The American Heritage Dictionary defines symbol as "Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention." When I read this definition, I can't help by think how some symbols became associated with certain notions. For example, when I see a pentacle, I see a symbol that represents the four elements -air, fire, water, and earth- and the Spirit in the center representing the notion of the Supreme Being or the Divine. When a Catholic person sees the pentacle, he or she sees the symbol of the Devil, something to conjure evil instead of a symbol of protection and power. With the same token, when I see a cross, I used to see the symbol of Christ, the pain of the cross, the symbol of death and redemption. Since I became a Witch, I stopped wearing crosses because they symbolized the past and I became very reluctant to symbology that was associated with the Catholic religion. Crosses and rosaries were symbols I did not want around because I associated with the religion that transformed the Goddess into a demon, that took all our holidays and rename them to make them Christian, that burned lots of women because they had power, they have the knowledge of the herbs and healing, and because they were a threat to the system.
My mom, who was a devoted Catholic, tried to bring me back to the Church when she discovered that I had taken the "wrong" turn and became a Witch. She used to give me rosaries, bibles, and many other Catholic symbols for me to go back to "normal". I still remember the day I gathered all the rosaries and crosses and give them back to her saying that I respected her religion but that those symbols were not part of my life anymore. I think that was the day she understood how important my religion was for me. I was 20 at the time. Now looking back, I realized that I was doing something similar to what Catholic people do to our Pagan symbols, I was rejecting them, considering bad, not wanting them around for what they symbolized. Luckily, I kept two of my mother's rosaries, and this year, after my car got broken into, I decided to place my mother's rosary in my car because it meant she was looking after me from wherever she is now. She is my angel and that rosary symbolizes her energy and not the energies of the Church I left behind.
The same happened to me when a very very dear friend of mine gave me a cross to wear a few weeks ago as a token of our friendship and to protect me. I did not think twice before putting the cross on even though I hadn't worn a cross in more than 15 years, but this cross meant so much to me. It meant all the affection I have for this friend and I don't mind wearing. It is funny to see the reactions I get from some of my witchy friends who think I am converted or they start wondering what is wrong with me... Again, symbols are symbols and it is up to us the meaning we give to them. It is time for all of us to shed some light in some of the symbols that have been assigned the wrong meaning. Claiming our symbols is like claiming words like Witch. We need to stand up and be able to show the world that we are ready to claim our symbols too and disperse the veil that has covered them for ages. A cross usually represents the four elements with the Divine in the center and we also have Bridgit Crosses, but we tend to forget this. It is our time to rediscover our symbols and assign new meanings to them.
Symbols are just symbols and it is up to us the meaning we decide to give them.