We all have some experience with lightning bolts. It might be that dog cartoon. Or that wizard book. Or the rumor that wearing red clothes will make lightning target you. Or the fact that you see lightning before you hear thunder … but they happen at the same time.
Today we’re going to focus on lightning bolt symbolism in the spiritual realm. This could include seeing lightning bolts on fuse boxes, dreaming about rainstorms, or suddenly noticing lots of Flash Gordon comics and Sheldon Cooper t-shirts. So let’s look into it!
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Science tells us a massive static charge builds up in the clouds when protons and electrons battle it out up there. That’s when the clouds seem to flash and shimmer. If the electrons in the clouds link up with the positive charge on the ground, a bolt comes crashing down.
And since many religions and creation myths believe a divine being in the sky created us, it makes sense we would assume our god up there sent it down. Almost every culture has a god in charge of thunder and/or lightning, so a lightning bolt could easily represent deities.
Lightning generally ‘falls’ out of the sky. If you’re in the MCU, lightning bolt symbolism means Thor is coming. But even in other religions, lightning is often seen as God’s Wrath. After all, he’s been known to use rain as punishment before, and there was surely lightning.
Besides, as a kid, you were probably told that if you said something sacrilegious, lightning from heaven would smite you. And technically, Thor is a sky god, and so is Zeus. So it’s a viable thought that some powerful being up there got mad and tossed down a few bolts.
If you’ve ever gotten trapped in a storm, you know how scary it can be. There’s low visibility, your wheels keep skidding, the windows are all fogged up, and you can crash at any moment. Often, storms cause blackouts. So when that lightning flashes, it’s enough to shake your soul.
But it does something else too. In that split second of electric current, the whole world lights up. It’s like a giant flashlight from the heavens, giving you a glimpse of hope as you see that out there in the darkness, everything still exists. It’s why lightning bolts symbolize revelation.
A lot of people are terrified of thunder. It’s a disturbing sound. But in many ways, the silence of lightning is even more ominous. And it always seems to start ‘over there’ and gradually get closer. Lightning bolt symbolism calls it an omen. You see that flash and thunder is coming.
But on a more general plane, lightning bolts represent danger and destruction. You’ll see it on electric poles and fuse boxes, but you’ll also see it on bottles of poison. Harry Potter’s lightning bolt scar foreshadowed the end of the world as they knew it – Voldemort’s return.
5. Bad Vibes
Electricity comes from electrons, and electrons have a negative charge. Coincidentally, the average person has a bad attitude towards lightning. We all believe it will strike us down even though few of us know anyone that actually got hit in a rainstorm, red umbrella or not!
In the same way, some see it as an announcement of worse things to come. But lightning bolt symbolism can also be a symptom of something bad that’s already going on. You see the flash far off and closing in, so lightning means that bad event over there is headed this way. Soon.
The second you see that flash of lightning, you know roaring thunder will follow. But there’s no realistic way for ordinary people to predict lightning. Meteorologists might, and there’s probably an app for that. But its stealth and unpredictability give meaning to this insignia.
In this specific sense, lightning bolt symbolism suggests a shocking event in your near future. Possibly a nasty one, since lightning is known to cause all sorts of damage including fires and electrocution. And it may be hidden behind something positive, just like lightning and rain.
Thor is probably the best-known weather god (bless you, Chris Hemsworth). In the canon, his dad, Odin, has a lightning spear which I suppose he could toss to earth whenever he had a tantrum. His young son Thor was terrified of thunder and would yell at scream if it rained.
So Odin ‘made’ him the God of Thunder as a nasty nickname for all his hollering. But Thor grew into his title, amid thunderous fights with his father. Somewhere between this backstory and its destructive power, lightning became a symbol of violence and aggression.
As we explained in the beginning, that lightning flash isn’t as sudden as we think. It bubbles up in the sky until it ‘bursts’ out. In that sense, lightning bolt symbolism could designate completion, closure, or fulfillment. Battles may have been raging in your organic brain cloud.
But your lightning dream (or maybe you’re seeing lightning bolt icons as you go about your day) could mean you’ve found a resolution to your challenge or an answer to your nagging question. The release of repressed emotions grounds you, just like earthing that current.
Ever since Thomas Edison, we’ve used the light bulb as shorthand for bright ideas. It’s the graphic representation of shouting ‘eureka!’ You’ll often see one materializing over someone’s head in cartoons or comics. Lightning bolt symbolism has a similar concept.
See, if you’re physically struck by lightning, that could get really bad. But when lightning hits you in a dream, it’s a positive sign. You may have been struggling with a dilemma, so that dream means you now have your fix. And if you can’t spot that resolution yet, you soon will.
Think of the idioms associated with bad weather. Things like cook up a storm (in a teacup). Or my favorite, calm before the storm. If you look at a tornado in action, the last thing you want is to get sucked into that funnel. But that spot, the eye of the storm, is the safest space.
Science has proven the ‘sides of the funnel’ are where the damage happens. Once you’re in the middle, you’re fine. So lightning could symbolize that moment of tense calmness before things get really bad. It’s a warning to suit up and get ready, it’s about to blow!
