Bridge Symbolism

Having worked on drawbridges for over 12 years, I’ve come to know how strongly many people feel about bridges in general. Just publish your plans to demolish or replace one, and brace yourself for the public outcry. People love to walk and jog across bridges, and many’s the time I’ve witnessed marriage proposals. Fishermen often have their regular spots staked out, and people love to hop out of their cars during bridge openings to enjoy the weather. For some inexplicable reason, the mentally ill are drawn to bridges as well.

Another strange thing about bridges is that people view them as bigger barriers than regular streets, even if they are fixed span bridges with no chance of causing a delay. People will not hesitate to take a 10 minute drive on an interstate which has the same length of road without exits as even the largest of bridges possesses, but if their route contains a bridge, that same 10 minute drive is viewed as a hassle to be avoided.

What do bridges symbolize to people? In the tarot, the bridge card means progress, connections, and stability. Often people view bridges as the only way to reach a destination, and therefore bridges are a way to overcome obstacles. Bridges also represent transitions. “Crossing over” is a euphemism for taking that journey from life to death. Perhaps that’s also why so many people use bridges when they’ve made the unfortunate decision to end their lives, a decision which, speaking from personal observation, is made far more frequently than is reported in the media, and is also a decision which they instantly regret, judging from their screams on the way down. You can be fairly certain that any bridge that you cross that is more than 40 feet above the water has been a place where someone has died.

Perhaps my favorite bridge symbol, though, is that of hope. If you can just get over that bridge, you may find yourself in a better place on the other side. Some bridges are harder to cross than others. If you’re afraid of heights they can be scary. If feeling the surface shaking below your feet unsettles you, then your crossing can pose a challenge, but trust me, that challenge is deceiving. You do NOT want to be on a rigid and inflexible bridge. Not if you want to live. So in some ways bridges can represent a struggle, but one with the prospect of better things on the far shore. I find that inspiring.

If you’re reading this, welcome to my most popular blog entry! The fact that it’s so popular has me flattered and also confused. So I’d love it if you’d tell me why you’re here in the comments below! Thanks!

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Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

65 thoughts on “Bridge Symbolism”

  1. Hey, maybe landing in that net is fun…you can charge people for it and raise maintenance/repair money…The super trampoline, with a view…Joke…
    All right, for me the interesting thing about bridges of the sort you work on is the complementarity of their functions. It acts as a barrier and then a gateway to road traffic and marine traffic by turns–two diametrically opposite conditions, applied to two orthogonal thoroughfares. Plus, some are so beautifully symmetrical in themselves. And they move gracefully [usually]–the rotational geometry of bascules, and the smooth braking of vertical lifts. What’s not to love?

  2. And I forgot to mention The Horn. I was astonished to find that this kind of bridge even has a voice. One can miss it sometimes when not far away in heavy traffic, and then in a quiet neighborhood one can hear it from 2 or 3 miles.
    I was present at a ceremony some 20 years back marking start of work on a twin to a double bascule that we have here, right next to it, and there came the mayor’s turn to speak, and he got up on the platform, grabbed the mike and opened his mouth and just then–“TOOOOOOT!!”, loud enough to flutter the tent –and everyone cracked up and he opened his mouth again and “–TOOOOOT!!” and people cracked up even more, and once again, “TOOOOOT!!” and then he finally got to talk, but I had ducked out to get a picture of the state’s biggest one in motion. I guess you just had to be there…

    1. That’s funny. But yeah, the Coast Guard CFR-33 requires that we do a horn signal on open and close. One long, one short for the open, 5 short blasts for the close. Much to the consternation of nearby residents. But if you buy a house near a drawbridge you get what you deserve. These regs were from a time when people didn’t have marine radios, and they would signal their desire for an opening by these signals, and we would reply in kind. Most boaters wouldn’t know to do that today, even if their radios malfunction. Mostly they just use rude gestures. They’re a bit outmoded, but the close signal is still helpful, because you’d be amazed how many boaters rush the bridge without notifying us of their intent. If they’re incommunicado, the horn is the only way they’ll realize they’re about to get crushed.

