Ribs play an important structural role in protecting our heart and lungs, but they also carry intriguing symbolic meaning in various spiritual and mythological traditions.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Ribs are often seen as a symbol of one’s innermost being and soul. They represent emotional depth, intuition, inner wisdom, and spiritual protection.

In this in-depth article, we’ll explore the spiritual significance of ribs from several perspectives:

Ribs in the Bible and Judaism

Adam and Eve

In the Biblical creation story, God creates Adam from the dust and then makes Eve from one of Adam’s ribs (Genesis 2:21-22). This story symbolizes that men and women are made for each other and implies the intimacy of marriage.

The rib also suggests that men and women are meant to protect each other, just as ribs protect the heart and other vital organs. Some Jewish traditions see the rib as symbolic of discernment – Eve was created from a rib rather than another body part because she would need inner wisdom in making decisions.

Inner Wisdom and Discernment

In Rabbinic literature, the rib represents Binah – one of the sephirot on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life associated with inner wisdom, intuition and discernment. There is a saying, “If intelligence (Chokmah) is the father of ideas, then their mother is Binah.”

As a life force, ribs also relate to breathing, suggesting a connection between respiration, energy, and hidden knowledge or perception. Rabbis debate whether Adam’s rib grew back or whether it symbolically represents a “loss” humans experience on gaining knowledge or maturity.

Overall, ribs represent protection, sensitivity and gaining higher insight or awareness according to Jewish mythology.

Ribs in Shamanism and Native American Traditions

Accessing Spiritual Realms

In many shamanic and Native American traditions, ribs and the chest area are seen as a gateway to accessing spiritual realms and connecting with spirit guides. The ribcage surrounds and protects vital organs like the heart and lungs, which are associated with the breath of life in many cultures.

By focusing on the rise and fall of the chest during breathing meditations, shamans can shift consciousness and traverse into non-ordinary states.

According to some Native American beliefs, ribs form a protective barrier that can be symbolically opened to allow spirits to enter. Vision quest rituals involving piercings or wounds on the chest released the spirit from the body so it could roam supernatural realms.

In returning, the spirit would gain wisdom to bring back to the tribe.

The Lakota Sioux viewed the chest as containing the ognaka owoyuspe, or “warm life breath”, the essence of being human. Ribs serve as a vessel sheltering this sacred breath that connects people to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit.

Thus, ribs alsorepresented an entry point for receiving visions and messages from the gods.

Spirit Guides and Guardians

Animal spirits are common guides in shamanic journeys. According to Native American lore, people gained animal attributes through dreams, visions, or combat. One Cherokee legend tells of a warrior who was losing until a spirit gave him the strength of a bear by placing bear ribs within the man’s body.

These animal characteristics connected that person more strongly to their spiritual allies. For example, in Northwest tribes like the Tsimshian, shamans described initiations involving animal familiars showing them secret knowledge. These spirit guides then remained as helpers.

Additionally, ribs feature in Native American protective rituals. Tribes like the Ojibwe and Algonquian wore bones of deer, moose or buffalo in medicine bundles to absorb dangerous spiritual influences.

Intercessor spirits associated with those animals would then intervene to defend the bearer from harm. Thus, ribs act as talismans channeling defensive spirits or energies.

Ribs in Eastern Philosophies and Medicine

Qi Energy and the Meridians

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the ribs and chest area are believed to be the residence of qi energy, the vital life force that flows through invisible pathways called meridians. According to TCM, when qi flows freely through the 12 major meridians mapped throughout the body, health and vitality result.

However, when the flow of qi becomes blocked or depleted, illness can occur.

The ribs and chest protect many vital organs that relate to the lungs and heart meridians. Disruptions to these meridians often manifest as respiratory or cardiac issues. TCM treatments aim to open up the ribcage area with techniques like acupuncture, herbal formulas, breathing exercises and massage in order to ensure the smooth flow of qi to encourage healing.

Yin and Yang Energies

In TCM philosophy, yin represents the cool, passive and inner forces of the body while yang represents the warm, active and outer forces. Both yin and yang energies reside within the ribs and chest cavity.

For example, the upper ribs and lungs relate to the yin/cold aspect, while the middle ribs and heart connect more to the yang/hot aspect. Striking a harmonic balance between yin and yang in this region supports overall wellbeing.

The lower ribs house the liver and spleen which also require yin-yang equilibrium. Interesting statistics show that in TCM, the ribs on the right side contain slightly more yang energy while the ribs on the left side harbor slightly more yin energy.

Therefore, TCM treatments often focus on addressing imbalances between the two sides of the ribcage.

The Symbolic Significance of Ribs

Protection of Vulnerable Inner Self

The ribs act as a protective cage around our heart and lungs – two of the most vital organs that keep us alive. In symbolic terms, the ribs can represent how we shield our innermost self, our true essence and deepest emotions, from being hurt or exposed.

Just like the ribs safeguard the physical heart, we may put up barriers emotionally in order to prevent pain and preserve our inner innocence and purity.

According to Native American and other indigenous traditions, the ribs and chest embody our most intimate sense of self. Hence injuries or trauma here can have an especially damaging impact on our core identity and self-esteem.

With supportive self-care and healing therapies, we can mend painful imprints on our inner being. As we build self-acceptance and self-love, our defensive armor naturally softens, enabling us to open up safely.

Gateway to Intuition and Inner Voice

In energy healing disciplines, the rib area corresponds to the heart and throat chakras. When these energy centers are balanced via practices like yoga and meditation, our capacity for clear intuition, insight and truthful self-expression can blossom beautifully.

Hence for many spiritual seekers, the gateway of the ribs facilitates a bridge between our inner wisdom and outer communication.

Listening deeply to the stirrings of our soul allows our inner voice to surface calmly through the portal of the ribs. As we tune into the rhythm of our breath moving in and out of this sacred space, we may hear ever more clearly the guidance of spirit expressing through our bones, flesh and cells.

With care and patience, the songs of our heart translate into the language of our lips, enabling us to manifest a more authentic life aligned with our innermost truth.


As we’ve explored, ribs hold intriguing symbolic meaning across a variety of spiritual traditions. They represent protection, emotional depth, inner wisdom, access to spiritual realms, and more.

Understanding the deeper significance of ribs gives us a new appreciation for this vital part of our physical and energetic anatomy.

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