Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The ancient, universal and positive nature of the swastika
The swastika (from Sanskrit svastika) is an equilateral cross, says wikipedia, with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing (卐) form or its mirrored left-facing (卍) form. Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period and was first found in the Indus Valley Civilization of the Indian Subcontinent. It occurs today in the modern day culture of India, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol; it remains widely used in Eastern and Dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Despite this usage, the symbol has become stigmatized and to some extent taboo in the Western world because of its iconic usage by Nazi Germany.
The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit word svastika (in Devanagari स्वस्तिक), meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. The modern equivalent to the term would be a talisman.
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 across the world.