Sunday 1 November 2015

arcana and hour-glass

The esoteric roots of the Third Reich—which misappropriated and ruined a lot of heretofore widespread symbolism—was based in a selective but seemingly innocent cultural revival and revanche of Germanic interest after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire that began with the folk- and linguistic studies of the Brothers Grimm. Once a lexical tradition—though borrowed and forced to fit a unified agenda, a practise perpetuated to awful extremes in just a short amount of time, other aspiring mystics found niches that could be capitalised upon in similar ways.
As nationalist sentiments simmered, parlour-games like astrology and divination seemed to be too entrenched with foreign influence and a domestic, German versions of the signs of the zodiac and tarot-readings (and the I-Ching) was readily adopted. The individual responsible for this new set of symbols was an Austrian occultist named Guido von List, who became obsessed with the cult of Odin. Stricken with cataracts, von List identified himself more and more with the Norse god, who had traded one eye for wisdom and insight, when a surgery left him temporarily blind for a period of almost year. During this time, von List found the meaning of the runic alphabet revealed to him and subsequently published his pamphlet on the Armanen Runen, which while based on the established signs, widely distorted their accepted meanings. Most familiar and infamous, the swastika was an international symbol, maybe one of the Indo-European people’s most ancient and enduring symbols, that meant “gift” or good-luck, almost universally. The English term for Hakenkreuz (the hooked cross or the cross with serifs) retains the original Sanskrit meaning of good fortune, which almost makes it seem as if the symbol were defamed twice over.
The dual lightening-bolts that came to represent the Schutzstaffel (the SS) singularly represented the sun and not victory (Sieg), as von List attributed being unable to foresee the consequences. The interpretation gets even more far-fetched with the Hagal rune—ᚼ being the sign for hail or a snowflake enlisted, strangely, as a mark of solidarity and faith. The rune for a yew-tree which originally connoted a measure of protection was somewhat sequitur associated with the pharmaceutical arts (as was displayed on the apothecary shingle for many years) but then ᛉ (Algiz) was expanded as the Lebensrune to indicate life and parturition and its inverted form ᛦ was forwarded to mean death. The sign was the badge of those charged with administering the Lebensborn programme and became a common way on headstones to indicate date of birth and date of death, instead of the traditional * and ✝. The above snowflake rune, Hagal, was accorded with the high-status of signifying fidelity because it contained both life and death. Despite the dubious and engineered heritage, masses of people took this home-spun fortune-telling and the trappings of new iconography very seriously and as a source of national identity, and once a new regime adopted these badges of power, they already had an air of legitimacy.