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The Migration of Symbols, by Goblet d'Alviella, [1894], at

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I. Geographical distribution of the gammadion.—Different patterns of the gammadion.—Its common occurrence amongst all the nations of the Old World, with the exception of the Egyptians, the Phœnicians, the Mesopotamians, and the Persians.—The fylfot.—The swastika.

II. Previous interpretations of the gammadion.—Opinions of Messrs. George Birdwood, Alexander Cunningham, Waring, W. Schwartz, Emile Burnouf, R. P. Greg, Ludwig Müller, and others.

III. Probable meaning of the gammadion.—The gammadion a charm.—The gammadion symbolical of the solar movement, and, by analogy, of the heavenly bodies in general.—The arms of the gammadion are rays which move.—Connection between the tétrascèle and the triscèle.—Figures connected with the gammadion.—Equivalence of the gammadion and certain solar images.—The Three Steps of Vishnu.—Lunar tétrascèles.

IV. Cradle of the gammadion.—Was it conceived simultaneously in several places?—Uniformity of its meaning and use.—Discussion as to its Aryan or Pelasgic origin.—Information furnished by the "whorls" of Hissarlik and the prehistoric pottery of Northern Italy.—The question is archæological, not ethnical.—Conclusions.

I. Geographical Distribution of the Gammadion.


Fig. 14. Gammadions

The name gammadion is given to that form of cross whose extremities are bent back at right

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angles, as if to form four gammas joined together at the base (fig. 14).

It may be called a cross pattée when the bent parts end in a point so as to form a sort of foot (fig. 15a), and a cross with hooks when the arms after being bent a first time are again twisted either inwards (15b), or outwards (15c). Lastly, it takes the name of tétrascèle when the arms are rounded off whilst curving backwards (15d).


Fig. 15. Varieties of the Gammadion

With the exception of the solar Disk and the Greek Cross there are few symbolical marks so widely distributed.

Dr. Schliemann, exploring the débris of the towns piled upon the plateau of Hissarlik, beginning with the second or "burnt city," which the learned explorer identifies with the Ilium of Priam, 1 found innumerable gammadions, especially amongst the decorations of those terra cotta disks which have been thought to be "whorls," and which served perhaps as ex voto2 It likewise ornaments certain idols of feminine shape, which recall roughly the appearance of the Chaldæan Ishtar; in one of these statuettes, a leaden one, it occupies the centre of the triangle denoting the belly. 3

In Greece, as in Cyprus and at Rhodes, it first appears on that pottery with geometrical ornamentation which constitutes the second period of

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[paragraph continues] Grecian ceramics; 1 it then passes to those vases with decorations taken from living objects, whose appearance seems to coincide with the development of Phœnician influences on the shores of Greece. 2

It is seen on the archaic pottery of Cyprus, and of Rhodes, and of Athens, on both sides of the conventional Tree, so frequently reproduced on the inscribed monuments of Hither Asia between two monsters facing each other (see further on, pl. iv.). It appears on an Athenian vase in a burial scene, three times repeated in front of the funeral car. 3 On a vase from Thera several gammadions are reproduced round an image of the Persian Artemis. 4 At Mycenæ it figures on ornaments collected during Dr. Schliemann's excavations. 5 At Pergamus it adorns the balustrade of the portico which surrounded the temple of Athene, and at Orchomenus the sculptured roof of the so-called nuptial chamber in the palace of the Treasury. 6 Lastly, when the introduction of money disclosed a new outlet for the symbolic forms of religion and of art, it became a favourite emblem in the coinage, not only of the Archipelago and of Greece Proper, but also of Macedon, Thrace, Crete, Lycia, and Paphlagonia.

