AskDefine | Define swastika

Dictionary Definition

swastika n : the official emblem of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich; a cross with the arms bent at right angles in a clockwise direction [syn: Hakenkreuz]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Swastika

English

Etymology

From Sanskrit स्वस्तिक (svastika). First attestation in English 1871 (from 1932 specifically referring to the emblem of the Nazi party, German Hakenkreuz).

Noun

  1. A cross with arms of equal length all bent halfway along at a 90° angle to the right or to the left, used as a religious symbol by various ancient and modern civilizations, and adopted more recently (with arms angled to the right) as a symbol of Nazism and fascism.

Translations

a cross with arms of equal length all bent halfway along at a 90° angle

Extensive Definition

The swastika (from Sanskrit ) is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing () form or its mirrored left-facing () form. The swastika can also be drawn as a traditional swastika, but with a second 90° bend in each arm.
Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. An ancient symbol, it occurs mainly in the cultures that are in modern day India and the surrounding area, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol. It was long widely used in major world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The swastika was the essential symbol of Nazism and the German Third Reich. Though once commonly used over much of the world without stigma the symbol is no longer in general use in the Western world, because of its identification with Nazism.

Etymology and alternative names

The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit (in Devanagari, ), meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- (cognate with Greek , eu-), meaning "good, well" and asti, a verbal abstract to the root as "to be" (cognate with the Romance copula, coming ultimately from the Proto-Indo European root *h1es-); svasti thus means "well-being." The suffix -ka intensifies the verbal meaning or confers the sense of 'beneficial', and svastika might thus be translated literally as "that which is associated with well-being," corresponding to "lucky charm" or "thing that is auspicious." The word first appears in the Classical Sanskrit (in the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics).
The Sanskrit term has been in use in English since 1871, replacing gammadion (from Greek ).
Alternative historical English spellings of the Sanskrit word include suastika, swastica and svastica. Alternative names for the shape are:
  • crooked cross
  • cross cramponned, ~nnée, or ~nny (in heraldry), as each arm resembles a crampon or angle-iron ()
  • ugunskrusts (fire cross), also pērkonkrusts (thundercross), kāškrusts (hook-cross), Laimas krusts (Laima's cross), fylfot, is a central element in jewelry, national clothes in Latvian, Lithuanian, Old-Prussian culture, symbolizing as a element of life. It is used in a Latvian Seven-Day Ring. The ring is with 7 symbols, each representing a day of the week, where fire-cross being as a symbol for Thursday, and it's motto being: "Domā un rīkojies krietni" (Think and do honorable actions.)
  • double cross, by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, on the April 6, 1941 edition of his radio program The Catholic Hour, not only comparing the Cross of Christ with the swastika, but also implying that siding with fascism was a "double-crossing" of Christianity
  • fylfot, possibly meaning "four feet", chiefly in heraldry and architecture (See fylfot for a discussion of the etymology)
  • gammadion, tetragammadion (Greek: ), or cross gammadion (lang-la crux gammata; Old French: ), as each arm resembles the Greek letter Γ (gamma)
  • hook cross (German: );
  • sun wheel, a name also used as a synonym for the sun cross
  • tetraskelion (Greek: ), "four legged", especially when composed of four conjoined legs (compare triskelion (Greek: ))
  • Thor's hammer, from its supposed association with Thor, the Norse god of the weather, but this may be a misappropriation of a name that properly belongs to a Y-shaped or T-shaped symbol. The swastika shape appears in Icelandic grimoires wherein it is named .
  • The Tibetan swastika is known as nor bu bzhi -khyil, or quadruple body symbol, defined in Unicode at codepoint U+0FCC .

History

The ubiquity of the swastika symbol is easily explained by its being a very simple shape that will arise independently in any basket-weaving society. The swastika is a repeating design, created by the edges of the reeds in a square basket-weave. Other theories attempt to establish a connection via cultural diffusion or an explanation along the lines of Carl Jung's collective unconscious.
The swastika may have been transferred to North America by an early seafaring civilization in Eurasia, but it is considered more likely that its use in the Americas arose independently.
The genesis of the swastika symbol is often treated in conjunction with cross symbols in general, such as the "sun wheel" of Bronze Age religion.
Another explanation is suggested by Carl Sagan in his book Comet. Sagan reproduces an ancient Chinese manuscript (the Book of Silk) that shows comet tail varieties: most are variations on simple comet tails, but the last shows the comet nucleus with four bent arms extending from it, recalling a swastika. Sagan suggests that in antiquity a comet could have approached so close to Earth that the jets of gas streaming from it, bent by the comet's rotation, became visible, leading to the adoption of the swastika as a symbol yiğit across the world.