  3. Our bridges used to have horns pitched somewhat in the middle of the keyboard. But now, at least some of them seem have been switched out for more treble versions, and not so loud–no doubt at the behest of waterside dwellers. Ferries have bass horns and these go the farthest.
    Another cool thing. When the bascules have a grating for a deck, you can see right thru it when it lifts. They are like dragonflies, they have transparent wings. Some other people like how it hums under their wheels, but a lot of the folks in power have decided that slipperiness and pollution of the waterway are too problematic, and are moving to solid decks, even though these might add to the weight. Our new one at South Park has a solid deck, and the runoff goes to a rain-garden, so the Duwamish is going to be a little cleaner than how it was.
    The Aurora bridge, a high immobile one, is also a hotspot for jumpers, but the powers that be just put a high fence on it, so your view of the waterway is as from a cage, though a high and airy one. My dad once said they should just put up a diving board. I hope they don’t add a fence to the Deception Pass one up north, as that view is truly beautiful [awesome currents, also]–despite it has been several people’s last.
    What they should do is set up a deal for folks to bungee jump from it–and use the proceeds for social programs that’d make suicide less of an appealing option…

    1. That’s actually a really great idea! Bungee jumping is all the rage, so why not? And it would put people up there regularly, so it would be harder for jumpers to jump, too. Yes, fencing bridges isn’t very aesthetically pleasing, but I suppose it is a necessary evil. I suspect if you prevent jumpers, they’ll just find another way. I don’t know, though. Maybe the fact that it takes more time will give some of them just enough time to think better of it. Hard to say.

  4. Hi,

    Our family is having a harvest table made and we are deciding between a full slab of fir for the top, or have it made out of reclaimed wood from an old fir bridge (we live in BC). My heart told me bridge for many reasons and so I googled bridge symbolism. Your posting has helped me confirm my heart is in the right place.


  5. Hi, I had a miscarriage on a little bridge that lead to a yoga shala in Bali. My dear friend asked me to google “bridge symbolism” to see if there was any significance in any way.From your blogpost, it gave me some clarity and it also resonated with what I’m going through ATM, in regards to new beginnings and hope, transition to a better life etc. It’s all good! Thanks for posting the article. It helped.

  6. I’ve always been fascinated with bridges and it all started with watching a documentary of the Golden Gate survivors. After reading your blog it really put everything I’ve ever thought about bridges in one nice piece of writing. I visit this blog often to read this so thank you for your words. Also another big piece of this is that you brought the word hope into this. My favorite quote is “Sometimes hope is enough to get you through anything”, so bridges symbolized with hope really connects with me. Again thank you for this blog, as I will visit many more times in the future.

  7. I have a fear of bridges and especially bridges with water underneath, due to something that happened, that was very terrifying to me, while traveling with some of my family, at a very young age on a bridge with water underneath, which has caused me to live in a bondage because I’m afraid of traveling and that’s what I want to do. I’m 45, and haven’t gone more than 200 miles away from where I am born and raised, so I asked myself, what does bridges and bridges with water underneath them represents in a Spiritual meaning.

    1. I hope you can get past this fear, Bernita. I think deep down it’s a way to keep you from confronting something else. I’m not a therapist, though. If you can see one, I’m sure they could help. If you are ever able to travel, come to Seattle and I’ll give you a tour of my drawbridge. Good luck!

  8. In divinitary Tarot, (F.ex. The Celtic Cross) you have a position called -“Hopes and Fears”. But it is not -“A Card”! This position often represents how you come across with others. More extensively it describes other peoples reaction to you, or their reflected feedback towards what you do. If your life is on the stage, you would probably consider a bridge to symbolize the troll of -“stage fright”? A writer would say -“writers block” and maybe -“fear of refusal”? An actor would call this -“a mental block”, etc. (dear child have…and so on?) ; a link to your bridges? The more people you are exposed to – the greater, wider or deeper will their automatic reaction to you seem to be? So in your world (here on the Internet), your -“Bridge” symbol presumably stretches across to and fro a wide end muddy river, a stagnant sump or a shallow beach with an endless peer? We are coded with the same symbols but we only have to learn how to use them! But thanks for your tips! Learned a lot! Magne

  9. Thank you for your blog. The reason I’m reading it is that I’m a transformational trainer and coach and redoing my logo. One was proposed with a bridge and it spoke to me because I always considered that as a corporate trainer I build a bridge of hope and trust between organizations and their employees; and in coaching individuals, I see it as building a bridge between who my client is and who they want to become/or between them and their goals or dreams.

    I thought I would explore other meanings behind bridges, and your article is written with great care and completeness, that it helps me commit to that logo.

