Let’s be brutally honest, this symbol is drenched in the blood of millions and if the conversation about reclaiming such a symbol makes you feel uncomfortable…
Good, it should make you uncomfortable.
It makes me uncomfortable too.
Yet, in recent months, this topic has surfaced several times and I often wonder if wecan reclaim such a symbol and restore its original meaning. More importantly…
Should we? Is it too far gone? Does it harbour too much pain?
Truthfully, I don’t know the answer. Even several months into this emotional deliberation, I’m no further forward.
When I look at the Swastika, it makes me feel sick. I cannot hold a gaze with the symbol for more than a few seconds before wanting to grit my teeth together, throw something across the room or burst into tears.
It deeply offends me on so many levels and floods of images of the horrors it’s witnessed immediately come to mind. Millions of people have been affected by this symbol, my own family included.
Like many soldiers and civilians alike, my family was affected by WWII and for so many, that symbol was among the last things they saw. Each flag, armband, pin and uniform patch bore witness to horrors and a kind of suffering that people like me and you could never imagine.
With these emotions involved, it’s no surprise that this conversation often raises some eyebrows and causes a level of outrage that leads people to equal parts infuriated and sickened.
Yet, time and time again my mind circles back to the question…
Can an ancient symbol that once stood for peace, tolerance and acceptance ever be readopted after such a horrific history?
Before we start to answer that question, it’s important to observe the history of the Swastika pre-1940’s Germany.
There’s varying timelines about the first evidence of the Swastika and finding an exact date has proved impossible thus far. Some articles indicate it could be 15,000 years old, while others insist it’s 3,000 years old. Regardless of the exact date, it’s clear from archaeological evidence and varying inscriptions that the symbol has ancient origins. Before the adoption and misappropriation by the third reich (I refuse to capitalise the first letters in their name), the Swastika had an entirely different meaning.
Even the etymology of the word Swastika indicates its true meaning. It has Sanskrit roots and comes from the prefix su (good) and the suffix asti(to prevail). Quite literally, it means “good prevails”. This translation varies slightly depending on the source.
So how exactly did a “good prevails” symbol become a poster of hate, horror, pain and genocide?
We can attribute the adaptation of the symbol by the nazi party (another refusal to capitalise the first letters) to an amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann. In 1871 he discovered the ancient city of Troy in Hisarlik on the Aegean coast of Turkey. There, he discovered up to 1,800 variations of the symbol depicted across various surfaces and artefacts.
It’s worth noting here that Heinrich Schliemann was neither nazi nor sympathiser (that was a bit after his time, he died in 1890). He was simply a man obsessed with the Iliad and finding the City of Troy.
It’s said that Heinrich Schliemann was unsure of the Swastika’s meaning and asked others to interpret the meaning for him. Those that did, came to the false conclusion that the Swastika was associated with some ancient societies who were deemed “aryan”; thus the association between the Swastika and the “superiority of the aryan race” was born.
Anti-semetic parties in Germany had adopted the symbol before the Second World War, both the reichshammerbund and freikorps began using the symbol around the 1920’s where they were painted on helmets and vehicles.
By the time hitler rose to power in the 1930’s, the symbol had already been adopted and associated with “aryan superiority” and this ideal had generally been accepted into some parts of society. Naturally, under the continued misappropriation of the nazi’s, it spread much further and wider.
This the perfect example of how any symbol can be misappropriated as a symbol for hate, all with a simple mistranslation and lack of understanding.
So now we’ve looked at the history of the Swastika, let’s explore another important question.
Why would you even want to reclaim it?
DutchPagans said something very interesting to me and I’ve been sent into a tailspin ever since.
“We shouldn’t allow this symbol to die in a bunker in Germany.”
I can’t shake the feeling that he’s got a point, after all, to this day the symbol is still sacred to several cultures.
In Hinduism, the Swastika when facing right represents the sun deity Surya and represents good luck. When facing left it’s called the Sauwastika and represents the goddess Kalika.
In Buddhism, the symbol is called Manji and it represents the footsteps of Buddha and is used to mark the location of Buddhist temples.
However the symbol is not limited to these religions, the Navajo also use it and they know the symbol as The Whirling Log.
Additionally, I am of the belief that no symbol is evil, bad or harmful. It’s humans that use symbols to perpetuate hate that’s the problem. Remove the history, emotions and horrors from the symbol and all you’ve got is a few lines that form a shape.
As a great example, if we sent a Swastika into space and someone (or something) from a foreign planet came across it, would they feel the same way that we do about it? No, because they haven’t been educated on the human horrors associated with it.
