swastikaed, adj.
/swos"ti keuh/ or, esp. Brit., /swas"-/, n.
1. a figure used as a symbol or an ornament in the Old World and in America since prehistoric times, consisting of a cross with arms of equal length, each arm having a continuation at right angles.
2. this figure as the official emblem of the Nazi party and the Third Reich.
[1850-55; < Skt svastika, equiv. to su- good, well (c. Gk eu- EU-) + as- be (see IS) + -ti- abstract n. suffix + -ka secondary n. suffix]

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Equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, all in the same rotary direction, usually clockwise.

It is used widely throughout the world as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. In India, it continues to be the most common auspicious symbol of Hindus and Jains, as well as for Buddhists, for whom it symbolizes the Buddha's feet or footprints. In China and Japan, where it traveled with the spread of Buddhism, it has been used to denote plurality, prosperity, and long life. It occurs as a motif in early Christian and Byzantine art, as well as in Maya and Navajo art. The counterclockwise swastika, suggested as a general anti-Semitic symbol in 1910 by the German poet and nationalist Guido von List, was adopted as the symbol of the Nazi Party at its founding in 1919–20.

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      equilateral cross with arms bent at right angles, all in the same rotary direction, usually clockwise. The swastika as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune is widely distributed throughout the ancient and modern world. The word is derived from the Sanskrit svastika, meaning “conducive to well-being.” It was a favourite symbol on ancient Mesopotamian coinage. In Scandinavia the left-hand swastika was the sign for the god Thor's hammer. The swastika also appeared in early Christian and Byzantine art (where it became known as the gammadion cross, or crux gammata, because it could be constructed from four Greek gammas [ Γ ] attached to a common base), and it occurred in South and Central America (among the Maya) and in North America (principally among the Navajo).

      In India the swastika continues to be the most widely used auspicious symbol of Hindus, Jainas, and Buddhists. Among the Jainas it is the emblem of their seventh Tirthankara (saint) and is also said to remind the worshiper by its four arms of the four possible places of rebirth—in the animal or plant world, in hell, on Earth, or in the spirit world.

      The Hindus (and also Jainas) use the swastika to mark the opening pages of their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings. A clear distinction is made between the right-hand swastika, which moves in a clockwise direction, and the left-hand swastika (more correctly called the sauvastika), which moves in a counterclockwise direction. The right-hand swastika is considered a solar symbol and imitates in the rotation of its arms the course taken daily by the Sun, which in the Northern Hemisphere appears to pass from east, then south, to west. The left-hand swastika more often stands for night, the terrifying goddess Kālī, and magical practices.

      In the Buddhist tradition the swastika symbolizes the feet, or the footprints, of the Buddha. It is often placed at the beginning and end of inscriptions, and modern Tibetan Buddhists use it as a clothing decoration. With the spread of Buddhism, the swastika passed into the iconography of China and Japan, where it has been used to denote plurality, abundance, prosperity, and long life.

      In Nazi (Nazi Party) Germany the swastika (German: Hakenkreuz), with its oblique arms turned clockwise, became the national symbol. In 1910 a poet and nationalist ideologist Guido von List had suggested the swastika as a symbol for all anti-Semitic organizations; and when the National Socialist Party was formed in 1919–20, it adopted it. On Sept. 15, 1935, the black swastika on a white circle with a red background became the national flag of Germany. This use of the swastika ended in World War II with the German surrender in May 1945, though the swastika is still favoured by neo-Nazi groups.

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Universalium. 2010.

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