5 Traditional Usui Reiki Symbols and Their Meanings

01
of 06

The 5 Reiki Symbols

Usui Reiki Symbols
Background © Flickr / Lucy Nieto, Symbols © Phylameana lila Desy

Reiki symbols are used in the practice of Usui Reiki, an alternative form of healing developed nearly 100 years ago in Japan by a Buddhist monk named Mikao Usui.  The word Reiki is derived from two Japanese words: rei and ki. Rei means "higher power" or "spiritual power." Ki means "energy." Put together, Reiki can be loosely translated as "spiritual life force energy." 

Reiki healers practice attunement (sometimes called initiation), moving their hands over the body along the lines of the five traditional symbols. These gestures manipulate the flow of universal energy called ki (or qi) through the body and promoting physical or mental healing.

A typical Reiki session lasts 60 to 90 minutes, and patients are treated either lying down on a massage table or seated. Unlike massage, patients can remain fully clothed during the Reiki session, and direct physical contact is rare. Practitioners typically begin working either at a client's head or feet, moving slowly along the body as they manipulate a client's ki. 

Reiki symbols do not hold any special power themselves. They were devised as teaching tools for Reiki students. It is the intention of the practitioner's focus that energizes these symbols. The following five Reiki symbols are considered the most sacred. Each may be referred to by its Japanese name or by its intention, a symbolic name that represents its purposes in the practice.

02
of 06

The Power Symbol

Cho Ku Rei Reiki Symbol
Cho Ku Rei Reiki Symbol. Background © Flickr / Stew Dean, Symbols © Phylameana lila Desy

The power symbol Cho Ku Rei is used to increase or decrease power (depending on the direction in which it is drawn). Its intention is the light switch, representing its ability to illuminate or enlighten spiritually. Its identifying symbol is a coil, which Reiki practitioners believe is the regulator of qi, expanding and contracting as the energy flows throughout the body. Power comes in different forms with Cho Ku Rei. It may be used to as a catalyst for physical healing, cleansing or purification. It may also be used to focus one's attention. 

03
of 06

The Harmony Symbol

Sei Hei Ki Reiki Symbol
Sei Hei Ki Reiki Symbol. Background © irisb477 Flickr, Reiki Symbol © Phylameana lila Desy

The Sei Hei Ki symbolizes harmony. Its intention is purification and it is used for mental and emotional healing. The symbol resembles a wave washing across a beach or the wing of a bird in flight, and it is drawn with a sweeping gesture. Practitioners often will use this intention during treatments for addiction or depression in order to restore the body's spiritual equilibrium. It may also be used to help people recover from past physical or emotional trauma or to unblock creative energies.

04
of 06

The Distance Symbol

Hon Sha Ze Sha Nen Reiki Symbol
Hon Sha Ze Sha Nen Reiki Symbol. Background © Rik O'Hare Flickr, Reiki Symbol © Phylameana lila Desy

Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen is used when sending qi across long distances. Its intention is timelessness and it is sometimes called pagoda for the tower-like appearance of the characters when written out. In treatments, the intention is used to bring people together across space and time. Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen can also transform itself into a key that will unlock the Akashic records, which some practitioners believe to be a source of all human consciousness. It is an essential tool for the Reiki practitioner working on inner-child or past-life issues with clients.

05
of 06

The Master Symbol

Dai Ko Myo Reiki Symbol
Dai Ko Myo Reiki Symbol. Background © Brenda Starr / Flickr, Reiki Symbol © Phylameana lila Desy

Dai Ko Myo, the master symbol, represents all that is Reiki. Its intention is enlightenment. The symbol is only utilized by Reiki masters when attuning initiates. It is the symbol that heals the healers by combining the power of the harmony, power, and distance symbols. It is the most complex of the symbols to draw with the hand during a Reiki session.

06
of 06

The Completion Symbol

Raku Reiki Symbol
Raku Reiki Symbol. Background © Whimsy / Flickr, Reiki Symbol © Phylameana lila Desy

The Raku symbol is used during the final stage of the Reiki attunement process. Its intention is grounding. Practitioners use this symbol as the Reiki treatment is drawing to a close, settling the body and sealing the awakened qi within. The striking lightning bolt symbol made by the hands is drawn in a downward gesture, symbolizing the completion of the healing session.