The Power of Symbols

Shortly after I began a half-year weaving course at the Husflidsskole in Fagernes, Norway, in 1977, we were shown a slide of a traditional weaving with a swastika in the design.  A Nazi symbol?!  I was young and American and very confused by this! The instructor explained that it was a very old symbol, in widespread use long before it was appropriated and came to represent evil.

This year when I took the halv-flossa course I decided to use two swastikas as part of the design.  It was partly to see if people would notice, and partly to be able to tell them the story of the symbol if they DID notice.  I’ve shown the piece to several people.  The only one to say anything was my son. “Hey Mom, did you know you have a Nazi symbol in there?”  Norwegian author Annemor Sundbo wrote about the traditional meaning of the swastika in her book, Invisible Threads in Knitting.  “The swastika is a sign of eternity and a sun symbol.  The word derives from Sanskrit, and Indian language, and means luck.  In textile embellishment, the swastika can be rotated in either direction.  There is not a logical explanation for this but in several places it has been said that if the sign is counterclockwise, it denotes the feminine; if clockwise, the masculine.  In older textiles, such as baby caps from Setesdal, we often find the swastika.  But misappropriation by the Nazis made it difficult to use this sign after World War II.  Hitler used it as the symbol of the Aryan race.  Today this symbol awakens distaste and spreads fear, and is a good example of how a symbol can shift its meaning through abuse.” (p. 79)

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