The Swastika: The Earliest Known Symbol & its Migrations
The Migration Of Symbols
which encircles the heads of her divinities, and which Christian art has borrowed from the classic, was directly derived from it.
The caduceus. --- This is one of the interesting symbols of antiquity. It appears in many phases and is an excellent illustration of the migration of symbols. Its classic type held in the hand of Mercury and used today as a symbol of the healing art --- a winged rod round which two serpents are symmetrically entwined --- is due to the mythographers of later times, and is very remote from its primitive form. In the Homeric hymn it is called "the golden rod, three-petaled of happiness and wealth," which Phbus gave to the youthful Hermes, but on early Greek monuments the three leaves are represented by a disk surmounted by an incomplete circle. It this shape it constantly appears on Phenician monuments; and at Carthage, where it seems to have been essentially a solar emblem, it is nearly always associated with the sacred cone. It is found on Hittite monuments, where it assumes the form of a globe surmounted by horns. Numerous origins and manifold antecedents have been attributed to it, such as an equivalent of the thunderbolt, a form of the sacred tree, or a combination of the solar globe with the lunar crescent. Some examples seem to indicate a transition from the sacred tree surmounted by the solar disk, to the form of he caduceus of the Hittites. Our author believes it was employed originally as a religious or military standard for flag, and that it was gradually modified by coming in contact with other symbols. Some Assyrian bas-reliefs display a military standard, sometimes consisting of a large ring placed upon a staff with two loose bandelets attached, sometimes of a winged globe similarly disposed. This Assyrian military standard may be the prototype of the labarum, which Constantine, after his conversion to Christianity, chose for his own standard, and which might equally well have been claimed by the sun worshipers. Under its latest transformation in Greece, a winged rod with two serpents twined round it, it has come down to our own times representing two of the functions of Hermes, more than ever in vogue among men, industry and commerce. It has survived in Indian under the form of two serpents entwined, probably introduced in the track of Alexander the Great. It was also met with in that country in earlier times in its simpler form, a disk surmounted by a crescent, resembling our astronomical sign for the planet Mercury. This earliest type of the caduceus, a disk surmounted by a crescent, appears at a remote date in India, and seems to have been confounded with the trisula.
The trisula. --- This form of the trident peculiar to the Buddhists was of great importance in the symbolism of the Hindus; but whether it was an imitation of the type of the thunderbolt seen on Assyrian sculptures, or was divided by them spontaneously, is uncertain. Its simplest form, which is, however, rarely met with, is an omicorn (o) surmounted by a omega (w). Nearly always the upper portion is flanked by two small circles, or by two horizontal strokes which often take the appearance of leaves or small wings. The points of the omega are generally changed into small circles, leaves, or trefoil; and the disk itself is placed on a pedestal. From its lower arc there fall two spires like serpents' tails with the ends curving, sometimes up and sometimes down. This is a very complex symbol. None of the Buddhist texts give any positive information in regard to its origin or meaning, and few symbols have given rise to more varied explanations. The upper part of the figure is frequently found separated from the lower; sometimes this is plainly a trident superposed upon a disk-shaped nucleus. The trident may possibly have symbolized the flash of lightning, as did Neptune's trident among the Greeks, but more probably it is the image of the solar radiation. Among the northern Buddhists it personifies the heaven of pure flame superposed upon the heaven of the sun. Though undoubtedly a Hindu emblem, its primitive shape seems to have early felt the influence of the caduceus, while its more complex forms exhibit a likeness to certain types of the winged globe. Still later the trisula was converted by Brahmanism into an anthropoid figure, and became the image of Jagenath. The vegetable kingdom was also laid under contribution, and the trisula came into a resemblance of the tree of knowledge. Although we have learned the probable signification of its factors in the creeds that preceded Buddhism, we know very little about its meaning in the religion that used it most, but it is a symbol before which millions have bowed in reverence. The plastic development of the trisula shows with what facility emblems of the most dissimilar origin may merge into each other when the opportunity of propinquity is given, and there is sufficient similarity in form and meaning.
The double-headed eagle on the escutcheon of Austria and Russia. --- Count D'Alviella tells the history of the migration of the symbol of the double-headed eagle on the escutcheon of Austria and Russia. It was originally the type of the Garuda bird of southern India, found on temple sculptures, in carved wood, on embroideries, printed and woven cloths,and on amulets. It first appears on the so-called Hittite sculpture at Eyuk, the ancient Pteria in Phrygia. In 1217 it appeared on the coins and standards of the Turkoman conquerors of Asia Minor.
In 1227-28 the Emperor Frederick II
undertook the sixth crusade, landing at Acre in the latter year, and being
crowned King of Jerusalem in 1299. Within thirty years from these dates
the symbol appeared on the coins of certain Flemish princes, and in 1345
it replaced the single-headed eagle on the armorial bearing of the holy
Roman Empire. Thus, the historic evidence of the migration of this symbol,
from the far east to the nations of the west by direct contact, would
The lion rampant of Belgium. --- This lion was incorporated into the Percy or Northhumberland escutcheon by the marriage of Joceline of Louvain, the second son of Godfrey, the Duke of Brabant, to Agnes, the sister and heir of all the Percys The Counts of Flanders, Brabant, and Louvain bore as their coat of arms the lion rampant facing to the left.