Reaction to Appearance of a Reviled Symbol
* In the effort to promote understanding of the Buddhist use of the swastika (“Buddhist’s Use of Swastikas Focus of Cultural Conflict,” April 27), it is important for Americans to realize that the swastika is one of the oldest, most universal religious symbols used extensively by the early Christian church, especially in the forms of the crux dissimulata (disguised cross) and the croix gammee or croix cramponnee (hook cross) known in German as Hakenkreuz .
In old Danish churches, the swastika was used as a decoration on baptismal fonts, and it was often used decoratively on the feet of church windows throughout Europe. The swastika was also much used in medieval heraldry, although knights couldn’t be sure whether it stood for the cross of the crucifixion or the cross of Thor.
Hitler’s use of the swastika was based on the mistaken notion that the swastika was used by the Vehmic (German “punishment”) Courts, civil tribunals whose activities were kept secret.
They were convened to pursue heretics and eventually became connected with the Inquisition. This secret society operated underground much like the Black Hand in Sicily, and from this organization came specifically anti-Semitic societies in Austria and Germany in the early 20th Century that were the forerunners of Nazism.
One hopes that understanding the true nature of the swastika, like the truth about the pentagram, will take the onus off and restore a beautiful and meaningful symbol to its rightful place in human spiritual understanding.
MARSHA SMITH SHAW
* I don’t care how many centuries before World War II the swastika stood for peace. The Nazis changed the meaning forever in my mind, and to me it will always stand for torture, death and atrocities to innocent humans.
I hope the owners of the Buddhist building will be sensitive enough to remove the swastikas from their fence.
MICHELE DE GAETANO