The Swastika, can we ignore its religious meaning?

How a lucky charm that was initially so positive and noble (in the original sense of the term) could come to represent tyrannical oppression and genocide is perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes in the history of humanity. world.

It is precisely this issue that the article you are reading will raise.

Together, we will try to understand why we should (or not) hate the swastika in its essence. More broadly, we will try to answer this question: “ Can we ignore the religious meaning of the swastika? »

To do this, we will take a more in-depth look at the origins of this Indian cross, its history and the different meanings that it may have taken on throughout history.

Contents :

Preamble

Traces of the swastika all over the world

The swastika in Hinduism…

…and in Buddhism

Use by the Nazi regime

Conclusion and answer to the initial question

A swastika engraved in a decoration for the Indian festival of Diwali.

Preamble

The swastika is a ancient religious symbol dating back over 15,000 years. Many historians believe that it may initially have been a representation of fire and the sun.

This could particularly have been the case among certain tribes who once populated the European and Asian continents.

Until the middle of the 20th century and its “misguided” use that we all know, the swastika has long been considered a powerful lucky charm associated with very positive values such as joy, sharing or even solidarity between men.

In the Buddhist tradition of India, the swastika is sometimes called "the seal on the heart of the Buddha".

In the Japanese and Chinese branches of this philosophy, it is not uncommon to see it engraved on the chest of statues (both old and recently constructed) of Gautama Buddha.

However, due to the consternation, sometimes even shock, of certain Western tourists, many modern Asian artists have chosen to eliminate a symbol which has nevertheless been part of their “32 signs of the supreme being” for millennia.

The debate over whether this religious symbol can be restored to its former place has continued unabated for several decades.

Cave paintings in a Paleolithic cave made of different symbols.

Traces of the swastika all over the world

The oldest known example of a swastika dates back around 15,000 years. Discovered in Ukraine in 1908, it is an ivory mammoth tusk carved in the shape of a bird and features an intricate pattern of several interconnected swastikas.

In all likelihood, this object would have been used during rituals linked to fertility.

It was in Eastern Europe that similar symbols were first used on a large scale by the Vinca culture during the Neolithic period, around 7,000 years ago. This practice then became widespread across the entire continent from the Bronze Age.

From Illyrian remains to Mesopotamian pieces, including weapons found in Northern Europe: the swastika was truly an emblem common to peoples sometimes very distant from each other.

This raises a whole bunch of questions about the possible existence of a “ root people ” or, why not, more sophisticated means of communication than what history teaches us today. We will not delve further into these two subjects here. This is not the purpose of this article.

When we refocus on the swastika, another element seems obvious to us: no one knows how this design came to be.

Perhaps this was just a form that was easy to reproduce by our ancestors who only had archaic means and techniques.

Some theories say instead that the swastika symbol was chosen for a certain ability to connect us to mystical energies. Whatever the case, the mystery still remains unsolved today.

A statue of a Hindu deity and several other lucky charms from Hinduism

The mysteries of the Orient

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The swastika in Hinduism…

Despite its almost worldwide use, it is really in Asia (and more precisely in India) that the swastika took on the meaning that we know it. It is therefore not surprising that it is often placed in the category of Hindu lucky charms (of which you can find some examples here).

This symbol is one of 108 associated with the Hindu god Vishnu, but is also a representation of the sun and, as such, of Surya (the sun-god in Hinduism).

According to this interpretation, the four branches would show us a rotational movement, a reminder of the path that follows the Sun each day. So it would be this great movement from East to West that the swastika would describe?

Possible. In any case, it is a serious hypothesis which is supported by numerous elements.

We can, for example, cite certain tribes of Amerindians who also have similar symbols to represent the Sun and its great course in the sky.

Certain branches of Hinduism provide a somewhat different interpretation.

For its followers, the swastika represents a duality : if the cross turns clockwise, it pays homage to Vishnu and the Sun, if on the other hand it turns counterclockwise, it is then the night and the goddess Kali who would be represented.

