In order to utilise the power of the swastika it's necessary to understand its underlying symbolism - the most important being that, in the art and mythology of the old religions, it's first and foremost a feminine symbol.


The swastika was widely used in ancient Greece to represent a variety of goddess figures. Above is a 7th century BCE pot depicting the virgin huntress figure of Artemis, whose hunting companions were wolves.
On the left is a 5th century BCE vase showing a snake-entwined, martial Athene - the goddess of wisdom, arts and war.

Throughout the ancient cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean, the swastika was widely used as a cypher to represent the Great Goddess, with the feminine deities Astarte, Athene and Artemis all being associated with this symbol. One of the oldest goddess images unearthed - a lead figurine from Troy dating back to the third millenium BCE - has a swastika inscribed over its sexual triangle.

In addition to being found extensively in its square form, the swastika is also widely depicted as a four-armed swirling spiral, conveying the idea of a whirlpool-like vortex whose function is to draw one's consciousness from the outer world to the inner realm of the psyche. In shamanic cultures, the spiral swastika tunnel was a symbol of the bridge between the worlds which had to be traversed by the shaman at the beginning of his trance state. In essence, the swastika represented both the doorway and passageway through to this spiritual realm.



A female swastika motif
on a piece of Samarran pottery from
Mesopotamia (5,000- 4,000 BCE).



Prehistoric Indian American
pottery design showing
the swastika in its swirling,
vortex aspect.

The swastika's association with the feminine vortex/passageway into other realms of consciousness is evocatively captured here by contemporary artist Andrew Gonzalez.

The association of the swastika with a passageway is underlined by the many swastika-shaped labyrinth symbols found in ancient cultures around the world,
as seen on the right.

Essentially, the swastika is a simple, geometric cipher that was used as a symbolic shorthand for the image of the labyrinth.

The labyrinth itself has a universal spiritual meaning, representing as it does the journey of life through the difficulties and illusions of the world, to the centre where a spiritual treasure, enlightenment, or heaven is attained.

The labyrinth is generally regarded as being both a womb in which something new is brought to birth, and a passageway that has to be traversed - with all its serpentine twists and turns - before the treasure at the centre can emerge.











A swastika labyrinth used for meditation in the Tantric sect of Hinduism. In Indian thought, the labyrinth represents Maya, the goddess of desire and illusion, who conceals the sacred centre occupied by the god Shiva.

The word 'labyrinth' comes directly from the ancient Minoan civilisation of Crete, and the swastika was used by the Minoans as a symbol of the labyrinth. (Tetradrachm from Knossos, Crete, 1st millenium BC.)

The swastika has been synonymous with the labyrinth for thousands of years. This labyrinth-shaped swastika seal was excavated from the ruins of the ancient Indian city of Harappa (2nd millenium BC).

The images of spiral, labyrinth and swastika are fused together in this ancient Viking painting. (Gotland stone, Vallstena, Sweden 5th century BC).

The swastika/labyrinth is thus a symbol of both the passageway leading to a sacred spiritual realm, and the feminine figure who guides one to it. In ancient Germanic and Norse cultures, this female guide and guardian was known as the Valkyrja or Fylgja.

Just as the swastika is made up of a doubled-rune, so does the Valkyrja manifest herself in two ways in people's lives. On the one hand she is an amazon figure who protects and gives courage to the warrior on the battlefields of life, and on the other hand she is a muse who inspires the shaman, poet and artist in their endeavours. In her amazon aspect the Valkyrja is associated with the sun, and in her muse aspect she is associated with the moon.


The Valkyrja muse - the inner moon-maiden who inspires the artist and poet, and guides the shaman through the labyrinthine realms of altered consciousness. (Artist: Andrew Gonzalez)

The Valkyrja amazon - the inner sun-maiden who gives strength and courage to the warrior as he battles and conquers his way through life.
(Artist: Barry Windsor Smith)

 
Reinforcing the association of the swastika with a goddess figure is the fact that the swastika can be viewed as two serpent symbols crossing over one another - the serpent being universally associated with the Great Goddess in ancient religion. Isis, the most widely worshipped goddess in the ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean worlds, was associated with the snake. The sound of her name not only evokes the sibilant hiss of a serpent, but curiously the four letters that make up her name, when laid directly one on top of one another, produce the symbol of the swastika (ie the cross formed by the two overlaid i's is absorbed into the swastika formed by the two overlaid s's).


A swastika-shaped Navaho sandpainting. These serpentine mandala figures are used by these Indians in their tribal healing ceremonies.
 
An American Indian swastika made up of four, winged rattlesnakes.

 
The double-snake goddess of ancient Crete was synonomous with the serpentine passageway of the labyrinth. The symbol of the swastika came to represent both her and her hidden, underground domain. In the ancient world, labyrinths were used extensively as initiation centres for worshippers of the Great Goddess. Initiations combined the use of hallucinogenic substances with a tantric encounter with a high priestess (hetaira) at the centre of the labyrinth.

One of the most widespread labyrinth designs used in the ancient world was the 'Cretan' labyrinth, seen inscribed on this 1st millenium BC tetradrachm from Knossos, Crete. In ancient Egypt, the labyrinth was synonomous with the Amenti,     the sinuous path taken by the dead on their journey from death to resurrection. Isis was believed to guide the souls of the dead through the twists and turns of the Amenti, on their way to their final destination, the realm of the falcon god Ra.


'I am all that
is, was or
ever will be.'


Words of Isis inscribed on
the temple at Sais, Egypt.