Archaeological record

The earliest consistent use of swastika motifs in the archaeological record date to the Neolithic, though an isolated late Paleolithic artefact containing the shape exists. The symbol was found on a number of shards in the Khuzestan province of Iran and as part of the "Vinca script" of Neolithic Europe of the 5th millennium BC. In the Early Bronze Age, it appears on pottery found in Sintashta, Russia.
Swastika-like symbols also appear in Bronze and Iron Age designs of the northern Caucasus (Koban culture), and Azerbaijan, as well as of Scythians and Sarmatians http://www.cultinfo.ru/fulltext/1/001/001/073/5-44.gif. In all these cultures, the swastika symbol does not appear to occupy any marked position or significance, but appears as just one form of a series of similar symbols of varying complexity. While this sign has been found in many cultures it is referred to as Swastika only in Sanskrit and related languages.

Historical use

The symbol rose to importance in Buddhism in the Mauryan Empire and in Hinduism with the Decline of Buddhism in India in the Gupta period India.
With the spread of Buddhism, the Buddhist swastika reached Tibet and China. The use of the swastika by the indigenous Bön faith of Tibet, as well as syncretic religions, such as Cao Dai of Vietnam and Falun Gong of China, is thought to be borrowed from Buddhism as well.

Reintroduction of the swastika in the West

The swastika is common as a design motif in current Hindu architecture and Indian artwork as well as in ancient Western architecture, frequently appearing in mosaics, friezes, and other works across the ancient world. Ancient Greek architectural, clothing and coin designshttp://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.26.0822 are replete with single or interlinking swastika motifs. Related symbols in classical Western architecture include the cross, the three-legged triskele or triskelion and the rounded lauburu. The swastika symbol is also known in these contexts by a number of names, especially gammadion.
In Chinese, Korean, and Japanese art, the swastika is often found as part of a repeating pattern. One common pattern, called sayagata in Japanese, comprises left and right facing swastikas joined by lines. As the negative space between the lines has a distinctive shape, the sayagata pattern is sometimes called the "key fret" motif in English.
The swastika symbol was found extensively in the ruins of the ancient city of Troy and can also be found in some of the mosaics in the ruins of Pompeii.
In Greco-Roman art and architecture, and in Romanesque and Gothic art in the West, isolated swastikas are relatively rare, and the swastika is more commonly found as a repeated element in a border or tessellation. The swastika often represented perpetual motion, reflecting the design of a rotating windmill or watermill. A meander of connected swastikas makes up the large band that surrounds the Augustan Ara Pacis. A design of interlocking swastikas is one of several tessellations on the floor of the cathedral of Amiens, France. A border of linked swastikas was a common Roman architectural motif, and can be seen in more recent buildings as a neoclassical element. A swastika border is one form of meander, and the individual swastikas in such a border are sometimes called Greek keys.
Swastikas have also been found on pottery in archaeological digs in the area of ancient Kush. Swastikas were found on pottery at the Gebel Barkal temples as well as in digs corresponding to the later X-Group peoples.
Ceramic tiles with a swastika design have appeared in many parts of the world including the United States in the early 20th century. The tiles typically are, however, a minor decorative element. Some of the pre-World War II swastikas have become controversial after Jewish groups demanded they be removed. A number of the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or as Unesco World Heritage sites, and are considered worthy of historical preservation. See Western use of the Swastika in the early 20th century for specific examples.
The Primate's Palace in Bratislava has security grills on the ground floor that incorporate swastikas in their design. (See Image of the Primate's Palace)

Religion and mythology

Hinduism

In Hinduism, the two symbols represent the two forms of the creator god Brahma: facing right it represents the evolution of the universe (Pravritti), facing left it represents the involution of the universe (Nivritti). It is also seen as pointing in all four directions (north, east, south and west) and thus signifies stability and groundedness. Its use as a sun symbol can first be seen in its representation of the god Surya. The swastika is considered extremely holy and auspicious by all Hindus, and is regularly used to decorate items related to Hindu culture. It is used in all Hindu yantras and religious designs. Throughout the subcontinent of India, it can be seen on the sides of temples, religious scriptures, gift items, and letterheads. The Hindu god Ganesh is often shown sitting on a lotus flower on a bed of swastikas.
The swastika is found all over Hindu temples, signs, altars, pictures and iconography where it is sacred. It is used in Hindu weddings, festivals, ceremonies, houses and doorways, clothing and jewelry, motor transport and even decorations on food items such as cakes and pastries. Among the Hindus of Bengal, it is common to see the name "swastika" ( sbastik) applied to a slightly different symbol, which has the same significance as the common swastika, and both symbols are used as auspicious signs. This symbol looks something like a stick figure of a human being. "Swastika" ( Sbastik) is a common given name amongst Bengalis and a prominent literary magazine in Kolkata (Calcutta) is called the Swastika.
The Aum symbol is also sacred in Hinduism. While Aum is representative of a single primordial tone of creation, the Swastika is a pure geometrical mark and has no syllabic tone associated with it. The Swastika is one of the 108 symbols of Lord Vishnu and represents the sun's rays, without which there would be no life.

