Monthly Archives: April 2016

Sigils, Swastikas and Symbology

Came across sigil in some technical documentation ( : “an inscribed or painted symbol considered to have magical power.”

On a related note, after reading The Long Ships I though the name of one of the characters – Sigrun – was kind of neat since in Old Norse it means “victory rune”. However, the rune itself was horribly co-opted by the Nazi SS (the all-too-familiar double lightning bolt design, featuring two of them).  That is hardly the only example.

Years ago, my aunt presented a slide show from her travels around Asia. It was surprising to see “backwards” swastikas prominently featured on Buddhist temples. She explained their long history in that part of the world. Despite Japan’s alliance with Nazi Germany in WWII these weren’t remnants of that time.

However, now there is a Japanese proposal to substitute another symbol on maps for tourists (prior to the 2020 Olympics): Farther in the body of the article there are, indeed, symbols that might benefit from a change, such as the encircled H, which to many might suggest an emergency helipad rather than a hotel. However, I’d be inclined to keep the swastika since if far preceded use by the Nazis and runs the other direction. In a way, it symbolizes the opposite while reminding us of the negative aspects of human nature.