The Swastika

Most of us by now know that the Swastika was an ancient religious symbol which Hitler and the Nazis stole from history, and turned it into a symbol synonymous with evil. This was a common practice with the Nazis, who as well as stealing the Swastika for their party symbol, also stole symbols from the Roman Army and Empire, as well as much else, including the skull and crossbones for their Gestapo, and the SS and other stolen Norse and Saxon Runic symbols.

However, the Swastika as a type of geometric cross was originally a symbol of the divine and spiritual world, as well as a good fortune symbol. The symbol goes far back in time, especially in Indian religions, from where it spread throughout the western world. It is often found in early Byzantine and Christian art, representing a cross or tetrakelion, a symmetrical four armed or legged shape.

In Hinduism if the arms of the Swastika are pointing: clockwise, it symbolises the sun, prosperity and good luck; whereas if they point anti-clockwise, it symbolises the night or the tantric aspects of one of their gods, Kali. However here in Ethiopia depending on whether you are inside or outside the building, it mirrors which way it faces.

The Swastika was also a symbol of Buddhism, as well as symbolising lightning, and as such is connected with the King of the Gods, i.e. Zeus in Greek mythology and Jupiter in Roman mythology.

So here in Ethiopia the stone Swastika barred window must represent a form of spiritual defence, and invoke the divine and spiritual aspect of the shape, and its Christian meaning.

A Stone Swastika Window at Beta Mika’el (Church of Michael), 12th-14th Century AD, Lalibela

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