Monday, July 12, 2010

Symbolism As Ideology

Symbols mean different things to different people. I suppose this view depends on how these symbols - and what they symbolize and represent, affect you personally.

According to BBC news, Hindus now want to 'reclaim' the use of one of their traditional symbols - the swastika. Why would they want to do this? Although they must have their reasons - however pure in intent - I don't think they will ever shake the Nazi association with that symbol... even though it has been used by Tibetans and Vikings and other ancient Germanic peoples to symbolize other things altogether since the times of pre-history.

"The Swastika is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is also a sign of spiritual purity. The swastika was a letter in the ancient Sanskrit language. It meant luck or well being. It is also found on Byzantine buildings, Ancient Greek coinage and in Native American burial sites. During the 20th century Adolf Hitler adopted the symbol for the Nazi Party. From 1935 – 1945 it was used on the German flag. The symbol became stigmatized because of its association with Nazi war crimes." - Wikipedia.


The swastika's ancient meanings were related to good luck and good fortune , progress and prosperity- something entirely different to the modern meanings of both those who used it, and use it today - and those they used it against.

Even in the early 20th century when Adolf Hitler adopted the swastika (called the 'Hakenkreuz' or 'hooked cross') for use by the rising NSDAP (Nazi party), it was adopted to mean national-socialism - and by implication progress, prosperity and good fortune - but with a difference: only for 'pure' 'Aryan' Germans.

Over time, naturally, while the Nazis co-opted this revered religious and cultural symbol, thousands of years old, it became associated with the brutality, cruelty, and power-lust of the Nazi regime, and the imperial ambitions of the Nazi state of Germania.

The occult symbology of the swastika itself also lent itself nicely to the fascination of the Thule Society, Das Ahnenerbe and Himmler's obsession with the paranormal and occultism.

To be clear: the Nazis perverted the previous, original meaning of the symbol known to us as the swastika - and that well has forever been poisoned by their all too infectious hatred.

It seems that ever since, right wing terrorist and blatantly neo-Nazi groups have either adopted the original Nazi symbol - the Hakenkreuz - or designed propeller-like variations of their own:

Flag of the Afrikaner-Weerstandsbeweging.svg
Flag of the Afrikaner-Weerstandsbeweging (South Africa)
So, is the swastika (or sauwastica) a symbol of good or evil? I would have to say it depends on those displaying or using it - and on which symbol they're displaying.
  • the presentation (is the style traditional/cultural/religious or political or openly fascist?),
  • the intent (is it being used against anyone?),
  • the meaning (religious/spiritual).
Thus we come to the crux of the matter: interpretation. It depends upon who you ask. I think the perception of the symbol relies heavily upon living memory. People affected directly by the negative implications associated with the symbol (Holocaust survivors, war veterans - and their relatives) still live today - as do their children, and their children. We see it everywhere in history, in documentaries, in laws, in politics, in the changed world we live in - and are reminded of it. We can't forget it - and I don't think we should.

We know what happens when people forget lessons learned in history - some bright sparks come along a few years later, have the same "bright idea" thinking they are being very original - and then repeat the same screw-ups a second time.

Look at Holocaust revisionists for example - some 'smart' people who like to claim today that (despite the MOUNTAIN of photographic and tangible evidence - and the testimony of thousands of survivors and eye-witnesses) the whole thing either never happened, or that "someone else" was responsible for it all - like the victims of course. Yes, I can see the logic behind their victim-blaming mentality - after all, the victims aren't around to argue the point.

Among the leaders in this field at the moment is an American homophobic evangelicalist fanatic called Scott Lively, a man who has spent considerable time masquerading as a Christian evangelist and blaming the Holocaust on the same people who were murdered in the very genocide that he tries to blame on them.

Lively does so directly in his book "The Pink Swastika", and in the talks he presents wherever ignorant folks will open a forum up to him and his genocidal propaganda (like Uganda and Russia just as examples). And yes, if you've been paying close attention to current events, you will recognize his name - he has been to Uganda several times in the past few years - actively campaigning for the death penalty for gay and trans people in that country. (Russia too has adopted an extremely alarming stance on homosexuality resulting in a bloody crackdown on personal freedoms in that increasingly totalitarian state.)

