Many faiths use symbols to represent an aspect of their foundational principles and beliefs. Some wear symbols for protection, others for remembrance or as a reminder, and others do it to openly show what they believe. Across cultures and throughout history, many symbols have evolved and have even crossed religions and changed in meaning over time, but wearing symbols has remained a common way to express association with a particular faith.
The Masonic symbols worn by followers of the order represent specific beliefs and must be worn in a certain manner. For example, a traditional Masonic ring displays a compass and a square on the top with a plumb and trowel on the side representing the skills of a mason. However, the spiritual meaning represents a combination of earthly things with heavenly perfection as well as man's aspirations toward God combined with heavenly qualities coming down from God to earth.
Although many people believe the "star and crescent" to be the symbol of Islam, it is historically more a political emblem from the Ottoman empire with no traditional religious significance. The Koran prohibits the wearing of religious charms because of the belief that they can lead to idolatry, so some opt instead to wear the name of the Muslim god Allah, as opposed to an image or symbol.
Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear rings, necklaces and other jewelry bearing the "Choose the Right" initials as a symbol of faith. The idea for the symbol came about in the 1970s to help inspire young people to make good decisions and the idea was incorporated into the church's teachings. Although styles have changed over the years, originally, the shield on the emblem represents a protection from temptation and the traditional green background was used to symbolize the evergreen tree which stays true to its appearance as the seasons change.
The crucifix is a symbol long held by Catholics to represent the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross and is meant to evoke a remembrance of that act when it is viewed. Centuries ago, the symbol of the crucifix was also intended to help people who could not read have an image of what the crucifixion looked like. Wearing the symbol as jewelry is not meant as an idolatrous form of worship but as a way to keep Christ's death in memory.
The Star of David is the most recognizable symbol of Judaism today, but it cannot be traced to King David and is not the long-standing, true historical symbol of the faith — the Menorah is. The Temple Menorah, as opposed to a Hanukkah Menorah, is a seven-branched lamp stand that contained consecrated olive oil and was used in all Jewish temple ceremonies since ancient times and is the most common representation of the faith.
The cross wasn't always the predominant symbol for Christians to wear. Historically, it was the 'ICHTHUS', a fish with letters inside representing an acronym for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior," however the cross started appearing several hundred years after Jesus' death and has emerged as the most popular symbol of the victory of Jesus' resurrection — being an "empty" cross.
The Hindu Om is a sound that followers of the faith believe embodies the essence of the entire universe. It is also believed that God created the Om and the universe was formed from it and is held together by it. Those who believe in the Hindu faith wear the Om as a reminder of its all-encompassing power on all levels of life.
An Ankh was a symbol used in the polytheistic religion of the ancient Egyptians and forms part of their words for "health" and "happiness." The Egyptian godess Isis is depicted holding an Ankh in her hand and it separates gods from mortals. Today, many people believe that wearing an Ankh as an amulet can bring long life and good luck.
The Taoist Yin/Yang symbol represents principles that are central to the Taoist philosophy. As the image of the duality of all life, the yin and yang are not opposites but are rather thought of as opposing manifestations of the same principle that must be in perfect balance for harmony. The circular nature of the Yin/Yang carries over into many physical forms as well, like martial arts and Tai Chi.
The Triquerta is a symbol that is used by a number of different faiths to represent a variety of spiritual beliefs, although in each faith, the Triquetra represents a threesome. In Christianity, it represents the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For pagans, it represents the interconnectedness of the body, mind and soul or a unity between the past, present and future.