The tattoo world is full of symbols that have contradictory and even inflammatory meanings, among them the swastika. If you’re looking for a tattoo with a deeper meaning and a complicated history, a swastika is probably one of the easiest to recognize.
Despite the reputation and the meaning it acquired in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the swastika symbol has been used for thousands of years by several cultural groups as a symbol of spirituality.
This article looks at the history of the Swastika symbol and its use as a tattoo in modern times.
What is the History Behind Swastika Tattoos?
Today, many people identify the swastika as a symbol of Nazi Germany and white supremacist doctrines. In many places, like the United States, it’s seen as a hate symbol
In some places, such as certain areas of Australia, the divisiveness caused by the symbol is so great that the public display of a swastika or similar symbol is illegal. Even in places where it’s not illegal, it’s considered a highly offensive symbol.
However, the swastika symbol itself is several thousand years older than any white supremacist movement. In many cultures, it symbolizes spirituality and good fortune.
Original History of the Swastika Symbol:
Originally, the word for the symbol was the Sanskrit word ‘svastika’, which is thought to translate to ‘good fortune’. The symbol has been found depicted as early as 7,000 years ago.
There is some speculation that it was used to symbolize the sun and its journey across the sky. It’s still a religiously significant symbol used in Hinduism and Buddhism, among others.
Religious and Cultural Significance:
The swastika is significant among many cultures as a symbol of divine inspiration, good fortune, or spirituality. Even today, there are many places where it is used for these purposes.
Hinduism: In Vedic Hinduism, the symbol is sometimes used to depict the king of the gods, Indra
Odinism: Thought to represent the Thunder God
Jainism: The swastika is said to represent the seventh of the 24 divine teachers or saviors (also called Tirthankaras)
Buddhism: Sometimes used to represent the footprints of Buddha
Depictions with different meanings have been found in Tibet, Japan, China, and Malta.
It’s also been found in older cultures such as the Islamic, Aztec, Greek and Celt.
European Swastika Connection:
It was also found on the ruins of buildings in the ancient city of Troy, which was where it was first connected to Aryan history.
Similar symbols were found in the ruins of early Germanic cultures, leading to its further appropriation.
In reality, it’s thought to have been a longstanding symbol among the majority of early Eurasian cultures.
Nazi Appropriation and Influence:
Due to its presence in Germanic ruins and cultures, supremacists among the linguists began to claim it as a symbol of ‘Aryan pride’.
In 1920, the Nazi party officially adopted the Hakenkruez – or hooked cross – as its symbol. They gradually changed the meaning to represent the idea of a ‘pure’ state, which is how many remember it today.
What Do Swastika Tattoos Symbolize?
Swastikas are still often used to symbolize adherence to supremacist doctrines, however, there has been an effort in recent years to reclaim and restore the older and more traditional meanings behind the swastika.
In some eastern and middle eastern cultures, the swastika symbolizes good fortune, or an auspicious result for an undertaking.
In others, a swastika symbolizes spiritual progression.
It can also symbolize harmony of interconnected elements, such as the Four Elements of Nature.
What Meaning Do Swastika Tattoos Have?
The meaning behind swastikas depends somewhat on their stylization and orientation.
The Nazi or supremacist symbol was – and still commonly is – a squared off, blocky swastika with a white circle and a red background. A swastika with one or more of these characteristics is likely to represent adherence to supremacist idealism.
A more organic, thinner form of the tattoo can be used in conjunction with four red dots to mean the person is connected to nature and spiritual aspects of it, and believes in hard work to progress spiritually.
A thinner tattoo on a black background might mean the person looks at the bright side of life, despite personal struggles.
Different designs are also used by different religions, and their use alone or with other symbols could mean the wearer is a practitioner of that religion, and follows certain religious tenets that the swastik symbol represents.
Likewise, different designs can be used to mean the person seeks abundance or a positive outcome in life. It can also represent prosperity, and harmony.
Another meaning, one which is becoming more common, is that the person seeks to overcome evil and restore positive influences.
Where Are Swastika Tattoos Usually Placed?
Swastika placement is generally on the upper body. Lower arms, biceps, wrists, fingers and hands are all common places to see this tattoo.
Likewise, for those who prefer to be a little less obvious or potentially inflammatory, the tattoo can be placed on the chest or back.
Adherents to certain religions may have the tattoo placed in a significant location, such as under the chin, or on the soles of the feet.
In some cases, those wanting to create a dramatic response might have a swastika tattooed on the face or the back of the head, or in a visible place on the neck.
It’s rare for a tattoo with this symbol to be placed on the legs or lower abdomen.
Styles and Characteristics of Swastika Tattoos:
– The most common depiction is the square-style swastika. However, the meaning may change depending on whether the arms face clockwise or counterclockwise.
-The symbol can also be done with slender, slightly curved arms. This design often has four dots in the arms, but it can also be done as a white image on a black background.
– It can also be done interconnected with other symbols, such as the ‘Om’ or a lotus for Buddhism.
– It can be done in black and white, or in color, the most common other color being red for passion.
– It can also be done with more organic curves, or connected arms, like some older forms of the image.
The swastika is a controversial symbol, especially if used as a tattoo, and there’s heavy debate as to whether it can ever regain its older meanings. However, if the symbol is something that resonates with you, then that’s also something you should take into consideration when deciding if it’s a tattoo for you.