ancient societies, the Egyptians and the Romans.
The association of the Roman Goddess of the hunt, Diana, with the key has also come to cement it as a mythical symbol associated with femininity and female agency.