In the very same breath, I hesitate and question myself. But, before I digress, let’s move onto the next question. Arguably, the most pertinent one to this post.
How can we go about reclaiming a symbol from such hatred? Where would we even start?
Before even starting, there are parties that need to be at the centre of this conversation. The most important opinions on this subject should come from the people and communities that were (and continue to be) affected most by The Holocaust and this “aryan superiority” nazi narrative that sadly, still echoes in the warped minds of some extremists today.
Without the opinions, thoughts and approval of these communities, you could be advocating for the recirculation of a symbol they feel should have died in that German bunker.
That’s precisely why I suggest, if you are going to advocate for the reclaiming of this symbol, agreement and conversation needs to start with those most affected by it.
It’s their opinions that matter most in this discussion and without that insight, there’s not much else I can (or should) add.
I will leave you with a snippet of my swirling thoughts and the endless list of questions I have surrounding this topic.
Would we be eradicating the suffering of the past by reclaiming the Swastika?
Would we be contributing to the fear that POC’s face, so long as extremists continue to hide under the banner of this symbol?
On the other hand, this symbol is still used by certain hate groups to perpetuate their disgusting ideals.
So would reclaiming it erase some of their power?
Would they be forced to accept that their disgusting idea of an “aryan superiority” did die in that German bunker and that there’s no place for such abhorrence in 2023?
This is a snippet of my constant dilemma, a cycling of thoughts and feelings about the Swastika.
As I said at the beginning of this article, sadly I don’t have an answer for you, dear reader.
All I have are many thoughts and a perpetual contemplation for both sides of the argument.
Now, it’s your turn to share your thoughts.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Is this symbol too “far gone” to reclaim?
Should we even try?
p.s. if anyone is wondering what relevance the featured photo has, Stalag IX-C is the POW camp that my Great Grandfather died in.
Samhain is traditionally a Celtic holiday marking the end of harvest season. Each culture celebrates in their own way. In spiritual circles, Samhain is often referred to as The Witches New Year* and it’s arguably the most important celebration of the year for many Pagan, Wicca, Folk and Neo-Pagan practitioners.
I want to start this article by saying… there is no incorrect way to celebrate Samhain and cultures around the world celebrate in a whole variety of different ways!
The ritual ideas in this article are designed to give you some inspiration. You can tailor them and their instructions to your own practice and beliefs 😎
It’s almost impossible to talk about the history of Samhain without mentioning the sídh (pronounced shee).
In Irish and Scottish folklore, the sídh includes all faery folk which are separated into two groups. The good fae and the bad fae.
It’s believed that the good fae live in the seelie court, and the bad fae live in the unseelie court.
Making a differentiation between the good and bad sídh is almost impossible – this is why many choose to avoid them entirely. They are known for causing mischief and destruction, regardless of their seelie alignment.
At this time of year, the ancient Celts believed that the sídh could breach the thin veil between worlds and capture people then drag them back to the unseelie court. The unseelie court is a sort of a.. faery underworld where dark and evil forces of the sídh live.
The ancient Celts has several rituals to protect themselves from the sídh during Samhain, some of these rituals still survive today. For example…
They would build a huge bonfire and the whole community was responsible for keeping it burning to scare off the sídh. It’s said, if the fire went out then the sídh would steal people from the village and drag them to the unseelie court.
They would also leave offerings on the outskirts of their land to appease the sídh. Offerings such as milk, honey, and sweet breads were common.
And of course, the most popular tradition of Samhain still survives is guising (more commonly known as trick or treating). This is a tradition where people dress up in scary masks and costumes with the hopes of scaring off the sídh and otherworldly spirits.
SAMHAIN RITUALS AND TRADITIONS
Many believe that the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest as we welcome in the darker half of the year. During the thinning of the veil, you might notice that spirits, ghosts and entities are more active. If you’re sensitive to them – you’ll probably notice an increase in activity during this time. (If you want to protect yourself and/or home from entities, check out THIS bindrune)
The thinning of the veil makes also it a perfect time for connecting with and honouring your ancestors.
Throughout history, ancestral worship at this time of year has been integral part of Celtic practice.
It was (and still is) believed, that by remembering our loved ones we invite them close to us. This allows them to walk side by side when the veil is at its thinnest.