From Corinth, where it figures amongst the most ancient mint marks, it passed to Syracuse under Timoleon, to be afterwards spread abroad on the

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coins of Sicily and of Magna Græcia. 1 In Northern Italy it was known even before the advent of the Etruscans, for it has been met with on pottery dating from the terramare civilization. 2 It appears also on the roof of those ossuaries, in the form of a hut, which reproduce on a small scale the wicker hovels of the people of that epoch. 3 In the Villanova period it adorns vases with geometrical decorations found at Cære, Chiusi, Albano, and at Cumæ, 4 and when Etruria became accessible to oriental influences it appears on fibulæ and other golden ornaments. 5

At a still later period it is found on the breasts of personages decorating the walls of a Samnite tomb near Capua; 6 lastly it appears as a motif for decoration in the Roman mosaics. It is singular that at Rome itself it has not been met with on any monument prior to the third, or perhaps the fourth, century of our era. About that period the Christians of the Catacombs had no hesitation in including it amongst their representations of the Cross of Christ. Not only did they carve it upon the tombs, but they also used it to ornament the garments of certain priestly personages, such as the fossores, and even the tunic of the Good Shepherd. 7 At Milan it forms a row of curved Crosses round the pulpit of St. Ambrose.

On the other hand, it appears to have been

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widely distributed throughout the provinces of the Roman empire, especially among the Celts, where in many cases it is difficult to decide whether it is connected with imported civilization, or with indigenous tradition. From Switzerland, and even from the Danubian countries, to the most remote parts of Great Britain, it has been found on vases, on metal plates, on fibulæ, on sword belts, and on arms. 1 In England it adorns fragments of mosaics collected from the ruins of several villas, 2 as well as a funeral urn unearthed in a mound of the bronze age. 3 In Gaul it is observed frequently enough on coins ranging from the third century B.C. to the third century of our era, and even later, for it is met with on a Merovingian piece. 4 We may add that it already figures on fragments of pottery and even on terra cotta matrices found in a lacustrine city in Lake Bourget. 5

In Belgium, we meet with it at Estinnes (Hainault) and at Anthée (Province of Namur) in tile débris dating back to the Roman epoch. 6 It is also seen repeated several times, in association with the Lotus-flower, among the inscriptions on tombstones discovered, some years ago, in the Belgo-Roman cemetery of Juslenville, near Pepinster (fig. 16).

An interesting discussion, arose in the Institut archéologique liégeois as to whether—in spite of the invocation D[iis] M[anibus]—the presence of the gammadion did not imply the Christian

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character of this sepulchral monument. 1 To the arguments brought forward to refute this theory we may add that a sepulchral stele of an unquestionably

FIG. 16. TOMBSTONE FROM JUSLENVILLE. (Institut archéologique liègeois, vol. x. (1870), pl. xiii.)

Fig. 16. Tombstone from Juslenville
(Institut archéologique liègeois, vol. x. (1870), pl. xiii.)

pagan character, discovered in Algeria, offers an analogous combination of two gammadions placed over a Wheel.

FIG. 17. LIBYAN SEPULCHRAL STELE. (Proceedings of the Soc. franc. de numism. et d’archéol., vol. ii., pl. iii. 3.)

Fig. 17. Libyan Sepulchral Stele.
(Proceedings of the Soc. franc. de numism. et d’archéol., vol. ii., pl. iii. 3.)

The fact may be mentioned that in the middle of the Christian era, eleven or twelve centuries later, the gammadion reappears on a sepulchre in

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the same Belgian province. On a tombstone of the fourteenth century, discovered in 1871, during the construction of a tunnel at Huy, three personages are sculptured, one of whom is a priest clothed in a chasuble, and on this chasuble three bands of gammadions can be distinctly seen. 1

The gammadion, associated with the Wheel, as well as with the Thunderbolt, likewise adorns votive altars found, in England, and near the Pyrenees, on the site of Roman encampments. 2

FIG. 18. ALTAR IN THE TOULOUSE MUSEUM. (Reveu archéologique de 1880, vol. xl. p. 17.)

Fig. 18. Altar in the Toulouse Museum.
(Reveu archéologique de 1880, vol. xl. p. 17.)

