Footprint of Comet Encke?

Featured image: Detail of Astrology Manuscript, ink on silk, BCE 2th century, Han, unearthed from Mawangdui tomb 3rd, Chansha, Hunan Province, China. Hunan Province Museum by Unknown author – China Arts, Volume 1st, Wen Wu Publishing, Beijing, China, 1979-10, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19264187 

Philip Jamieson and Marianne Schmidt

In the last weeks of 2020 the Sydney Dance Company performed Indian-Australian Raghav Handa’s Cult of the Titans, a work exploring the Nazi appropriation of the swastika from Hindu culture. The Company was so concerned at the depth of animosity in the community towards the symbol that it provided a content warning that the work contained swastika images and invited concerned audience members to leave if they wished. In a video introduction, Handa explained his piece as an attempt to reclaim from its horrific association with Nazism the Swastika’s ancient symbolism in Hinduism of light and peace.

While this positive symbolism in Hinduism is indeed millenia old, the origins of the swastika are actually far more ancient and its original meaning still the subject of much speculation. While long found in Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, its use is also found in many ancient cultures around the world, in some cases dating from the Neolithic and even late Paleolithic Periods. The earliest known example, excavated at an Ice Age site at Mezin in the Ukraine and dating from at least 12,000 years ago (in some accounts 15,000 years old and possibly even older), is a bird figurine carved from mammoth ivory tusk, its torso displaying what Mukti Jain Campion has elegantly described as “an intricate meander pattern of joined-up swastikas”. Photos of the figurine can be seen in her article at https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29644591.

So what might this swastika imagery have been intended to represent in antiquity? Continue reading “Footprint of Comet Encke?”