Popular ideas for ancestral work at this time of year are…
Leaving pictures of passed loved ones around the house
Building an ancestral altar to honour those who have passed (can also include photos, heirlooms and their favourite foods)
Dumb supper – this is a tradition where you cook foods or drinks that your loved ones enjoyed while alive. You set up a place for them at the table and invite them to join you. I have not personally tried this, but I’ve heard it can be a surreal experience
Leaving an offering to your ancestors – if a dumb supper sounds a bit too creepy, you can leave offerings of their favourite foods and drinks as a way of commemorating them and their lives. You can also craft new items that they would like such as wooden trinkets or new heirlooms
Take favourite foods of your ancestors to the cemetery – I’ve even heard of people having picnics in the cemetery with their ancestors
Personally, I love building an ancestral altar specifically for Samhain. Sadly, that’s not something I can do this year as I’m moving home on 1st November… BUT… I do plan to do a personal forest ritual and a bath ritual.
Since Samhain is the last harvest of the year, many people like to perform gratitude rituals. This is where we reflect on the things we have been grateful for the last year. Here’s some ideas…
Journalling – write down things you are grateful for the past year and set new intentions for the coming year
Make a list of things you are grateful for and leave it on your altar
Gift loved ones with something nice to show your gratitude
Or simply… remind people that you’re grateful for their presence in your life
Intention Setting Rituals
Consciously setting intentions for the coming months is a great way to stay on track and manifest things that you’d like to accomplish. Personally, I like to try and do this on every witchy holiday. It’s a great way of dividing the year up and thinking of the coming months in manageable bitesize pieces. Here’s some ideas…
Leave sticky notes around the house with your intentions
Make a list of intentions
Meditate and manifest
Make notes in your phone of your intentions
Make a pinterest board of your intentions
Personally, I like to merge the gratitude and intention setting rituals…
Try this ritual (if you’d like!)
Grab a piece of paper and write down the things you are grateful for on one side of the paper
On the other side, write down the intentions you would like to set for the coming months or year
I like to take a walk in nature with my list, mentally picturing and manifesting my intentions as I walk
My favourite place to leave offerings is in the shadow of a local blackthorn tree
I bury the paper with my intentions and gratitude’s in the shadow and leave an offering to the Norn’s (spinners of fate in Germanic and Norse mythology)
NOTE: Instead of burying the paper in the forest, you can burn it. As bonfires are a very prominent tradition at Samhain, I believe this is another great way to do things.
Divination and Future Insights
Many people use the veil thinning to grab a glimpse into the future, and with Samhain being named the Celtic (and/or Pagan) New Year, curiosity in the future probably comes as no surprise.
There are hundreds of ways you can perform divination, but I’ve narrowed it down to three which are exceptionally popular at this time of year.
Using runes for divination
Unsurprisingly, runes are my favourite method of divination😁. Again, there’s hundreds of ways to perform rune readings, depending on your personal beliefs and preferences. Here, I’ve just given one example.
Here’s what you need to do this:
A rune set (if you don’t have one, you can write the runes onto 24 individual pieces of paper – it’s not ideal but it still works! It’s worth noting that Elder Futhark is the only rune language that is used for divination)
OPTIONAL: Incense, candles, music and an ambient setting to concentrate on the energy of the runes
An idea on how you can perform a rune reading:
Place all the runes upside down, so that the runes are hidden
In a meditative state with your eyes closed, hover your hand over the runes until one calls to you.
When it does, pull it and place it in the nine-rune spread (working left to right)
The first trio relates to the past.
The second line relates to the present.
The third line relates to the future.
Each line is related to the rune in the centre of the spread which is the most important
Using scrying for divination
There are hundreds of ways to perform scrying, but this method is probably the most popular. It’s worth noting that at this time of year, this one might only be suitable for experienced practitioners as it can bring forth some unsavoury spirits and having prior knowledge on how to banish them (in case they do appear) is advised.
What you need:
Ambient setting (somewhere quiet that you won’t be disturbed)
How to scry:
Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit with a mirror and your candle
Light the candle and place it in front of the mirror
Focus on the flame in the mirror
Falling into a mediative type of state while performing this is (in my opinion) essential to it “working“
It’s said that future events, messages and spirits can come through and use this as a line of communication
I recommend cleansing yourself and the mirror after scrying
Using nuts for divination
Yes, you did read that correctly 😂
At this time of year, gathering nuts is fairly common. Especially in Autumn where they’re falling in abundance.
I learned about this method from a friend of mine.
Throughout Germanic folk tradition, nuts are gathered on or before Samhain and each one is named after a love interest.
One by one, the nuts are tossed into the fire and the nut that burns the brightest is your destined partner.
