HATE SYMBOL or GOOD LUCK?
[I delayed this for a week trying to track down the origins of a fylfot that I had seen, a beautiful variation of a fylfot that was not really a fylfot. But the design is most probably a modern adaptation and so, unfortunately, should not be used 😦 ]
This week we would like to speak on the reclamation of symbols that have been demeaned by a gentleman that J. R. R. Tolkien called (with magnificent understatement) “that ruddy little ignoramus.” We are referring, of course, to the demonization of a millennia-old good luck symbol because of the actions of that gentleman. If you are still uncertain, I am referring to the Nazi perversion of the fylfot (swastika).
The fylfot was an ancient symbol that was also known as a swastika. “The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being.” One can see it used everywhere. I saw it in a city steeple in Reykjavík and at a resort in central Indiana. It was used as a symbol for sports teams and for religions. In terms of the Viking age, it was used on the Oseberg tapestry, and upon reliquaries of the contemporary Christian church. Fylfots, in other words, were seen many many places. The fact that it was to become a despised political symbol by being used by a bunch of hateful bigots—and is still being used that way, along with other symbols such as the Volknot today—is due to one man. (Saying it was one man is a bit of an exaggeration; perhaps, it is more accurate to say that it was due to the influence and hateful bigotry of one man and his mindless followers)
The Nazi adoption—might we say perversion of—of the symbol in 1920 relegated its five millennia of being a symbol of good fortune to the trash heap (they did much the same thing with other Nordic symbols and stories; even today, MoPs will pass by a Regia display and say, “Yeah; you show them black gentlemen [not the term they used] that white power will git their asses!”). Many of the things adopted by the Nazis came out with a stench about them; for example, the out-thrust arm salute was used until the time of World War II for use with the American Pledge of Allegiance.
The fylfot, because of its use by the German dictatorship, became a hated symbol, one that was almost universally reviled, and this feeling has continued for almost a century. It would seem foolish, of course, to think that it use by single political faction—even so hideous a one as the National Socialists—in the twentieth century, would forever cause it to be reviled, distrusted and forbidden to be used, yet as recently as 2014, Hallmark had to discontinue a wrapping paper because it contained a geometric design that some liberals saw as a fylfot! Its original purpose has been forgotten.
However, in the years since its use as a Nazi symbol, it has been adopted by those people supporting the German Nazi philosophy and hate philosophies of their own. No one is willing to espouse it for its original meaning, and it has been allowed to become a symbol of those things that are rightfully despised!
Will the fylfot be reclaimed? Has the possibility of reclamation even been negated? The possibility of it being perceived as a non-racist, apolitical might be remote. Those persons wishing to reclaim it as something more benign than its use as a symbol of hate and prejudice are often overwhelmed by the probability of ignorance coming own against them. Even those wishing to reclaim it are often warned not to try, since it will only stir up an unthinking perception of prejudice!
How long will this continue? Will it ever be reclaimed as a benevolent symbol? Unfortunately, the struggle for its reclamation might well continue to be impossible as long as it is used only by hate organizations! Too many people will see it atomically and immediately as a symbol of Naziism, of the Aryan nations, of other white supremacists, without pausing to think of it in its larger historical influence.
So there is a reluctance among many people who want to reclaim it to display it; and ironically, until it is commonly displayed in a benign or beneficent atmosphere, it will continue to be seen as an exclusive symbol of hate.
Will the fylfot be reclaimed the way that so many other hated symbols and phrases have been reclaimed? In the present, rather pc environment, probably not. At least not in the near future. In the distant future, once the incredibly obscenities of the second word war have passed into history, and there are no living persons—and living descendants who knew them so well—that was affected by them, reclamation may be possible. But for right now, fylfots must remain in the camp of those symbols that have been unrightfully maligned, and there is little chance that it will be reclaimed without stirring up unthinking hatred of another sort!
I can only, at the present, whisper the hope that the symbol might be picked out of the mud, laundered and reclaimed for what it was originally meant to be.