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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: swastika


Swastika: One of the oldest spiritual symbols in the world, possibly going back as far as 12,000 B.C.E. It consists of an equal armed cross with the ends of the arms bent at 90°, giving the impression that it is spinning either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending upon how it is drawn. The word itself is Sanskrit and first appears in the English language in 1871; however, the symbol has been found in ancient cultures all over the world, including pre-Christian Europe and among early Native American tribes. From the 1880s to the 1920s it became a popular motif in Western culture.

The Swastika is found all over India, where it is said to represent the Sun’s rays, the involution and evolution of the universe, and just good luck. Some, however, believe it is only good luck when shown in a clockwise-spinning direction.

The belief in the superiority of the German “Aryan” race by mystical and political leaders in the early 20th century led to the adoption of the symbol as representative of the Nazi party in 1935. The horrors of Nazi practices resulted in a shunning of the symbol in countries where it was not previously widespread. Some people are trying to reintroduce the symbol by explaining its spiritual and symbolic value while denouncing the Nazi’s subversion of the original meanings.


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