From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Swastika: Often holy, sometimes twisted

Church Mosaic   (Etan J. Tal)
Chances are that the four Oregon teenagers who forcibly carved a swastika into another teenager's forehead had the wrong idea about its true symbolism.

Wikipedia explains that the swastika is actually regarded as holy by many a tradition.  In Sanskrit, svastika literally means "it is good."  In Jainism, the four arms of this symbol correspond to these four destinies:  "heavenly beings, human beings, animal beings (including birds, bugs and plants), and hellish beings."  In Hinduism, four other aspects are represented:  essence, wealth, desire and liberation.

In ancient Tibet, the Buddhist yungdrung (swastika) was associated with eternity.  In Daoist China it symbolized "the myriad things" (i.e., "the whole of Creation").  In Japan swastikas have been used as family emblems.

Long before the Nazis co-opted this symbol for their own evil purposes, the swastika had been widely known throughout Europe.  Christians there had used it as a "hooked version" of the cross.  Swastikas can be found at the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan (Italy), the Cathedral of Our Lady at Amiens (France), and the Church of St. Laurent in Grenoble (France).  .    


Copyright February 22, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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