There are a number of mysteries in Yellowjackets, and that ominous symbol is one of the big ones. Seemingly depicting an impaled girl with a hook for feet, the line drawing is connected to the team’s time in the wilderness, though its exact significance and origin remain unknown…for now. The figure appears both in the ’90s and present-day timelines, meaning the adult survivors of the plane crash have not left it behind.
Let’s revisit the symbol’s appearances so far and test out a few theories about its true meaning.
Where has it appeared so far?
Not long after the Yellowjackets’ plane crashes, the symbol appears carved into a tree at the site where they landed. Later, it appears carved into the floor of the attic at the team’s cabin.
In 2021, the symbol shows up on postcards that Nat, Taissa, and Misty receive from a mysterious sender. It’s also in a text message they receive as they’re being blackmailed. However, the blackmailer turns out to be Jeff, Shauna’s husband, who read her journals from her time in the wilderness and probably learned about the symbols from there. He was targeting her classmates to get money to keep his sinking furniture business afloat.
The symbol also appeared at the site of Travis’ death. When Misty and Nat acquire police photos of his suicide, they notice wax marks on the ground where he was killed, which, when connected, form the symbol.
Later in the season, it’s drawn in blood at Taissa’s basement shrine, next to her dog’s severed head and her son’s doll. It’s also on a pendant worn by one of Natalie’s kidnappers in the finale episode. They seem to be linked to Lottie as the voiceover asks in the final scene, “Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?”
In season 2, episode 1, teen Lottie draws the symbol in the fog of the cabin window after sending Travis and Natalie off to hunt and search for Javi. This is the first time anyone is seen drawing the symbol in the ’96 timeline. Later in the episode, in the present-day, one of the cult members who attends to Natalie is wearing the symbol on her pendant too.
What does the symbol mean?
This is where it gets juicy. So far, the show hasn’t offered any explanation, but has only presented the symbol with sinister connotations. That hasn’t stopped the internet from trying to figure it out themselves, of course. Like Misty, fans have channeled their inner citizen detectives and come up with plenty of theories.
“There’s been a lot of conjecture about the symbol,” co-showrunner Ashley Lyle told Thrillist after the season 1 finale. “People are digging up all chemical symbol tables, they’re digging up Hobo Code, they’re digging up trigonometry. Just the fact that they are all engaging on that level of detail is really thrilling for us.”
One common conjecture is that it’s a symbol for the girls’ cannibalistic ritual in the wilderness. The line across the figure’s body could represent one of the spikes in the tiger trap they used to kill their prey, and the hook at the bottom might refer to how they hung their victims upside down to bleed them out before cooking and consuming them. (These practices are shown in the first episode with a yet-unidentified victim, which all but confirms the girls’ cannibalism.)
Another theory uses trigonometry, positing that the symbol is a mathematical equation that, when solved, can reveal the latitude and longitude of their location and function as a map to escape the woods. As Reddit user IfKarona pointed out, there have been a few mentions of trigonometry throughout the first season, such as a math teacher saying the girls never cared about the subject, or Laura Lee saying in a eulogy that fallen teammate Rachel Goldman was always good at trig. Could trigonometry be a survival skill for the team?
As Lyle mentioned, other viewers think the emblem is a form of “hobo code,” which is like a set of symbols travelers leave to inform or warn each other of what’s in a certain area. Redditor Winter_Yak_9031 posted a breakdown of what some of these etchings could mean, such as “halt” for the hook or “man with a gun lives here” for the triangle.
The Yellowjackets team even got in on the fun themselves and had the cast weigh in on some theories about the symbol.
As season 2 unfolds, we’ll have to see if any of these theories stick, and which new ones will arise.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.