Swastika - is it commonly used where you live?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by badgrammar, Nov 13, 2007.

  1. I did a search but found no discussions on WR about the swastika. I am curious to know if this ancient symbol is used in your country, and if so, what is its meaning?

    I thought of this because years ago a Korean friend made me a beautifully decorated "hat" box. It has the swastika symbol on all sides and on the top. I never displayed it very prominently, because my cultural association with it is the holocaust - which is a shame because is such an ancient symbol with many meanings, none of them having to do with genocide or racial purity.

    So, I wanted to hear about how you percieve the swastika, if it is prominent in your culture, what does it represent to you and what is its signifigance in your society? If you entered someon'es house and saw the symbol, would you immediately associate it with the Third Reich and nazis, or would it seem normal because it is part of the decoration of an object?

  2. kiyama

    kiyama Senior Member

    Catalunya, català
    I suppose that in Catalonia it would be hard not to associate it with nazis. Some people even wear stickers where it is crossed, thrown to a rubbish basket or walked on.
  3. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Here in Argentina it is most frequently associated with the Third Reich, probably because there are so many ex-participants still hiding here, although I gues most of them are dead or dying by now - it's been 62 years since it collapsed.
  4. Drechuin Senior Member

    France ; french
    Almost only associated with nazism in France.
    If I enterd in someone's house and saw this symbol, I'm pretty sure I would leave less than ten seconds later.

    Swatiska for a decorative or other-than-nazi symbol is not unheard of, especially for Asian products, but it's not always well understand (I remember some harsh words about japanese cartoons about that).
  5. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    In Croatia, the symbol is not used for anything except its Nazi meaning, but the word itself (spelled svastika) means "wife's sister" in some dialects of Croatian. :D
  6. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    In Spain is associated with the Third Reich too. Being a Jew, if I ever entered a house that displayed the symbol on top of the mantelpiece, for instance, I would run in the opposite direction as fast as lighting.
    Unfortunately it's becoming a common sight on the streets. Some empty-headed youths are using it as a kind of ornament on their jackets.

    (Athaulf, I find it better suited to mean "husband's mother").
  7. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    I recall having seen the symbol on ancient Greek pottery.
  8. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    Swastika is quite common decoration in Latvia. It is used on clothing items, blankets, pottery, buildings etc., usually not alone but together with other elements of national design. In this context it is not associated with the Nazi regime and its use is not diminished due to their misuse. Although in official ceremonies, out of political correctness, people would avoid using it.

    EDIT: As for the meaning, then nowadays for most people it is simply a decoration. But a swastika has ancient use and it has many variations and names in Latvian – ugunskrusts, kāšu krusts, pērkonkrusts etc. The main idea is that it represents certain Deities of the Nature thus this sign protects its bearer from evil forces.

    ADDED: I just realized that swastika elements are used on our money. Even if you can't see it clearly there, the motif is officially taken from the Lielvārde belt.
  9. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    London, UK
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    Exclusivly a nazi symbol here.
  10. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Absolutely forbidden to be used or displayed in Germany. Only very few exceptions for science and arts. Solely associated with Nazi regime.

  11. Lingvisten Senior Member

    Before WWII, the svastika was a quite normal symbol in Denmark. It was a symbol of the god of thunder Thor, wich probably had its revival in the 19th century due to the romantic movement. Denmarks oldest and biggest brewery used the symbol for many years as a trademark. This is an old decoration of a bottle of Carlsberg beer:

  12. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    I've seen it used as a design element in older (pre-WWII) Native American blankets.

    Aside from that context, when we see it here it's associated with Hitler and the Nazis.
  13. These are great responses! Thank you all! I will try to post a picture of it tomorrow, what is interesting is that when you look at the object, in spite of the symbol being there, it comes off as decorative, not as a political statement. Interesting that in Latvia it is commonly used for decoration! That is the only place so far!
  14. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    I am not the best source for this information, but the Swastika is definitely a religious icon from India. The word comes from Sanskrit, thought I cannot surmise what the meaning is. I believe that in Hindi it is related to the word for "health," but again, I'm unsure.

    We have Swastikas in our house in Orlando, but the Indian version goes in the other direction. I am so used to it that I have to think twice to remember it's other more grim significance.

    Doesn't anyone else recognize this as a Hindu symbol?
  15. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    No, I was not aware that it's a Hindu symbol.
  16. palomnik Senior Member

    Not exactly my country, but in the Far East the swastika is considered a stylized version of the character wan (ban in Japanese) - 萬 in traditional and 万 in simplified characters. It means ten thousand, but it is probably best known in the expression 萬歲 (万岁) ten thousand years - wan sui in Chinese and banzai in Japanese.