    Thank you again, and I wish you continued success in all areas of your life.
    Quebec, Canada

  10. I live in Gold Coast Australia and my company has an office in Belgrade Serbia. I recently visited Belgrade and the team there were just wonderful. One day some of us went on a bicycle tour around the city and at dusk we crossed the iconic single tower cable suspension bridge there. I managed to get a wonderful photo as the sun was going down and have used it as an icon for my communications to the team over there. I was wondering about the symbolism of bridges and this post came up. I have always been aware of how important bridges are and was looking for some more detail. For the moment, i am very satisfied. Thanks for your post.

  11. Hello! Thanks for your posting. During church today our Pastor shared a story of the little mouse and big elephant who were friends. One day they decided to cross this thatched bridge and despite appearances in the natural, they both made it all the way across safely and successfully, thanks to their strong faith in their strong God who protected and blessed them. I felt compelled to look up the symbolism of bridges to fully understand the whole concept of the parable. I also looked up mouse and elephant totem for even more Divine insight.
    Thanks again and peaceful, happy, healthy, wealthy Divine Blessings to you and yours. 🙂

  12. I recently had a vision of people walking, one by one, onto a local bridge and praying for Gods direction, for a particular prayer need.

  13. This morning I was reading Holy Bridges in Quiet Mind by David Kundtz. It was about bridge symbolism. “The arteries that facilitate the movement of life within the community”.
    I live in Charleston SC so cross multiple bridges daily. I decided to search for “bridge symbolism” and found your blog…

  14. I am the art instructor @ Scottsboro High School. With the help of a grant, we are building a large scale public sculpture with a piece from the blown out BB Comer Bridge over the Tennessee River. The bridge had to be demolished 2 years ago because of age (Begun in 1929 and completed in 1930.) The sculpture using the entrance to the span sits on the school’s campus. I was researching the symbolism of bridges for the dedication speech and your article is beautifully written! Thanks!

  15. ok, So I just did a search for bridge symbolism and your wonderful post came up. Isn’t it interesting that a bridge can symbolize such opposing meanings: hope and death? I loved your insights on what you see as a bridge symbolizing hope. Maybe that’s why your post resonates with so many people.

  16. I was searching dream meanings and your blog came up. I enjoyed it very much!! It helped.
    I had a dream last night that II was traveling in a foreign city and I was lost…(one of those typical feeling lost dreams) . I got stuck on a drawbridge as it was going up. I was dangling for what seemed forever, feeling all the while that I was losing my grip, and was about to meet my end in the deep icy blue below. Made it to the end but as the bridge was going down I noticed that my hand was jammed in and I couldn’t free it….seemingly I would be crushed by the closing bridge. Then I noticed I had a glove on and realized then I could just slip my hand out and be free…. geeesh… I’m glad that’s over…..
    I’m on a pretty intense spiritual journey right now. I’m hoping that this bodes well!!! I DID make it to the other side! But what was on the other side? whoooooa
    …still lost…. the next part of my dream I was riding on a bus that they called the “worm hole” !!!! I spent he remainder of my dream on a terrifying roller coaster ride in the dark…. whata night!!!
    Thanks for giving a sharing space. I think It gave me a chance to reflect in a deeper way on the meaning of a drawbridge!!!! I don’t think I’m up for looking up the symbolism of “worm hole” just yet… LOL

    1. Good luck, Kamala! I suspect that your subconscious is trying to tell you that you are a survivor. That you can get past any obstacles that are thrown at you. That you are strong, intelligent, and innovative. That’s the impression I’m getting, at least.

  17. I recently lost a dear friend and when I crossed this bridge I really felt his presence hours after he passed. I often drive to work on this bridge so crossing it brought me to tears. I think of him very time I cross it. For him, I view myself having helped him emotionally and spiritually “cross over” from life to death by simply comforting him and being with him in that hour. Just recently, he helped comfort me in life as I transitioned emotionally from dealing with a divorce and progressing in many areas: financially, career, making new friends, finding myself spiritually, changing my views that were mental blocks and healing. Crossing that bridge now’s means something more personal like not be afraid to love again and live the rest of my life…and finding something better awaits on the other side. I once feared death but now I see it differently and when my day comes I hope he’s on the other side to greet me.

