Those in the Western world can’t help but shudder when they glimpse a swastika. This is because the symbol is now widely associated with fascism. But did you know? Before it was perverted by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement, the swastika was beloved by nearly every culture around the world. Unfortunately, what once symbolized good fortune is now an icon of hate. In order to shake off the evil association, this truth of its meaning must be shared far and wide.
In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, swastika actually translates to “well-being.” As BBC reports, the symbol was incorporated by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains for millennia and is commonly assumed to be an Indian sign. Western travelers discovered the symbol while traveling through Asia. Reportedly, there was a growing fad for the swastika as a good luck symbol at the turn of the 20th century.
In his book, The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?, US graphic design writer Steven Heller explains that the symbol was widely used as an architectural motif, on advertising and product design. “Coca-Cola used it. Carlsberg used it on their beer bottles. The Boy Scouts adopted it and the Girls’ Club of America called their magazine Swastika. They would even send out swastika badges to their young readers as a prize for selling copies of the magazine,” he said.
That all changed during WWII. American military units applied it to their RAF planes as late as 1939, but most of the benign uses came to a halt in the 1930’s as the Nazis rose to power in Germany. Before long, 19th century German scholars noticed similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. They concluded that the Germans and Indians shared ancestry and imagined a race of white god-like warriors they called Aryans. That’s when the symbol was adopted by the fascist regime.
As a result of the happenings, the black straight-armed hooked cross became one of the most hated symbols of the 20th century, as it was linked to the atrocities committed under the Third Reich. Said 93-year-old Holocaust survivor Freddie Knoller: “For the Jewish people the swastika is a symbol of fear, of suppression, and of extermination. It’s a symbol that we will never ever be able to change. If they put the swastika on gravestones or synagogues, it puts a fear into us. Surely it shouldn’t happen again.”
While it is becoming common knowledge that the swastika symbolizes good fortune in the Indian culture, what few know is that the symbol was also used by the Ancient Greeks, Celts and Anglo-Saxons. In fact, some of the oldest examples have been found in Eastern Europe, from the Baltic to the Balkans. In Greek culture, the swastika was visible as an architectural ornament which has come to be known as the “Greek key pattern.” It is widely visible on tiles and textiles to this day.
For thousands of years, no one perceived the swastika to signify something negative. Because of this fact, some, such as Peter Madsen who owns an upmarket tattoo parlor in Copenhagen, Denmark, hope its positive symbology is revived. Madsen is one of the founders of last years Learn to Love the Swastika Day, which was held on November 13. On that date, tattoo artists around the world offered free swasticas to raise awareness about the symbol’s long multicultural past — before it was tainted by the Nazis.
“The swastika is a symbol of love and Hitler abused it. We’re not trying to reclaim the hakenkreuz. That would be impossible. Nor is it something we want people to forget,” said Madsen. “We just want people to know that the swastika comes in many other forms, none of which have ever been used for anything bad. We are also trying to show the right-wing fascists that it’s wrong to use this symbol. If we can educate the public about the true meanings of the swastika, maybe we can take it away from the fascists.”
For some, such as Knoller, learning to love the swastika isn’t so easy. To him and many others, the icon will forever symbolize fascism and an era in which he and others were almost eradicated due to their religious beliefs and various ethnicities. “For the people who went through the Holocaust, we will always remember what the swastika was like in our life – a symbol of pure evil,” said Knoller. “We didn’t know how the symbol dates back so many thousands of years ago. But I think it’s interesting for people to learn that the swastika was not always the symbol of fascism.”
IMAGE CREDIT:pinnacleanimates / 123RF Stock Photo
I am Luke Miller, content manager at Truth Theory and creator of Potential For Change. I like to blend psychology and spirituality to help you create more happiness in your life.Grab a copy of my free 33 Page Illustrated eBook- Psychology Meets Spirituality- Secrets To A Supercharged Life You Control Here