A thunderbolt or lightning bolt is a symbolic representation of lightning when accompanied by a loud thunderclap. In Indo-European mythology, the thunderbolt was identified with the 'Sky Father'; this association is also found in later Hellenic representations of Zeus and Vedic descriptions of the vajra wielded by the god Indra. It may have been a symbol of cosmic order, as expressed in the fragment from Heraclitus describing "the Thunderbolt that steers the course of all things".
In its original usage the word may also have been a description of the consequences of a close approach between two planetary cosmic bodies, as Plato suggested in Timaeus, or, according to Victor Clube, meteors, though this is not currently the case. As a divine manifestation the thunderbolt has been a powerful symbol throughout history, and has appeared in many mythologies. Drawing from this powerful association, the thunderbolt is often found in military symbolism and semiotic representations of electricity.
In religion and mythology
Neo-Attic bas-relief sculpture of Jupiter, holding a thunderbolt in his right hand; detail from the Moncloa Puteal (Roman, 2nd century), National Archaeological Museum, Madrid
Lightning plays a role in many mythologies, often as the weapon of a sky god and weather god. As such, it is an unsurpassed method of dramatic instantaneous retributive destruction: thunderbolts as divine weapons can be found in many mythologies.
in the Torah, the word for 'arrow', khets , is used for the "arrows" of YHWH/Elohim, which are represented as lightnings in Habakuk 3:11, but also as general calamities inflicted on men as divine punishment in Deuteronomy 32:42, Psalm 64:7, Job 6:4, etc.
In Greek mythology, the thunderbolt is a weapon given to Zeus by the Cyclopes. Based on this, in Roman mythology, the thunderbolt is a weapon given to Jupiter by the Cyclopes, and is thus one of the emblems of Jupiter, often depicted on Greek and Roman coins and elsewhere as an eagle holding in its claws a thunderbolt which resembles in form a bundle of crossed sticks.
The name "thunderbolt" or "thunderstone" has also been traditionally applied to the fossilised rostra of belemnoids. The origin of these bullet-shaped stones was not understood, and thus a mythological explanation of stones created where a lightning struck has arisen.
In the modern world
The thunderbolt or lightning bolt continues into the modern world as a prominent symbol; it has entered modern heraldry and military iconography.
The thunderbolt is used as an electrical symbol.
A thunderbolt is used in the logo of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC.
A thunderbolt is used in the logo of the German car manufacturer Opel.
The thunderbolt is used in the logo of the American franchise Power Rangers.
In the Harry Potter franchise, the scar on Harry's forehead is in the shape of a thunderbolt.
The letter "P" in the Harry Potter logo is also designed in the shape of a thunderbolt.
In the novel The Godfather, "being hit with the thunderbolt" is an Italian expression (colpo di fulmine) referring to a man being spellbound at the sight of a beautiful woman (like the so-called love at first sight). The novel's emerging main character is affected in this fashion and eventually marries a woman whose appearance initially affects him in this way.