The egg is a staple food all over the world, but did you know that it has a significant spiritual meaning associated with it?
The image of the egg is a universal symbol that has fascinated humanity across generations. It represents the ideas of rebirth and fertility. It also symbolizes the mysteries of creation itself, carrying within itself the potential of regeneration. Many mythologies across the world share the idea that the universe itself sprung from an egg.
The image of an egg hints at the mystery at the core of existence, an idea best represented by the question: which came first: chicken or egg? There is no symbol more potent than that of an egg in capturing this eternal mystery.
What is the spiritual meaning of an egg in creation stories?
An egg is often taken to represent the earth. It features in creation stories all over the world. These stories featuring the egg can be divided into two types. There are stories that see the egg as the seed from which the first human emerged. There is also another group of stories in which a ‘cosmic egg’ is seen as the progenitor of the entire universe. This egg then gives rise to heaven and the earth.
These creation stories have a recurring motif. Initially, the world is plunged into darkness and filled with primordial waters. An egg floats on these waters, carrying within itself the potential for life. Often, a primitive being emerges from this egg and separates the universe into heaven and the earth, thus originating the duality that is at the root of creation.
Since the egg causes darkness to evaporate from the world, it is often celebrated as a symbol of light.
The egg features in Egyptian creation myths, where it is seen as the soul of the primordial waters. Similarly, Chinese myth describes how Pangu, the first being, arose out of an egg, and went on to separate chaos into yin and yang. In Hindu mythology, too, Prajapati, the creator god, is said to have emerged out of an egg. According to the Greeks, the Orphic egg gave birth to a hermaphrodite being called Phanes.
Spiritual meaning of an egg as a symbol of duality
In all creation myths, an egg is seen to give birth to duality.
An egg, thus, has also come to mean the dual nature of creation, the polarity that exists at the essence of life. This polarity can be seen in the yin and the yang, the male and the female, the earth and the sky, etc. Thus, eggs hint at the magical aspect of creation. At the same time, the distinct ovoid shape of the egg can be seen as a metaphor for the universe itself, which has no beginning and no end.
An egg symbolizes the place of perfection and wholeness where all duality ceases to exist. It can also be linked to the idea of hope—something beautifully captured in its association with the resurrection of Christ. Cultures across the world take an egg to mean prosperity, good fortune, and fertility.
You may have come across an image of a snake coiled around a cosmic egg before. This snake is called Uroboros. It’s a snake that eats its own tail, and thus symbolizes life itself, which doesn’t have a beginning or end.
What is the spiritual meaning of an egg in religious life?
Eggs formed an important part of burial rites in ancient times. The Romans buried their dead with eggs, hoping for their eventual resurrection. The Maori, too, buried their dead folks with an emu’s egg.
Jews often eat eggs at the passing of their loved ones, since an egg denotes eternal life. Thus, we see how the image of the egg has helped console humanity and come to terms with their loss. Even as they mourn their loved ones, they are reassured that life will still go on.
In Christian symbolism, eggs connote resurrection and everlasting life. Eggs also denote the birth of life from inorganic matter. Christ rose from his tomb ‘like a bird hatching from an egg’. Thus the egg represents the tomb that encases the potential for rebirth and rejuvenation.
At Easter, the annual celebration of the rebirth of Christ as well as the kindling of new life, people exchange eggs as gifts to mark the occasion.
There is another story behind why eggs are decorated during Easter. According to this story, since eggs and meat were forbidden during the Lent season, people would stock up on and decorate them to celebrate the end of this interval of fasting. This practice is said to date back to the thirteenth century. These eggs are often dyed red to symbolize the blood and sacrifice of Christ.
Thus, while the egg does not feature prominently as a motif in the Bible, it has always been a part of Christian life and social customs for centuries.
What is the spiritual meaning of an egg in daily life?
Eggs have been a part of pagan celebrations of springtime since time immemorial. Even in Africa, ancient tribes decorated eggs to mark the occasion of the birth of new life.
This practice bears some similarity to that of the ancient Chinese, who also gifted eggs to one another at the onset of spring. In fact, eggs form an important part of daily life in modern China, too. The Chinese still give hard-boiled eggs to the parents of newborn kids. These are often coloured red since red represents vitality and good fortune in China.
Eggs feature as gifts on birthdays and weddings, too. A bride in China is often sent off to her in-laws’ home with a gift of eggs. The eggs celebrate the gift of fertility the bride carries with her.
In the seventeenth century France, brides would break an egg as they embarked upon their marital life. The egg acted as an auspicious symbol of fertility on such occasions.
A modern Christian, too, is no stranger to the spiritual significance of eggs. In a coming together of spirituality and celebration, eggs are used in various kinds of games on Easter. People decorate their eggs in all sorts of rich and creative patterns. Then there is the practice of egg rolling, wherein eggs are rolled on the White House lawn on the Monday following Easter.
Since eggs are a powerful symbol of fertility, some cultures have used eggs as part of agricultural rituals, hoping for a good cropping season. In Germany, for instance, farmers would often smear their implements with eggs.
What are the other spiritual meanings of an egg?
Eggs in a dream might symbolize new beginnings. According to the stories of Southern Black Americans, dreaming about whole eggs symbolized good fortune and prosperity, while dreaming about broken eggs implied a lovers’ tiff.
Seeing whole eggs in dreams might also signify a wedding or impending parenthood.
Depending on the way in which one sees an egg in a dream, a unique interpretation is attached to it. A different meaning is attached to seeing raw eggs, cooked ones, eggs in a nest, etc.
In some cultures, eggs are broken in glasses of water and the consequent shapes are used to diagnose and cure illnesses and other negativities. This practice first started as a spiritual cleansing practice prevalent in Mexico and Mesoamerica.
And while we are talking about the spiritual meaning of eggs, we have to talk about the philosopher’s stone. Also known as the philosopher’s egg, it is an alchemical substance that was believed to transform base metals into gold. This magical but undiscovered substance had allured the mystical minds of the past, who spent years in search of it. They considered the stone to be an elixir of life and believed that it could be used to cure illnesses and bring about a spiritual transformation.
The term ‘philosophers egg’ was also used to refer to the distinctive egg-shaped glass vessel in which the stone was sought to be prepared.
In the alchemical tradition, the egg yolk symbolizes gold and the sun, encapsulating the idea of light. While the egg white represents silver and the moon, and thus also symbolizes purity.
An egg also symbolizes the idea of domestic peace and protection. Just as the womb protects and nurtures a new life within itself, an egg enables the safe survival of the life within.
The simple image of the egg carries powerful spiritual meaning associated with it. It represents the idea that life will always take root and sprout even though the circumstances may appear bleak and unforgiving. It symbolizes one of the eternal mysteries of life—how the cycle of birth and death does not cease at any point, but carries on relentlessly, like a snake eating its own tail. An egg forms an inseparable part of religious and personal celebrations across the world. Its image continues to fascinate and enchant, putting people on a spiritual path leading towards new beginnings and hope.