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The Migration of Symbols

by Goblet d'Alviella


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This is a study of the migration and mutation of symbols by a late 19th century Belgian lawyer and Masonic scholar, Count Goblet d'Alviella (b. 1846, d. 1925). Originally published in 1891 in French, this book covers a huge web of interchangeable symbols, which are found over a wide range of cultures through the Near East, India, Europe, and further abroad, notably in Mesoamerica. He attempts to explain the widespread use of symbols such as the Swastika, the Tree of Life, the Winged Globe, the Trident and the Caduceus. Despite the title, d'Alviella does not adhere to one theory; instead he has a whole toolkit, including diffusion, mutation, independent origins and appropriation, as well as psychological, historical and sociological explanations.

He demonstrates that the same symbol can have different interpretations in different cultures and at different times. Such is the case with the swastika, which today is obviously associated with absolute evil, but which has been used historically as a symbol of the Sun's yearly path, and regarded as a good-luck symbol, even to this day, in the far East. With over 150 line illustrations, this book is an invaluable source book for symbologists, and makes fascinating reading for readers interested in the development of religion.

Title Page
The Author's Preface
Chapter I. On Symbols Common to Different Races

Chapter II. On the Gammadion or Swastika

I. Geographical Distribution of the Gammadion
II. Different Interpretations of the Gammadion
III. Probable Meaning of the Gammadion
IV. The Birth-Place of the Gammadion


Chapter III. On the Causes of Alteration in the Meaning and Form of Symbols

Chapter IV. Symbolism and Mythology of the Tree

I. The Sacred Tree and its Acolytes
II. Signification of the Sacred Tree Amongst the Semites
III. The Paradisaic Trees of the Aryans


Chapter V. On the Transmutation of Symbols

Chapter VI. The Winged Globe, the Caduceus, and the Trisula

I. The Winged Globe Outside Egypt
II. The Origins of the Caduceus
III. The Transformations of the Trisula


Opinions of the Press on the French Edition