This article attempts to explain the original meaning of the famous “Swastika” symbol occurring so often in ancient art. We will argue from Ice Age archaeological evidence that the ancient “Swastika” was a double-symbol of the Earth Mother Goddess, indicated by the equal-arm cross, and the Earth Father God, indicated by the attachment of a coiled serpentine figure to the tip of each cross arm. These are symbols of the gods of the ancient fertility religion known at Earth Mother Culture (EMC). Most of the ancient “Swastikas” observed are an abbreviated form that obscures the original meaning. Other examples of the EMC double-symbol usage will be mentioned.
Our purpose is to establish a very basic observation about the use of symbols in ancient art. The notion offered is that many of our ancestors had a simple fertility-based religion that is revealed, in part, by the repeated use of simple symbols in their art that we can now interpret to have relatively fixed meanings. The general pervasiveness of this Earth Mother Culture led eventually to a method of sacred name construction called Earth Mother Sacred Language. All of this took place long before the development of writing, at which time knowledge of the old Earth Mother Culture was retained only in fragments and selected traditions.
It is through the preponderance of symbols and words occurring in an acceptable or reasonable cultural context that this firm summary can be made. This approach does not refute the data of thousands of man-years of modern archaeology, but it does state that a simpler, sharper, more focussed, more logical method of cultural interpretation has been found. We predict that this is a dominant description of man’s spiritual culture down through most of the Bronze Age and some of the Iron and Medieval Ages.
The oldest example of a “Swastika” symbol, as I interpret it, was discovered in the book Flight of the Wild Gander by Joseph Campbell8 circa 1998. It took some time to locate an older source of his figures that could be republished in this Journal. Campbell was a remarkable social-science scholar, in many ways the best We have encountered to date. He dominated the Establishment in his role as the Grand Spokesman for the elucidation of the Role of Mythology in the History of Man. The key to his success was his early grasp of the usefulness of a thorough knowledge of the modern German language. He apparently thought that the scientific and organizational approaches to the study of man, as fumbled around by his history-oriented contemporaries, failed to appreciate the benefits of art insights and the simplified elements of normal psychology. Thus we were treated to a comprehensive synthesis of the experience of man’s pursuit of religious insight and inspiration, ala CG Jung, using the historical data to illustrate points of passing interest, but suggesting that the picture is too haphazard to be comprehended in organized societal and historical terms. Some of his metaphysical insights are truly amazing! But We think we can guarantee that well-trained scientists will eventually cope with the scattered data of ancient culture and make much more of the information than the current Establishment foot draggers.
We could not be gratified by the mumbo-jumbo of psychological unification, although clearly we attracted to certain specific emotional notions that we relish to consider at appropriate times. Isn’t it possible that Mythology is a vessel holding many poorly understood cultural insights and practices? While the lack the talent to constructively discuss the many contributions of Joseph Campbell, we will simply counter that we value scientific organization, pursuit of simple concepts, and repeated review of published data, which allows a slow but sure absorption and identification of underlying values/truths/techniques/ideas of my ancestors without relying on many prejudgments or biases. Our preferred micro-method, steeped in the traditions of classical physics, is rather slow, but it locates truths and approaches that are relatively permanent and can be built upon both horizontally and vertically. Surely we can agree that research is not a productive activity for dilettantes!
THE GOD OF THE NIGHT
Now having opened a vague can of worms, let us give an example of what we advocate. Our confidence that EMC was more organized, rational, proselytized, accepted, and universal during the Bronze Age and before is a hard sell, but We think we have made progress. We have been finding good data faster than we can write it up! It is difficult for me to be a pessimist.
For example, you will find that the older I-E languages9 have a common root for words that mean “night” in English. Some examples are German “nacht”, Spanish “noche”, Latin “nox”, Greek “nux”, Lithuanian “naktis”, and Sanskrit “nakta”. The point is that the corruptions are minor, and all of these words have the EMSL translation of naga or the-naga. How could such agreement occur unless the implied religious perception became common in 6000 BC or before? It is safe to say that the basic interpretation of this discovery is that the old Earth God was thought of as The God of the Night, just as his son, The Sun, was thought of as The God of the Day. Notice that this point of highly universal cultural truth was uncloaked with a minimum of mumbo-jumbo about the psychic experiences or responses of ancient mankind.
If you think that little that is causal can be discovered about ancient life, let me challenge your senses. Recall that the French word for “night” is “noir”, which is an r-word instead of the g-words give above. Notice, however, that “noi-r(e)” means consort-of-earth in EMSL, that is, father or serpent.4 Thus the French adopted a local Western European r-word for night, whereas the others use a more Asiatic g-word with the same alleged meaning. Don’t you love this kind of luck!