While I’m personally not a big fan of love magic, I think this can be adapted to fit a broader range of situations.
Perhaps instead of naming the nuts after potential love interests, we can name them after situations and paths that we are interested in following in future.
For example… name the nuts after three things you’re interested in learning in future.
I would like to learn more about necromancy
I would like to learn more about herbs
I would like to learn more about oenomancy
Toss the three nuts into the fire and the one that burns the brightest is perhaps… your destined path of learning.
Bath and Water Rituals
It’s believed that water is a great medium for channelling, divination and all sorts of magical workings. Since almost every living thing on this earth is comprised of water, it can be a great way to connect with the world around us on a much deeper level.
At this time of year, I often receive messages from my ancestors when I perform this ritual.
What you’ll need:
Herbs of your choice
Some quiet time
Optional: Lots of salt (I like using Epsom bath salt, it’s great for relaxing muscles)
I like to draw relevant bindrunes on my skin. This is what feels right for me, but it is not essential
How to perform:
Run a bath and place your herbs (and salt if you choose to use it) in the water
Create an ambient setting where you can meditate and perform this ritual (maybe place some candles around the bath, light some incense… whatever feels right for you!)
Soak in the water and allow yourself to drift – if you can, fall into a mediative state and see what snippets of information come forth
Feasting and Cooking Rituals
Throughout history, the day of Samhain started as a large community gathering with food, drink and lots of folk tales. Feasting before the cold and long nights draw in was incredibly sacred to the ancient Celtic people (in modern Scotland we still have some feasting rituals such as St Andrews day – but that’s a story for another post!).
In modern times we don’t have as much opportunity to gather as a community and enjoy this but… there’s still some really awesome food rituals to take part in.
Almost all Samhain recipes and rituals revolve around root vegetables such as pumpkin, turnip, parsnip and potatoes.
Fun Foodie Fact:In Ireland and Scotland, turnips were carved for Samhain instead of pumpkins.
You can create a brilliant root veg soup and stir your intentions in… you can create pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie – the world is literally your oyster when it comes to food and kitchen magic.
Here’s a few fun recipes that I found which might be of use at this time of year!!
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
25g/1oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium pumpkin (prepared weight about 850g/1lb 14oz) deseeded and roughly chopped
1 medium-sized floury potato, such as Maris Piper, roughly chopped
1 litre/1¾ pint vegetable or chicken stock, a little extra may be needed
100ml/3½fl oz double cream
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the onion, carrots, garlic bay leaf, butter and half the olive oil into a large pan. Cook over a low–medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender but not coloured.
Add the squash and potato, mix to combine and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Pour in the stock, season well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, half cover the pan with a lid and continue to cook for about 40 minutes until the squash is really tender when tested with the point of a knife.
Pick out the bay leaf and blend the soup until smooth using a stick blender.
Add the cream and a little more stock if the soup is on the thick side, taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as required.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the pumpkin seeds and fry quickly until the seeds start to pop. Remove from the pan.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a swirl of cream and the toasted pumpkin seeds.
200g Pumpkin puree – roughly half a pumpkin
150g Plain flour
2tsp Baking Powder
3/4tsp Ground Cinnamon
1tsp Ground Ginger
200g Caster Sugar
100g Unsalted Butter – softened
Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Make the pumpkin puree by cutting the pumpkin in to wedges with the skin still on.
Make a foil envelope and bake the pumpkin in it for roughly an hour until cooked, ensuring the pumpkin doesn’t colour.
Once cooked, scrape away from the skin and blend.
Turn the oven down to 160˚C.
Line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients apart from the sugar in a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl cream the sugar and butter until light.
Slowly add the two eggs to the butter-sugar mix and beat well until very light.
Beat in the dry ingredients to create the batter, then add the pumpkin.
Pour into the loaf tin and cook for one hour.
Check it is cooked with a skewer.
When cooked, remove from the oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove from the tin. Allow to cool further on a rack.
Root Vegetable Crisps
120g sweet potato
15 sprays of spray oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Slice the vegetables very thinly – a mandoline slicer is perfect.
Spray a little oil over a baking sheet and arrange the vegetable slices ensuring they don’t overlap. You may need to make them in separate batches depending on the size of your oven.
Cook for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. It’s vital to turn the vegetables frequently during cooking as they can easily burn. You may need to remove some crisps before the 20 minutes is up, as some will cook faster than others.
When all the crisps are ready, allow them to cool then mix together and serve.