  18. I came to this blog after having a dream about a bridge (of sorts). The bridge was made up of two planks of wood. The first was solid and stable, the second was wobbly. Bizarrely in my dream there were three Buddhist monks sat by the side of the bridge as I crossed and they smiled as I questioned the wobbly plank. They told me that the bridge was a journey through life, but on waking I was puzzled as to why the second plank was so wobbly and wondered if this symbolised a ‘shaky’ second phase of this two-phase life-journey, which confused me as it was the first phase of my life journey where I took incredible risks and made bad choices, but now on my second phase I am settled, content and fulfilled..
    Your blog mentions
    “If feeling the surface shaking below your feet unsettles you, then your crossing can pose a challenge, but trust me, that challenge is deceiving. You do NOT want to be on a rigid and inflexible bridge. Not if you want to live. So in some ways, bridges can represent a struggle, but one with the prospect of better things on the far shore. I find that inspiring.”
    You just made a whole lot of sense of my dream – and why the Buddhist monks (who I believe built lots of bridges) – were smiling.
    Great blog!

  19. Hi, I was searching for a meaningful word for a liaison person. Someone who will work between young patients diagnosed with cancer and the medical staff. I felt liaison was not visually meaningful enough. I love the symbolism behind the word bridge. It is a word that inspires strength and stability, overcoming obstacles, a connection between two places and the hope that getting to the other side brings. Thanks, I think its the perfect word for me to use…

  20. The way I view bridges has evolved since I started to admire them in my early forties. Now I love to just sit and watch a bridge lift or swing. Now they are also seen as portals to another place in more ways than one. My dearest sister who lost her battle to cancer in the summer of 2017 was a turning point for me and I am still struggling with this grief. She crossed over the rainbow bridge and awaits for me on the other side. I don’t know which bridge that is but when the time comes I will see it and run over to the other side and hold my sister. Not long after she passed, someone from your bridge enthusiast circle sent me a message asking me about the bridges he could look at in the region I live in Oregon. I made some suggestions. I hope he saw The Bridge of the Gods. That is one of my favorites because it’s old, pretty, unique looking to me, and has a lot of history of that location that is connected to the Native Americans. My heart was broken while I was trying to gain my sanity back in that private message. That person led me to you and I am always grateful for that. Not because you are a bridgetender.. It is because you are a very kind person. Your blogs inspired me to purchase your book. Back to bridges… It all started with bridges to an interesting blogger who is a nice person on top of all that and also an interesting person. Thank you. A refuge away from my emotional struggles due to my sister’s passing, your blogs have been kind of an online therapy for me. Until I walk that rainbow bridge, I will admire the bridges and people who work on them. Bridges are not only beautiful and come in all kinds of flavors but they all have a pathway from one end to the other. I can feel the bridges trembling that I walk over. It is like the vibration of life/energy as i stop and feel the wind blowing on my face as I did on the Golden Gate Bridge once. in the beginning, I was simply admiring the look of old truss bridges then ended up grieving over one that was demoed. All that has passed and I am a different person now. All that matters is who I am now after my sister passed. Maybe I am overdue to walk over a bridge just to simply walk it and feel the vibrations from the traffic of life. Maybe that will trigger a dream of my sister standing on the other side waiting for me.

    1. Thank you for the wonderful compliments. That means a lot, Lee. And I genuinely and truly believe that you and your sister are connected by love, and that forms a strong bridge, indeed. Please do walk a bridge and enjoy the experience again. It will do you good.

  21. I dreamed my grown son and I were on a drawbridge. In a small car and it was going up I panicked there was a man in the backseat helped me steer he was familiar and made me feel safe and I woke…i did not see the mans face at all

  22. I get bridges in dreams often. The latest was being under a bridge, so I’m looking for symbolism on that. Thanks for writing about bridges.

  23. I came across your essay on bridges while looking for ways to enhance a bicycle tour of physical bridges in Pittsburgh with getting the participants to think about metaphorical bridges in our city and in their own lives.

  24. what I find interesting about is how they manage to integrate two different worlds together at the same time- land and water. It’s like the bridge is rooted in the ground under the water body, and it’s surrounded by water everywhere till eyes can see, but deep down, it’s touching land at the base and both it’s two ends. And inspite of all this, it lets us transit over water without having to touch it.

    1. That’s a profound thought. Thank you for causing me to think it, as I’m sitting up in my bridge tower and the rain is pouring down. So now the bridge is protecting me from water from every direction. It makes me appreciate the bridge even more.

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