Buddhism

The symbol as it is used in Buddhist art and scripture is known in Japanese as a manji (literally, "the character for eternality" 萬字), and represents Dharma, universal harmony, and the balance of opposites. When facing left, it is the omote (front) manji, representing love and mercy. Facing right, it represents strength and intelligence, and is called the ura (rear) manji. Balanced manji are often found at the beginning and end of Buddhist scriptures (outside India).
Buddhism originated in the Indian subcontinent in the 5th century BC and inherited the manji. These two symbols are included, at least since the Liao Dynasty, as part of the Chinese language, the symbolic sign for the character 萬 or 万 (wàn in Chinese, man in Korean/Japanese, vạn in Vietnamese) meaning "all" or "eternality" (lit. myriad) and as 卐, which is seldom used. A manji marks the beginning of many Buddhist scriptures. The manji (in either orientation) appears on the chest of some statues of Gautama Buddha and is often incised on the soles of the feet of the Buddha in statuary. Because of the association of the right-facing swastika with Nazism, Buddhist manji (outside India only) after the mid-20th century are almost universally left-facing: 卍. This form of the manji is often found on Chinese food packaging to signify that the product is vegetarian and can be consumed by strict Buddhists. It is often sewn into the collars of Chinese children's clothing to protect them from evil spirits. In 1922, the Chinese Syncretist movement Daoyuan founded the philanthropic association Red Swastika Society in imitation of the Red Cross. The association was very active in China during the 1920s and the 1930s.

Jainism

Jainism gives even more prominence to the swastika than does Hinduism. It is a symbol of the seventh Jina (Saint), the Tirthankara Suparsva. In the Svetambar Jain tradition, it is also one of the symbols of the ashta-mangalas. It is considered to be one of the 24 auspicious marks and the emblem of the seventh arhat of the present age. All Jain temples and holy books must contain the swastika and ceremonies typically begin and end with creating a swastika mark several times with rice around the altar.
Jains use rice to make a swastika (also known as "Sathiyo" in the state of Gujarat, India) in front of idols in a temple. Jains then put an offering on this swastika, usually a ripe or dried fruit, a sweet (mithai), or a coin or currency note. In 2001, India issued a 100-rupee coin to commemorate the 2600th anniversary of the birth of Mahavir, the 24th and last Jainist Tirthankara; the design includes a swastika.

Abrahamic religions

The swastika was not widely utilized by followers of the Abrahamic religions. Where it does exist, it is not always portrayed as an explicitly religious symbol, and is often purely decorative or, at most, a symbol of good luck. One example of scattered use is the floor of the synagogue at Ein Gedi, built during the Roman occupation of Judea, which was decorated with a swastika.
Some sources indicate that the Chinese Empress Wu (武則天) (684–704) of the Tang Dynasty decreed that the swastika would be used as an alternative symbol of the sun. As part of the Chinese script, the swastika has Unicode encodings U+534D 卍 (pronunciation following the Chinese character "萬": pinyin:wàn); (left-facing) and U+5350 卐 (right-facing).
The Mandarin "Wan" is a homophone for "10,000" and is commonly used to represent the whole of creation, e.g. 'the myriad things' in the Dao De Jing.
In Japan, the swastika is called manji. Since the Middle Ages, it has been used as a family coat of arms. On Japanese maps, a swastika (left-facing and horizontal) is used to mark the location of a Buddhist temple. The right-facing manji is often referred as the gyaku manji (, lit. "reverse manji"), and can also be called kagi jūji, literally "hook cross".

