In the mysterious wilderness of Yellowjackets, there lives a symbol with no clear meaning. Yellowjackets‘ iconic symbol has haunted, or is that helped, the team since their plane first crashed with no warning. And it has become an emblem of the show across merchandise and marketing material. But so far, although the symbol has appeared many times in many different ways, viewers have not been given a definitive read on the sigil. So what is Yellowjackets’ symbol, and what does it mean? Here’s what we know about it so far.
Where Have We Seen the Yellowjackets Symbol?
The mysterious symbol has popped up throughout Yellowjackets seasons one and two. It has also appeared in both the show’s main timelines.
The Yellowjackets Symbol in the Wilderness
In the wilderness timeline, we first glimpse the symbol lurking on a tree near where the Yellowjackets have crash landed. Temporally, we learn of its existence just after the team finds their Coach, Travis and Javi’s dad, impaled on a tree—an ominous beginning.
In the wilderness, we next see the Yellowjackets symbol decorating the abandoned cabin that the team finds in the forest. In many ways, the cabin is a gift. But sensitive Lottie, who seems locked into spirits and supernatural forces the others can’t sense, feels something evil in the cabin. And indeed, the team finds a hunter dead in the cabin’s attic. The Yellowjackets symbol decorates the floor all around the man. It is worth noting the corpse is missing some of his fingers.
In addition, in Yellowjackets season one, when the team holds an ill-fated seance, they use the symbols on the floor as part of their ritual. The ritual ends in chaos when Lottie, who appears to become possessed, starts snarling in French and banging her head against the window. Lottie tells the team, “It’s hungry,” and “You must spill blood or else.” This isn’t directly the symbols’ fault. But it is suspicious.
In Yellowjackets season two, Lottie also draws the symbol on a foggy window as part of her protection rituals. And she embroiders the symbol onto a baby blanket for Shauna. When Shauna’s blood lands on the symbol, a flock of birds mysteriously, almost biblically, falls dead around the Yellowjackets’ cabin. Additionally, Tai, too, has ties to the symbol. The other evil Tai, also known as sleepwalking Tai, tells Van she is following the man with no eyes and leads them both to a tree with the symbol on it.
It turns out that Yellowjackets symbol-carrying trees actually join to form a huge symbol shape. We’re left wondering who designed this symbol and took the time to create this large-form version of it. Although Tai is being led to these trees and the symbol continues to recur, what its presence means remains anyone’s guess. However, perhaps the more important question is what will the team decide it means to them.
The Yellowjackets Symbol in Present Day
In the present day, the symbol first returned by way of mysterious postcards sent to the survivors. That cards said “Wish you were here,” and felt vaguely threatening. They turned out to be sent by Shauna’s husband Jeff in an ill-conceived blackmail attempt. But the survivors’ reactions to seeing the symbol was one of seeming fear.
In addition, the Yellowjackets symbol marked Travis’ death scene. According to Lottie, in season two, Travis had set up the markers of the symbol in an effort to understand “what the wilderness wants.” Lottie recounts that Travis said the only way to do that was to get as close as possible to death. And evidently, to draw out the symbol. Of course, we can’t fully trust Lottie’s version of events. Lottie also chose to adopt the symbol as the sigil of her cult/wellness group—an interesting choice.
Finally, Taissa’s other personality draws the symbol on a creepy alter, on which she has placed the head of the family dog. We presume Other Tai drew the symbol to help Tai win her election. Other Tai also draws it on the hand of Tai’s wife, Simone, after she causes them to crash their car in season two.
The Yellowjackets Symbol as a Marker of Cannibalism
One possible read of the Yellowjackets symbol is as a literal rendering of cannibalism. The symbol does look like a girl hung upside down on a hook to bleed out before she is cooked for dinner. We see that exact occurrence happen in the show’s first episode. However, the symbol was present before the Yellowjackets landed in the wilderness. So unless the wilderness is prescient, which it might be, it seems like this is at least not the original intent of the symbol.
The Yellowjackets Symbol as Hobo Code
Another possible explanation of the Yellowjackets symbol’s meaning looks to Hobo Code. This series of hieroglyphics was used by unhoused individuals to communicate about the safety of different places. According to Reddit, broken down using the code, the Yellowjackets symbol communicates several different warnings. These include: “stop,” “get out fast,” “keep away,” “man with a gun lives here,” and “nothing available here.”
The Yellowjackets Symbol as an Alchemic Marker
Another possible explanation of the Yellowjackets symbol lies in alchemy. This theory starts with the idea that the symbol could be representative of a mine. If there are mines nearby where the Yellowjackets crashed, it’s possible they are being exposed to a toxic substance like cinnabar. And that sort of poisoning could account for the mysterious happenings around them. Discussion of different substances also brought fans to the idea of the symbol relating to alchemical markers. While the marker for cinnabar doesn’t seem to fit, the lines and circles of the markers do look particularly symbol-like. They might point to a chemical cause for everything happening on the show.
What Does the Yellowjackets Symbol Mean? Protection or Evil?
Regardless of what exactly its provenance is, Yellowjackets has done an excellent job obfuscating whether or not the symbol means protection or harm. In Yellowjackets’ latest episode, Lottie fiercely argues that it might be protective. She says to the team, “Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s evil.” And, in fact, that seems true.
It can be said the symbol is evil because the cabin the team discovered once contained a dead man. But the cabin is also the only thing that stands between the Yellowjackets and freezing to death. Similarly, it can be said the symbol is evil because it seems to have brought the death of the birds in season two. But the Yellowjackets are starving and need those birds to survive. Even the symbol found on Taissa’s creepy alter might have brought her protection. Although it seems evil to sacrifice the family dog, Tai did deserve to win her election.
The heavy implication Yellowjackets offers is that to earn the wilderness and the symbol’s protection, blood must be spilled. When the wilderness feels sated by blood, it gives its gifts freely. And this does seem inherently evil. But as Lottie reminds us, there is a lot we don’t yet know about the symbol. Perhaps we have simply misunderstood it. Of course, there’s always the possibility the symbol means nothing at all. But what fun would that be?