At Velaux, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, there has been found the headless statue of a god sitting cross-legged, who bore on its breast a row of crocketed crosses surmounting another row of equilateral crosses. 3

In Ireland, however, and in Scotland, the gammadion seems really to have marked Christian sepulchres, for it is met with on tombstones associated with Latin Crosses. 4

The Rev. Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick, has described an ogham stone found in an abandoned

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cemetery in Kerry, which he believes to belong to the sixth century; it bears an arrow between two gammadions1

The Anglo-Saxons gave to the gammadion the name of fylfot, from the Norse fiöl (full, viel = "numerous"), and fot (foot). 2 It has been observed on pottery and funeral urns of the bronze age in Silesia, in Pomerania, and the eastern islands of Denmark. In the following ages it is met with on ornaments, on sword-hilts, on golden brackets, on sculptured rocks, and on tombstones. 3 Amongst the Scandinavians it ended by combining, doubtlessly


Fig. 19. Cross On A Runic Stone From Sweden.
(Ludwig Müller, p. 94, fig. a.)

under the influence of Christianity, with the Latin Cross.

In an old Danish church it ornaments baptismal fonts which date from the early times of Christianity. 4 In Iceland, according to Mr. Hjaltalin, it is still in use at the present day as a magic sign. 5

Amongst the Slays and Finns it has not yet been found, save in a sporadic state, and about the period of their conversion to Christianity only. We may remark, by the way, that it is very difficult

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to determine the age and nationality of the terra cotta or bronze objects on which it has been observed in countries of mixed or superposed races, such as Hungary, Poland, Lithuania and Bohemia.

In the Caucasus, M. Chantre has met with it on ear-drops, ornamental plates, sword-hilts, and other objects found in burial-places dating back to the bronze period and the first iron age. 1

Amongst the Persians its presence has been pointed out on some Arsacian and Sassanian coins only. 2

The Hittites introduced it on a bas-relief at Ibriz, in Lycaonia, where it forms a border on the dress of a king, or priest, who offers up a sacrifice to a god. 3

The Phœnicians do not seem to have known or, at least, to have used it, except on some of the coins which they struck in Sicily in imitation of Greek pieces. A coin of Byzacium on which it is figured, near the head of Astarte, dates from the reign of Augustus. 4

It is not met with either in Egypt, in Assyria, or in Chaldæa.

In India it bears the name of swastika, when its arms are bent towards the right (fig. 14a), and sauwastika when they are turned in the other direction (fig. 14b). The word swastika is a derivative of swasti, which again comes from su = well, and the verb asti = it is; the expression would seem therefore to correspond with a Greek formula—εὐ εστὶ, and, in fact, amongst the Hindus

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as amongst the Buddhists, its representation has always passed for a propitious sign. 1

The grammarian Panini mentions it as a character used for earmarking cattle. We see in the Ramayana that the ships of the fleet, on which Bharata embarked for Ceylon, bore, doubtlessly on their bows, the sign of the swastika2 Passing now to inscribed monuments we find the gammadion on the bars of silver, shaped like dominos, which, in certain parts of India, preceded the use of money proper. 3

It even appears upon a coin of Krananda, which is held to be the oldest Indian coin, and which is

FIG. 20. ANCIENT INDIAN COIN. (Archæological Survey of India, vol. x., pl. ii., fig. 8.)

Fig. 20. Ancient Indian Coin.
(Archæological Survey of India, vol. x., pl. ii., fig. 8.)

likewise remarkable as exhibiting the first representation of the trisula4

Occurring frequently at the beginning and the end of the most ancient Buddhist inscriptions, several examples of it are to be seen on the Foot-Prints of Buddha sculptured at Amravati. 5 The swastika represents, moreover, according to Buddhist tradition, the first of the sixty-five marks which distinguished the Master's feet, whilst the

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fourth is formed by the sauwastika, and the third by the nandyavarta, a kind of labyrinth, which, in the manner of the Greek meander, may be connected with the gammadion1


Fig. 21. The Nandyavarta.