Lightning is literally a form of creation. Atmospheric particles condense to form clouds and bulk up until they break. Then the negative charge in the sky and the positive charge in the soil link up in a flash. Seeing lightning in your dreams could indicate a spurt of artful energy.
You may soon find yourself brimming with ideas, so get ready to grab them. After all, lightning is gone in microseconds so if you don’t harness that incoming energy and record the ideas, you’ll quickly forget them. Get a notebook (or a notes app) and jot them down.
The phrase ‘flash of lightning’ is a cliché now, but it was built around the swiftness and shock value of lightning. Blink and you’ll miss it! (Though you’ll probably see the brightness even behind your eyelids.) So lightning bolt symbolism can imply urgency – you need to be quick!
Also, the visual effect of lightning does make you wonder if there’s a hidden hand in the cloud throwing down his bright booming spears – and only god knows why. So that bolt can sometimes symbolize split-second decisive action. No hesitation. The goal is ‘Do it now!’
You may have heard about the SS. That would be the Schutzstaffel aka Protection Squadron. Initially known as Saal-Schutz or Hall Security. Under Heinrich Himler, it grew into the Aryan equivalent of Russia’s KGB. This paramilitary outfit was the key to operating Nazi Germany.
And modern iterations have appeared among neo-Nazis. So while this is practical rather than a spiritual symbol, it still counts. Context is crucial here, because double lightning bolts (like the SS) may inadvertently be a Bat Signal that summons contemporary white supremacists.
It does seem that lightning bolt symbolism is impossibly tied to the idea of gods. While Thor is a firm favorite, Zeus (of the Greeks) aka Jupiter (of the Romans) was considered the ruler of the gods because he controlled lightning. He tossed some down at the Titans in that war.
And with lightning being the weapon of choice for the most powerful god on Mt. Olympus, lightning bolts easily become a symbol for strength and conquest. And this isn’t necessarily positive power, because Zeus wasn’t the nicest of gods. So, again, context skews the meaning.
This interpretation of lightning isn’t as well known. And it’s more philosophical than spiritual. See, lightning often comes with rain, which feeds the crops, which then feeds the humans and all their animals. For this reason, lightning signifies life, fertility, and rebirth.
Among agricultural societies (both ancient and modern ones), the fires caused by lightning can raze the land, forcing you to start over. In Japan, the twin gods of weather are Raijin and Fujin, and if they sent lightning to your rice field, you’d have a bountifully fertile harvest.
For the Celts, lightning bolt symbolism was about purification and sanctuary. Spots that were hit by lightning became ceremonial spaces for celebrating, worship, and ritual sacrifice. Also, forget sun-kissed skin – Celts preferred an electric kiss. It was a caress from the gods.
In their world, being struck by lightning was a good thing, even if you died. To them, lightning was like touching god. Meanwhile, Native Americans (particularly the Hopi), lightning represents the Thunderbird, an ethereal being that represents truth and morality.
The Native American Thunderbird (much like the Christian God) is an omnipotent, kind being. But the bird can be quite rough with evil-doers. The bird watches us from the heavens and when it spots somebody lying or being cruel, it shot lightning at the person from its eyes. Fujin and Raijin are more neutral, though Japanese deities aren’t subjectively good or evil.
The Twins handle the weather in general and are key figures during typhoon season. You’ll see them at a lot of temple gates. In China, Lei Gong is the god of thunder and lightning. Lei Gong was part of the Jade Emperor council of ministers. He blesses the emperor’s friends with nurturing rain for their crops but sends lightning to destroy enemies of the emperor.
18. Raw Power
Yes, humans have learned how to harness electricity. But we still can’t do much about the drama of lightning. We can use lightning rods to redirect it. And earthing wires to prevent electrocution. But those extreme flashes of current from the sky? We haven’t wrangled them.
Here’s where lightning bolt symbolism becomes a sign of unpredictable, lethal power. It can also symbolize unfiltered emotions in their purest form. Your gut instincts and reflexes often appear as a flash from nowhere. You didn’t consciously activate them – just like lightning.
19. Silver Linings
In the daytime, a cloud’s silver lining is the halo that sometimes frames the clouds when the sun sneaks behind them. It might also be that divine ray of sunshine that peeps through as the clouds open up. So that’s a good thing. But in the night sky, things are rather different. If your lightning bolt is attached to a cloud, it’s an omen. Prepare yourself psychologically.
Of course, lightning bolts also express the blinding flash of enlightenment. On the lighter side, lightning bolt symbolism is big in pop culture too. Whether it’s David Bowie, Arianna Grande, Lady Gaga, Kiss, or AC/DC, lightning bolts feature heavily among the stars, pun intended. You can make the number of jagged edges on the lightning symbolic as well.
Light Up Your Identity
Lots of communities and fandoms use lightning bolt symbolism to signal their tribe. Endless Hogwarts fans got lightning tattoos on their bodies. Some Goths might opt for lightning bolt jewelry rather than getting it inked, and Wiccans may use lightning pendants as talismans.
In some cultures, lightning bolt symbols are all about deities. In others, that momentary flash shows how fickle humans are in the eyes of the old gods. After all, gods are immortal! Have you recently noticed any lightning bolt symbolism? Tell us about it in the comments!