    I'm surprised that nobody has commented yet on its ubiquitous use in India.
  17. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    The swastika (hakaristi in Finnish) has been in Finland a very common symbol and a decoration pattern for centuries. It was also chosen as the symbol of Finnish Air Force in 1918, long before anybody knew anything about the Nazi party. Hitler made a sketch of a swastika flag only in 1919.

    The Finnish Air Force swastika was always blue and in upright position, but the Nazi swastika was usually (not always) black and in an angled position.

    Unfortunately, the very old symbol of Indian origin that was also used in antique Greece, was later connected only to the Nazis. Today it's practically forbidden in Finland.

    I'm sorry for losing a beatiful figure that has a history of thousands of years, only because of a maniac who raved here just a couple of decades.
  18. Pie Crust

    Pie Crust Banned

    England English
    In the UK, the swastika is almost exclusively associated with Nazi Germany.

    Our Prince Harry (son of Princess Diana) once went to a fancy-dress party dressed as a Nazi, sporting a swastika on the sleeve of his outfit. He received a severe roasting in the press - quite rightly in my opinion.

    The swastika is a definite "no no" in the UK.
  19. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    Here is the wikipedia article for those who are interested.
  20. samanthalee

    samanthalee Senior Member

    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    In Singapore, the left-facing swastika 卍 in red or gold is associated with Buddhism.

    I can't recall any instance of 卍 and 万 (or 萬) being interchangable. :confused: But according to wikipedia here, its pronunciation in Chinese had been decided by a Tang Emperor to be equivalent to the character wan - 萬 in traditional and 万 in simplified characters. (I assume that means each Chinese dialect will pronounce 卍 according to how they pronounce 万.) So maybe they are sometimes interchangeable?

    We have a government-aided primary school (elementary school) called the Red Swastika School (慈学校, the swastika is always written in red). There is also a 字会屯门慈小学 in Hong Kong, the Chinese full name is Hong Kong Red Swastika Society Tuen Mun Red Swastika Primary School, but it has been shorten to H.K.R.S.S Tuen Mun Primary School in its English official name (Notice that mentions of "swastika" is removed from the English name. Perhaps it's deliberate.:)).

    We also frequently see it as decorative motifs in olden architecture (See attached if you can't see the 卍 in the motif).

    Attached Files:

  21. _gelato_ New Member

    English, Australia
    It was Diwali last week (Indian New Year) and all the gift boxes for sweets were decorated with swastikas.

    The swatstika is also a common motif in Chinese furniture design. Wood carved into a boxed framework is often a modification of conjoined swastikas.
  22. Lingvisten Senior Member

    The svastika is not forbidden in Denmark. You have every right to use which symbols you like. Of course you could ban every symbol that was used by an organisation who was responsible of killing people. But haven't almost every religion or government tributed to the killings? then you would have to make a subjective valuation of every symbol, and who are to deside which should be banned and which are not?

    I think most educated people in Denmark know that the svastika is older than nazi germany. I actually think more people know of the Indian origin than the Danish.
  23. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    The Swastika or svastika (German Hakenkreuz) is, indeed used to decorate Hindu Temples, often connected into a frieze, and began as a symbol of good fortune. Rudyard Kipling used the symbol also in either direction (clockwise and anti-clockwise). I used to own a leather-bound copy of his Barrackroom Ballads with an upright, i.e. not tilted, svastika on the front cover surmounted by the head of an elephant in a circle. He hastily abandon this device at the rise of Nazism, even before the party came to power. Some regard him as a racist, which I would hotly dispute, but the symbol he chose only indicated that he had subcontinental connections and had once as a young child spoken Hindustani or Hindi better than he did English.
    I have, to my surprise, even seen a svastika on an old English Christmas card sent by one devout Anglican lady to another, with no fascist connotations whatever.
  24. Sorry, I tried to post a picture but I need to resize it first. Will do as soon as I can!
  25. CrepiIlLupo Member

    USA - English
    I have definitely heard of the symbol being used in the Hindu belief system and in other eastern cultures to symbolize peace. I certainly do think that it is a shame that Hitler ruined its meaning to a certain extent by exploiting it and associating it with his regime.

    It seems that it is hard for us to accept that this symbol simply has many meanings to many people. Furthermore, it can have many meanings to the same person depending upon the context of its use. This discussion is seeming to head in the direction that it can only mean something good or something bad. The fact of the matter is, it can mean whatever somebody intends it to mean, good or bad.

    Again, I understand and completely respect the this Hindu, Native American, Chinese symbol as a symbol representing peace when it is used in this manner. However, the fact still remains that as an American, if I saw somebody who was white flying a flag with a swatstika on it, I would really have no choice but to assume it was intended to be a nazi symbol.

