What is this Swastika Pendant?
September 11, 2006 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I swear my friend isn't a Nazi, but what the heezy is this thing I found in his stuff?

I recently got a bunch of stuff from a friend who is moving across the country. In a pocket of one of the shoulder bags he gave me was a pouch with an assortment of foreign coins. Mixed in with them was this coin/ pendant.

I have no idea what it is and my google-fu not only failed, but landed me in some pretty crazy nazi/ white supremacist web sites. I know my friend isn't Jewish and also 99.9% sure he's not down with the aryan nation. He did travel to Germany a year or so ago, so I'm guessing that's where he picked it up. I'd ask him, but he's out of touch until he gets settled in his new place and that's at least a week away. Plus, I don't really want to start off the conversation with "Hows the new apartment? By the way, are you a Nazi?"

So, any ideas about what this thing is???? Ever seen a Star of Daivd and a Swastika on the same symbol before?
posted by Smarson to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the swastika on wikipeida. It's an ancient hindu symbol of wellbeing and good fortune. It was appropriated by the Nazi's along with a large number of other fairly benign ancient symbols. It's probably a hindu pendant. Nothing to be all that concerned about.
posted by Freen at 3:29 PM on September 11, 2006

The swastika had (has?) a loooong history as a symbol of good fortune which predates its appropriation by the Third Reich.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:29 PM on September 11, 2006

Well, given that the swastika is an ancient symbol, it's entirely possible that it's a pendant that predates the Nazi era.
posted by scody at 3:30 PM on September 11, 2006

posted by scody at 3:30 PM on September 11, 2006

It looks like it's from the Theosophical Society.
posted by blue mustard at 3:30 PM on September 11, 2006

The swastika ^ was a sacred Hindu/Buddhist symbol for a LONG time before it gained its Nazi connotations. This is probably a pre-Nazi religious item.
posted by SenshiNeko at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2006

I thought about the fact that the swastika has a long history as a symbol with more than a few cultures that all pre-date Nazi Germany, but what about the fact that the pendant also incorporates the Star of David?
posted by Smarson at 3:34 PM on September 11, 2006

The swastika of Nazi Germany was always tilted 45 degrees so that it had points up and down. It was never flat, with sides up and down. (And it was never mirror imaged.)

The swastika in various forms is a symbol found all over the world. For instance, it was used by American Indians in the SW. It was also copied from the Indians to be used as the divisional insignia of the 45th Infantry Division (a National Guard division based in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma) going into WWII. Naturally it was changed, to an Indian bird sign instead.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:46 PM on September 11, 2006

The Star of David is also found all over the world. I've seen it in Japanese art, and not as a symbol of Judaism.

What I think you've got is an amazing, incredible historical coincidence.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:48 PM on September 11, 2006

It looks like the hexagram and the swastika have also been combined in some Buddhist symbology as well, like here.
posted by curse at 3:49 PM on September 11, 2006

All interesting background on the swastika. Would the six pointed star (commonly recognized as the Star of David) also fall into this category as a frequently used symbol by other cultures?
posted by Smarson at 3:51 PM on September 11, 2006

Picture of Theosophical society symbol
Picture of Raelian symbol

Both use the star of David and the swastika, but neither is the symbol your picture shows.

The Jain religion uses the swastika sometimes, here are some pictures, but again none quite match your picture.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:01 PM on September 11, 2006

It looks like ... the swastika has also been combined in some Buddhist symbology

Absolutely -- on Japanese maps, a backwards swastika indicates a Buddhist temple.

The swastika of Nazi Germany was always tilted 45°

Not always -- scroll down on this page of badges to see some 'flat' examples.
posted by Rash at 4:03 PM on September 11, 2006

I thought of what snownoid said, but it's not a pre-1990 Raelian symbol, which looks more like this:

posted by JMOZ at 4:06 PM on September 11, 2006

My guess is Indian subcontinent, too.
posted by holgate at 4:13 PM on September 11, 2006

I can't identify the exact pendant thing, but it is clearly a Hindu symbol, not Nazi or whatever. Both the star of david (known by other names, obviously) and the swastika are symbols from the Hindu religion.
posted by Justinian at 4:20 PM on September 11, 2006

Try searching on swastika+yantra. I agree with Justinian that it's a Hindu (or flaky Hindu-lite mysticism) thing. I'm finding a lot of sites selling small "energized" pendants like this:
Here's one with a star of David-like figure, maybe this is the general kind of thing you're looking at. A cheap thing he found in a Hindu/mystic shop, and thought was funny?

Also this page: describing mystic powers of an interlocked-triangles star, and a swastika, gives a sense of what might be going on.

