The Swastika

Various Styles of Swastika

The swastika is a very ancient symbol, and it is one of the most widely spread. They can be found from East Asia to Central America, via Mongolia, India and northern Europe. It was well known to the Celts, Etruscans and to ancient Greece. Some writers say its origins lie in Atlantis, and that the symbol spread from there. It has been documented in the pre Aryan civilisation of Mohenjo-Daro on the Indus river (ca. 2000 BCE)

The symbolism attached to the swastica is complex and varied according to the area it is found in. However, the basic design can be described to display a rotary movement about a central point. The central point can be either the pole or the ego. The essence of the symbol therefore is one of a cyclical nature, and is attached to ideas of activity, manifestation and perpetual regeneration. In this last sense it is often seen in connection with saviours of the human race such as Christ and the Buddha. In Buddhist tradition the swastika is known as the seal on Buddhas heart. It can be seen though that the swastika can represent different extremes; on the one hand it is attached to the highest spiritual ideals in the personages of Christ and Buddha; and on the other hand it is associated with the ultimate development in secular power in the personages of Charlemagne and Hitler.

Number symbolism is also attached to the swastica. It's construction of four arms with four extensions gives it the numerical value of 4 x 4=16, and is the evolving power of the universe. In China, since 700 CE, the symbol is associated with the number 10,000, or infinity, also taken to be the totality of beings and manifestations.

In Mediterranean cultures the perpendicular tips of the four ends were sometimes curled, or further bent to form mazes. Thought of as a quadruplication of the Greek letter Gamma, it was also called the Crux Gammata. Some Gnostic sects adapted the swastika into a secret symbol by forming it from four legs bent at the knee.

Swastika rotation is also directional, being either clockwise or widdershins (anti-clockwise). The direction of rotation is taken to be the direction in which the extended arms are pointing. Therefore for example the christian swastika pictured above would be said to rotate clockwise.

It has been written that Freemasons view the swastika as purely a cosmographical symbol. The centre being the pole star and the four gammas which it comprises as the four cardinal positions of the Great Bear around it. There is some debate, however, as to whether the swastika actually appears in Freemasonry at all. I guess one would have to be a member to be sure.

Dictionary of Symbolism - Hans Biedermann
The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols - Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrandt

The link below will take you to the Friends of the Swastika web ring. I have not checked all of the sites out, but it appears that they have a lot more information availabe should you want to find it. Happy Surfing, don't forget to come back here!

Link to Friends of the Swastika Web Ring

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