    A true "educated" person, by the nature of that definition, would have to be intelligent enough to deduct a difference between the situations in which the symbol was defined....
  26. palomnik Senior Member

    Samantha, I wasn't aware that the connection between the swastika and 万 was as recent as the Tang. I got my information from Wieger's Characteres Chinoises, which can be unreliable.

    It's interesting to note that Wikipedia indicates that the motif was common in Han times.
  27. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I knew that this symbol was common in some cultures of India, but when someone uses it in Europe it's usually not because of their love for Eastern traditions. (Though, at least where I live, it's usually just youths with little to do wasting a can of spray on some wall to feel "rebellious".)
  28. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    I recognise it as a Hindu symbol, but I only discovered this about fifteen years ago. I was in the house of a lefty, vegetarian, hippy person and saw something decorated with a swastika. I challenged the person and told them they should not be displaying such a disgusting symbol (being convinced that I was always right in those days. Nowadays, of course, I am only right 99% of the time :eek:). I was then told that it was an ancient Hindu symbol and that it was staying where it was. I have since told this story to several people and some of them were aware of the non-Nazi origin.

    So, I do think that some are aware in the UK, but would venture to guess, not a majority.
  29. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    This makes me remember some interesting lessons about world-wide symbols I attended at the university (once upon a time). Analyzing swastika, from neolit till modern times, our professor showed us many different examples of it, from different periods and different parts of the world. He stimulated us to notice their direction. The most of them (not all) were going counter-clockwise, and then he explained us that it probably symbolized the path of the sun (somehow the most of people consider East to be "right" and West to be "left"), and accentuated the inverted position of the Nazi swastika. Since then I don't have any bad associations when I see it turned "westward", but I do when I see the "eastward" version of it. And yes, I think I could say it's forbidden here, maybe not by a state law, but people just react and hate to see it, so the fresh sign will always be whitewashed and its "painters" will usually be checked and interrogated by police.
  30. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Exactly - the traditional, every-body-else-nazi's swastika is sitting flat on the line. Rotating it by 45 degrees was Hitlers idea - using it as a symbol for the party was suggested by other members. Obviously he found it more "dynamic" that way.

    In the 80es there used to be a Shorinji Kenpo dojo in Copenhagen - they also had a swastika on their training jackets. I am not sure if it wasn't reversed (mirror image) as compared with the nazi-symbol. This style of martial arts has a close connection not only to Buddhism but also Shintoism.

    As for the Carlsberg swastika - somebody told me recently that there is still one left somewhere in a wall on the brewery compound, but all facing the street were removed before WWII.
  31. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    That seems to be a very sensible way of dealing with a sensitive matter.:)
  32. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    The Finnish Armoured Forces (tanks) used a "short-ended" swastika from 1918 on, and a similar form was the symbol of the Lotta Svärd organisation (women helping the nation in war). Neither of them had anything to do with the Nazis.

    Then I found and interesting picture in the web but I couldnt trace it - an aeroplane with "U.S.ARMY" and a swastika (note that the German planes had the swastika only in the rudder and it was always 45 degrees angled). Does anybody know anything about this Boeing?
  33. Spectre scolaire Senior Member

    Moving around, p.t. Turkey
    Maltese and Russian
    There is a fishery company in Iceland displaying a flag with a swastika. I once read a small article about it in a newpaper. The ignorant British journalist had asked the manager how they could think of using such a symbol after what happened in WWII, whereupon the manager had quipped:

    “Well, the British Royal House [the House of Windsor] has skipped everything German. Here in Iceland, we have a longer tradition and we don’t feel like skipping anything Icelandic.”

    He was of course referring to what is said about Iceland in the Wikipedia article. See also the propaganda cartoon from Punch (in Wikipedia s.v. “House of Windsor”) commenting on the King’s action in abolishing the German titles held by members of His Majesty’s family. The Icelandic manager was probably not aware of the fact that the name Windsor was introduced already during the last part of WWI.

    Following the article there was a picture of a fishing boat hoisting the swastika flag. I clipped it, but I don’t have it next to me where I am now.

    As far as China is concerned I have seen the swastika numerous times, in temples, in museums - even in parks. Some Europeans and Americans get upset when they see it. We are all inculcated with our national historiography...
    :) :)
  34. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
  35. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    It is worth reading very carefully, with a discerning eye. The author of that web site
    is presenting some facts about use of the symbol, but interspersed with a lot of rubbish ideas.

    Here is a fine example of sub-standard etymology, the kind that is as worthy of contempt as much of the rest of the text:

    " It is worth noting that Americans still use the greeting "hello" as they did then, and it is related to the German greeting "Heil" and thus to "Heil Hitler."