Two ways to use this Indian lucky charm, for two distinct meanings.

Tantra (an esoteric Hindu tradition) also gives pride of place to the swastika. It is found in particular in certain theories which are interested in the chakras.

Some yogis even believe that visualizing this type of Indian cross can help the meditator more easily reach a state of trance and, ultimately, experience nirvana.

No matter which point of view we take, one observation is obvious : the Indian lucky charm we are talking about has long been considered a symbol of good omen, and is used in many areas of religious art as well. visible like architecture, painting or even sculpture.

Additionally, in Hinduism and Jainism, the swastika symbol is sometimes used to decorate the first pages of sacred texts. (Who says sacred text, says that this type of symbol is not found there by chance...)

Some Hindu festivals even have the swastika as their central theme, which can literally be seen on every street corner.

In fact, the very name of this symbol tells us the relationship that Indians may have with it. In Sanskrit, swastika is written “स्वस्तिक”.

You already know the phonetic translation. The literal translation could be “conducive to well-being”.

Basically, there was therefore no reason for the swastika to become the emblem of massacres and atrocious wars.

Perhaps it is time for Hinduism to assert its rights over it, and to remind the rest of the world of the primary meaning of this symbol which once represented not hatred but love.

Two statues of the Buddha and a Buddhist thangka from Asia

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…and in Buddhism

Did you know that, in all likelihood, the swastika was initially used by Buddhists to represent the footprints of the Buddha?

We can also find this symbol on the covers of many sacred texts, in particular those which present the wise words and moral observations of Shakyamuni, better known under the name of Siddhārtha Gautama... and even more under that of the Buddha (although this term can refer to any person who has reached spiritual awakening).

As a Buddhist good luck charm, the swastika symbol is almost always depicted with its branches rotating clockwise.

This arrangement more particularly represents “the fortune and happiness which followed Buddha and his footprints wherever the great sage went”.

In fact, we are talking here about the first of the “65 auspicious symbols” associated with Siddhārtha Gautama

Some devotees even say that the swastika contains the entire spirit of the Buddha buried within it.

For them, it is therefore an essential element of their daily faith... We leave you with the tragedy that they felt when they saw how some people used a Buddhist lucky charm that was so dear to them!

With the spread of Buddhist doctrine in Asia, the swastika entered the iconography of China and Japan, where it was notably used to designate purity, fertility, abundance, prosperity and longevity.

By presenting us with the swastika surrounded by Chinese ideograms, this lucky ring is a good example of the universal nature of the symbol.

In reality, all the countries of the Asian continent view this Indian cross favorably. You can therefore find it in places as varied as in Korean temples, the entrance to yurts in Mongolia, altars in Thailand, vestiges of pre-Islamic cultures in Persia and Mesopotamia... and the list is still very far from 'be complete.

Used to make clothes, engraved on a wall or on the forehead of a statue, or even drawn in the corner of a dusty book... Almost all Buddhist temples in the world have a swastika.

The height of irony when we know the meaning it may have taken on throughout history: swastikas have even been found in the ruins of ancient Jewish synagogues!

Scene from Nazi Germany with a tank passing between flags.

Use by the Nazi regime

It's something everyone knows: the Nazis adopted the swastika as the emblem of their movement.

The reasons for this choice are actually numerous. The desire to represent the Aryan people and their superiority over any other race is undoubtedly the one that historians cite most often.

Indeed, the Nazi regime had developed a theory according to which the Aryans, the first inhabitants of India, were a white people of European origin.

According to other theories, the swastika had, in the eyes of high German dignitaries, a more spiritual meaning: that of a magical connection with mysterious occult forces.

When we know the interest that men like Himmler or Rosenberg had for this type of practice, many things suddenly become clear.

It should also be noted that, when used by the Nazis, the swastika was almost always shown rotating counterclockwise.

Archaeological site on which the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann worked.