Lively's work has been paying dividends then, because the ignorant, uneducated masses of Uganda - who these days, are coincidentally very, very serious about that other Western import - Christian fundamentalism - have embraced his liturgy of lies with open arms. As a matter of interest, some people have been vanishing mysteriously in Uganda lately, among them a pastor who dared to preach against homophobia.

People of Scott Lively's ilk are on the increase around the world - wherever religious extremism is allowed to flourish, and in my view it is due to ignorance and especially willful ignorance of those who agree with them. People ignore facts, distort reality and throw in some religious references, and choose to believe what other people tell them - because it suits their prejudices.

It's okay to hate, after all - just as long as the hate is directed at a minority whom they think nobody cares about, or would miss if something untoward were to happen to them. And we all know where that road leads, don't we?

I believe the swastika, regardless of whatever other religious or cultural significance it may have around the world - will never wholly shed its image as a symbol of persecution, oppression, cruelty and genocide. I mean, even when someone who knows the story about the original symbol sees one, they will be reminded of the unsavory history of the other swastika... the Hakenkreuz.

In fact, if it ever did manage to separate itself from that association, I fear humanity will have forgotten the thing it has been associated with in the past - and that in itself will be the real tragedy.

Symbols are therefore very important. They change the world, they keep it the same - they are a catalyst to one end or another. To quote from the movie "V for Vendetta" - "The building is a symbol, and therefore destroying it is also a symbol".

Take as another example of a symbol with dualistic meanings - depending again, on who you ask - the Muslim crescent moon. For centuries across Europe it was a symbol to be feared, a symbol of conquest and cruelty and domination by Islamists - and it symbolized a fanatical enemy that would force people to convert to their religion under their rule. Today there are people who spread similar fears by means of propaganda and hatemongering, using these ancestral fears to stoke hatred of Islam and Muslims. That being said, people flying planes into buildings or blowing themselves up for the "cause" of the same symbol and its associated religion, don't help matters much for those trying to keep a cool head! In general, many people in the West today live with this notion at the back of their minds.

It's the same with the Christian cross - most Christians see it as the symbol of their faith, a symbol of 'salvation' and Christianity and 'goodness' (even though the symbol of original Christianity is actually the fish) - but after the Crusades, do you think Muslims will ever forget what it means to them? They still speak about the Crusades as the arrogant invasion that plunged the Middle East into a series of wars that still continues to this day. They talk of it as if it was only yesterday. Even the recent Gulf Wars were referred to as "another crusade".

In the West, following the rise of Catholicism in Rome and its rapid, fiery spread across Europe, our Pagan ancestors were brutalized, bullied and intimidated by Christians into converting to their all-consuming faith - or brutally exterminated. Dissent was not tolerated under any circumstances. Oracles and clergy - especially priestessese, lynched by rabid mobs doing "God's work".  In fact, the number of victims of that purge - according to various academic sources - would seem to rival the cost of the Holocaust itself.

That's quite a legacy - and I wonder if people calling themselves Christians today even realize what that means to other people when they thump their chests and brag about it to the world.
And yet, not all people who identify as Christians are likely to lynch a tarot card reader, or burn a psychic at the stake because she calls herself a witch.

Nevertheless, today, this dogmatically enforced ideology of conquest continues, a driving force behind the cross as a symbol not solely of faith and "light" - but of "conversion", "transformation", "church-planting" and ultimately, world domination. Spiritual warfare simultaneously at its best - and worst. Worse than the staid old conservatism, a new wave of fundamentalist so-called "revival" is sweeping across the world and raising a fanatic Puritan army whose intended purpose is to truly conquer the world under the flag of theonomy, conformity and uniformity.

After the world's Christian and Muslim fundamentalists get their way, and are one day finished wiping out all everyone else they can turn their hate on, do you think those who are left, and those who come after them will think anything good of their symbols? Would the blood of innocents ever truly wash off them? Do you think they will revere the ideologies and symbolism behind it? Should people today, who suffer oppression and persecution under these fearsome facades now?

The cross and crucifiction were originally a method of execution, by the way.

Shared from a post on Christina Engela's blog "Sour Grapes: The Fruit of Ignorance", dated July 12, 2010.