Native American traditions

The swastika shape was used by some Native Americans. It has been found in excavations of Mississippian-era sites in the Ohio valley. It was widely used by many southwestern tribes, most notably the Navajo. Among various tribes, the swastika carried different meanings. To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clan; to the Navajo it was one symbol for a whirling winds (tsil no'oli), a sacred image representing a legend that was used in healing rituals (after learning of the Nazi mimic "whirling winds" the Navajo rejected the symbol). A brightly colored First Nations saddle featuring swastika designs is on display at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada.
A swastika shape is an ancient symbol in the culture of the Kuna people of Kuna Yala, Panama. In Kuna tradition, it symbolizes the octopus that created the world; its tentacles, pointing to the four cardinal points, gave rise to the rainbow, the sun, the moon and the stars.
In February, 1925, the Kuna revolted against Panamanian suppression of their culture, and were granted autonomy in 1930; the flag they adopted at this time is based on the swastika shape, and remains the official flag of Kuna Yala. A number of variations on the flag have been used over the years: red top and bottom bands instead of orange were previously used, and in 1942 a ring (representing the traditional Kuna nose-ring) was added to the center of the flag to distance it from the symbol of the Nazi party.

Pre-Christian Europe

In Bronze Age Europe, the "Sun cross" (a cross in a circle) appears frequently, often interpreted as a solar symbol. Occasional swastika shapes are known from artifacts of Iron Age Europe (Greco-Roman, Illyrian, Etruscan, Baltic, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic), and are sometimes interpreted as a variant of the "Sun cross".

Baltic

The swastika is one of the most common symbols used throughout Baltic art. The symbol was related to the Sun, as well as Dievs (the god of creation), Pērkons (the god of thunder) and Laima (the goddess of joy and destiny). It is featured on many distaffs, dowry chests, cloths and other items; you can see them and ask for further informations in the History-museum in Riga http://www.history-museum.lv/

Celtic

The bronze frontspiece of a ritual pre-Christian (ca 350-50 BC) shield found in the River Thames near Battersea Bridge (hence "Battersea Shield") is embossed with 27 swastikas in bronze and red enamel. An Ogham stone found in Anglish, Co Kerry (CIIC 141) was modified into an early Christian gravestone, and was decorated with a cross pattée and two swastikas. At the Northern edge of Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire, there is a swastika-shaped pattern engraved in a stone known as the Swastika Stone.

Finnic

In Finland swastika was often used in traditional folk art products, as a decoration or magical symbol on textiles and wood. Certain types of symbols which incorporated swastika were used to decorate wood; such symbols are called tursaansydän and mursunsydän in Finnish. Tursaansydän was often used until 18th century, when it was mostly replaced by simple swastika.

Germanic

The swastika shape (also called a fylfot, a term coined in the 19th century from a 1500 reference to a figure used to fill empty space at the foot of stained-glass windows in medieval churches), appears on various Germanic Migration period and Viking Age artifacts, such as the 3rd century Værløse Fibula from Zealand, Denmark, the Gothic spearhead found at Brest-Litovsk, Russia, or the Younger Futhark Snoldelev Stone, in Ramsø, Denmark, and numerous Migration Period bracteates drawn left-facing or right-facing. The pagan Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, England, contained numerous items bearing the swastika, now housed in the collection of the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Swastika is clearly marked on a hilt and sword belt found at Bifrons in Kent, in a grave of about the sixth century.
H.R. Ellis Davidson theorized that the swastika symbol was associated with Thor, possibly representing a hammer symbolic of thunder besides being connected to the Bronze Age sun wheel, citing "many examples" of the Swastika symbol from Anglo-Saxon graves of the pagan period, with particular prominence on cremation urns from the cemeteries of East Anglia. Some of the swastikas on the items, on display at the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, are depicted with such care and art that, according to Davidson, it must have possessed special significance as a funeral symbol. Swastika shapes glossed as Þórshamar "Thor's hammer" appear in some Icelandic grimoires.

