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I got to thinking about this recently. After I’d replaced the legs on our kitchen table, we are mightily surprised to see how it changed the room. Odd you might think, and unexpected. So do we. Anyway, that’s what we found.

So I got to thinking about the significance of a table and what it represents, in our lives and in our language.


Ad a flat surface a table is one of the most useful items in the home. At least that’s true in the West where we tend to sit on chairs. Whenever someone builds a camp or a makeshift dwelling, once a shelter is sorted out they turn their attention to making a table of some sort.

As a household item, a table is pretty unique. Apart from bed, we probably spend more time around a table than we do any other piece of furniture (I have a friend, Barlow, who hangs around wardrobes a lot looking for mythical creatures, but he’s weird, and he’s an investigator of the paranormal).

I could go on about furniture, but I’ve made my point and you can think it through in your own time. I’m more interested here in thinking about what a table represents, physically and symbolically.

Table symbolism

The table has been called ‘the heartbeat of a family’, It’s a place of assembly where people meet, talk, connect and share. Because it has metaphorical as well as practical significance, images and ideas about tables are lodged deeply in our collective psyche.

Traditionally, the table is where the family meets. Its a safe place of nourishment and unity. Socially and in our lives elsewhere, the table represents coming together with some sort of purpose. When parent shouts “it’s on the table” the rest of the family knows that this doesn’t just signal the arrival of food, it also means attendance is required, from which so many social tributaries emanate.

Special powers

An altar is a kind of table, and even in secular settings presence at a table can confer special powers – think of the ‘head of the family’, of the chairperson – and by inference, deference to authority by others present. The list is endless, conviviality and celebration, a zone of negotiation, a place for bringing together and maintaining unity and harmony.

In a similar way outside the family, socially, in business, politically, when we ‘bring things to the table’ this predicts certain behaviours. It can create expectation and opportunity, it becomes a liminal space, where new possibilities – magic even – can happen.

You know it makes sense

Wittingly and otherwise, we invest power in the table and what it represents. This means it can work for us if we make a conscious effort to recognise its importance and the potential as an island of opportunity, a place of change, an anchor in uncertain seas, a space for ritual, affirmation, inclusion, and love.

What do you think? Share your thoughts...

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