To the editors:
I found Cecil Adams's discussion of the Nazi swastika interesting, and wished to make a response. As this topic has already been discussed in two columns [The Straight Dope, February 20 and April 24], your receptivity to more of the same may be minimal. Nevertheless:
The Nazi fylfot, known as the swastika or hakenkreus ("hook cross"), is actually a Teutonic runic ideograph called "Thorshamarr"--"the hammer of Thor." Although the Nazis emphasized the aggressive, martial implications of this symbol, its primary traditional meaning was the solar wheel--the cycle of life, transmutation of energy, and spiritual/magical implementation of will. A second ideograph, consisting of a cross inscribed within a circle, served to illustrate the same concept and had similar connotations.
The Thorshamarr, like many other runes and ideographs, was depicted in reverse (mirror-image) quite frequently, but its meaning remained constant. The concept of deosil (clockwise)-widdershins (counterclockwise) opposition which occurs in European magical practice, does not apply to Teutonic runes. However, in contemporary divination, inverse (upside-down) runes, like Tarot cards, acquire meanings which may sometimes be negative. This is complicated by the fact that runes usually have variant forms which may be the inverse of one another, or even identical copies of completely different runes.'
Interestingly enough, the fylfot occurs frequently in native American symbology as well, and may be found in northern plains beadwork and southwest pottery, basketry, and sand paintings--usually with a deosil orientation. In northern plains symbolism, the fylfot and circular solar wheel are both representations of the Four Directions, and embody the concept that the sacred place of two-leggeds (humankind) is at the center of the world-hoop. Even today, the circular solar wheel is reproduced in hair ornaments of rawhide wrapped with dyed porcupine quills, traditional pieces which are still being made by Lakota craftswomen in the manner of their ancestors. The circular solar wheel appears to be a universal symbol with deep archetypal resonance in the human consciousness.
And a footnote: The emblem of the Nazi Schutzstaffel was a repeated Teutonic rune which did indeed have the phonetic value of "SS." This was the rune Sowilo, which represented a cross-section of the Thorshamarr. Its traditional associations with lightning (the power of Thor), victory, and the Germanic code of honor no doubt made it an attractive emblem for the Nazis, who chose to ignore its more benevolent and spiritual associations.
This letter is probably too long to print, and no doubt you are tired of the topic. However, I hope that you find the information useful.