The swastika is now a universal symbol for hate and racism, however before the Nazis used it as their symbol it was a worldwide symbol of peace and good luck. It is possible for the actions of a few men, in history, to change the meaning of a symbol. This page presents a brief history of the Swastika and then presents an argument that the Christian Cross is as much of a symbol of evil as the swastika and that they should both be either exterminated or permitted.
The Swastika in todays society is a symbol of evil - not just of historical evil, but also of present-day hatred, prejudice and violence.
“It is the cause of much litigation when a swastika appears anywhere. [...] If we look past the history of the swastika, the pre-WWII history that is, we can see that millions of men lost their lives in war and concentration camps under the rule of Adolf Hitler, with the swastika displayed upon their flag. At face value, this seems a good reason not to like looking at swastikas. But what about the pre-nazi history of the swastika?”
"The Swasticross" by Chaos
Until the Swastika was used by the Nazis it was universally seen as a good symbol representing a range of positive things. It represented luck and strength, divinity and Christ. The meaning of the word "Swastika" is "good to be", a good luck wish.
“To the ancients, the Swastika suggested the four directions of space and the solar momentum of a turning wheel with light streaming back from its spokes. It was a sign of sun and sky gods in the ancient world, particularly in Indo-Iranian cults. (This is the basis for its use by anti-Semitic groups in Austria, in the decade before World War 1, as an emblem of "Aryan" racial purity). But the swastika was also associated with many other divinities, including Christ, in catacomb inscriptions.[...] It suggested the four directions of space and the creative power of the sun. As such, it signified divine energy, from India across the Middle East to Europe, as far north as Scandinavia.”
The Swastika has been used religiously to represent numerous other things:
The Light of the Sun in the Four Cardinal Directions
'In Jainism, it signified the supreme being' [Tresidder 2003]
'It appears on the frontprint and breast of the Buddha as an emblem of cyclic regenerative power' [Tresidder 2003]
In Icelandic Norse symbology it signified the hammer of Thor
“For many millenia, before it was appropriated by the Nazis, the swastika was a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Almost every race, religion and continent honored the swastika [including] American Indians, Hindus, Buddhists, Vikings, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Mayans, Aztecs, Persians, Christians, and neolithic tribes. There are even Jewish swastikas found in ancient synagogues side-by-side with the star of David!”
Gentle Swastika: Reclaiming the Innocence2
“The swastika predates the ancient Egyptian symbol, the Ankh. Approximately 3,000 years ago (1000 BCE), the swastika was commonly used; swastikas have been found on many artifacts such as pottery and coins dating from ancient Troy. During the following thousand years, the image of the swastika could be found in 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 names: China (Wan), England (Fylfot), Germany (Hakenkreuz), Greece (Tetraskelion and gammadion), India (Swastika).”
In modern times the Swastika has been used by:
American pilots used it on their planes when they fought for the French in World War One, it was the symbol for the Ladies Home Journal sponsored Girls' Club and the Boy Scouts. A town in Ontario was named Swastika in 1911 because of a lucky gold strike. 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.
The Swastika has had a glowing history for a thousand years. Representing the creative force of the sun, good luck, regenerative power, and was used by everyone pre-WW2 including by Rudyard Kipling, Coca Cola and American fighter pilots. It was used by all cultures in a positive way. In one decade however, the Nazis used it in a negative way, affecting all of society. As a result, those who are moral reactionaries protest whenever they see the swastika, because it reminds them of the bad things that happened in history.
The Christian Cross has the same contradictory history. Its history is that it was a symbol for good. But, like the swastika, it has been used for much evil. Not by one group, however, but by many. And not only for a decade, but for millennia. Europe was plunged into the dark ages, where Christian paranoia and "good will" turned European development backwards; torture, death and pain were inflicted across multiple European countries from a centralized Church. The history of the Cross contains a massive period of misuse, just like the history of the Swastika, even though both used to be symbols of good.
Now, those who use the swastika are largely neo-fascists who do not mind too much about its terrible history. Likewise, Christians who still use their cross must also be uncaring about the atrocities made in its name.
