I have a set of zodiac symbols that I drew during my CafePress days. I revised them to fit some 1-inch pendant trays. I got as far as printing them out (to trace the outline onto a pewter sheet), but stopped there. I realized it would be better to start with just one pendant design rather than a set of 12 all at once. I find that new projects sometimes require one, two, even three initial trials. So I’ll have to get back to the zodiac project later. For now, I decided I should make lingling-o pendants.
What Are They?
Lingling-o are ancient symbols, usually formed into brass pendants, though other metals are used as well. I first learned about them in the late 1950s, when I was a young girl living in the Philippines. Back then, lingling-o were just vaguely referred to as fertility symbols made by certain tribes living in the Philippine highlands.
This attitude would soon change; after a decade or so, there would be a resurgence of nationalist consciousness, and an avid interest in all things Filipino. Today, the history (and pre-history) and the many forms of lingling-o (and their symbolic meanings) have come to light. They’re very popular with younger generations of American Filipinos, thirsty to learn more about their heritage, and fascinated with trying to piece together what it might have been like in pre-colonial times.
Lingling-o are symbols of womanhood in the sense of the great power associated with women’s ability to give birth, which was considered to be awesome and magical in many ancient societies. As a young girl (living in more misogynistic and cultural chauvinist times), I simply loved that it was a positive female symbol invented by Filipinos.
But actually, the symbolism embedded within lingling-o is complex and many-layered, often depending on context and the wearer’s intention, not unlike ankh and cowrie symbolism. It also turns out not to be exclusively Filipino, having been used in ancient times by many Southeast Asia cultures. I’ve read they were originally carved from stone.
Men wearing lingling-o did not (and still don't) view them as having a direct association with women, whether generally or in the sense of a love interest. It was about drawing from an ancient mystical and spiritual concept of potent, life-giving powers that brought luck, strength and protection to any endeavor, especially warfare and hunting. Sometimes the basic shape is combined with animal heads, fish tails and the like.