The Swastika: The Earliest Known Symbol & its Migrations
Definitions, Description & Origin
The Crux ansata, (fig. 4)
according to Egyptian mytholgy, was Ankh, the emblem of Ka, the spiritual double of man. It was also said to indicate a union of Osiris and Isis and was regarded as a symbol of the generative principle of nature.
The Tau cross (fig. 5), so called from it's resemblance to the Greek letter of that name, is of uncertain, though ancient, origin. In Scandinavian mythology it passed under the name of :Thor's hammer," being therein confounded with the Swastika. It was also called St. Anthony's cross for the Egyptian hermit of that name, and was always colored blue. Clarkson says this mark was received by the Mithracists on their foreheads at the time of the initiation. C.W. King, in his work entitled "Early Christian Numismatics" (p.214), expresses the opinion that the Tau cross was placed on the foreheads of men who cry after abominations. (Ezekiel ix, 4.) It is spoken of as a phallic emblem.
Another variety of the cross appeared about the second
century, composed of a union of the St. Andrews' cross and the letter P (fig.6), being the first two letters of the Greek word Christus. This, with another variety containing all the foregoing letters, passed as the monogram of Christ (fig.6).
As an instrument of execution, the cross, besides being the intersection of two beams with four projection arms, was frequently of compound forms as fig A on which convicted person was fastened by the feet and hung head downward. Another form ,
whereon he was fastened by one foot and one hand at each upper corner; still another from
, whereon his body was suspended on the central upright with his arms outstretched upon the cross beams.
Fig.7 represents the sign of the military order of the Knights of the Malta. It is of medieval origin.
Fig.8 represents two styles of Celtic crosses. These belong chiefly to Ireland and Scotland, are usually of stone, and frequently set up at marked places on the road sides.
Higgins, in his "Anacalypsis," a rare and costly work, almost an encyclopedia of knowledge (1), says, concerning the origin of the cross, that the official name of the governor of Tibet, Lama, comes from the ancient Tibetan word of the cross. The original spelling was L-a-m-h. This is cited with approval in Davenport's "Aphrodisiacs" (p.13).
Of the many forms of the
cross, the Swastika is the most ancient. Despite the theories and speculations
of students, its origin is unknown. It began before history, and is properly
classed as prehistoric. Its description is as follows: The bars of the
normal Swastika (frontispiece and fig.9) are straight, of
equal thickness throughout, and cross each other at right angles, making
four arms of equal size, length, and style. Their peculiarity is that
all the ends are bent at right angles and in the same direction, right,
or left. Prof. Max Müller makes the symbol different according as the
arms are bent to the right or to the left. That bent to the right, he
denominates the true Swastika, that bent to the left he calls Suavastika
(fig.10), but he gives no authority
for the statement, and the author has been unable to find, except in Burnouf,
any justification for a difference of names. Professor Goodyear gives
the title of "Meander" to that form of Swastika which bends
two or more times. (fig.11).
The Swastika is sometimes represented with dots or points in the corners of the intersections (fig.12a), and occasionally the same when without bent ends (fig.12b), to which Zmigrodzki gives the name of Croix Swasticale.
Some Swastikas have three dots placed equidistant around each of the four ends (fig 12c).
1. Higgins, "Anacalypsis," London 1836, 1,p.230. [Back]