Doors and doorways have been symbolic across cultures for as long as history has been recorded. A door is both an entrance and an exit, so it has been associated with portals and passageways on many levels throughout history. Doors are closely related to gates and thresholds because the three share some very similar symbolic features and sometimes work together to create passage.
Interior and Exterior Doors throughout History
Doors were first seen in recorded history on paintings inside Egyptian tombs. The ancient Romans had advanced architectural elements and were known to have used single, double, sliding, and folding doors. The Roman god Janus was the god of doors and doorways, and also the god of beginnings, endings, transitions, gates, gateways, and time. Doors still continue to symbolize all of these elements today.
Doors as Entrances
A door is first and foremost an entrance. On a literal level a door usually leads to the inside of something, be it a house, building, or other structure. Within a structure itself a door serves as both an entrance and exit to other rooms, a passageway between rooms, and an exit from the structure. On a metaphorical level, a door can become an entrance to nearly anything, but it is most commonly used to symbolize the entrance to another world.
Doors and New Beginnings:
An open door has been a long-time symbol of a new beginning. An open door shows that there’s a way out and can also provide a view of what lies ahead. A closed or locked door, on the other hand, can represent a dead end or create the feeling that there’s no way out. A door can be a symbol of opportunity or one of imprisonment.
Doors, Transitions and Passageways
A door or doorway symbolizes the transition and passageway from one place to another. A door is often used to symbolize the passage from one world to another in religion, mythology, and literature. A doorway may be used in lore and literature to symbolize a short transition, while a hallway might be used as a contrasting longer transition. Even when people literally use the door of a building to enter or exit the outside world, they are going through a type of transition each time.
Doorways and Gateways
Doorways and gateways are very similar at a glance but show a few subtle differences upon examination. A gate is an open type of entrance; even when closed, a person can see what lies beyond a gate. A doorway, on the other hand, provides little view to the other side when closed. Doors are associated with privacy, control, and protection much more than a welcoming, open-view gate.