Swastika

The symbol of the Swastika and its 12,000-year-old history

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The swastika is a symbol used by of one of the most hated men on Earth, a symbol that represents the slaughter of millions of people and one of the most destructive wars on Earth.  But Adolf Hitler was not the first to use this symbol. In fact, it was used as a powerful symbol thousands of years before him, across many cultures and continents.

For the Hindus and Buddhists in India and other Asian countries, the swastika was an important symbol for many thousands of years and, to this day, the symbol can still be seen in abundance - on temples, buses, taxis, and on the cover of books. It was also used in Ancient Greece and can be found in the remains of the ancient city of Troy, which existed 4,000 years ago. The ancient Druids and the Celts also used the symbol, reflected in many artefacts that have been discovered. It was used by Nordic tribes and even early Christians used the Swastika as one of their symbols, including the Teutonic Knights, a German medieval military order, which became a purely religious Catholic Order. But why is this symbol so important and why did Adolf Hitler decide to use it?

The word ‘swastika’ is a Sanskrit word (‘svasktika’) meaning ‘It is’, ‘Well Being’, ‘Good Existence, and ‘Good Luck’. However, it is also known by different names in different countries - like ‘Wan’ in China, ‘Manji’ in Japan, ‘Fylfot’ in England, ‘Hakenkreuz’ in Germany and ‘Tetraskelion’ or ‘Tetragammadion’ in Greece.

Swastika - Positive and Negative ShapesA Sanskrit scholar P. R. Sarkar in 1979 said that the deeper meaning of the word is ‘Permanent Victory’. He also said that as any symbol it can have positive and negative meaning depending on how it is drawn. So in Hinduism, the right-hand swastika is a symbol of the God Vishnu and the Sun, while the left-hand swastika is a symbol of Kali and Magic. The double meaning of symbols is common in ancient traditions, like for example the symbol of the pentagram (five pointed star), which is viewed as negative when pointing downwards, and positive when pointing upwards.

Mezine SwastikaThe earliest swastika ever found was uncovered in Mezine, Ukraine, carved on an ivory figurine, which dates an incredible 12,000 years, and one of the earliest cultures that are known to have used the Swastika was a Neolithic culture in Southern Europe, in the area that is now Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, known as the Vinca Culture, which dates back around 8,000 years.

In Buddhism, the swastika is a symbol of good fortune, prosperity, abundance and eternity. It is directly related to Buddha and can be found carved on statues on the soles of his feet and on his heart.  It is said that it contains Buddha’s mind.

Lalibela SwastikaOn the walls of the Christian catacombs in Rome, the symbol of the Swastika appears next to the words “ZOTIKO ZOTIKO” which means “Life of Life”. It can also be found on the window openings of the mysterious Lalibela Rock churches of Ethiopia, and in various other churches around the world.

 

Navaho - SwastikaIn Nordic Myths , Odin is represented passing through space as a whirling disk or swastika looking down through all worlds. In North America, the swastika was used by the Navajos. In Ancient Greece, Pythagoras used the Swastika under the name ‘Tetraktys’ and it was a symbol linking heaven and earth, with the right arm pointing to heaven and its left arm pointing to Earth.

It has been used by the Phoenicians as a symbol of the Sun and it was a sacred symbol used by the priestesses.

Swastica - Phoenicians

The swastika, the Phoenician sun symbol, on the Phoenician Craig-Narget stone in Scotland, and on the robe of a Phoenician high priestess. ( Source)

How and why did so many diverse countries and cultures, across many eras, use the same symbol and apparently with the same meaning?   

It is ironic, and unfortunate, that a symbol of life and eternity that was considered sacred for thousands of years has become a symbol of hatred.

Featured Image: Ancient Roman Mosaics in Villa Romana La Olmeda (Wikipedia)

By John Black

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Comments

The swastika is also found on ancient pottery artifacts of many Northern Native American tribes.