Can you take a little more of this argument? Well it is fairly clear that the symbolic color of the Earth Mother is red, of the Earth God is black, and of the Sun/Sky God is white(pale)/ yellow/blue. (Studies of the colors of national/tribal flags and folk costumes are consistent with this argument.) Now we can argue that red is an Earth Mother name (the notion of ancient medicine was that babies were made from the mother’s blood) and pale/yellow/blue are Sun God names in EMSL. But the word black, if anything, is a (negative) Sun name. Surely something is wrong here! Negro derives from the Niger River in Africa and does not mean black explicitly. Ebony is an EMSL synomym of the African cultural name Bantu; they refer to the “father” but not to the Eurasian concept of “black”. Latin has the word pullatus for black clothes, but this is another Sun word. Greek uses the newer word melas, which leads to “mal”, “melanin”, “Melanesia”, etc. Something more basic is needed!
The solution to this puzzle comes from perceiving that the German schwartz and English swarthy are a corruption of an older word swatze/svatze, which means the-father in EMSL. Not only is va the root for the Germanic word vate(r) for “father”, but one of the oldest Scandinavian goddess names was Vana.5 Thus the consort of Vana would have been called Va. And with all of the serpent images in ancient Scandinavian art,Va was surely the old Earth God. Many of the linguistic traces have been lost, but we have thus established a linguistic notion that the color black does have a connection with the ancient God of the Night, aka The Father or The Serpent.
Now let us finish this essay on ancient notions of “night/black” with an exercise on the obvious. We refer to our dinner tables where we keep “salt” and “pepper” shakers. Salt is “white” and “pepper” is close to “black”; the “salt” and “pepper” words are surely quite old. The word “salt” means the-sun in EMSL, whereas “pepper” or more correctly “pepa” means father-father. How can such consistent meaning for words persist without a coherent system of name construction like EMSL? Is it too much to remind you that our favorite fruit, the tomato, is primarily “red” in color and has a name that means the-mother?
THE ICE AGE SWASTIKA FROM MEZIN
We have inserted two essays above to assist with us true mission, namely to clarify the basics of Earth Mother Culture. First We reminded you that Joseph Campbell8 was a serious mentor and a great inspiration to take the understanding of the meaning and the symbols of EMC to a new level. Second We introduced you to some new insights about the strong influence in the past of the great Earth God or Earth Father of our ancestors. We live in a world that has been in denial about this god for most of the last 1-4 millennia. The serpent in the Garden of Eden story is clearly a remnant of this culture. Surely you recognize that the worldwide circumcision-type ceremonies were likely practiced in the old Serpent cultures. (The ancient king, the serpent priest or living earth god, shed his blood [a sacrificial symbol] for the religious benefit of the people!) And certainly you can affirm from our use of the modern symbol of the medicine profession [the caduceus] shown in Figure 1 that the Sun (eagle wings) and the Serpent were the great gods of wisdom and knowledge in ancient times. This concept remains unopposed!
Figure 2 shows a sampling of the art of from the Ice Age site at Mezin in the Ukraine located approximately 100 km northeast of Kiev.10,11 The artifacts were bird figurines carved from mammoth ivory with inscribed patterns that included elaborate swastikas [ca 10,000 BCE]. We view these items as sacred images of the Earth Mother, represented as the Bird Mother, inscribed with symbols indicating her Earth Father consort, the Serpent. This is the essence of paleolithic EMC when it was principally a fertility cult!
In 1939 Franz Hancar of Vienna wrote a survey10 on the various paleolithic “Venus” statues that had been discovered. He included the Mezin bird figurines but did not make a firm claim for the existence of EMC. The source of the Mezin figures appears to be the articles by FK Volkov11 in 1909, however the finds could have been earlier or involved others. The swastika patterns were first recognized by VA Gorodcov,8 and it was Hancar10 who called them the oldest swastikas found thus far. Campbell8 quotes the conservative ca 10,000 BCE date for Mezin. I subsequently found the book by Klein12 who cites Abramova13 as an authority on Mezin. The actual layer for the artifacts could be as old as 17,000 BCE, but perhaps I misunderstood. None of these sources discusses the actual workof FK Volkov.11
From Figure 2 we observe that the original swastika was an elaborate form with spiral arms, whereas the more modern symbol is like the gammadion (geometrical) form with short arms.14b Truncation to the gammadion form does not change the meaning of this symbol in connection with the Earth Mother or Goddess culture, but it lessens the chance of interpretive insight. The crux of the matter is this: the swastika is a double-symbol for a fertility religion having two gods, the Earth Mother and the Earth Father. To get to this point, you must study the symbols of ancient art until you conclude that the principal meaning of the equal-arm cross is reference to the Earth Mother. In addition to these context-related sources, numerous examples14a,c of ancient minimal art of human females and birds make the same suggestion about the cross. The point then is that the ancient swastika was an equal-arm cross with a serpent-symbol spiral attached to the tip of each arm. You can see this in Figure 2, and it is over 12,000 years old. Further to this point, we have published14d,e sacred bird images from ancient Australia and Shang China with inscribed snakes. Serious confirmation indeed!
