Modern literature, film, and other pop culture phenomena contain a plethora of references to the Seven Deadly Sins. From the fire-breathing dragons of wrath to the green grinch of envy, these symbols are ingrained in our culture.
But what exactly are the Seven Deadly Sins? The Seven Deadly Sins are the cardinal wrongdoings emphasized around the world to illustrate the most fatal of human failings.
History of the Deadly Sins
Most people, if asked about the origin of the Seven Deadly Sins, would likely say the Bible. In fact, they were never mentioned in the bible. They were invented by a nomadic, Greek monk by the name of Evagrius Ponticus around the year 370 A.D.
However, the Sins did not gain popularity until about two hundred years later when Pope Gregory learned of the theory and decided to spread the word throughout Christianity.
He decreed that to avoid each of these sins was to live life as the epitome of virtuosity and, thus, Catholicism adapted quickly to these cardinal rules.
The Sins and their Symbolism
The first sin typically mentioned is Pride. In Christianity, this is often described as the core sin that spirals into acting on the rest. Pride as a noun is defined as, “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements”.
How is taking pride in yourself a negative? Well, in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins, this is defined as arrogance and love of self.
Arrogance leads to one having little regard for others and love of self leads to thinking of oneself as better than everyone else. This creates a deadly combination that counters teachings of treating everyone with love and respect.
Pride has several known symbols. First is the peacock. We often hear the phrase “peacocking” to describe men who are showing off due to extensive pride in their appearance. This comes from the fact that male peacocks will extend and show off their colorful tail feathers as an act to find a mate.
Peacocks and men are very prideful creatures. The color purple is also seen as a symbol of pride. This is due to purple being historically considered the color of royalty. People of high rank, such as royals, are seen to be prideful.
In addition, horses are a symbol of pride. Related to the concept of royals and high rank being proud, medieval knights are often included in that group. Knights, obviously, rode horses and, therefore, horses with their riders high and mighty on their backs are a symbol of pride.
Greed is the next Sin. This is the love of and insatiable desire for possessing more of something. Defined as the “intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food”, greed is the sin of wanting and gaining in excess. While it is only natural to want things and to get things, the key to greed as one of the Seven Deadly Sins is the overabundant and impossible to satisfy nature.
A greedy person can be blinded by their desire for possession to the detriment of their morals. They do not want to share what they have, even if it is an excess, with others, especially those who may be in need. Some may do anything to get more.
The most obvious and widely used symbol of greed is the dollar sign. The uninhibited desire for wealth and power in the west is known throughout the world as one of the greatest examples of greed. Western values often side with economics rather than social welfare, thus putting one’s greed above humanity.
Similarly, the color yellow is a symbol of greed. This is due to the fact that yellow is the core color of gold and thus, a representation of wealth.
Greed is also often represented by the frog or toad. Frogs and toads are considered greedy animals because they live both on the land and in the water. This is seen as an excess of habitats and, therefore, the epitome of wanting more than actually needed.
The next of the Seven Deadly Sins is Lust. This sin is based upon uncontrolled desire and craving, typically of a sexual nature. Lust is simply defined as, “very strong sexual desire” in the dictionary. Although sexual desire is often at the heart of lust, one can also crave wealth and power.
In this regard, it’s similar to greed. When this desire is uncontrolled, it can be seen to inhibit morality. It’s of no wonder that in the puritanical teachings of Christianity, believers in this faith feel as though they struggle with this perfectly natural human hormonal response. Wanting more than is needed or rightly given can lead to immoral actions.
Lust is symbolized by a couple of animals. The first comes from biblical teachings: the serpent. In Christian mythology, the story of creation explains how Eve is tempted into the Garden of Eden by the serpent to bring sin to humanity. Serpents as a symbol of evil and lust for power have historically been seen throughout pop culture.
For example, in the Harry Potter books and movies, the serpent is used as the representation of the “evil” Hogwarts house, Slytherin. Also, the major villain, Voldemort, has a pet basilisk, which is a giant serpent.
The other animal is the cow. In Egyptian mythology, the goddess of beauty, fertility, and pleasure, Hathor, was often represented by the symbol of a cow.
A goddess seeking pleasure and reproduction was seen as an example of one filled with lust.
The halfway point of these sins will describe Envy. Envy is the sin of jealousy, hatred, and malice. It is defined as “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck”. People want what they cannot have and sometimes, will go to any lengths to get it.
This can include lying, manipulating, or harming another person. These are all harmful and sinful behaviors. It is not the envy itself that causes the sin but rather the actions taken upon feeling that emotion.
A few things are often used to represent envy. The dog is frequently a symbol. This stems from the expression that a skinny dog will always want another’s food. All creatures instinctively want what they cannot have, even if it is something they need, such as food.
Another animal often used is the bat. The story goes that bats fly under the cover of darkness because they don’t want to open their eyes and see what others have that they may want.
Thirdly, the color green is the most widely used symbol of envy. People often use the phrase “green with envy” to describe jealousy. This can also be found in pop culture. The biggest example is the Grinch. He is a jealous, rage-filled green creature who lives in the mountains and looks down upon the village that has all while he does not.
Number five on this list of Seven Deadly Sins is Gluttony. Defined as the “habitual greed or excess in eating”, gluttony is the sin of self-indulgence and unrestrainedness. What is bad about eating? Nothing. Every living being needs food to survive.
Once again, the fallacy comes from the inability to reign in the desire. One who overeats is caring only about themself and not about others who may need the food to survive. It is not about the food itself but the selfish claim to unneeded food to the detriment of others.
There are a few animals that are used to symbolize gluttony. Pigs are the most obvious. They’re generally considered to eat excessively and without restraint. Quite often in political cartoons, pigs are used to represent the selfishness and gluttony of the wealthy.
