|Photo by Katie Baumler-Morales|
Monday, April 7, 2014
Some years ago the Montana Club in Helena was undergoing a little cleanup. The indoor/outdoor carpeting that covered the entryway had become loose and dangerous. Workmen pulled it up and were aghast to discover what lay beneath. The historic tiled entryway was interspersed with swastikas.
The discovery had the community talking, wondering if they would be quickly covered again. Fortunately management chose to leave the swastikas exposed. They are a fabulous teaching tool, demonstrating how meanings can radically change. Research revealed that after the first Montana Club burned to the ground in 1903, members put much thought into the message they wanted the building to convey. They searched especially for just the right symbol to install in the entryway. They finally found exactly what they were looking for. Swastikas are ancient symbols that have been used for six thousand years to mean abundance and prosperity. Formed with a Greek cross, the arms of the cross can be bent in either direction. “Swastika” in Sanskrit means wellbeing or good luck. It appears in ancient Tibetan, Thai, and Turkish artifacts. To Hindus, swastikas symbolize the sun’s rotation; Buddhists consider them Buddha’s footprints. Swastikas symbolized friendship among American Indian tribes. To the Hopi Indians of the Southwest they also depict migration routes. To the Navajo, swastikas represent the whirling log legend of an outcast tribal member who rolled downriver in a hollowed out log. The ancient symbol even ornaments the Capitol in Washington, D.C. And in 1903, Montana Club founders placed swastikas at their club’s entrance to wish friendship, peace, and prosperity to all who entered. With the rise of the Third Reich, Hitler transformed this universal symbol of good wishes and good luck to a symbol of hate.