  36. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    You are right, but I think that those rubbish ideas are very easy to pick out.
  37. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Fabulous! Very interesting reading if you sort out the wheat from the chaff.:)
  38. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Anyhow, I think the symbol was spoiled by the Nazis.

    As an example, no matter its age, the "Fascist" salute (extended arm) is inextricably associated to Nazis, Fascists and Falangists (Spain). There is no doubt that it was associated with the Romans in Western culture (we do not even have to search in India or Buddhism or Iran). So what? Their "innocent" uses have dead. It is not posible to use it without remembering their use in 1920-45.
  39. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Besides extensive use in Buddhist culture as Samantha has detailed above (some of which I have not recognised as a swastika but this only shows how common the character/icon is), 卍 is used as the standard symbol for a Buddhist temple in Japanese maps.
  40. Lugubert Senior Member

    When Weiger differs from Cecilia Lindqvist in interpretations, it's not only for patriotic reasons I choose hers. After all, the first edition of Weiger was in 1899.

    What I would have expected to find in the Wiki was a comparision between the swastika and the tetraskele, mentioned in passing without further links on Wiki's triskele entry.

    Additionally, the triskele page doesn't mention that the three-legged symbol is found in Indonesia as well. I suppose there goes the Celtic theory.

    I suppose I finally should answer the OP. I don't know how many Swedes know of the Indian origin of the symbol. In defacing public or private property, I think the originator is protesting against more or less everything rahter than advocating nazi Ideas, but perhaps I'm too optimistic...
  41. rodoke Senior Member

    Illinois, USA
    en-US; .us
    Mods: I'm not sure how on-topic this might be, so I'll understand if this disappears.

    Where I live, Swastika=Nazi is burned into the brains of most everyone. People react to displays of the swastika with great anger, fear, and loathing. However, with a large number of "swastika sightings", the culprit turns out to be a kid (or similarly immature person) causing trouble by exploiting that fact.

    As a child, I remember "knowing" the "evil" of the symbol long before anyone ever told me about the Nazis or Hitler. Until High School (approx. age 14-18) history, I only knew them as racist bogeymen. A couple of times when I was in school, someone chalked one on a wall or carved one onto a desk. Many children found it hilarious how easily this little symbol could throw the administration into complete disarray. Of course, after people hit puberty most of them started to find dating more interesting than instigation...

    I wonder how much this "trollish, provocative" use compares to "sincere, hateful" uses nowadays.
  42. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    The Isle of Man, a largely automous British dependency with its own Celtic language (Manx), situated in between England and Ireland in the Irish Sea, has a similar symbol as its emblem. The island is famous for off-shore banking, the TT motorcycle races, and the tail-less Manx cat:

    For centuries, the Island's symbol has been its ancient triskelion a device similar to Sicily's Trinacria, three bent legs, each with a spur, joined at the thigh. (Wikipedia)

    Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture of it.
  43. zippyoloo

    zippyoloo New Member

    USA [English]
    In the USA it is rarely seen and the only cases I've seen it used are in textbooks or on television documentaries. Its generally not an appropriate symbol.
  44. CrazyArcher

    CrazyArcher Senior Member

    Nowadays in Russia swastika is associated almost exclusively with Nazism, although it can be seen as a decorative symbol in old Slavic art, representing the Sun there.
  45. Tezzaluna

    Tezzaluna Senior Member

    Olympia, Washington, USA
    US English and Costa Rica Spanish
    The United States is too big and too populous for me to presume to speak for everyone.

    The only place I see swastikas is on the news when hate crimes are being reported, or in documentaries about World War II.

    Regardless of its origens, military, religious or otherwise, I view it as a symbol of man's cruelty to man, and something that must be remembered and never repeated.

  46. Benvindo Senior Member

    Brazil, Portuguese
    - - - -
    In Brazil the swastika is also associated with the nazi and so is not used, at least openly.
  47. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Only in Monte Grande, Itatiaia and near Peruibe.:)
  48. Viperski Member

    Poland polish
    Since the beggining and after WWII svastika has started to be recognised as nazi symbol exclusively. Anyway I know before 1939 this symbol was sometimes (very seldom hovewer) used as hapiness as sukces symbol. I saw a picture taken in 1936 showed polish solders somewhere in the south of Poland with small svastika emblemats on their uniforms.
    Anyway this symbol and both fashism and comunism ideology are forbiden in Poland (obviously right in my and 99,9% polish people oppinion)
  49. Bilbo Baggins

    Bilbo Baggins Senior Member

    Manhattan, NY
    American English
    I think that the Nazis made such an incredible impact that it´s impossible to associate the swastika with anything else at this point.
  50. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    It is certainly almost a gut reaction - instinctive, regardless of your awareness of the other more pleasant connotations.:mad:

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