It must be observed that amongst the Jains, the gammadion is regarded as the emblem of Suparsva, the seventh of the twenty-four Tirthankaras, whilst the nandyavarta is that of the eighteenth. 2

Even at the present day, according to Mr. Taylor, the Hindus, at the time of the new year, paint a gammadion in red at the commencement of their account books, and, in their weddings and other ceremonies, they sketch it in flour on the floors of their houses. 3 It also figures at the end of manuscripts of a recent period, at least under a form which, according to M. Kern, is a development of the tétrascèle4

The gammadion has been likewise preserved to the present time amongst the Buddhists of Tibet, where the women make use of it in the ornamentation of their skirts, and where it is placed on the

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breasts of the dead. 1 In China—where it bears the name of ouan—and in Japan it adorns vases, caskets, and the representations of divinities, as may be seen in the Musée Guimet at Paris; it is even figured upon the breasts of certain statues of Buddha and the Buddhisattvas, where, according to M. Paléologue, it would seem to symbolize the heart. 2 According to another interpretation, given by the Annamite bonzes, it might be the cicatrice of a spear-thrust received by Buddha; but these bonzes, according to M. G. Dumoutier, continue to venerate this symbol without understanding it. 3

In the Woolwich Arsenal the gammadion may be seen upon a cannon captured at the Taku forts by the English. According to M. G. Dumoutier it is nothing else than the ancient Chinese character che, which implies the idea of perfection, of excellence, and would seem to signify the renewal and the endless duration of life. 4 In Japan, according to M. de Milloué, it represents the number 10,000, which symbolizes that which is infinite, perfect, excellent, and is employed as a sign of felicity. 5 A statue of the Buddhisattva Jiso, in the Musée Guimet, rests upon a pedestal ornamented with swastikas.

Lastly let us conclude this long recital, which is in danger of becoming tedious without hope of being complete, by mentioning the presence of the gammadion in Africa, on bronzes brought from Coomassie by the last English Ashantee

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expedition; 1 in South America, on a calabash from the Lenguas tribe; in North America, on pottery from the mounds and from Yucatan, as also on the rattles made from a gourd which the Pueblos Indians use in their religious dances. 2


33:1 Schliemann. Ilios, ville et pays des Troyens. Paris, 1885, pp. 507 et seq.

33:2 Schliemann. Troja. London, 1884, p. 39.—See below fig. 22, 23a, 30, also plate ii., etc.

33:3 Schliemann. Ilios, fig. 226. See also Troja (English ed.) on an "owl headed" vase of the most recent prehistoric city.

34:1 Alb. Dumont. Peintures céramiques de la Grèce propre. Paris, 1873, vol. i., pl. xv., fig. 17.

34:2 Perrot and Chipiez. Histoire de l’art dans l’antiquité. Paris, 1885, vol. iii., figs. 513, 515, 518.

34:3 Victor Duruy. Histoire des Grecs. Paris, 1888, vol. i., fig. 729.

34:4 Daremberg and Saglio. Dictionnaire des antiquités des grecques et romaines. Fasc. 12. Paris, 1888. S. v. Diane, p. 153, fig. 2389.

34:5 Schliemann. Mycènes. Paris, 1879, P. 193.

34:6 Schliemann. Troja, p. 123.

35:1 Numismatic Chronicle. London, vol. viii. (3rd series), p. 103.

35:2 De Mortillet. Musée préhistorique, pl. xcix.

35:3 J. Martha. Archéologie étrusque et romaine, fig. 1.

35:4 Alexandre Bertrand. Archéologie celtique et gauloise. Paris, 2nd ed., 1889, figs. 65–68.

35:5 Alexandre Bertrand. La Gaule avant les Gaulois. Paris, 1884, fig. 77.

35:6 Th. Roller. Les catacombes de Rome. Paris, vol. ii. p. 32.

35:7 Th. Roller. Les catacombes de Rome, vol. i., pl. vi. 1; pl. x., 29, 30, 31; pl. xxxxii., 15; pl. xxxix., i 9; vol. ii., pl. lv., 2; pl. lxxxviii., 13, and pl. xciv., 2.

36:1 Mortillet. Musée préhistorique, pl. xciii., xcviii. and c.

36:2 Rob. Sewell, in the Jour. Rl. As. Soc., vol. xviii. (new series), p. 383.

36:3 De Mortillet. Le signe de la croix avant le christianisme. Paris, 1866, fig. 76.

36:4 Lelewel. Numismatique du moyen âge. Atlas, pl. iv., No. 57.