It's used in basketry and maybe pottery, as a symbol of the whirlwind. I haven't studied it, but there's no evidence it's related to the Indo-European uses of that shape.

Can you imagine how our world would look today if Hitler had used the cross/crucifix symbol instead of the Swastika? I know the latter was chosen for a reason, but his use of it has essentially "ruined it" for latter generations. How many churches and catholic school classrooms would have crosses in them if he'd used that???

The Swaztica and the Cross are the same symbol! They both are pre-Christian and both represent the same person. Tammuz who became a deified godhead!
The Catholic Duay and the KJV both inaccurately translated the Latin word "crux" as "cross" into English. Accurate translations put stake, torture-stake, post or tree instead.
MM

Stuart asks, "Can you imagine how our world would look today if Hitler had used the cross / crucifix symbol instead of the Swastika?"

Stephen Knapp writes in his 1992 book, The Universal Path to Enlightenment, that even after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome, philosophical debates continued:

“Nestorius accepted the humanity of Jesus and described Mary as the mother of Jesus rather than the mother of God. The third council of the Church at Ephesus, in 431, condemned the ideas of Nestorius and exiled him to the desert of Egypt in 435, but his theories continued to spread into Persia, India, and on into Central Asia and China.

“Such controversies in the Church continued, and led to different conclusions and the formation of different sects. Even today we can see the almost unlimited variance of Christian sects and churches, each of which has its own ideas as to what is the nature of Christ, what is the soul, what is heaven, and so on. And each one thinking they are better than all of the others.

“Another interesting point regarding pagan influence that may be very surprising to some is that the crucifix was not exclusively a Christian symbol. Prior to Christianity, history shows that the cross was an auspicious and mystical symbol amongst ancient Babylonians, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Druids, and even Laplanders and Scandinavians.

“The crucifix was also known in ancient Mexico, as discovered by the Spanish monks who first went there. They were told that the Son of God, Quetzalcoatl, died on the cross for the sins of mankind. Even Tertullian, as late as 211 AD, wrote that the Christians neither adored nor desired crosses, and criticized the pagans for doing so and for putting a man on the cross as well. For pagans, the cross was a sign of eternity.

“In the first several centuries of Christianity, Jesus was represented as a lamb, or as a shepherd with a lamb over his shoulders. It was not until the 6th synod of Constantinople that it was decided that the symbol of Christianity, which was confirmed by Pope Adrian I, would be represented from that time on as a man crucified on the cross. In fact, the earliest instances of any artwork that illustrates Jesus on the cross can be traced back only to the eight or ninth century. Thus, the Christians adopted the crucifixion as a symbol from the pagans.”

When asked, “Why is the symbol of Christianity the cross?” in 1967, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada replied, his eyes watery and sad:

“When I think of Lord Jesus on the cross…” He shakes his head. “No. That is not a symbol for devotees. Devotees do not want to concentrate on that, on their master’s sufferings. But actually the body of Christ was spiritual. He felt nothing therefore. Like Krishna and Bhishma on the battlefield. When Bhishma’s arrows struck the Lord’s body, they were feeling like kisses. The Lord’s body is never material. It is a great offense to think like that. There is one Aquarian Gospel saying that Christ went to India, I believe.”

Dharmasetu dasa (David Bridges) a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, commented in 1985 as to how morbid the cross is as the symbol of Christianity: “…If he (Jesus) had been hung, you’d see a *noose* out in front of every church!”

My friend and godbrother Raul Pedraza (Bhuta-brit dasa), a disciple of Srila Prabhupada now serving as a lay person or congregational member, disagreed. He said according to the Rosicrucians, the cross is a mystical symbol.

My friend and godbrother Ted Puckett, also a lay person, said that since Raul (Bhuta-brit dasa) was once initiated (ordained) by Srila Prabhupada and now serving in the laity, he should be studying Srila Prabhupada’s books — not the Rosicrucians!

Steven J. Gelberg (Subhananda dasa) describes the bhakti (devotional) movement as "quite open and liberal."

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