The “discoveries” of Heinrich Schliemann

Heinrich Schliemann is a German historian and archaeologist who, from the start of his career, was obsessed with the quest for the city of Troy, a lost city of Greek mythology that classical works tell us about.

In 1868, he left to explore the edges of the Mediterranean in search of the legendary city.

As several years passed and the discoveries proved disappointing, he was reluctant to give up... until a British archaeologist named Frank Calvert made a suggestion: Schliemann might do well to dig into the mysterious mound. of Hisarlik on the Aegean coast, Turkey.

It was there that during the 1870s, Heinrich Schliemann found traces of a civilization several thousand years old. Inevitably, he was convinced that it was the city of Troy.

All his questions had been answered... But others had replaced them!

In fact, he counted around 1,800 copies of a mysterious symbol about which he knew little at the time: the swastika.

News of Schliemann's sensational excavations quickly spread around the world. It did not take long for the swastika, too, to be visible again on all continents.

In a few years, this motif, a mysterious symbol of a past power, charmed a whole lot of people. Advertising, sports teams, public architecture: initially, the swastika was appreciated by everyone and its meaning had nothing particularly negative.

Member of a neo-Nazi nationalist group.

The Aryan hypothesis

The discovery of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s had in fact triggered a series of events that would transform the swastika, a symbol of love and hope for thousands of years, into a sign as feared as it was hated. German fascism.

Concretely, it would be the historian Emile-Louis Burnouf who, reading a sacred text of Hinduism called the Rigveda, first affirmed that there was a link between the swastika and an ancient semi-legendary people who would have conquered the Iran and Northern India: the Aryans.

At the same time, certain German nationalist groups were developing a theory about their people. According to them, they came from an ancient known superior “race”.

The opportunity was too good, and the two theories were joined to create the one we know.

Flags of the Nazi regime with their swastika hung on the wall of an official building.

And so why did you choose the swastika?

When Adolf Hitler began his rise to power and sought a symbol to represent his movement, the Nazi Party and the future he desired for Germany, the swastika was an obvious choice for him.

Hitler understood the power of images and knew that the swastika would provide Nazi ideals with historical credibility.

It was therefore in 1920 that the leader of the Nazi Party, then in full swing, officially adopted the swastika as the symbol of the movement.

It took only a short time for the flags of the Third Reich, red standards displaying a black cross on a white circle, to parade throughout Europe, spreading war in their wake.

Giant statue of Buddha with a swastika engraved on his heart.

Conclusion and answer to the initial question

The swastika, swastika of its original name, is a cross with four arms of equal length, with the ends of each arm bent at right angles.

Its name comes from a Sanskrit word meaning fortune, luck and well-being. This interpretation is clearly far from that of the Western world in the 21st century.

An ancient symbol, the swastika can actually be found all over the world, although it is particularly visible in India. It is even correct to describe this symbol as central to the country's culture.

Here is an article written by specialists which will provide you with some keys to additional historical understanding on the subject.

Despite this, the question still clearly arises today: “The swastika, can we ignore its religious meaning? »

Far from any emotion, the question deserves to be asked seriously.

At first glance, it seems obvious that the Nazis and German fascism have tarnished the image of the swastika, if not forever, at least for a long time to come. It seems complicated to be able to use this symbol today to represent peace and openness… in Europe at least!

Indeed, when we are interested in Asia, a continent that ultimately saw little of the Second World War, the meaning that the swastika can take on is very different.

It will undoubtedly take a lot of work for followers of this philosophy to achieve this, but the swastika could one day once again be universally recognized as a positive Buddhist good luck charm.

We could even say that this is a necessity and a duty towards humanity: if they do not do it, we will have definitively ceded a sacred religious symbol to Nazism... this which would represent a significant defeat.

In itself, it is necessary to educate the public so that when someone sees this type of cross in a temple during their next trip to the East, they will not be surprised and conflate it with the Nazi insignia.

As a bonus: a video that goes deeper into the subject

Lucky charms featured in this article:

Swastika Ring

Swastika Ring

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Swastika pendant

Swastika pendant

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.