36:5 Ern. Chantre. L’âge du Bronze. Paris, 1876, 2nd part, pp. 194, 195.

36:6 Bulletins de l’Institut archéologique liégeois, vol. x. p. 106.

37:1 It was maintained that these letters signified:—DoMus æterna or D[eo] M[aximo], so that instead of reading, Diis manibus Primus Marci Filius, M. Buckens, formerly Professor at the Academy of the Fine Arts at Liege, did not hesitate, by a free interpretation of the gammadions, the floral ornamentation, the triangle, the niche, and the lotus leaves, to translate them textually as follows: "The last abode of the son of Marcus in Jesus Christ, God, baptized in the name of the Father and of the Holy Ghost"! (Bulletins de l'Institut archéologique liégeois, vol. x. (1870), p. 55.)

38:1 The stone is now in the "Musée du Parc du Cinquantenaire" at Brussels.

38:2 Lud. Müller. Det saakaldte Hagekors. Copenhagen, 1877, pp. 21, 22.

38:3 Alex. Bertrand. L’autel de Saintes et les triades gauloises, in the Revue archéologique of 1880, vol. xxxix. p. 343

38:4 Lud. Müller. Op. cit., p. 114.

39:1 Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, vol. xxvii., Feb., 1879. See also the same vol., April, 1879, On the Croix gammée or Swastika.

39:2 R. P. Greg. The Fylfot and Swastika, in Archæologia. London, vol. xlviii., part ii., 1885, p. 298.

39:3 Lud. Müller. Op. cit., passim.R. P. Greg. Loc. cit., pl. xix., fig. 27, 31, 32, 33.—C. A. Holmboe. Traces du bouddhisme en Norvège. Paris, 1857, pp. 34 et seq.

39:4 Lud. Müller. Op. cit., p. 113.

39:5 Nineteenth Century for June, 1879, p. 1098.

40:1 Ern. Chantre. Recherches archéologiques dans le Caucase. Paris, 1886, vol. ii., atlas, pl. xi., xv., etc.

40:2 Lud. Müller. Op. cit., fig. 3.

40:3 Perrot and Chipiez. Histoire de l’art dans l’antiquité, vol. iv., fig. 354.

40:4 Numismatique de l’ancienne Afrique. Copenhagen, 1860–1862, vol. ii. p. 40, No. 4.

41:1 See Prof. Max Müller's letter, in Schliemann. Ilios, pp. 517–521.

41:2 Ramayana.

41:3 Edw. B. Thomas. The early Indian Coinage, in the Numismatic Chronicle, vol. iv. (new series), pl. xi.

41:4 See our fig. 146.

41:5 James Fergusson. History of Indian and Eastern Architecture. London. Murray, 1876, p, 184. See our title-page.

42:1 Eug. Burnouf. Le Lotus de la Bonne-Loi. Paris, 1852, p. 626.

42:2 Colebrooke. Observations on the Jainas, vol. ix., Asiatic Researches, p. 308.

42:3 Eug. Burnouf. Op. cit., p. 626.

42:4 Kern:. Der Buddhismus. Leipzig, 1884, vol. ii. p. 239, note 3.—Colebrooke gives to this sign the name of srivatsa, and makes it out to be the distinctive mark of the tenth Tirthankara of the Jains. M. Schwartz has compared it to the four-leaved clover, which also "brings luck."

43:1 Journal Asiatique, 2nd series, vol. iv. p. 245. Pallas. Samlungen historischer Nachrichten über die mongolischen Volkerschaften, vol. i. p. 277.

43:2 Michel Paléologue. L’Art chinois, p. 47.

43:3 G. Dumoutier. Les Symboles, les Emblèmes et les Accessoires du culte chez les Annamites. Paris, 1891, pp. 19–20.

43:4 G. Dumoutier. Le svastika et la roue solaire en Chine, in the Revue d’Ethnographie. Paris, 1885, p. 331.

43:5 De Milloué. Le svastika, in the Bulletins de la Société d’Anthropologie of Lyons, 1881, v. i. pp. 191 et seq.

Next: II. Different Interpretations of the Gammadion