Sami

An object very much like a hammer or a double axe is depicted among the magical symbols on the drums of Sami shamans, used in their religious ceremonies before Christianity was established. The name of the Lappish thunder god was Horagalles, thought to be derived from old man thor (Þórr karl). Sometimes on the drums, a male figure with a hammer-like object in either hand is shown, and sometimes it is more like a cross with crooked ends, or a swastika.
The swastika was also understood as "the symbol of the creating, acting life" (das Symbol des schaffenden, wirkenden Lebens) and as "race emblem of Germanism" (Rasseabzeichen des Germanentums) .
The use of the swastika was associated by Nazi theorists with their conjecture of Aryan cultural descent of the German people. Following the Nordicist version of the Aryan invasion theory, the Nazis claimed that the early Aryans of India, from whose Vedic tradition the swastika sprang, were the prototypical white invaders. It was also widely believed that the Indian caste system had originated as a means to avoid racial mixing. The concept of Racial purity was an ideology central to Nazism, even though it is now considered unscientific. For Rosenberg, the Aryans of India were both a model to be imitated and a warning of the dangers of the spiritual and racial "confusion" that, he believed, arose from the close proximity of races. Thus, they saw fit to co-opt the sign as a symbol of the Aryan master race. The use of the swastika as a symbol of the Aryan race dates back to writings of Emile Burnouf. Following many other writers, the German nationalist poet Guido von List believed it to be a uniquely Aryan symbol. Before the Nazis, the swastika was already in use as a symbol of German völkisch nationalists movements (Völkische Bewegung). In Deutschland Erwache (ISBN 0-912138-69-6), Ulric of England (sic) says: ''[…] what inspired Hitler to use the swastika as a symbol for the NSDAP was its use by the Thule Society (German: Thule-Gesellschaft) since there were many connections between them and the DAP … from 1919 until the summer of 1921 Hitler used the special Nationalsozialistische library of Dr. Friedrich Krohn, a very active member of the Thule-Gesellschaft … Dr. Krohn was also the dentist from Sternberg who was named by Hitler in Mein Kampf as the designer of a flag very similar to one that Hitler designed in 1920 … during the summer of 1920, the first party flag was shown at Lake Tegernsee … these home-made … early flags were not preserved, the Ortsgruppe München (Munich Local Group) flag was generally regarded as the first flag of the Party.
José Manuel Erbez says: The first time the swastika was used with an "Aryan" meaning was on December 25, 1907, when the self-named Order of the New Templars, a secret society founded by [Adolf Joseph] Lanz von Liebenfels, hoisted at Werfenstein Castle (Austria) a yellow flag with a swastika and four fleurs-de-lys.''
However, Liebenfels was drawing on an already established use of the symbol. On 14 March 1933, shortly after Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of Germany, the NSDAP flag was hoisted alongside Germany's national colors. It was adopted as the sole national flag on 15 September 1935 (see Nazi Germany).
The swastika was used for badges and flags throughout Nazi Germany, particularly for government and military organizations, but also for "popular" organizations such as the Reichsbund Deutsche Jägerschaft.
While the DAP and the NSDAP had used both right-facing and left-facing swastikas, the right-facing swastika was used consistently from 1920 onwards. However, Ralf Stelter notes that the swastika flag used on land had a right-facing swastika on both sides, while the ensign (naval flag) had it printed through so that you would see a left-facing swastika when looking at the ensign with the flagpole to the right.
Several variants are found:
  • a 45° black swastika on a white disc as in the NSDAP and national flags;
  • a 45° black swastika on a white lozenge (e.g., Hitler Youth);
  • a 45° black swastika with a white outline was painted on the tail of aircraft of the Luftwaffe;
  • a 45° black swastika outlined by thin white and black lines on a white disc (e.g., the German War Ensign);
  • an upright black swastika outlined by thin white and black lines on a white disc (e.g., Adolf Hitler's personal standard in which a gold wreath encircles the swastika; the Schutzstaffel; and the Reichsdienstflagge, in which a black circle encircles the swastika);
  • small gold, silver, black, or white 45° swastikas, often lying on or being held by an eagle, on many badges and flags.
  • a swastika with curved outer arms forming a broken circle, as worn by the SS Nordland Division. (See photo at "http://www.geocities.com/nordland@sbcglobal.net/".)
There were attempts to amalgamate Nazi and Hindu use of the swastika, notably by the French writer Savitri Devi who declared Hitler an avatar of Vishnu (see Nazi mysticism).

Use in Western countries

Because of its use by Hitler and the Nazis and, in modern times, by neo-Nazis and other hate groups, the swastika is largely associated with Nazism and white supremacy (see Western use of the Swastika in the early 20th century). As a result, its use as a Nazi or hate symbol is legally prohibited in some jurisdictions. Because of the stigma attached to the symbol, many buildings that have contained the symbol as decoration have had the symbol removed. Westerners whose family originates from India, including religions such as Jain, Hindu and other Indian religions, still use the swastika as a religious symbol, with no connection to Nazism.

Brazil

The use of the swastika in conjunction with any other Nazi allusion, and also its manufacture, distribution or broadcasting, is a crime as dictated by law 7.716/89 from 1989. The penalty is a fine and two to five years in prison.

Belgium

A controversy arose in Maasmechelen, Belgium, when Google Earth users found that a 27 year old fountain at the city council office looks like a swastika from the air. As a result the mayor said he would replace it.

