At some time or other, everyone has probably had the experience of breaking a glass. At the time this seems like a disaster, glass shards flying and a seemingly endless cleanup to chase each piece of glass into a corner.
But most of the time breaking a glass is actually good luck. Although it seems counterintuitive, when glass shatters the old becomes new. Starting out as liquid sand, fire heats the sand into glass. If the glass breaks, it can then be re-created as something new.
Glass is very symbolic, and the idea of rebirth is prominent in glass symbolism. When you are broken like glass, a new self can emerge and be strong. There are many symbols when it comes to these fragile comparisons.
Whether you talk about glass in dreams, a broken window, a ship christening, or glasses and mirrors in literature, there are many symbolic representations of glass that you are probably not aware of.
See also: The Symbolism of Jade and Time Metaphors.
Symbolism of Glass
1. Broken Window
Although many representations of shattered glass actually represent positive experiences, a broken window is not one of them.
Windows are transparent and represent you looking out at the world or the world’s view of you. If the window is broken, this implies that you are weak or that the world sees you as weak.
People who sit in front of a window looking out are sitting back and letting the world pass them by, rather than getting involved in the action themselves. The breaking of the window implies that your worldview is not part of the action and does not matter.
2. Breaking a Glass
Paradoxically, the circumstance of breaking a glass accidentally is good luck. It represents the fact that evil is leaving and good luck is on the way.
With the noise and chaos of the breaking glass, evil spirits are said to get flustered and run away. Of course this doesn’t count if you break the glass on purpose, just to TRY to get the good luck. If that is the case, you will just have a big mess on your hands!
Dreams can be interpreted in many ways, and dreams about glass are no exception. Such a fragile substance would certainly have an intense representation if you are dreaming about it.
When we sleep our brains use the time to work out problems through our subconscious mind, and the strange things we dream represent what is going on.
- If you dream of eating broken glass, it either means there is something you want to say but don’t know how, or it means you already said something that you are ashamed of. The broken shards of glass represent the words.
- Walking on broken glass means that you need a change, and for some reason, you are worried about the change that is to come, or how you will make the change happen. Just like walking on broken glass would physically hurt, wrangling with making a change also hurts.
- Transparency means your relationships are transparent, so if you dream about windows that is a sign that you have honesty in your relationships. If the windows are covered, however, it could represent secrecy.
- Dreaming about colored glass is a good sign, but if you dream about black windows it means that someone is trying to take over your circumstances.
- If you are peeping through glass in a dream, that is a good sign, and it shows that you are trying to be yourself, by looking out a very tiny hole or window.
- Although breaking glass accidentally has positive connotations, if you are breaking glass frantically, you are desperate and feel trapped. There are many things in life that could cause you to feel that way, and your dreams are trying to tell you something.
Glass in Rituals
Glass is often used in rituals, from a toast at a fancy dinner, to giving glasses as a special gift for important occasions.
There are certain rituals that hold tightly to the tradition of glass in bringing about positive changes.
In Karnak, Egypt in the 15th century BC, the idea that men could melt and transform glass made men hungry for the power of doing so.
Once the technique was discovered, the men building these ancient temples wanted to show their power over the elements, and so they ornamented the temples with newly melted glass.
The glass itself became a symbol of power and wealth, and surrounding temples wanted to show the same power, learning in turn how to create their own glass.
One way that glass is used in rituals is by breaking it for good luck over the hull of a new ship. Glass breaking is most often a symbol of GOOD luck although it seems like it would be the other way around.
When a new ship is being put into the water for the first time, it is tradition that a bottle of champagne is broken over the hull for good luck.
Some believe that if the bottle doesn’t break, this signifies bad luck for the ship and crew. If the evil spirits are distracted by the sound of the breaking glass, they will leave the ship alone and it will have happy sailing.
Jewish Wedding Ceremony
The Jewish glass breaking at weddings has several reasonings. Some believe it is to serve as a reminder of the destruction of the Jewish temple.
That even in your finest moment, you still need to remember the past. The destruction of the temple is a historical moment that is held dear to those of Jewish faith. Another representation of the glass breaking is from Eastern European Jews, who broke glass at weddings to scare away demons.
They believed that demons came around more at rights of passage, trying to wreak havoc with mortals. These events, such as bar mitzvahs and weddings, were important ritualistic moments for people.
At a wedding, Jewish people stomp on glass for good luck. They do so to scare away the demons and clear the way for a lifetime of happiness for the couple.
Glass in Literature
Literature, by its very nature, is highly symbolic, and holds many secrets to the meaning of glass.
Although one can find examples throughout genres and throughout history, including glasses, windows and doors, and mirrors, here are a few meaningful instances.
Glasses, by their very nature, represent the ability for someone to see better. In Lord of the Flies, a classic book about boys who crashland on an island and have to make their way with not adults, the character Piggy wears glasses.
He represents wisdom in the book, knowing that the glasses are the only way to make fire, as well as many other ways the boys can help themselves get rescued. He ends up getting killed when the boys turn savage and brutally attack the only character who can actually see.
In the poem by Sylvia Plath, “Mirrors,” the speaker in the first stanza is looking in the mirror, trying to make meaning about herself.
In the second stanza, the actual mirror made of glass becomes a lake, another place where the speaker can see her reflection.
The mirror and lake both represent who the speaker is, and how she can see herself clearly or not, depending on the stanza.
Read Also: Mirror Symbolism
Windows are another important representation of glass in literature. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, uses windows to separate, and also to have characters get glimpses into other worlds. In this gothic novel,
Catherine is longing for her lost love as she lays dying, and asks that the windows remain open so that she can connect to the outside world, the moors where she and Heathcliff fell in love. Later, when Heathcliff lay dying, he died with open windows and rain, as if the heavens were crying.
In “House on Mango Street,” Sandra Cisneros creates a story in which the women are trapped by the men around them.
Characters like Rafeala, Mamacita, Minerva and Sally spend a lot of time looking out the windows at the world going by around them. They are trapped in their circumstances and looking wistfully outside their houses.
There is no doubt that glass is one of the most fragile substances around, and can shatter easily, sending shards flying. In real life, it seems like cleaning up shattered glass would be a negative event, but symbolically, shattered glass is more often positive.
The symbolism of glass allows us to understand the world around us better, whether through a window, a mirror, or a pair of glasses.
I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.