In the Western world the swastika is synonymous with fascism, and induces feelings of disgust and remorse. With good reason, the swastika is a symbol that was used in the 20th century by of one of the most hated men ever to have lived, a symbol that now 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 positive and powerful symbol, thousands of years before him, across many cultures and continents.
The earliest known swastika is from 10,000 BCE found in Mezine, Ukarine. The symbol is found in the archeological remains of the Sintasha culture and Indus Valley Civilization.
The swastika (as a character, 卐 or 卍) is a geometrical figure and an ancient religious icon, and has been used as a symbol of good fortune, divinity and spirituality in almost every culture in the world.
The symbol has been used by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and many religions for millennial. In the ancient Hindu language of Sanskrit, swastika means "well-being". In Hinduism, the symbol with arms pointing clockwise (卐) is called swastika, symbolizing suyra ('sun'), prosperity and good luck, while the counterclockwise symbol (卍) is called sauvastika, symbolizing night or tantric aspects of Kali.
In Jainism, a swastika is the symbol for Suparshvanatha– the seventh of 24 Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers and savirous), while in Buddhism it symbolizes the auspicious footprints of the Buddha. It is often placed at the beginning and end of inscriptions, and modern Tibetan Buddhists use it as a clothing decoration. With the spread of Buddhism, the swastika passed into the iconography of China and Japan, where it has been used to denote abundance, prosperity, and long life.
In several Indo-European religions, the swastika symbolizes lightning bolts, representing the thunder god, and the king of the gods such as Indra in Vedic Hinduism, Zeus in the Ancient Greek religion, Jupiter in the ancient Roman religion, and Thor in the ancient Germanic religion.
In 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.
The swastika is a powerful geometric figure and an ancient religious icon, and has been used as a symbol of good fortune, divinity and spirituality, for thousands of years, across many cultures and continents.
It is ironic, that many Westerners see no possibility for the symbol to move beyond its negative connotations. Some believe that the swastika is unredeemable because not only is it linked indelibly to the Nazi crimes, it is still worshiped by the neo-Nazi ‘haters.
It is unfortunate, that a symbol of good fortune, divinity and spirituality, that was considered sacred for thousands of years has become a symbol of hatred.