The Origin Of The Swastika Symbol

Written by on January 29, 2013 in Archaeology with 9 Comments
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By Omar Cherif
SwastikaThe swastika has always been an extremely powerful symbol. The Nazis used it pretty much everywhere as they murdered millions of people. But what some of you may not know is that for many centuries before, the swastika had positive meanings. This is a brief history of that often-misunderstood sign.

 

The swastika is an archaic symbol which had been used for over several thousand years — possibly even predating the ancient Egyptian Ankh. Artifacts such as pottery and coins from ancient Troy show that it was commonly used as far back as 1000 BCE.

During the following thousand years, the image of the swastika spread throughout many different cultures around the world, including China, Japan, India, and southern Europe; it was also known to Native Americans. Even though it is not known exactly for how long the swastika had been around, but by the Middle Ages, it had become a well-known, if not commonly used, symbol. Understandably, it was called by different names.


China – Wan
England – Fylfot
Germany – Hakenkreuz
Greece – Tetraskelion and Gammadion
India – Swastika

The word ‘swastika’ originates from the Sanskrit svastika – ‘su’ meaning good, ‘asti’ meaning to be, and ‘ka’ as a suffix.

That said, until the Nazis hijacked the symbol, it had already been known to the world throughout the past 3,000 years; ironically, though, it represented life, sun, power, strength, and good luck.

Even until the early twentieth century, the swastika was still a symbol which had positive connotations. It was, in fact, a common decoration that often adorned cigarette cases, postcards, coins, and buildings. During World War I. The swastika could be even found on the shoulder patches of the American 45th Division, as well as on the Finnish Air Force until after World War II.

 

Then in the 1800s, countries around Germany were growing much larger, forming empires. Yet Germany was not a unified country until 1871. So to counter the feeling of vulnerability and the stigma of youth, German nationalists in the mid-nineteenth century began using the swastika. The reason being was that it had ancient Aryan/Indian origins, which represented a long Germanic/Aryan history.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the swastika could be seen on nationalist German Volkisch periodicals, and was the official emblem of the German Gymnasts’ League. With the beginning of the twentieth century, it had become a common symbol of German nationalism and was found in a multitude of places; 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 Thule Society.

In 1920, Adolf Hitler decided that the Nazi Party needed its own insignia and flag. For wily Hitler who believed in the immense power of propaganda, the new flag had to be “a symbol of our own struggle” as well as “highly effective as a poster”.

So on August 7, 1920 at the Salzburg Congress, the red flag with a white circle and black swastika 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.”

Ironically, because of the Nazis’ flag, the swastika later became a symbol of hate, antisemitism, violence, death, and murder — after at least  3000 years of being a symbol of life and good luck.

 

Naturally, these conflicting meanings are causing problems in today’s societies. For Buddhists and Hindus, for instance, the swastika is a commonly used religious symbol. Unfortunately, the Nazis were so effective at their own usage that many people do not even know any other meaning of the swastika. This serves as a reminder that in the ever-changing, dualistic world we’re living in, a single symbol can have two completely opposite meanings.

In ancient times, the direction of the emblem was interchangeable as can be seen on an ancient Chinese silk drawing. Some past cultures had differentiated between the clockwise swastika and the counter-clockwise sauvastika. For these cultures, the swastika symbolized health and life, while the sauvastika took on a mystical meaning of bad-luck or misfortune.

Said polarity is why some people today are trying to differentiate between the two meanings of the swastika by varying its direction; clockwise like the Nazis meaning hate and death, while the counter-clockwise version would hold the ancient meaning of life and good luck.

 

And now you know.

About the Author:

Omar Cherif Omar Cherif is a trilingual writer and researcher, photographer and blogger with degrees in journalism, psychology, and philosophy. After working in the corporate world for ten years, he took writing as a vocation and is currently finalizing his first book about dreams, the subconscious mind and spirituality among other topics.

 

You can follow Omar on here:
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And you can find more of his work on his blog and on Flickr:
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9 Reader Comments

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  1. thisisjustme@yahoo.com' min says:

    The direction of the symbol my dictate a difference in some cultures, however through-out history it has been drawn both left and right in regards to good-fortune and well being.

    The only thing that makes the symbol bad is ones perception of it.

  2. amourzaher@yahoo.com' Amour says:

    There is a mistake in the article, the ancient Egyptian symbol “Ankh” is much much older & earlier than swastika it was known since the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt & maybe earlier that was about 4000 years BC which means that ‘Ankh” is not less than 6000 years old.

  3. ank7566@comcast.net' Alstradomus says:

    The true astrotheological meaning of the swastika may be traced to the constellation Hercules. When the north star.center of the night sky, was in Hercules as it precessed away from Vega, it was a reference to the offspring of fallen angels and human women , who thought they were biologically superior. Any time one human believes he or she is superior to the rest of humanity because of race,religion,color or creed, it represents the revival of this evil. The Lucifer myth is based on the same concept. We are all equal and children of the one true supreme being that we have been programmed to call “God”.

  4. Brehas2@aol.com' Jason Aragon says:

    The swastika is a Sanskrit or Hindi word which is claimed by some Blacks with some fantastic claims. But they don’t understand that the word Swastika is a word found only in the Indo -European language family and not in the Af0asiatic family of languages. This is sad to see people whose language is far different from the Indo European languages claiming the swastika as their own.

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