What's the Significance of the Flower of Life?

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
Flower of Life symbol in the snow
Michael Uy, painter and artist from Jacobsdorf, Germany, drew the well-known flower of life symbol in the snow in 2021, using a broom and some string. Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

You've probably seen this design without knowing its name. The flower of life is most simply described as a pattern of 19 meticulously arranged, overlapping circles. It gets its name because the parts of the circles that overlap look a lot like flower petals. Ironically, although this design is believed to be ancient, dating back to at least 6,000 years ago, the name itself only came about in the last few decades, thanks to the 1999 book "The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, Vol. 1."

The flower of life is commonly seen in jewelry, thanks to its eye-pleasing symmetry and general beauty. However, it's most meaningfully incorporated into religious structures, like churches, altars, mosques and temples. For example, the flower of life appears on many columns at The Osireon, a part of the sacred Temple of Seti I, located in Egypt. It's also a hallmark of Phoenician art, dating in that context back as far as the ninth century B.C.E. Indeed, the symbol was routinely used in sacred contexts in areas of Northern Africa and Mesopotamia during these ancient time periods.


Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, were fascinated by the pattern, as well as its mathematical implications. In fact, one of his more famous works, the Vitruvian Man, which depicts a man with multiple arms and legs, is believed to have been inspired by his interest in the flower of life.

In New Age circles, the significance of the flower of life is enormous, as the central circle symbolizes the idea that all other life is begotten from one source. The geometric shape is seen as a symbol of enlightenment and spiritual growth. Of course, it's no secret that many religions hold that life as we know it was created by one supreme, higher power, so this symbolic representation holds true in those contexts as well.

Then there are the mathematical implications of the flower of life. Sacred geometry is the New Age study of how spirituality and geometric shapes are connected. It holds that life is designed by one geometric plan, rooted in nature, and typically assigns some type of interpretation to patterns and symbols that are geometrically significant. The way the circles in the flower of life are arranged creates a sixfold symmetry, and the resulting patterns are borderline hypnotic. Indeed, some New Age groups may use the symbol in a meditation practice.


How to Draw a Flower of Life

This is easier to do if you have a plastic circle guide. To draw a flower of life, you start by drawing a circle. Then, draw a second circle that overlaps the first one by about a third. Next, draw a third circle that overlaps the second circle by a third. Continue until you've done five circles in a vertical line. Then do four more circles on the left side and four on the right of this. Make sure your circles are intersecting as you do this. Continue until you have done 19 circles. Finish off by drawing one big circle around the pattern. Another way to do this is to use a compass to draw the circles.

The flower of life isn't the only geometrically significant symbol, however. There are a number of offshoots, including the Seed of Life, which is only seven overlapping circles, the Egg of Life, in which seven circles barely overlap to resemble a human embryo and the Fruit of Life, which is made up of 13 circles and said to be a basic design of the universe.