Perhaps you are not acquainted with ancient double- symbols. A familiar double-symbol is the caduceus used for the modern symbol of the medical profession (see Figure 1). Our interpretation is symbols of the Sun (eagle wings) and Serpent as the gods of wisdom/knowledge in ancient times. The frequently used “Yin/Yang” symbol refers to the Swastika gods. The so-called circle cross is a double-symbol alternative to the swastika. We interpret the circle to be the Serpent in the “uroborus” configuration, implying the protective aspect of the Male Principle. Finally, the hexagram is an ancient symbol of sexual union of the gods, the downward-pointed triangle being the female and the upward-pointed triangle being the male.
Most of the ancient connections are quite simple. Surely you grasp the idea that the Sun was the Son of the Earth Gods in many cultures. That is why Sun and Son have the same sound! Referring to the old hexagram symbol, you surely know that “sex” and “six” have the same sound in many languages (eg, German, Latin). The reason for this is that the hexagram sex symbol has six points! Send us your alternative explanation.
THE NAME “SWASTIKA”
It is the nature of the closure of what might be called scientific proof that the pieces of an original puzzle can come together with some unsuspected clarity and perhaps new unsuspected predictions of reality. Two examples from physics illustrate the point, and they come across each year to diligent new graduate students as virtual miracles. In the course of developing electromagnetic theory, James Clerk-Maxwell added a previously undetected mathematical term to the equations. As a result, he showed that the ordinary description of electricity and magnetism was capable of predicting the existence of electromagnetic waves, including light. His closure was that these waves were predicted to travel at the speed of light, a value so large that it was barely measurable at that time. He was correct! The essence of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity is the requirement that the speed of light must have the same value for all observers in non-accelerating frames of reference. The result of this assumption is the prediction that mass is a form of energy. The closure of this discovery is that the energy released in a nuclear explosion actually comes at the expense of the loss of a small amount of this mass form of energy. We had no clue before Einstein published his article!
It is easy to understand that the word “Swastika” could have great significance and yet be called by some abstract name with an obscure meaning. An example is the Indo-European word “raga”, which means “king” or “high person”, but is made up of two sounds that give no hint of the correct meaning. But fortunately that is not the case for the very old word “Swastika”, and hence we can obtain a bonus if you agree that the finding makes some sense.
There are three spellings and two pronunciations of our special word. They are “Swastika” and “Suastika” pronounced with a w-sound and “Svastika” pronounced with a v-sound. The Indo-Germanic word is pronounced with the v-sound, which is the usual EMSL-sound with V = B = F = P generally assumed.4 The Oriental and Native American languages prefer the w-sound rather dominantly but with the old v-meaning.15The English/Welsh language speakers pronounce the Germanic-w with the w-sound instead of the v-sound. They have many other w-sounds that are non-Germanic in origin.
The point of this discussion is to gain understanding that “Svastika” is a double-name EMSL word, naming both male and female gods. Thus we view the word “Svastika” as “S(a)va-stika” with the EMSL translationThe-father (&) the earth. Isn’t this exactly what the above discussion of the double-symbol meaning of the “Svastika” claimed? All of this is very simple, but is there really any reason to expect something else? Could this be some outrageous linguistic accident that any scholar can see right through? The Establishment can only hope for one of its great linguistic knights to awake from academic slumber. Send us your claims, your refutations, or your real research!
Let us remind the reader that we still use remnants of this scheme of linguistics in our words for “fathe(r)”. The Germanic languages prefer the name “vate(r)”. Of all the EMSL rules,4 surely the argument for the occurrence of imbedded definite articles (eg, te/the) in names is one of the easiest to accept. And surely the goddess names “Ban(a), Bona, Fauna, Vana, Venus” could be consorts of gods named “Ba, Bo, Fau, Va, Ve”. And finally one could write a book on all of the “Ga/Ka” sounds that occur in ancient sacred names. Our largest continent is called “Asia” but pronounced “Agea/Ashea”, as in the names “Agean” sea or “Achaean” people. And, of course, the “Ocean” is a part of the great Earth. Her name is pronounced “Okea(ni)/Ogea(ni)”, which just happens to be a sacred name for the Earth. In one of the more sensible Flat Earth Theories, the Greeks alleged that the Ocean waters were contained by a great encircling serpent (what else!) named “Okenos”, which has the EMSL translation Of-the-serpent. Here we have demonstrated the value of literal closure! The most common EMSL name-usages are probably the words “Ga/Naga” and “Ka/Kana”.
