Throwback Thursday – How a good luck symbol became one of terror.

Each week, on Thursdays, we are going to ‘throw back’ to a blog-post from previous years – and see if anything has changed.

Today’s post was published this week in 2016.


Chua Phap Bao pagoda, Hoi An

The word ‘swastika’ apparently comes from the Sanskrit “svastika” which translates roughly as “good fortune”.

It has been a symbol of luck and prosperity in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism for centuries – although its first use predates all those religions by millennia, going back 11-thousand years or more.

But it’s also been used in Europe for centuries and was used as recently as the 1930s by organisations as diverse as the Carlsberg Brewing Company and the Finnish Air Force.

Of course, also in the 1930s, it was adopted by the National Socialist Party of Germany – the Nazis – and came to be a symbol hated by many in large parts of the world.

Hitler himself apparently settled on the final design for the Crooked-Cross flag that struck fear and loathing amongst his enemies – and today, outside of the Indian-based religions, it is almost exclusively used by fascists and white supremacists.

But within those Indian-based religions, it remains a symbol of auspiciousness – which sometimes leads to jarring images like this one from the front of the Chua Phap Bao temple, in the old city area of Vietnam’s Hoi An.

This pagoda is not featured in many guide-books and we just stumbled across it as we wandered around Hoi An’s world heritage listed ancient city.

It is a working Buddhist temple which features a lovely garden (complete with religious-themed folk ornaments) and some imposing statues of Buddha.

The temple itself is not particularly ancient – and is definitely not as tourist-oriented as some others we have visited – but we still got some lovely photos and spent a reflective hour or so in the gardens and indoor shrines.


One of the things that I reflected upon at the temple – and since posting this blog entry – is how the swastika still has the power to chill those of us in the west.

After all, it is 75 years plus since the Nazis were defeated.

And yet, three quarters of a century later, the ideology they espoused appears to once again be on the rise.

For me, the demise of the hateful fascism that co-opted the swastika as a symbol would be the ultimate auspicious result for the crooked cross – and for us all.

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