Symbols and Codes

Somewhat recent I stumbled upon hoboglyphs, the secret coding system of transient people during the Depression era (see below for more info) which started a flame in me to research the symbols and codes that people and oppressed populations have had to create for themselves in order to stay safe in the world. I am a huge fan of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. In the book, Man and His Symbols, Jung examines the full world of the unconscious, whose language he believed to be the symbols constantly revealed in dreams. Convinced that dreams offer practical advice, sent from the unconscious to the conscious self.

The first series of pyrographed wood burned discs with some hoboglyph symbols and inscriptions of meanings on back have fascinated me enought to want to look for other symbols and codes used in today’s society Рbe they secret signs or symbols used by groups (i.e. street gangs, drug dealers, human traffickers) who go to great lengths in keeping their operations and secrets out of the public eye to the not so secret -in plain sight- codes we may pass by everyday and not even recognize the signs are there.


Hoboglyphs is a fascinating system of symbols understood only by the hobo community back during the Depression era. They would inscribe these symbols using chalk or coal as a way to leave or send a message for the next hobo. Their code features elements like circles, arrows, and more that made up the directional symbols. Hash marks usually meant danger, but many of the signs were cryptic and nearly impossible to understand outside of the hobo community. One example is the symbol for a courthouse nearby; a curly line inside a circle.

Community Work –

If you are interested in seeing the hoboglyphs I worked on with the nonprofit organization, Brush With the Law together with staff and residents of the homeless shelter, CHOC (an RHD organization) please click HERE

Other coding symbols coming soon…

For now the point of doing these pyrographed wood discs are to inscribe and learn about these various codes and time periods as a way to compare and contrast the differences in life from history to present and to explore human insights, fears, and behaviors a little better through these coding systems.