What is the Symbolism of Lightning? (5 Meanings)

A flash of lightning is a true force of nature. Because of its raw power and the fact it comes from the sky, it’s often associated directly with the gods’ wrath.

As such, it can be symbolic of punishment. Many people thought that lightning is meant as a punishment from the Gods after the humans did something wrong. It was like a bad omen for them, a sign that the gods are angry and are thus punishing them. Other meanings of lightning include sudden illumination, destruction, negativity, and loss of ignorance.

Lightning symbolism is also commonly seen in dreams. While different cultures may see it differently, there’s one connecting theme to all of these cultures’ interpretations of lightning – they’re almost always connected to the Gods.

Symbolism of Lightning

> This article is form our series on weather symbolism

Lightning Symbolism: 5 Meanings

What does a flash of lightning represent to us?

1. Punishment

Punishment was one of the first symbolic meanings of lightning historically. Even in ancient times, people always believed that lightning was a way of God to punish the people on Earth for doing something wrong.

And that’s how the many myths and stories about lightning started developing. It all started with Ancient Greeks, who believed that Zeus controlled lightning, giving him the ultimate power in the world to control the rest of the gods on Olympus. He was the highest god for the Greeks, and lightning was his symbol.

But lightning is an unpleasant event, so the people thought it must be a sign of punishment. It scared them, and it gave them something to think about. What did they do wrong to make God so angry?

Even today, we see this belief. Many people are still scared of lightning and believe that it’s sent from God. It’s a force of nature that just cannot be controlled, and it wrecks anything that comes in its way.

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2. Destruction

The odds of being struck by lightning are pretty slim – around 1 / 15,300. There’s not a lot of chance to get struck by it, but those who are struck, are normally scarred for life – either physically or mentally.

Lightning is a destructive force that can ruin anything it strikes. It’s been known to cause deaths and injuries to people, but they also do damage to infrastructure and Nature. Sometimes, they might even start a fire when it’s dry enough.

That’s why bolts of lightning are seen as a weapon of destruction. In Norse mythology, Thor is seen as one of the most powerful gods as he wields his hammer, but also has the ability to control thunder and lightning, giving him the ultimate power over other gods and people on Earth.

Related: Darkness Symbolism

3. Negativity

We normally perceive the flashes of lightning as something negative, something threatening. That’s why many people are scared of it, and the damage it may cause to them. Even though there’s only a very slim chance of getting struck by lightning, many people perceive it to be a symbol of negativity.

In some cases, it may also be a symbol of the negative energy we have collected within us. This sort of energy can be tough to control once it leaves us, and it ultimately resembles a lightning strike. 

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4. Loss of Ignorance

Throughout history, people believed that God invoked lightning strikes because people became too ignorant and lazy. It was meant as this wake-up call to do something and to change the way they lived.

That’s why we sometimes connect the lightning to loss of ignorance, which was employed by people who witnessed it in the past. It acted as a reminder to change and to stop making God angry, or else these strikes would continue to be threatening.

5. Sudden Illumination

Bolts of Lightning strike suddenly and in a surprising way. They’re unpredictable, thus it’s hard to control them and know where or when they will strike. That’s why lightning rods have been designed to steer away flashes of lightning and protect buildings or other potentially exposed materials or entities.

They can also be symbolic of something that happens suddenly, especially when we connect it to our thoughts. For example, when we get an idea quickly and suddenly, that’s when we might connect it to lightning.

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Lightning Symbolism in Different Cultures

Almost every ancient culture had its own interpretation of lightning and why it happened. It’s normally connected to the earliest known stories of mankind. In most cases, lightning earned a godlike reputation and was believed to be owned by the gods.

  • In Hindu mythology, lightning is connected to the god Indra, who became known as the God of lightning. 
  • In Greek mythology, lightning was the main symbol of Zeus, who was the god of all and the main god. He had the most power out of all gods because he was believed to be the one god that ruled Mount Olympus.
  • Similarly, the Romans connected lightning to Jupiter, who was also the king of gods for the Romans and he was their alternative to Zeus.
  • In Norse mythology, both Odin and his son, Thor, are connected to the symbolism of lightning. Odin’s spear was an embodiment of lightning, while Thor was known to control thunder and lightning.
  • Native Americans, on the other hand, had a special story about lightning. They believed that there were “thunder beings” that caused the lightning fire in a sycamore tree. It’s also closely connected to the thunderbird, which was a symbol of honesty, truth, and morality.
  • Celts believed that where the lightning struck, the area around it was believed to be holy and protected by the god. They believed that the place where it struck held great power.

Lightning in Dreams

What does lightning represent in dreams?

If you’re struck by lightning in dreams, then you’ll gain intuition to solve one of your problems. Perhaps you’ll come to a conclusion about the problem or you might find a solution for a problem that’s been bothering you for some time.

If you dream about a lightning storm, this means that there’s about to be a great shift of energy from your life and that this energy will be used for something creative. It may inspire you to conserve your energy more and use it for different means that you find useful.

Alternatively, it can present a release of emotions. If you’ve been feeling tense lately and full of unreleased emotions, then it’s time to let them go. Because if you don’t, it might be too late and the emotions will be expressed in the wrong way.

If you see lightning in your dream, then it may mean you’ll experience love suddenly and surprisingly. This might be a great dream to have if you’re longing for a romantic relationship in your life.


Lightning is an electrifying symbol and it’s one of the more powerful symbols out there. Lightning symbolism has been present for thousands of years, and it was clearly seen with ancient cultures like the Greeks and the Romans. Today, we connect it to punishment, destruction, and loss of ignorance.

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