Swastika – how symbols change their meaning.. (part 1)

Ancient Swastikas: A-Rhodes (585 BC) B, C - Greek (500 BC) D - Greek (615 BC) E - Peru (300 CE) F - Woodland Indian (1000 CE) G - Greek (300 BC)

A friend of mine, who recently came back from India, brought me as a souvenir a red headband encrusted with a gold thread, a Hindu devotional object. After a closer examination, to my great surprise, I found it to be covered with tiny swastikas. Forgetting completely about the true meaning of the sign and looking through the prism of my Polish historical heritage I was shocked (and at first terrified) with my discovery. So how did it happened that this ancient multicultural symbol of ‘good luck’ has such horrid and evil connotations in the modern Western culture?

Signifier: swastika is a symmetrical cross with its arms bend usually at right angles. In geometric terms, it is known as an irregular icosagon or 20-sided polygon.

Sacred Swastikas in different cultures

Signified: the word swastika comes from Sanskrit and literally means ‘well-being’. It describes a lucky object or a mark denoting good luck. The symbol appears in many ancient cultures with different meanings attributed to it: image of the supreme god, solar symbol, symbol of fire, union of the male and female sex, harmony. It is a historical sacred symbol in Eastern Religions. In Buddhism swastika represents eternity and it appears on the chest of some statues of Buddha. In Hinduism it represents Sun’s rays, upon which life depends. As well in Christianity swastika is used as a hooked version of a Christian Cross and appears in many ornaments and church decoration.

more info on swastika’s historical and cultural appearances: Fernando Coimbra’s A Swastika Pictorial Atlas

[…]

The American Swastika Drug Company, 1922

Swastika in Kruszwica, Poland

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Coimbra, F. The Swastika: From Origins Through Present Days: http://www.archaeometry.org/coimbra.htm

History of the Swastika, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust Encyclopedia: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007453

Origins of the Swastika, BBC News Magazine: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4183467.stm

Taylor, S. Swastikas on Scottish Grave stones: 2A Scottish GRAVE STONES.pdf

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