21 February 2016

All swastikas are not created equal - updated


The image above ("Deep in prayer at the Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysore, India"), by
Steph Peatfield of Londo, is an entry in the Telegraph's Big Picture travel photography competition.  When I saw the photo, I was reminded of this photograph of actress Clara Bow -


- that I blogged three years ago (discussed here), and this one from 2010 of a folk quilt in a Colorado museum:


(read the details here), and finally this Halloween outfit from 1918:

The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit word "svastika", meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- meaning "good, well" and asti "to be" svasti thus means "well-being." The suffix -ka either forms a diminutive or intensifies the verbal meaning, and svastika might thus be translated literally as "that which is associated with well-being," corresponding to "lucky charm" or "thing that is auspicious." The word in this sense is first used in the Harivamsa. As noted by Monier-Williams in his Sanskrit-English dictionary, according to Alexander Cunningham, its shape represents a monogram formed by interlacing of the letters of the auspicious words su-astí (svasti) written in Ashokan characters.
Lots more info at the Wikipedia entry linked above.

Addendum:  Reader adeus notes that the swastika is in current usage by some units of the Finnish Air Force:


Addendum #2:  Updated to add this photo of a Canadian women's hockey team.


The Fernie Swastikas were a women's hockey team that was formed in 1922 in Fernie, British Columbia. Their uniform used as a symbol the swastika, which before World War II was a common religious symbol, and especially a sun sign. In 1923, the Swastikas won the Alpine Cup at the Banff Winter Carnival women's ice hockey championship. There were two other teams called the Swastikas, one in Edmonton, Alberta, and another the Windsor Swastikas of Windsor, Nova Scotia.

And I've just discovered there is a detailed article on the Western use of the swastika in Wikipedia.  Those interested can find many more examples there, including this wedding dress from 1910:


With the Wikipedia link available, I won't need to update this post again.

13 comments:

  1. My husband and I were looking at old houses to buy in Highland Park, Michigan. We looked at one that was built in the early 1920s (maybe 1919). The foyer was covered in beautiful Pewabic tiles with a swastika pattern, which takes you aback, until you remember that the Nazi party wasn't known in America until the late 1920s, maybe even later.

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    1. My mother in law's home, built in 1920 in east central Indiana, has the same type of tiles, on the covered archway on the porch and in the foyer. Ironically, her father in law was a member of the Nazi Party years later (he never immigrated to the USA). She toyed with destroying the swastikas when she purchased the place in 1960, but decided against it. But she does direct folks to come to her home at the side porch, just in case.

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  2. With google street view you can just make out what decorates the light posts outside of the historic Post Office @ 323 East Broadway, Glendale, CA, United States
    When I was young, I remember visiting this post office, sitting in my mother's parked car and through the mirror catching a glimpse of swastikas that ringed the bases of the light posts. As I looked around, I discovered they were 'everywhere' (As an adult I can clearly see that they are 'backwards' when compared to the more familiar Nazi design.) Regardless, I remember being scared, confused and wondering what affiliation my family had with such evil people... It didn't help matters that our family was from Germany originally.

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  3. It's a visually pleasing symbol, but hopelessly corrupted.

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  4. Some units in the Finnish air force still use the swastika (e.g. Training Air Wing in their insignias. An interesting feat considering the historical baggage that comes with it.

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    1. I hadn't seen that one before. Excellent. I've added the image and link to the post. Thanks, adeus for helping make the blog better.

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    2. A blue swastika on a white circle was the Finnish Air Forces insignia from 1918 until 1944. It was based on the good luck symbol of Count 'Carl Gustaf Bloomfield Eric von Rosen who gave the Finnish Air Force its first aircraft. Please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Air_Force.

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  5. Sometimes history just irrevocably changes things. The swastika is one of those things. It will never be the same; it can never be reborn.

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    1. Sure it can; all it needs to do is outlast memories and knowledge of WWII.

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  6. The flag of the Isle of Man (a self-governed island in between Ireland and England) is essentially a swastika (it has the same root meaning). See this picture: http://www.mapsofworld.com/flags/isle-of-man-flag.html

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    1. technically, that is a triskelion and not a swastika.

      I-)

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  7. the swastika was used by one of the native american tribes of the southwest. they stopped using it after the symbol was tainted by events of the pre-mid 20th century.

    i have seen the swastika in one kung fu movie, where it decorated the walls of a temple.

    I-)

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