European Union

The European Union's executive Commission proposed a European Union wide anti-racism law in 2001, but European Union states failed to agree on the balance between prohibiting racism and freedom of expression. An attempt to ban the swastika across the EU in early 2005 failed after objections from the British Government and others. In early 2007, while Germany held the European Union presidency, Berlin proposed that the European Union should follow German municipal law and criminalize Holocaust denial and the display of Nazi symbols including the swastika. This led to an opposition campaign by Hindu groups across Europe against a ban on the swastika. They pointed out that the swastika has been around for 5,000 years as a symbol of peace. The proposal to ban the swastika was dropped by Berlin from the proposed European Union wide anti-racism laws on January 29 2007.
A controversy was stirred by the decision of several police departments to begin inquiries against anti-fascists. In late 2005 police raided the offices of the punk rock label and mail order store "Nix Gut Records" and confiscated merchandise depicting crossed-out swastikas and fists smashing swastikas. In 2006 the Stade police department started an inquiry against anti-fascist youths using a placard depicting a person dumping a swastika into a trashcan. The placard was displayed in opposition to the campaign of right-wing nationalist parties for local elections.
On Friday, March 17, 2006, a member of the Bundestag Claudia Roth reported herself to the German police for displaying a crossed-out swastika in multiple demonstrations against Neo-Nazis, and subsequently got the Bundestag to suspend her immunity from prosecution. She intended to show the absurdity of charging anti-fascists with using fascist symbols: "We don't need prosecution of non-violent young people engaging against right-wing extremism."
On March 15, 2007, the Federal Court of Justice of Germany (Bundesgerichtshof) reversed the above-mentioned verdicts, since the crossed-out symbols were "clearly directed against a revival of national-socialist endeavors", hereby settling the dispute for the future.
The relevant excerpt of the German criminal code reads:
§ 86 StGB Dissemination of Means of Propaganda of Unconstitutional Organizations (1) Whoever domestically disseminates or produces, stocks, imports or exports or makes publicly accessible through data storage media for dissemination domestically or abroad, means of propaganda: 1. of a party which has been declared to be unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court or a party or organization, as to which it has been determined, no longer subject to appeal, that it is a substitute organization of such a party; […] 4. means of propaganda, the contents of which are intended to further the aims of a former National Socialist organization, shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine. […] (3) Subsection (1) shall not be applicable if the means of propaganda or the act serves to further civil enlightenment, to avert unconstitutional aims, to promote art or science, research or teaching, reporting about current historical events or similar purposes. […] § 86a StGB Use of Symbols of Unconstitutional Organizations''' (1) Whoever: 1. domestically distributes or publicly uses, in a meeting or in writings (§ 11 subsection (3)) disseminated by him, symbols of one of the parties or organizations indicated in § 86 subsection (1), nos. 1, 2 and 4; or 2. produces, stocks, imports or exports objects which depict or contain such symbols for distribution or use domestically or abroad, in the manner indicated in number 1, shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine. (2) Symbols, within the meaning of subsection (1), shall be, in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting. Symbols which are so similar as to be mistaken for those named in sentence 1 shall be deemed to be equivalent thereto. […]

United States

The swastika symbol was popular as a good luck or religious/spiritual symbol in the United States, prior to its association with Nazi Germany. The symbol remains visible on numerous historic buildings, including sites that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also appeared on tiles, lampposts, metal valves, tools, surfboards, stock certificates, brand names, place names, medals, commercial tokens, postcards, souvenirs, rugs and clothing; see Western use of the Swastika in the early 20th century.
The shoulder patch of the 45th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit from the Southwestern US, was originally a yellow swastika on a red diamond, in the context of a religious/mystical symbol of the Native American tribes of that region. As war with Nazi Germany became imminent in the late 1930s, the swastika was replaced by a yellow thunderbird emblem; this may have been done as a simple tactical move to avoid confusion and friendly fire incidents as much as due to the political stigma of the symbol and its association with Nazism. On November 8, 2004 Microsoft released a "critical update" to remove "unacceptable symbols" from the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font. An analysis of the unpatched and patched fonts shows the symbol deemed unacceptable to be a swastika, and possibly a six-point star.
In September of 2007 the United States Navy announced it would spend $600,000 to "camouflage" a barrack at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado near San Diego, so that it would no longer resemble a swastika from the air.

Satirical use

The powerful symbolism acquired by the swastika has often been used in graphic design and propaganda as a means of drawing Nazi comparisons; examples include the cover of Stuart Eizenstat's 2003 book Imperfect Justice, publicity materials for Costa-Gavras's 2002 film Amen, and a billboard that was erected opposite the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, in 2004, which juxtaposed images of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse pictures with a swastika.