Also used are sharks, tiger sharks, specifically, will eat anything that comes in their path, even other tiger sharks. Despite the fact that it is counterproductive to one’s species to kill off its own, they are fueled by gluttony and, therefore, blind to what is beneficial.
Finally, vultures are used to represent gluttony. These winged creatures will pick over the remains of any other creature and often fight each other to the death over a meal. All three of these animals are highly self-indulgent.
Next is Wrath. Wrath is the sin of rage and hatred. It’s defined as, “strong vengeful anger or indignation”. This can lead to vengeance and potentially, bloodshed.
Wrath is the most physically threatening of the sins. To feel anger is to be human. It is when this rage flies out of control, especially directed at other humans, that the rage becomes wrath.
The core of wrath is often protection – whether of one’s self, one’s belongings, or others. Protectiveness is an important key to survival; however, when that protectiveness becomes rage, it can turn violent and become unnecessary to the situation at hand.
The first commonly used symbol to represent Wrath is a bear. A commonly spoken phrase “mama bear” is often used to describe someone who is very protective of her children. This is because actual bear mothers are known to be so protective of their cubs, they will harm anyone who gets in their way to them.
While being protective is not a bad thing, like anger, when this protectiveness leads to harm to others, it becomes wrath.
The next symbol is dragons. Very common in medieval mythology and fantasy, dragons are the symbol of unbridled rage and untamed nature. They breathe fire to protect what is theirs and their wrath will take out anything in their path.
Finally, the color red is a symbol. Many times, when people are filled with rage, they describe it as “seeing red”. This comes from the fact that fire is red and intense anger makes one feel hot and inflamed.
Finally, the last of the Seven Deadly Sins is Sloth. This is the sin of apathy, laziness, and procrastination. Sloth is defined as, “reluctance to work or make an effort”.
Someone who commits the sin of sloth is seen to bring no value to their own lives or the lives of others. It is a sin to not be a productive member of society who brings usefulness to their community.
While all humans want and need relaxation, to be completely devoid of any work ethic is a detriment to society. Therefore, once again, sin becomes a sin when it is untamed.
The most obvious of all the symbols are found with Sloth. It is, in fact, a sloth. These animals represent laziness and lack of ambition due to the fact that they move along incredibly slowly and tend to do nothing but eat and sleep all day.
Secondly, the sloth can be symbolized by the goat. It is thought that this comes from the term “scapegoat” which describes a person who is blamed for others’ wrongdoings. To use someone as a scapegoat is to be too lazy or apathetic to a situation to accept responsibility for one’s own mistakes.
Lastly, the color blue can be used as a symbol for a sloth. Blue is often associated with daydreaming or lounging by a lake, not working hard.
There is a common theme among the Seven Deadly Sins. The sins all converge upon the idea that the overindulgence and unrelenting desire for something – whether it be wealth, food, or sex – is what calls to question one’s morality.
In and of themselves, the base emotions of each of the sins are not evil. For pride, the root is self-love. Greed is ambition. Lust is desire. Envy is want. Gluttony is hunger. Wrath is protection. Sloth is relaxation. Each of these is perfectly human; it is the unfettered allowance of such emotion that makes them sin.
The fallacy is to be human. To overindulge is to be human. This is why these sins are found symbolized so often in myth and pop culture. Humans need representation to show that they are not alone. Symbols bring the representation to life.
What is the Symbol of Greed?
Greed in its form is an act of selfishness. Being greedy is associated with the intense desire for something such as material things, wealth, food, or power. Throughout history, there have been many associations with greed.
But among all, the most common symbol of greed is the wolf. It has represented itself in various pieces of literature and cultures. In the book ‘Inferno from the Divine Comedy’, Dante depicted the wolf as a representation of fraud and greed. In Norse mythology, Odin has two wolves named Geri and Freki which symbolize greed and rapacious hunger.
In the West, fairytales, and stories pictured wolves as rascals that feed on corruption and burglary. This is what the story of Red Riding Hood implied. The cunning wolf in the story is the one who ate Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and tried to deceive her.
Greed is a quality that unfortunately some people demonstrate. Greedy people don’t care what other people think of them. They are self-centered and think highly of themselves. They trick people to get what they want. That is why greed is one of the seven deadly sins.
The Seven Deadly Sins and their Animal Symbols
The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital sins, are the one that corrupt people’s mind and prevents people from achieving heavenly progress. According to Christian tradition, these seven deadly sins are what separate God from man.
Human beings are very much susceptible to these as they tend to overly attach themselves to earthly possessions.
Throughout history, different animals are used to symbolize the seven deadly sins. We have listed those that represent them.
Is an overly view of oneself without thinking for the sake of other people They are usually arrogant and boastful about what they have. The horse and the peacock are the most common symbol of the sin of pride.
Is the desire to consume more than what is needed. They are the ones who usually think of extreme excess with very little regard for others. The sin of gluttony is depicted by pigs and vultures.
Is overly manifested through jealousy. Envious people are not satisfied with what they have and do great lengths to get what they want. Dogs and snakes are common symbols of the sin of envy.
Is demonstrated by procrastination and laziness. They are a burden to society as they do not contribute to their respective communities. The sin of sloth is depicted by goats.
Is the longingness for material things, sex, power, or money. People who are considered lustful have an uncontrollable desire to possess something. The serpent as well as the cow are associated with the sin of lust.
Is shown when someone displays the act of furiousness, hatred, and uncontrollable anger. This sin is the root of vengeance. Bears are the common symbol of the sin of wrath.
Is the cardinal sin of selfishness and an uncontrollable desire to have more than others. Greedy people don’t share with other people. Wolves and toads are the common symbols of the sin of greed.
These sins are there to metaphorically interpret the different attachments that people can have in this world.