So if you’ve been around pagan circles long enough you’ve heard people talking about reclaiming symbols from racists. Inevitably you’ve probably heard someone bemoan that the racists made the swastika off limits and wish they could “take it back”. I’m here to inform you that there’s nothing to take back, that all the importance you think belongs to the swastika was a Nazi fabrication and that when you do try to take it back you’re just perpetuating the falsified narrative created by the Nazis. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Let’s go back to the early 1900’s, it was a very different world. “Scientific” racism and eugenics programs existed across every major world power. There was the concept of a national race, one in competition with the races of every other nation. There wasn’t a white race, there were as many races as there were countries. It was therefore the interest of those countries to do eugenics when and where they could because they were improving their national race. And once again, it wasn’t just the Germans who did that stuff; eugenics before WWII was alive and well in America and England. America’s own Charles Davenport basically invented, advocated for, and dessiminated the idea of government eugenics programs world wide. By WWII there wasn’t really a major nation around that had not either had previously or currently had eugenics programs: America, England, Germany, France, Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil, etc.
So the Nazis come onto the scene, given their idea of a national race, given the prevailing concepts of eugenics, they decided to try and move their national race towards their idea of perfect through sterilizations and laws forbidding intermarriage and segregation and finally extermination. Their pursuit of improving their national race was so important to them they could rationalize killing people they saw as inferior just so they wouldn’t breed.
Let’s add to this the idea of nations and national race needing to compete against each other to see who was the strongest. Essentially all nations were not only in a biological struggle, they were in a struggle for dominance. Colonialism was fueled in part because economically being able to control and ensure markets abroad allowed powers to extract wealth from unindustrialized people abroad, but in doing so you were establishing you were racially superior because you could and did conquer them. Colonialism was an effort to exert racial superiority over others.
War itself, any war, was such a proving ground. For instance, when Russia was defeated by Japan in war it didn’t matter that Russia had seriously overstretched itself to try and start something, what mattered was the racial implications that the Russian race had fallen behind and the Japanese race was rising. Yes, they really truly though and believed these things
Enter Germany. They had just lost a war, crashed their economy trying to repay a terrible war debt, lost land to a foreign neighbor, lost the ability to have an army, and had no foreign colonies. They had tested their racial mettle and had been found wanting. In the mindset of the time, they turned to race for the answer. They didn’t have colonies? So they invaded and conquered their neighbors to make colonies. They couldn’t very well take colonies elsewhere as was traditional because every single other country in South America or Africa was spoken for and had been colonized previously, so they colonized within Europe. The lost a war to France and lost territory? So they took it back and extra and invaded and beat France down. They expanded outward in every direction. Their national race had been tested found wanting? Time to purify the race, they decided to exterminate those they deemed undesirables. In every case, the Nazis were trying to follow the same beliefs of these other great nations, they just took them to in their minds the next logical step.
Now this brings me to the real subject at hand. The Nazis had something to prove racially. But not just currently, they needed to prove it genetically, hereditarily. Other countries were crafting their own historical narratives of a grand past. The Germans had been doing it also for at least a hundred years prior, Jacob Grimm ring a bell? Grimm went out to prove a grand Germanic past that would in turn reflect it’s greatness onto the Germans of the present. Which is one reason he’s not the greatest source despite having some very interesting material, you have to wade through his nationalistic bias to get to anything worth knowing. The Nazis roll along though, and yeah they are totally looking for real history where they can but they take the next step here too – when history is found wanting they manufactured a false historical narrative for themselves.
Enter the Swastika. Chances are you’ve been sold the lie that the swastika was some all-important symbol to the ancient Germanic peoples. That it somehow despite it’s relative absence in the historical record that it was somehow fundamentally important to ancient Germanic peoples. Nazi lies. The Nazis needed a symbol, an ancient symbol, an active symbol, a German symbol, the swastika fit the bill. The one thing missing was the importance factor. Was it ancient? Yes. Did it have ancient examples in Germany? Yes. But was it an important symbol to those ancient peoples? There is no proof it was. In fact its relative rarity in comparison to other symbols says that it wasn’t all that important at all. There have been a few swastika finds, but none of them, NONE of them point to the swastika having any real overarching Germanic importance.
The Nazis lied, they fabricated a historical narrative that painted them as reviving ancient greatness. What they instead did is project their self-percieved greatness backwards onto their ancient ancestors. Any historian worth their salt avoids Nazi historians today and indeed all those nationalists of the time not because they were involved in atrocities but because their history is full of falsifications. They lie, they attribute greatness without context for there being a reason for it beyond their agenda.
But somehow the pagans of today have been ill informed. Perhaps it’s the fault of historians for not making it clear why we avoid those histories, to be fair we thought it was obvious so we didn’t think we had to spell it out. Perhaps the internet is to blame, with copyrights being what they are it is far easier to access nationalist histories from the 1800s and early 1900s than it is to access modern studies. Perhaps it is because the nationalist historians from the 1800s believed they had all the answers and portrayed their works in easy to follow narrative forms that painted complete pictures whereas modern historians are very fast to acknowledge the holes in and limitations of the available information. But let me tell it to you now, there is no complete picture, those guys from the 1800s and 1900s were lying to you.
This falsification never ended, there are elements in paganism today that continue to push the swastika agenda on shoddy evidence. They’ve collected the same few pictures of swastika finds and pass it off as overwhelming evidence. But were are their sources? Where were they found? What nation? What context? What dig? What century? When did the dig take place? Was it dug up by Nazis? Were they even ancient or were they manufactured? Every artifact has a provenance, I’ve seen folks try and pass artifacts that were clearly from the Rus off as Anglo-Saxon. Pagans at large are not as critical of these few pictures as they need to be.
We have to understand that there are thousands upon thousands of other artifacts and symbols to use, they fill museums and their back room storage, they fill private collections, they are multitudinous. And yet we only see a tiny fraction of these, why? For one, because if you looked at all of them it would get really repetitive. But on a deeper level you kind of have to go looking for them because no one is really pushing them despite their relative importance in finds. How many lunula pendants have I seen, gosh hundreds and that’s just scratching the surface. How many duck feet amulets, so many duck feet. You know why? Because I specifically look for them and seek them out. Even still there are thousands in museums and private collections I will never see. And yet we’re seemingly overwhelmed with maybe 20-30 swastikas… you ever thought to ask why? Because people seek them out and people push them. But in this case it’s the only handful that exist because it’s the same small handful you ever see. And even then they have to go cross cultural and bolster the evidence across time periods, across locality, across tribe to find the few they do. So when the neo-Nazis start pushing it they’re very much still trying to bolster the image of the Swastika, they have too much into it not to. But then ironically this deeply engrained old Nazi propaganda kicks in for the average pagan and has folks still thinking the swastika must be important.
You have been made to believe a lie, an old lie. The Nazis sowed themselves into the historical record and they did a convincing job of it, as long as you don’t probe too deep. Once you begin to ask questions you discover there isn’t enough to back it up at all, the facade falls away and you discover Nazis behind it all. It was them projecting backwards the whole time.
The swastika is not worth “reclaiming” not because it was tainted by the Nazis but because it simply was not that important. To think that it is important enough to reclaim, important enough to fight not just the nazis but society at large too on the meaning of the symbol, well that is just lapping up the Nazi propaganda that fed us the lie that it was that important in the first place.