The gate is seemingly inconspicuous, but it holds great significance, literally and spiritually. It guards access to a space, whether a house, an estate, or even a city. A gate can provide security and prevent intruders from invading your space.
Spiritually, a gate could separate the area between the living and the dead or serve as an entryway to eternal life. Over the years, gateways have played significant roles in folklore, myths, and religious beliefs.
In many cultures, passing through a gate represents a right of passage, which is why many people choose to place the image of symbolic animals like lions, dragons, dogs, or bulls to guard this area.
What Does A Gate Symbolize?
Because of its physical and spiritual significance, the gate has come to represent a deeper meaning to different people over the years. Here are the ten most popular meanings and symbolisms that are associated with gates:
1. Transition Or Transformation
In literal terms, gates can restrict or allow access to a specific place.
However, this passage can signify a transition or transformation for many. In psychology, gates represent a form of initiation, an opportunity for growth, or the possibility of moving from one phase to another.
It is often utilized in sandplay, a form of play therapy using materials like sand, toys, or water to recreate worlds that reflect your struggles, concerns, and inner thoughts.
Like doors, gates can also represent the movement from one world or one level of consciousness to another. It represents a barrier that can prevent you from moving forward, but at the same time, it is a
a chance to initiate changes in your life as long as you pass this hurdle.
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2. Defense And Protection
As gates protect our houses or compounds in the real world, they also symbolize the need to defend and safeguard your spirit against negative influences.
Because you live in a world where evil and temptation are in abundance, it is easy to get lost or sidetracked if you don’t put up a barrier against them.
Gates serve as a reminder not to let everything in because some things will only corrupt you and destroy the good that lives inside you.
Your five senses are the gates that will enable you to sort through the information that you want to enter your brain. Be careful to select only those that will feed your soul and help you become a better person.
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3. Hope And New Life
Gates often represent the entrance to a new world, which also means a way to a new life.
As such, it also signifies the hope of a second chance, that whatever has happened in the past is over, and it is time to start anew.
One example is the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, which used to be the former city gate of Berlin. It served as a landmark and significant symbol of the capital city for many years, with over two hundred years of history.
However, it also represented the division of East and West Germany during the Cold War. After the fall of the Berlin wall, it became a symbol of peace, unity, and hope for the people.
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4. Division And Separation
During ancient times, major entrance points to and from individual cities would be marked by a gate.
This separates the residents from outsiders, creating a clear division between “us”, who belong to the community, and “them”, which refers to those who don’t.
While both parties may behave and look alike, this division serves as a reminder that they are not actually the same.
Spiritually, gates also signify the separation of the living from the dead or the spiritual world from the secular one. Some earlier cultures reflect this symbolism in the gates they use in real life.
One example is “the Gates of Heaven”, or the gate of the Lempuyang Temple in Bali, Indonesia, which reflects the Hindu belief that temple gates separate the secular and the sacred.
5. Choice Or Chance
In the Christian Bible, Jesus used the analogy of two gates to describe the choices in life that people have to make.
The narrow gate leads to the more challenging road but ends in a richer spiritual life, while the wide gate is the easy way to take but ends in destruction.
Another way of looking at it is the symbolism of an open and a closed gate. An opened one represents a chance to head to a new life or to take on a new challenge and face new opportunities.
It is also a reminder to take a pause and think about your life choices before walking through this gate and make sure that you are prepared for whatever changes it may bring.
On the other hand, a closed gate stands for a roadblock that stops you from growing and moving forward. It could be a challenge you need to overcome, a skill you need to learn, or a more profound understanding that should be developed before you move on to the next stage in your life.
6. Economic And Social Center
In ancient times, the city gate also served as a trading hub and commercial district.
With limited space inside the city to set up a marketplace, many traders would opt to sell their wares in front of the city gates in hopes of attracting both the residents and guests passing by.
As such, the gates also became a meeting place, particularly between two guests or between a guest and a resident. In some cases, the trading activities at the city gates would become a benchmark for the price of goods and services in a city or the entire nation.
7. Control Or Power
As a city gate protects those inside its borders, it also helps keep others out.
Once the gate is forcibly opened, invaders can quickly go in and ransack the city. Thus, the ability of the town to defend its entrance is a reflection of its strength. Likewise, when enemy groups can bring it down, it also shows that they are the stronger party.
For this reason, ancient cities would build gates that were easy to defend and surround them will walls that were hard to tear down.
One example of this is the gate of Tel Lachish in Israel which protrudes from the wall, forcing the enemy to approach it from the front and making them vulnerable to attack.
Meanwhile, some gates are built as tributes and a display of strength from a ruling party. An example is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, commissioned by Napoleon as a symbol of French victories and to honor the soldiers who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
8. Justice And Wisdom
In the old times, many court cases would be tried in the side chambers built into the walls of the city gate.
Likewise, sentences would be carried out in the same place. This is because the city gates would often be under the control and management of the city’s chief official.
During these trials, the officials would have to separate the truth from the lies before forming their judgment. As such, the gates have come to symbolize the wisdom demonstrated by these officials and the justice served when they make these decisions.
Some contemporary gates have implemented this concept, such as the Dexter Gate at Harvard University. On the outer side of the gate is an inscription by Harvard President Charles William Eliot that says, “Enter to grow in wisdom”, while on the inner side, it says “Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.”
9. Enlightenment And Higher Consciousness
In the Upanishads, which are philosophical-religious texts of Hinduism, there is an analogy that likens a person to a city with ten gates.
The nine gates lead to the outside world and include the eyes, mouth, ears, nostrils, urethra, and anus. Meanwhile, the tenth gate is the link to the inner world and is also called the third eye.
With this reference, gates can also serve as a pathway toward enlightenment or a means to tap into higher levels of consciousness. In the Christian religion, the gate has been mentioned in the Old Testament as a means of enlightenment on several occasions.
One is through the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and another is through the prophecy of Ezekiel that mentions the arrival of Jesus through the east gate of the temple.
With its strategic location, it is no wonder kings would often use city gates to proclaim their achievements and exalt their greatness.
Many of them would construct monuments or have inscriptions written to show their prowess, and evidence of these activities has been unearthed by archeologists over the years.
As people pass by these gates every day, they are exposed to the great accomplishments of these kings, thus giving them the impression of the ruler’s competence and capability.
In some occasions, such as during times of war or when there is a need to incite fear and instill obedience in the people, the rulers would display the heads of sinners or slain enemies on the city gates.
Gates serve to protect and defend the space within its borders as they could prevent unwanted parties from barging their way in. Spiritually, it symbolizes a passageway from old to new or to draw a line between the secular and religious world.
Over the years, it has served many functions for different civilizations. It has been used as a center for trade, propaganda and socialization, as well as a means to demonstrate power, justice, wisdom, and control.
In the psychological and metaphysical realm, the gate represents the path to higher consciousness, the possibility for transformation, as well as the choice and a chance to make changes in your life.
I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.