This year, the Confederate flag has been in the news, and on the minds of Americans, a lot. It has created a sharp divide, with vehement defense by some and just as strong vilification by others. The supporters claim it’s about history, while those who object to it say it’s about hate. It’s both. But the history is not one that should be celebrated.
It’s a similar situation with the swastika. Believe it or not, this symbol is thousands of years old. Its name comes from the Sanskrit for “well-being” and “good luck.” It was known from ancient Japan to the Baltics, even found on a 12,000 year old ancient ivory carving from the Ukraine. It symbolizes the sun or moon, fire, thunder or lightning, depending on the culture. It also has two positions: with arms pointing right (clockwise) it is often viewed as the sun, while arms pointing left (widdershins or counter-clockwise) it is seen as the moon. These positions can also mean positive v. negative. Its use by the ancient Aryn people led to Adolph Hitler adopting it to symbolize his “pure race” (the two races are not the same, by the way).
The swastika — aka “fylfot,” “wan,” “Manji,”Tetraskelion” and “Hakenkreuz” — is still used today by Odinists and other Nordic-based Pagan groups. To them, it is a symbol of Thor and his thunderous hammer, time, the sun and the cycle of life. Unfortunately, when they wear or use the fylfot outside of rituals or their homes, they catch a lot of flack from people who don’t know what it means aside from being a Nazi symbol. Let’s face it, that’s most of us. Like the Confederate flag, the swastika comes with a lot of baggage.
Steven Posch, a Pagan of the Odinic way, a storyteller and scholar, has penned an “Open Letter” to those who support the Confederate flag. In it, he sympathizes with the fact that they have had a symbol they love “hijacked by hate.” He has some advice for them:
Lay down the battle. You’ve already lost. Regardless of what it may or may not mean to you, to others its means hate. Fair or not, to defend it in public only taints you by association.
Lay off the public display. Honestly, other people find it offensive. Keep it for use in private, where people know what it means—and what it doesn’t.
Choose something else for public display. Do your research. You really do have other options here. Inform yourself.
Be patient. If your values are true, time will not diminish them. It may not happen in a lifetime, or two, or three. What is truly sacred cannot be fouled forever.
Note the phrase “If your values are true…” This flag may, indeed, be sacred to some but, that this flag was/is on the wrong side of history, is an immutable truth. And truth will out.
Posch includes a request for what he call grith in this case. It is, he says, an “old word” which means “peace between communities.”
Keeping grith is one of our highest values, and if it means that sometimes you don’t say exactly what you’re thinking, or that you have to alter your behavior for the sake other people’s comfort, well, that’s an honorable and sacred act, and well worth the doing.
There is the truly sacred; respecting your fellow humans. Not making them feel threatened or belittled or humiliated simply because you want to assert yourself. Only weaklings and cowards act like that.
The Confederate flag will probably always exist. But there is no reason for it to be shoved in our faces. Much like Odinists keep their swastikas to themselves in deference to the historical baggage it has, supporters of the Confederate flag can do the same. If it truly means something special then stop nailing it to your house, flying it from your truck and draping yourself in it. Stop using it to threaten others. That only shows that, to you, it really does represent hate.
Featured Image via Pixabay