½ tbsp sea salt flakes
2 tsp soft light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp mixed spice
Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C. With a sharp knife, carefully make a cross in the top of each chestnut, cutting into the shell but not all the way through. Transfer to a roasting tin, cross-side up, and roast for 25-30 mins until the shell starts to peel away from the nut inside.
Meanwhile, mix the salt, sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice in a small bowl. Leave the nuts until just cool enough to handle, then peel away the shell and papery husk. Sprinkle over some spiced salt and serve with the rest to dip into.
Being the last harvest festival of the year, throughout history, Samhain was only celebrated when the last harvest was complete. Even now, before Samhain, people often take the time to harvest any items they might need for their Samhain rituals.
Don’t worry, if you don’t have time or the items you want / need locally. Harvesting your ritual items is not essential!
As we mentioned at the start of this article, bonfires at Samhain is a tradition that has been around for centuries. It’s believed that the fire light would stop the sídh from luring people from the village so even today – bonfires are still a popular tradition.
Some believe that bonfires light the way for ancestral spirits, others believe that a Samhain bonfire is a great excuse for feasting and celebration.
… and who could blame them? Bonfire cooked food always tastes better or is it just me?
Whatever your beliefs, bonfires, candles and hearths are a great way to welcome in the darker nights and longer days.
PROTECTION AT SAMHAIN
It would be foolish of me not to touch on how important (I believe) protection is at this time of year. With the veil at its thinnest, we are much more open for psychic attacks, spiritual attacks and even – energy vampires.
To combat this, I recommend salting your house boundary and ensuring your wards are strong enough to withstand this time of year. Make sure to wear any protection amulets that you like and if you use crystals, you might want to cleanse and charge them before Samhain.
🎃 However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!! 🎃
Connecting with my ancestors is an integral part of my practice and has been for years…
The strong women who came before me were healers and witches – often using the land they lived on to make a variety of remedies for locals.
In a time when there was no doctor on the tiny isles of Scotland, they were essential to other locals and their wellbeing.
Their knowledge lives within me, and truthfully, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel their presence around me.
BUT… to anyone who hasn’t explored the powers of ancestral magic, the idea of connecting with your ancestors might feel daunting or confusing. (It doesn’t have to be!)
Truthfully, ancestral magic is one of the most straightforward aspects of Paganism or spirituality – because everything you need already lies within you and your DNA.
This handy lil’ post will teach your various ways on how to access that information – and connect with your ancestors.
My favourite method to connect with my ancestors is by using runes or bindrunes (shock! we all know how much I love runes and bindrunes 😜) but you can use absolutely ANY method that calls to you or ‘feels’ right.
In this post I’ve given you the instruction for using this bindrune – but at the end of this post there is a bunch of other ways you can try and reach out or connect with your ancestors.
INSTRUCTIONS TO USE THIS BINDRUNE
What you’ll need:
Blackthorn (or bark from a tree that you resonate with)
Incense (I recommend some mug wort if it grows around where you live – if there is none locally then choose a plant / herb of your preference. I also like to use heather as it grows all over Scotland)
1. Carve this bindrune onto a piece of blackthorn (or another piece of wood of your choosing)
2. Set up our calming environment, light your incense and fill your bowl with water
3. Take the piece of your hair (as it contains your DNA) and place it inside the bowl (that should be filled with water).
4. Add to the bowl your carved bindrune.
5. Dip the tips of your fingers in the bowl and meditate. If you’d like, you can chant or say a personal phrase of galdr / incantation. Something along the lines of: “I call upon my ancestors – those that come before me, those that live within me and those that watch over me… come forth and make yourself known…” would work well, but you can create your own!
6. See what comes forth!
When I first started consciously working with my ancestors, it was similar to speaking with a beloved family member. I quickly realised that they had always been there, watching over me and looking out for me. Like any relationship, I believe you have to work at it to make it successful. This is (in my experience) key to growing a strong bond. with your ancestors
OTHER IDEAS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR ANCESTORS
Visit places and land that your ancestors were laid to rest
Perform an evening ritual before you go to bed to open your dreams to your ancestors’ messages
Explore the history – look into ancestral records. If possible, visit places where your ancestors lived or worked.
If you have heirlooms, there are a BUNCH of rituals you can do with these items to connect to your ancestors.
Create an altar dedicated to your ancestors. You can also create a personally carved or crafted item for your ancestors (you can also place it on your ancestral altar)
Most importantly… remember that there is no WRONG WAY to connect with your ancestors. Do what feels right to you and follow your intuition 🥰