I agree it's an interesting mystery! But I would also just ask him, when you next talk to him.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:45 PM on September 11, 2006

My partner has some very nice swastika earrings from, I think, India. I know what they mean, she knows what they mean, but I always worry that someone is going to take them the wrong way.
posted by tomble at 5:05 PM on September 11, 2006

The star of David like figure seems to be variously called shatkona, satkona, or shanmukha. Two "trikona"s are the linked triangles. (In case these help with searching)

Check out what this wikipedia page says, last paragraph of the section on Buddhism: link.

In Buddhism, some old versions of the Bardo Thodol, also known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, contain a hexagram with a Swastika inside. It was made up by the publishers for this particular publication. In Tibetan, it is called the 'origin of phenomenon' (chos-kyi 'byung-gnas). It is especially connected with the cult of Vajrayogini, and forms the center part of Her mandala. In reality, it is in three dimensions, not two, although it may be portrayed either way.

Here's the image they're referring to, again not an exact match to your symbol, though: link.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:11 PM on September 11, 2006

Interesting. This symbol is apparently used as one of several in a composite symbol used by Maitreya's Share International. (According to these people, at least...I didn't dig very far into the Share website).

Also, I came across this desciption which also seems to apply:

There is an anectodal story about a meditation group in London who had a meditation centre (jagrtii) in the late 1970s which was located in a Jewish predominant area. and some of the jews didn't welcome people doing meditation there. During some days the meditators seem to have felt some interference of something unpleasant, uncomfortable, but didn't notice it much.

One day a Rabbi came to visist the centre as a neighbor, and he was shown the place and when seeing the meditation hall and the huge symbol (yantra) the inner part of which included the swastika (the other parts of the symbol being one upwards and one downwards pointing triangle over each other so as to form a star and in the middle in the top half there is a rising sun (in which was placed the swastika)). The Rabbi said something like some hostile jews were using black magic to expell the people living in and visiting the meditation centre from the area, and that it didnt work due to the postive powerful symbol of the yantra in the hall. He was supportive of it.

posted by malocchio at 6:48 PM on September 11, 2006

The exact symbol from the Maitreya logo is explained thus:
The Sixth Seal (The Elect ()): This is the Sixth Seal in The Greatest Sign. After a person goes through the first five Seals, he becomes an Elect (Child of Light). Elects are those who Meditate and awaken their Spiritual Forces (The First Seal). They direct their energy toward Creation of the Communities Of Light (The Second Seal). They will Sacrifice (The Third Seal) toward this Goal (Creation of Communities Of Light), and Surrender and Submit to God (The Fourth Seal). They will become Universalists (The Fifth Seal).

Such a people are truly free of all vices and are Spiritually Advanced. They have awakened their Spiritual Forces (at least are trying to). They work toward a better society (Communities Of Light). They are willing to Sacrifice all for this Ideal and are Surrendered and Submissive to God (free from ego). They are Universalists (free from narrowness of the mind). Such are the Ones God calls My Elects, the Children Of Israel (The Children Of Light). These are the Ones who will bring His Kingdom On Earth.
So it's definitely Share International.
posted by holgate at 7:01 PM on September 11, 2006

Think of it this way: on that pendant, the Star of David is the dominant figure, and the Swastika is held within it. Even if it's the Nazi swastika, the message you'd get from that coin still isn't anti-semitic. It would be along the lines of that bumper sticker with Jesus eating Darwin.
posted by Hildago at 7:19 PM on September 11, 2006

I saw this combination of symbols quite a bit in India.
posted by rottytooth at 8:39 AM on September 12, 2006

It's pretty common. A month or so ago I was at a yard sale in Arlington and amongst their stuff were some wall-hanging of Indian origin and several has the swastika on them. From the look of the fabric they couldn't have been more than 30 years old.
posted by phearlez at 10:31 AM on September 12, 2006

Looks to me like it could be Golden Dawn-related. The Seal of Solomon (aka Star of David) is a dominant symbol in the visual language of the order, and the circular line inside could easily be a rising sun--which together would be a very common symbol for various GD orders. The swastika--used in its pre-Nazi meaning--is self-explanatory if you dig a little.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:34 PM on September 12, 2006

As I mentioned in the flickr page, it looks like a Pratik. Lots of information on that page, as well as on this photo's comments. Here's a blockquote for posterity:
It is a yogic symbol representing the path and goal of life.
The upwards-pointing triangle symbolises one's external actions.
The downwards-pointing triangle symbolises one's internal development.
The rising sun symbolises progress, change.
The swastika symbolises spiritual victory - the final quencher of all thirsts; the everything that we live for.

(The ancient use of the swastika as the ultimate, positive symbol predates by several thousand years the abduction of the symbol for contrary purposes in the 20th Century).
posted by antifuse at 12:33 AM on September 14, 2006

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