“If we are going to hate the image of the swastika, despite its history, just because one man who used the symbol was slightly off his rocker, then what about the cross? Many men have worn that symbol and been off their rockers as well!
This is more then wrong, it is ass backwards. The person wearing the swastika may or may not be a nazi, but even if they are, they have not killed anyone themselves, so where is the problem? The person wearing the cross I can guarantee believes in the word of Christ. He may not kill anyone himself, but he is wearing the symbol that is responsible for so many deaths in history. I don't see how we can hate one of these symbols and not the other. Either we need to see more swastikas or less crosses around. I have no problem with swastikas, but would rather not see them myself, so you can see which way I think we should go. What do you think?”
"The Swasticross" by Chaos
That's the dilemma that Christians are in. If they condemn the use of good symbols that have been used for mass evil, then they must condemn both the swastika and the cross. If they admit that actually they are only symbols, and although they've been used for evil, they can still be used for good, then such people should accept usage of the swastika and usage of the Cross. Both symbols share the same paradoxes. A person can only reject one and accept the other for one reason: They don't care about the people involved. So, Christians don't really mind that many were tortured and burned by the Cross, and on the Cross, just like neo-Nazis don't really care (or believe) that Jews were murdered en masse by proponents of the swastika.
For each person alive today who believes in the wholesome power of the Christian cross, and the goodness it represents, there are two or three more people in history who have hated, feared, been suppressed by, murdered in the name of, or tortured by those bearing the same symbol. It has (like god) more frequently been used as a weapon of war than out of good will. For me this makes the spiritual symbolism and associations with the Christian cross and Jesus to be very negative. They are symbols of war, aggression, suppression and of closed minds. That it is supposed to be a good symbol is irrelevant to my personal knowledge of it.
I know that it inspires some to do good. It seems if you use the symbol as a justification for evil, then that's what it achieves, but if you honestly use it for personal well being and good, then it works for that too. Even with the same symbol!
In my discussion of the use of symbols in magic - i.e., on how they affect us subconsciously, I discuss the subjective nature of our reactions to all symbols. It is because of this that symbols such as the Swastika can be seen, now, as evil where they were once universally seen as good.
“There is no point in teaching universal systems of magic, because symbols and associations are different for every human being. Our emotional and instinctive reactions to signs and symbols depends completely on our upbringing and inherited personality traits. If people do not have the same emotional attachments to symbols, then, it is impossible to assert that certain symbols should be used in certain ways or at certain stages in rituals. Rituals, after all, rely completely on emotional states.”
Organized religion is the most dangerous phenomenon that our society has had a historical instinct to create. When power and faith go hand in hand the result is oppression, closed mindedness and severe danger. Red flags fly when personal beliefs are institutionalized and allowed to maintain power -- conflict with the world is always the result.
There are two choices that I see:
Suppress these symbols: Show the world that these are symbols of evil and that all religions are symbols of anti-Human thought control. However, this can lead to restriction of freedom and people's rights as all symbols have at some point represented evil and death.
Embrace these symbols: Embrace the Swastika as a lost symbol of fortune and power and show the world that no symbol is absolute, every symbol must be personal in nature. The problem with this is that religious or personal symbols are frequently a rallying point for anti-Human activity.
I personally do not wish to see more Swastikas so I concur with Chaos, I would rather both these symbols be vanquished. I believe it is up to each individual to choose how to approach this; there is no clear way to justify allowing these symbols or any clear way to redeem them! It is for the best that in democracies, public appearance of either symbol can be challenged, but, their use in private should remain beyond the remit of the law.
Either you liberally accept both symbols can still be used in good spirit (i.e., you believe that usage depends on motive), or you reject that either can be used (you believe the immorality committed under these banners makes the symbols wrong, forever). But to reject one and accept the other means that you don't care about the victims of whichever you accept. That should be enough to make conscientious Christians uncomfortable, and the uncaring ones angry.
1001 Symbols (2003). Published in the United Kingdom by Duncan Baird Publishers Ltd, London.