A swastika is an ancient and potent sacred and magical symbol. The swastika is a cross with bent arms of equal length that appear to rotate in the same direction. Swastika means something approximate to “fortunate.”
The swastika probably was originated by the ancient Aryans. In the Iron Age, it symbolized the supreme deity. It was in use in ancient Troy, Greece, Egypt, China, India, Persia, Central and South America, and Scandinavia. The Chinese called it thunder-scroll, and the Hindus, in Sanskrit, called it All is Well. In China and Japan, it has symbolized Buddha since about 200 B.C.E. The Anglo-Saxons called it fylfot, or “many footed” cross. In the Middle Ages, the swastika was a solar wheel that represented the movement of the Sun across the heavens. Pagans associated it with the Mother Goddess; the Norse believed that it was the hammer of the thunder god, Thor.
The swastika appears among the symbols in Hermetic Magic and among Native American Indian tribes. The Navajo use it in the healing ceremonies of sand painting. Its division into quadrants has been interpreted as symbolic of the four directions on a compass and the four corners of the Earth; the centre of the cross is sometimes viewed as symbolic of the center of the cosmos.
There are two kinds of swastikas, right-handed (and more common), which represents the vernal Sun, and left-handed (swavastika), which represents the autumnal Sun.
Prior to World War I, secret rascist groups sprang up in Germany and were attracted to the swastika as an emblem of might. They attached it to their occult philosophies of Germanic supremacy. The emblem of the Germanen Orden, created in 1912, was a bronze pin that was designed as a shield, on which two spears crossed a swastika. The bent cross was also the emblem of the Thule Society, whose purpose was to study the supposed occult meaning and symbolism of the German alphabet. The magical RUNE symbol of the Thule Society was Aarune (Aryan), associated with the Sun and the center of the universe. It was believed that the Sun dispersed rays of esoteric knowledge along with light and heat and that this knowledge could had by the initiates.
An occult ferment spread throughout Germany, fueled in part by interest in magical fraternities such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and esoteric groups such as the Theosophical Society. The swastika was an important symbol in the Golden Dawn, and Aleister Crowley wrote a pamphlet about it in 1910. Crowley later said the Nazis stole the idea for the swastika from him. The Theosophical Society was formed by Helena P. Blavatsky, a Russian-born mystic, in 1875 in New York City and was dedicated to spreading Eastern esoteric thought throughout the West. The swastika was a mystical symbol to Blavatsky, who wore one as a brooch.
In 1920, as Adolf Hitler was nurturing his growing Nazi Party, he seized upon the swastika as the perfect emblem that would express what the party stood for and appeal to the masses. He put a black swastika inside a white circle against a red background. In his autobiography, Mein Kampf, he said, “A symbol it really is! In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalist idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man.”
Hitler put the emblem on the armbands of his SS storm troopers and party members. By 1922 the swastika was on flags and standards displayed at all Nazi gatherings and meeting places.
By the end of World War II and the defeat of the Nazis, the swastika had become synonymous with horrific cruelties and barbarism. Some modern Pagan groups that worship the Norse and Teutonic deities have sought unsuccessfully to restore the swastika to its original symbolism.