About the Author:

As a fervent advocate of human rights and equality for all people, Christina Engela has written numerous articles (over 500 on her blog “Sour Grapes: the Fruit of Ignorance” alone) which traversed the globe, being re-posted on a number of activist or special interest sites. Since 2008 she also released two lengthy books (over 500 pages each) on the subject of gay rights and freedoms in South Africa, drawing on her experiences as a human rights activist with SA GLAAD and ECGLA.

She also compiled a list of useful articles, information and links which come in handy whenever an activist engages with someone who is assuming the role of an “expert” when trying to batter down the human rights or equality of a persecuted minority ("The Pink Community: The Facts" 2009, 2017). Christina has advocated strongly in favor of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, association and the right of the individual to dignity and to identify as he or she chooses.

After 2011 she also became active in support of Pagan rights in South Africa. She has also campaigned in support of alternate identity groups and the rights of sub-cultures (such as Goth, emo, vampire and various other sub-cultures) to exist without fear of persecution. Over the past few years, she worked closely with people from diverse backgrounds (including Christians, Pagans, Satanists, other occultists and even self-identifying vampires) to advocate for equality, non-discrimination and to educate the broader public about these pressing social issues. Her research paper entitled "Satanism: The Acid Test" is a tome now over 500 pages long, providing objective and accurate information about Pagan Religion, Satanist Religion, the Vampi(y)re subculture and Goth subculture, and effectively dismantles Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria. Further, to make it even more interesting, it has formal recognition and approval from academics, as well as from occult, Satanist, Pagan, Goth and even Vampyre groups around the world. “It’s a unique piece. Nothing else like it has ever been done before.”

Further afield, Christina is also an author of various other works in fiction (she has published 22 titles in 3 sci-fi and horror series) and non-fiction (several guides and a children's book against bullying).


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.



  1. I hope the author is quite aware that the crescent moon is not, nor has ever been, a symbol of Islam. In fact, reminders of the 700+ year African and Muslim presence in Western Europe is largely architectural. Not that I'm a proponent of organized religion, but Muslim conquerors in Europe strictly forbade forced conversion, which most casual historians should be aware of. Much more, from your comments on the Crusades as well as your clear lack of foundational knowledge on the swastika (do you fear Buddhists as well?), I'm guessing you actually don't know much about any of these religions.

    Hitler is widely considered the absolute 'evil' amongst white Westerners because he was one of their own killing their own - Germany was an educated, industrial world power. What about indigenous Americans, Africans, and Asians? What of the Algerian tortured by the French, the Palestinian ethnically cleansed by the Israelis, the black South Africans evicted by FIFA and their own government?

    When we get over the shock that white people don't only kill brown and black folk, these symbols will be less meaningful. Hindus and Buddhists should not apologize for the actions of a Western dictator, nor should Muslims have to answer for the actions of a few idiots. You, however, should apologize for your deeply flawed assumptions. You have GLBT allies of these faiths and from all nations and races that do not appreciate being colonized by your Western paternalism any longer.

  2. Sophia,

    Funny that the crescent moon is on the flag of every Muslim theonomy, on every Muslim organizational standard I have seen, and has been used as a standard for every Muslim army since the middle ages... Regardless of all that, it is used in general by Muslims as a symbol - and has been associated with Islam by the rest of the world. That, I believe, is the point.

    How does my article demonstrate "a lack of foundational knowledge of the swastika"? I know what it means today - whatever it used to mean is now irrelevant - made so by Hitler, the Holocaust and modern skin-heads and neo-fascists all round the world. I'm not sure of the relevance of FIFA (a true evil in it's own right, some would say, haha) to the topic, but genocide is still genocide, no matter how "civilized" a country or power is, was or will be in future.

    I never brought race into the article, and I certainly never suggested that Buddhists (or Hindus, lol) have anything at all to apologize for - and I certainly fear no religion, least of all theirs. They at least do not preach a doctrine of world transformation, conquest and domination.

    I would suggest that you stop reading between the lines - and imagining that I am in any way a "western paternalist" - or that I will ever apologize for calling things as I see them.

    My business here is to defend human rights, GLBTIQ rights, and to discuss or warn against religious fundamentalism and the war of the latter on the former.

    If this upsets you, then might I suggest the old proverb which says, "if the shoe fits, wear it".