Controversy over Asian products

In recent years, controversy has erupted when consumer goods bearing the symbol have been exported (often unintentionally) to North America. In 2002, Christmas crackers containing plastic toy pandas sporting swastikas were pulled from shelves after complaints from consumers in Canada. The manufacturer, based in China, explained the symbol was presented in a traditional sense and not as a reference to the Nazis, and apologized to the customers for the cross-cultural mixup.

Contemporary usage

Finland

The swastika was adopted by the Finnish Air Force after 6 March 1918, when Eric von Rosen donated an aeroplane adorned with swastikas which was his personal good luck symbol from Sweden to the Finnish white army. The swastika was officially adopted as the nationality marking on the Finnish Air Force planes on 18 March 1918.
The roundel was used until late 1944 when a substitution for a blue on white roundel was made. Existing decorations and unit flags of the Finnish Air Force were not altered, and they still feature the traditional blue swastika within a white circle.
The president of Finland is the grand master of the Order of the White Rose. According to the protocol, the president shall wear the Cross of Liberty with Chains on formal occasions. The original design of the chains, decorated with swastikas, dates from 1918 by the artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The Grand Cross with Chains has been awarded 11 times to foreign heads of state. To avoid misunderstandings, the swastika decorations were replaced by fir-crosses at the request of President Kekkonen in 1963.
Also a design by Gallen-Kallela of 1918, the Cross of Liberty has a swastika pattern in the arms of the cross. The Cross of Liberty is depicted in the upper left corner of the flag of the President of Finland.
In December 2007, a silver replica of the WWII Finnish air defences relief ring became available through Rautasormus.fi. The original war-time idea was that the public swap their precious metal rings for the State air defences relief ring, made of iron.
Traditional symbol that incorporates a swastika, tursaansydän, is used by scouts in some instances http://pitva.partio.net and a certain student organizationhttp://ppo.osakunta.fi/kainuunkerho/. Village of Tursa uses tursaansydän as a kind of a certificate of genuineness of products made there. http://tursa.fi/info/tursaansydan.html Traditional textiles are still being made with swastikas as a part of traditional ornaments.

India, Nepal and Sri Lanka

In South Asia, the swastika remains ubiquitous as a symbol of wealth and good fortune. In India, electoral ballot papers are stamped with a round swastika-like pattern (to ensure that the accidental ink imprint on the other side of a folded ballot paper can be correctly identified as such), so that this variant of the symbol is connected with political elections. Many businesses and other organisations, such as the Ahmedabad Stock Exchange and the Nepal Chamber of Commerce, use the swastika in their logos. The red swastika was suggested as an emblem of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in India and Sri Lanka, but the idea was not implemented http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/int-ifrc.html. Swastikas can be found practically everywhere in Indian cities, on buses, buildings, auto-rickshaws, and clothing.

Tajikistan

In 2005, authorities in Tajikistan called for the widespread adoption of the swastika as a national symbol. President Emomali Rahmonov declared the swastika an "Aryan" symbol and 2006 to be "the year of Aryan culture," which would be a time to “study and popularize Aryan contributions to the history of the world civilization, raise a new generation (of Tajiks) with the spirit of national self-determination, and develop deeper ties with other ethnicities and cultures.”http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/12/27f36005-4b37-4ada-87e0-034f33867c8e.html

Canada

The town of Swastika, Ontario, founded in 1908, got its name from a former mine of the same name, and inhabitants refused to have it changed during and after the Second World War.

New religious movements

Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society uses a swastika as part of its seal, along with an Aum, a hexagram, a Star of David, an Ankh and an Ouroboros. Unlike the much more recent Raëlian movement (see below), the Theosophical Society symbol has been free from controversy, and the seal is still used. The current seal also has English text (reference: http://www.ts-adyar.org/emblem.html).

Raëlian Movement

Founded in the 1970s, the Raëlian Movement, a small cult believing in the possibility of immortality by scientific progress and extraterrestrial life, used a symbol that was the source of considerable controversy: an interlaced Star of David and swastika. In 1991, the symbol was changed to remove the swastika and deflect public criticism. The symbol was restored to its original form in 2007.http://raelianews.org/news.php?item.206.3

Ananda Marga

The Tantra-based religious movement Ananda Marga uses a motif similar to the Raëlians, but in their case the apparent star of David is defined as intersecting triangles with no specific reference to Jewish culture.
According to Ananda Marge: ''External or physical service acted out through the motor organs is symbolised by the triangle pointing upwards. Internal or spiritual service done through channelizing of mental energy to the mantra is symbolized by the triangle pointing downwards...Attaining that state of oneness with the Generator, Operator and Destroyer of this universe is symbolised by the swastika which means victory.

