A Brief History Of The Swastika
Sign in

A Brief History of the Swastika

Swastikas show up in many ancient cultures. Ancient Etruscan pottery and ancient Greek helmets both bear swastikas. It shows up in medieval churches and heraldry. Swastikas also show up in ancient Chinese and Indian artifacts; the word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit word "svastika," meaning "a 6104lucky object."
We do not know how the swastika symbol came to be, or why it is so universal, but theories abound. A swastika pattern is created by the edges of reeds during basket weaving. When comets come close to earth, their nucleus appears to have four bent arms extending from it.
In Life's Other Secret, Ian Stewart suggests a swastika pattern arises when parallel waves of neural activity sweep across the visual cortex during states of altered consciousness, producing a swirling swastika-like image, due to the way quadrants in the field of vision are mapped to opposite areas of the brain.
The word swastika was first used in English in 1871. Before then, a swastika was called a gammadion, fylfot cross or a crooked cross.
In the early 20th century, the swastika was seen as a good luck charm. Pilots and sports teams regularly adorned themselves with swastikas for good luck. Postcards, like the one above, featured embossed swastikas to wish the recipient luck.
The swastika symbol was used in the völkisch movement which arose after German unification in 1871. According to José Manuel Erbez, the swastika was first used with an Aryan meaning in 1907, when an Austrian secret society hoisted a yellow flag with a swastika and four fleur-de-lys.
In 1920, Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi party flag, featuring a swastika in a white circle on a red background. Hitler saw the swastika as a symbol for "the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and...the victory of the idea of creative work." After 1933, when Hitler was sworn in as German chancellor, the swastika became indelibly linked with National Socialism and Aryan race theory.
The Swastika Today
The swastika is still widely used in Asia as a good-luck charm and a religious symbol. There is a movement 6201to reclaim the swastika from its association with Naziism. Results have been mixed.
The swastika is used in flags and emblems for the Finnish Air Force. The Cross of Liberty, one of the three official orders of Finland, features a swastika in its design. A swastika symbol was also present in the emblem for Lotta Svärd, a women's auxiliary paramilitary organization.
Public displays of the swastika are banned in several European countries, including Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. Though laws vary from country to country, they do not apply to, say, ancient artifacts with swastika symbols, or television documentaries about the Third Reich. Where the swastika is banned, neo-Nazi groups use other symbols, or certain clothing brands, to broadcast their allegiance6202.
Even where the swastika is legal, some white advocate organizations have banned it, because they disagree with National Socialism, don't want to associate with Nazis, or don't want to alienate potential members right from the start.