Tuesday, April 14, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 15 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Probably one of the most maligned and misunderstood symbols in human history is the hooked cross. The pre-Hitler background history of this charismatic symbol is a fascinating one and one in which its use in the past always involved the very opposite of Nazism. The word Swastika, in fact, originates from svastika in the ancient Sanskrit language of India in which su means "good" and asti means "let there be”, with ka as a suffix.
It seems rather unfortunate and unfair that this international and powerful symbol of prosperity and good fortune should be shunned because of its misuse for one horrific decade in its 3,000 year history. I wonder if the swastika will ever regain any of its original karma and be restored to its proper place in the world.
The huge job of attempting its restoration and redemption was begun back in 1965 with the spiritual rebirth of a profoundly fascinating human being by the name of "Manwoman".  Apparently a powerful revelation smote this well known Cranbrook artist and has remained with him and guided him for the past 44 years. It was the beginning of his lifelong search "for the historic truth about the swastika" and set him on his journey to 'detoxify" it from its recent Nazi abuse.
In 2001 after 36 years of research he self published a soft covered, bright yellow book entitled "Gentle Swastika", "Reclaiming the Innocence." It was an awkward, frustrating and oft times painful battle for a very determined man. On its front cover is a large swastika formed by interconnecting doves. Incidentally, Manwoman had that dove swastika image tattoed across his entire back.
  The book is, to the likes of a historian like myself, a most important work. I literally inhaled its contents, savoured its revelations and cheered every time his research revealed the ancient swastika symbol in yet another unlikely spot.
This fascinating compilation of memorabilia and occurrences will take you to the four corners of the earth and to some of the most surprising places.
Pictures and sketches abound throughout, revealing its presence in such new cultures as the Mayan, Incan and Aztec. He has documented is use in Grecian pottery and coins. The early Greek priests and priestesses often branded or tattooed Swastika's on their arms. It is also found in Roman altars and temples and the symbol was discovered in an Egyptian temple excavated in 1954.
In his comments about its early use Manwoman states that:"For thousands of years almost every race, every tribe, every religion on earth has revered the Swastika, using it in a variety of shapes and styles, associating it with the hammer of Thor, the footprints of Buddha, the emblem of Shiva, Apollo, Jupiter and even Jesus Christ. Scholars agree that for the first 300 years of the infant Christian religion the Swastika was the only form of the cross used in the catacombs and early churches; the crucifix-style cross was not used until later when Christianity became the official Roman church.
Manwoman has gone to extraordinary lengths to uncover the worldwide occurrences of the "hakencruz", its German name. He has documented it in the cultures of China, Thailand, India, Japan, Africa and Nepal. Whether it was found on the belly of Buddha, on ancient Hindu coins or on an Ethiopian postal cancellation stamp it always meant roughly the same thing. A sign of good luck, spirituality, power or sacredness.
It is his chapters on Western culture that caught me by surprise. The swastika pops up everywhere, in fact in so many places it is impossible for me to try and give you an idea of its widespread use. Leafing through the book I found myself drawn back time and time again to the North American section as I believe it has the most power to enlighten us all about the symbols importance before its Nazi misuse. In it you will find a section on Swastika, a gold mining town in Northern Ontario that has managed to resist pressure to change its name and abandon its use of the cross. The name and symbol occur everywhere and the town has endured many malicious attacks on its character by misinformed bureaucrats.  I found the headline from a 1940 issue of the Northern News interesting. It was "Swastika Had Name Before Hitler Ever Began To Hittle."  Berlin Ontario changed its name to Kitchener but Swastika stood its ground.
One of the photos that jarred me was a shot taken in the 1930's of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. In it she is a teen bedecked in a Native American dress with a large swastika appliquéd on it. Manwoman's American collection includes a Boy Scout badge of thanks, a swastika with the scout symbol in the middle of it. Or how about a vintage 1935 Coca Cola lucky watch fob in its shape that says “Drink Coca Cola In Bottles - 5 cents". One of the images near and dear to my heart is a picture of a coal car on the St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Railway with a swastika on it and the name Swastika Coal and Coke in large white letters.
Did you know that the Western Canadian women's hockey champs back in 1923 were none other than Fernie’s Swastika's, bedecked in black sweaters with a large white you know what in the middle?  Incidentally they weren't the only ones. There is a picture in the book of the 1916 Edmonton women’s team in which all eight are wearing hand knit white sweaters with the swastika in a circle in the middle.
The list is endless; the book is a delight to read and demonstrates once again that the historical perspective is always important and significant.
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John Kinnear Archives

   Volume 79 - Issue 15 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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