Every part of the body has a spiritual significance in most cultures and each part has a meaning and representation beyond its biological functions. And, the foot is no exception to this!
In Asia, feet are regarded to be unclean, which is why it is taboo to point your feet soles towards someone. On the other hand, in the Middle East, people show reverence for their guests by washing their feet as a sign of humility. This drastic difference in the cultures of two different parts of the world in itself shows the dramatic variance in their significance as well.
The foot is one of the important parts of the body and a complex marvel of nature that supports and connects you to the Earth. This is the part through which you communicate with the planet directly, passing several messages between the core of your habitat and your body.
Your feet support you and carry you around, feeling every tiny aspect of what motivates you and stops you from moving ahead undisturbed and in your power. This is the part of the body that helps you balance, lower and raise your body, run, walk or sprint. Did you know that your beloved feet have a spiritual representation? What do feet represent spiritually? Tag along as we take you through the spiritual representation of feet in different cultures.
The Significance of Bare Feet in Different Cultures
Bare feet have different representations in different cultures. In Western countries, they are an indication of poverty and humility. Jesus Christ and his Apostles, saints, and Franciscan friars are all portrayed without footwear in artworks. In Eastern countries, people are seen performing all religious worship acts with bare feet. If you look at monasteries situated along the pilgrimage roads, people consider washing the bare feet of pilgrims as a symbolic hospitality act. In ancient times, bare feet were also an indication of mourning.
The Spiritual Significance of the Feet in the Holy Bible
Just scroll through the pages of the Holy Bible randomly and start reading – it will not be long before you would encounter a reference to feet. From bowing at someone’s feet to feet washing, this holy book has a lot to say about feet. Soon, you would get to understand what do feet represent spiritually in several biblical contexts.
During those times, people had to walk from one place to another to reach their destination – feet were essential for the lifestyle and hence very important. Just the way feet were necessary for life, they find reference in scripture as something essential for spiritual life.
Just the way people use feet as the foundation for upright posture, Bible verses also refer to euphemism to indicate a strong foundation in several situations. Feet find use as signs that indicate greater metaphorical concepts, such as direction or guidance.
The feet were a sign that indicated something that everyone commonly had but used differently. For instance, let’s consider the following Bible verse from Psalms 119: 105. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and light for my path.”
In fact, this is the verse that most people come up with when questioned where the word ‘feet’ appear in the holy book. This shows how feet are useful for traveling and traversing. If not, the traveler is left behind to walk in the dark without a clear path. Feet represent our lives in the Bible following the basic principle that we generally go where our feet take us.
Basically, the feet are a crucial part of natural life since walking was common back then. Naturally, you follow the path of your feet and the verses from the Bible use feet to indicate a means to travel through life. If you happen to walk along a dark path, there are more chances of stumbling (which refers to falling into sins). However, if you walk along a holy way, you will certainly please God. The feet symbolically facilitate all these.
This is just one example of a reference to feet in the Holy Bible. Similarly, there are various other biblical contexts that represent different things. A few such representations are:
· Feet represent bad or good footing
· Feet are a symbol of humility
· Feet symbolize succession of kingdoms
· Feet are an indication of slipping or stumbling into sins
· Feet represent the efforts required by a messenger for travelling in order to share the good news of God with others
If you look deeper through every page of the Holy Bible, you are more likely to come across innumerable references to feet, each with a different symbolization. However, the above-discussed representations are the most common ones.
Feet Washing in the Holy Bible: A Fresh Take on the Age-Old Tradition
In many cultures, washing the feet of guests has been a basic hospitality act and such a task was usually assigned to the household servants. Coming back to biblical times, if we recall the actions of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, it leaves many of us shocked. During supper at a Passover celebration, Jesus put on a servant’s apron and washed the dusty feet of his disciples. He kept his disciples’ feet in a basin of water and wiped them dry using a towel tied around his waist (John 13: 4-17). This act startled his disciples, especially Peter and it also left them ashamed at their oversight.
What Jesus tries to indicate here by washing the feet of his disciples is simple. He wanted his disciples to understand the significance of serving each other in the most mundane aspects of living. Well, this gives us a whole new perspective on what do feet represent spiritually.
The fresh take on this age-old tradition of washing each other’s feet is that Jesus used this daily task to symbolize the way we should serve each other. Jesus’ followers also should follow his steps in servant-hood as an act that would earn them blessings. This is an act that symbolizes love and humble service.
The Spiritual Significance of the Feet in Hinduism
What do feet represent spiritually in Hinduism? They symbolize a solid foundation and indicate the power of mobility in Hindu culture. They are considered as a divine contact point between the Earth and humans. People take off their footwear when entering a temple. They never point their feet towards the worship alter or other people, especially seniors. They consider feet to be low. In fact, they regard throwing footwear at someone as one of the greatest insults.
In spite of such beliefs, the feet of God are special for Hindu worshippers. For instance, they worship the footprints and feet of Vishnu. This follows a belief wherein a dwarf incarnation of Lord Vishnu requested King Bali to grant him all the land that he could cover up in three steps. Vishnu is said to have reverted to his full size and set one foot on the Earth, one on the king’s head, and one on the king’s head. Hindus call God’s feet as lotus’ feet. In many temples, worshippers touch their head to a small pair of shoes that symbolize the feet of God as a blessing.
The basis for this representation of feet dates back to the Vedic conception that compares the universe to the body of God. Just like a body has low and high parts, the universe also has low and high, impure and pure places. Down is low, while up is high. Since feet touch the ground, it is considered to be low. This is why Hindus leave their footwear outside before entering a temple. They believe in taking off their impure part i.e., their feet, which is represented by leaving the footwear outside before entering a sacred temple.
Touching the Feet of Elders in Hindu Culture
Touching the feet of teachers and elders is of great significance in the Hindu culture. Referred to as Charan Sparsh, this act shows great respect. A person does this act without any kind of coercion or fear. This has been a timeless tradition and no one knows when this actually started.
It’s believed that the positive energy in the elders is passed on to the one touching the feet. It also indicates that everyone is connected to one another through the Supreme Truth, which is an invisible power.
According to Hinduism, all inanimate and animate rises, floats, and changes in God (the Supreme Truth). It’s one’s ego that forces one to believe that all are different. By touching the feet of elders, this false ego gets killed and the false notion of superiority is removed. Hindus have a strong belief that they will be blessed with long life, strength, knowledge, and fame when they touch the feet of their elders.
In a Nutshell
Each culture has its own beliefs and principles. From the above discussion, it’s evident that the representation of feet differs drastically from one culture to the other. We hope we have helped you comprehend what do feet represent spiritually in diverse cultures across the world.