Neopaganism

The Odinic Rite claims the "fylfot" as a "holy symbol of Odinism", citing the pre-Christian Germanic use of the symbol.

Image Gallery

Buddhist temple in Korea. Book of Silk from 400 BC. Snoldelev Stone, from around 800. abbot Simon de Gillans (-1345), with a stole depicting swastikas. Musée de Cluny, Paris.

See also

Notes

References

  • Aigner, Dennis J. (2000). The Swastika Symbol in Navajo Textiles. Laguna Beach, California: DAI Press. ISBN 0-9701898-0-X.
  • Clube, V. and Napier, B. The Cosmic Serpent. Universe Books, 1982
  • Enthoven, R.E. The Folklore of Bombay. London: Oxford University Press, 1924 (pp. 40–45).
  • Gardner, N. (2006) Multiple Meanings: The Swastika Symbol. In Hidden Europe, 11, pp. 35–37. Berlin. ISSN 1860-6318.
  • Lonsdale, Steven. Animals and the Origin of Dance, Thames and Hudson Inc., NY, 1982 (pp. 169–181).
  • ManWoman. Gentle Swastika: Reclaiming the Innocence, Cranbrook, B.C., Canada: Flyfoot Press, 2001. ISBN 0-9688716-0-7

External links

*History of the Swastika (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)
swastika in Arabic: صليب معقوف
swastika in Belarusian: Свастыка
swastika in Bulgarian: Свастика
swastika in Catalan: Esvàstica
swastika in Czech: Svastika
swastika in Danish: Svastika
swastika in German: Swastika
swastika in Estonian: Svastika
swastika in Modern Greek (1453-): Σβάστικα
swastika in Spanish: Esvástica
swastika in Esperanto: Svastiko
swastika in Basque: Esbastika
swastika in Persian: صلیب شکسته
swastika in French: Svastika
swastika in Korean: 만자문
swastika in Croatian: Svastika
swastika in Indonesian: Swastika
swastika in Italian: Svastica
swastika in Hebrew: צלב קרס
swastika in Georgian: სვასტიკა
swastika in Latin: Crux gammata
swastika in Latvian: Svastika
swastika in Lithuanian: Svastika
swastika in Hungarian: Szvasztika
swastika in Macedonian: Кукаст крст
swastika in Dutch: Swastika (symbool)
swastika in Japanese: 卍
swastika in Norwegian: Hakekors
swastika in Norwegian Nynorsk: Svastika
swastika in Polish: Swastyka
swastika in Portuguese: Suástica
swastika in Romanian: Svastică
swastika in Russian: Свастика
swastika in Simple English: Swastika
swastika in Slovenian: Svastika
swastika in Serbian: Кукасти крст
swastika in Finnish: Hakaristi
swastika in Swedish: Svastika
swastika in Thai: สวัสติกะ
swastika in Vietnamese: Chữ Vạn
swastika in Turkish: Svastika
swastika in Ukrainian: Свастика
swastika in Yiddish: האקנקרייץ
swastika in Chinese: 卐

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Calvary cross, Christogram, Greek cross, Jerusalem cross, Latin cross, Maltese cross, Russian cross, T, X, amulet, ankh, armory, avellan cross, badge, badge of office, badges, baton, blazonry, brassard, button, cap and gown, chain, chain of office, charm, chi, chi-rho, christcross, class ring, cockade, collar, crisscross, cross, cross ancre, cross botonee, cross bourdonee, cross fitche, cross fleury, cross formee, cross fourchee, cross grignolee, cross moline, cross of Cleves, cross of Lorraine, cross patee, cross recercelee, cross-crosslet, crossbones, crosslet, crucifix, cruciform, crux, crux ansata, crux capitata, crux decussata, crux gammata, crux immissa, crux ordinaria, dagger, decoration, dress, eagle, emblems, ensigns, ex, exing, fasces, fetish, figurehead, fleur-de-lis, fork cross, fylfot, gammadion, good-luck charm, hammer and sickle, heraldry, hoodoo, insignia, inverted cross, juju, lapel pin, livery, long cross, love charm, lucky bean, lucky piece, mace, madstone, mantle, markings, mascot, medal, mortarboard, mumbo jumbo, obeah, old school tie, papal cross, pectoral cross, periapt, philter, phylactery, pin, potent cross, regalia, ring, rood, rose, saltire, scarab, scarabaeus, scarabee, school ring, shamrock, sigillography, skull and crossbones, sphragistics, staff, sudarium, talisman, tartan, tau, thistle, tie, trefled cross, uniform, verge, veronica, voided cross, voodoo, wand, whammy
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