It is a challenge to summarize a topic that we have laid out so many times from so many internally consistent points of view. We suggest that our ancient ancestors followed a simple, straightforward fertility religion for thousands of years prior to the officially recognized date of ca 6500 BCE at Çatal Hüyük in modern Turkey.8
A flaw in the conventional interpretation is the requirement that followers of what I call EMC must have “Venus” statuettes for archaeological artifacts. If you survey the art of the native peoples of the world, you will see that many have some recognizable form of this old culture. Very few of them make “Venus” statuettes! The point is that they chose to use easy to make symbols instead.
Finally, Figure 3 presents some Swastikas from the historic-era with snake-like arms. This suggests that many historic-era people knew the old Swastika meaning. These examples plus the general EMC context of most Swastika-usage suggest that the present model is the dominant interpretation.
Figure 3. Selected Swastika symbols from ancient art of the historic era having snake-like arms: A-Tray from Rhodes (585 BCE) [Brit Mus]; B – Vase from the Greek culture (ca 500 BCE) of Messapia in So. Italy [Toledo Art Mus]; C – Bird vase from E Greek culture (ca 500 BCE) [Roy Ont Mus]; D – Bowl from E Greek culture (615 BCE) of Denos [Brit Mus]; E – Figurine shield from Joche III (ca 300 CE) in Peru [St Louis Art Mus]; F – Woodland Indian (ca 1000CE) pattern die [McClung Mus, Univ TN]; G – Vase from the Canosean culture (300 BCE) of Greek Italy [Roy Ont Mus]. Line drawings (A & F) by BH Moseley from JJ White photographs.
- Constance Irwin, Fair Gods and Stone Faces, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1963, 347p.
- JJ White and BH Moseley, “Burrows Cave: Fraud or Find of the Century? (aka Men of Tyre in Ancient Illinois and Other Worldwide Destinations)”, The Ancient American 1(2), 4-15 (1993).
- JJ White, “Tyre – Circle Cross Connection Found at Burrows Cave”, Midwestern Epigraphic J 7, 91 (1993).
- JJ White, “Earth Mother Sacred Language: A Key To Ancient Names Worldwide”, Midwestern Epigraphic Journal 10(1), 23-33 (1996).
- JJ White, “Self-Consistency of EMSL: The Case of the Words ‘Man’ and ‘Ban’, Midwestern Epigraphic Journal 12/13, 55-62 (1998-9).
- Gertrude Jobes, Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols, Scarecrow Press, New York, 1962, pp 1193, 1517; she was a thorough scholar, and yet her essay gives no hint of the original EMC usage and meaning.
- Barbara G Walker, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Castle Books, Edison, NJ, 1996. See, pp 733, 964-965.
- Joseph Campbell, The Flight of the Wild Gander, HarperPerennial, New York, 1990, pp 136, 146-147, 150, and 165. FP 1951
- Eric Partridge, Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, Greenwich House, New York, 1983. See, “night”, p 435.
- F Hancar, “Zum Problem der Venusstatuetten im eurasiatischen Jungpaläolithikum”, Praehistorische Zeitschrift, XXX-XXXI Band, 1939-40, 1/2 Heft, pp 85-156. See Taf VII, p 127 and Taf VIII, p 129.
- FK Volkov, “Paleoliticeskaya stojanka v Mezine”, Tr XIV archeol sjezda v Cerigove, t III, 1909; F Vovk, “Paleoliticni znachidki s Mizeni”, Zap Ukr nauk tovaristva, k IV, 1909.
- RG Klein, Ice-Age Hunters of the Ukraine, University of Chicago, Chicago, 1973, p 86.
- ZA Abramova, Paleolithic Art in the Territory of the USSR, AN SSSR, Moscow, 1962, plates 31, 32, and 35.
- JJ White and BH Moseley, back page art, Midwestern Epigraphic NL 12(5), 17(3), 18(1), 18(2), and19(3).
- JJ White, “Applications of Earth Mother Sacred Language”, Midwestern Epigraphic Journal 14, 135-138 (2000).