| The Swastika
The swastika is an extremely powerful symbol. The Nazis
used it to murder millions of people, but for centuries
it had positive meanings. What is the history of the
swastika? Does it now represent good or evil?
|Left Facing Swastika
||Right Facing Swastika
• Modern Buddhism
• Bon Culture of Ancient Tibet
• Nazi Germany
The Oldest Known Symbol
The swastika is an ancient symbol that has been used
for over 3,000 years. (That even predates the ancient
Egyptian symbol, the Ankh!) Artifacts such as pottery
and coins from ancient Troy show that the swastika
was a commonly used symbol as far back as 1000 BCE.
During the following thousand years, the image of the
swastika was used by many cultures around the world,
including in China, Japan, India, and southern Europe.
By the Middle Ages, the swastika was a well known, if
not commonly used, symbol but was called by many different
China - wan
England - fylfot
Germany - Hakenkreuz
Greece - tetraskelion and gammadion
India - swastika
Though it is not known for exactly how long, Native
Americans also have long used the symbol of the swastika.
The Original Meaning
The word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit
svastika - "su" meaning "good,"
"asti" meaning "to be," and "ka"
as a suffix.
Until the Nazis used this symbol, the swastika was
used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years
to represent life, sun, power, strength, and good
Even in the early twentieth century, the swastika
was still a symbol with positive connotations. For
instance, the swastika was a common decoration that
often adorned cigarette cases, postcards, coins, and
buildings. During World War I, the swastika could
even be found on the shoulder patches of the American
45th Division and on the Finnish air force until after
World War II.
A Change in Meaning
In the 1800s, countries around Germany were growing
much larger, forming empires; yet Germany was not
a unified country until 1871. To counter the feeling
of vulnerability and the stigma of youth, German nationalists
in the mid-nineteenth century began to use the swastika,
because it had ancient Aryan/Indian origins, to represent
a long Germanic/Aryan history.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the swastika
could be found on nationalist German volkisch periodicals
and was the official emblem of the German Gymnasts'
In the beginning of the twentieth century, the swastika
was a common symbol of German nationalism and could
be found in a multitude of places such as the emblem
for the Wandervogel, a German youth movement; on Joerg
Lanz von Liebenfels' antisemitic periodical Ostara;
on various Freikorps units; and as an emblem of the
Hitler and the Nazis
In 1920, Adolf Hitler decided that the Nazi Party
needed its own insignia and flag. For Hitler, the
new flag had to be "a symbol of our own struggle"
as well as "highly effective as a poster."
(Mein Kampf, pg. 495)
On August 7, 1920, at the Salzburg Congress, this
flag became the official emblem of the Nazi Party.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler described the Nazis' new flag:
"In red we see the social idea of the movement,
in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the
mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan
man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea
of creative work, which as such always has been and
always will be anti-Semitic." (pg. 496-497)
Because of the Nazis' flag, the swastika soon became
a symbol of hate, antisemitism, violence, death, and
What Does the Swastika Mean Now?
There is a great debate as to what the swastika means
now. For 3,000 years, the swastika meant life and
good luck. But because of the Nazis, it has also taken
on a meaning of death and hate.
These conflicting meanings are causing problems in
today's society. For Buddhists and Hindus, the swastika
is a very religious symbol that is commonly used.
Chirag Badlani shares a story about one time when
he went to make some photocopies of some Hindu Gods
for his temple. While standing in line to pay for
the photocopies, some people behind him in line noticed
that one of the pictures had a swastika. They called
him a Nazi.
Unfortunately, the Nazis were so effective at their
use of the swastika emblem, that many do not even
know any other meaning for the swastika. Can there
be two completely opposite meanings for one symbol?
In ancient times, the direction of the swastika was
interchangeable as can be seen on an ancient Chinese
Some cultures in the past had differentiated between
the clockwise swastika and the counter-clockwise sauvastika.
In these cultures the swastika symbolized health and
life while the sauvastika took on a mystical meaning
of bad-luck or misfortune. The term sauwastika or
sauvastika is a term sometimes used to distinguish
the "left-facing" from the "right-facing"
form of the swastika symbol. The "left-facing"
variant is favoured in Bön Culture. While the
right-facing variant is more common in Hinduism, and
the left-facing one is more common in Buddhism (although
both religions employ both variants).
But since the Nazis use of the swastika, some people
are trying to differentiate the two meanings of the
swastika by varying its direction - trying to make
the clockwise, Nazi version of the swastika mean hate
and death while the counter-clockwise version would
hold the ancient meaning of the symbol, life and good-luck.
Nowadays you need to be aware of the different uses
of this ancient symbol, especially where anti-semitism
is concerned. Many people do not know the difference,
and often those that do cannot say which version is
Do expect to find this symbol often in India and The
East. Know it never represents Nazi meanings outside
of Germany and Germanic recent history + it's followers
• Bon Culture
• Taoism / Daoism
• The Swastika - This Page
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information is as supplied by Wikipedia, as dated March
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