West - Symbolic Meanings

Symbolic Meanings

In Chinese Buddhism, the West represents movement toward the Buddha or enlightenment (see Journey to the West). The ancient Aztecs believed that the West was the realm of the great goddess of water, mist, and maize. In Ancient Egypt, the West was considered to be the portal to the netherworld, and is the cardinal direction regarded in connection with death, though not always with a negative connotation. Ancient Egyptians also believed that the Goddess Amunet was a personification of the West. The Celts believed that beyond the western sea off the edges of all maps lay the Otherworld, or Afterlife.

In American literature (e.g. in The Great Gatsby) moving West has sometimes symbolized gaining freedom, perhaps as an association with the settling of the Old West (see also Manifest Destiny).

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