I am continuing to review the 45 articles comprising the anthology The Lost Worlds of Ancient America (New Page Books, 2012). This is my review of Chapter 5.
Chapter 5 returns to the book’s overwhelming obsession with the swastika in its early chapters, which seems to be a remnant of editor Frank Joseph’s Neo-Nazi past. Here John J. White, in a poorly-proofread chapter (seriously—it’s missing letters out of the middle of words), makes a silly claim that the swastika in all times and places can be traced back to an exceedingly ancient ur-religion of the Earth Mother Goddess and Earth Father God. This is warmed over nineteenth century theorizing (e.g., Frazer’s Golden Bough), and it ignores the obvious, which is that the swastika is an exceedingly simple figure to draw and was likely hit upon independently in many different cultures. This is made even more likely since White uses examples of “Swastikas” (which he always capitalizes) that are not right-angled hooked crosses but rather swirls, curls, and sundry other shapes. By this rationale, a child's pinwheel is also a crypto-swastika.
White—about whom I can find no information apart from his many pseudo-scholarly publications for the Midwestern Epigraphic Society—departs reality altogether by asserting, without evidence, that any circle surrounding these pseudo-swastikas is “the serpent in the ouroborus configuration […] implying the protective aspect of the Male Principle.” The ouroborus, or snake biting its own tail, is famous for holding up the swastika in Theosophy’s logo, but in the examples White provides, there is no indication of a serpent whatsoever—only a circle without head, tale, scales, or anything.
But that’s the not the best part. This is:
Do I even have to explain why this is untrue? “Son” derives from the proto-Germanic *sunuz, from the proto-Indo-European *sunu and cognate with the Frisian sunu and Gothic sunus. The original word meant “offspring,” from the root *su, “to give birth.” By contrast, “Sun” derives from the proto-Germanic *sunnon, from the proto-Indo-European *s(u)wen, cognate with the Old Norse sunna and Gothic sunno). The original word meant “to shine.” Completely different. (Though, in fairness, words with an asterisk are reconstructed forms; nevertheless, the cognates in daughter languages clearly demarcate the difference between son-words and sun-words.)
Also, the sun was not usually the son of the earth gods in any particular sense, any more so than all the other nature gods. For example, the Greek Helios was a Titan. He was therefore a son of the earth, Gaia, in a generalized sense. But Hesiod (Theogony 371) makes him a son of Gaia’s children Hyperion and Theia, and thus actually the grandson of the earth. But at any rate, even in places where the sun is the son of the earth, he (or she) is just one of many, and not specifically titled the “Son” in any meaningful way. The more frequent appellation is “son of the Sun” given to the sun god’s children, including the Colchian king Aeëtes and many kings in ancient Mesopotamia. But in other high cultures, the sun was not related to the earth at all. In Mesopotamia, Shamash was actually the son of the moon, not the earth.
White then concludes with a painfully inaccurate discussion of the term “swastika,” reading extensive meaning into the variant spellings “suastika” and “svastika.” He presumes, incorrectly, that the “w/u” and “v” spellings represent an ancient divide between (a) European and (b) Asian and Native American traditions. This is utterly false. The spellings arose from different scholars’ attempts to transliterate the Sanskrit phonemes into English. The Sanskrit word is today spelled svastika, but it was not used historically outside areas that spoke Sanskrit. Native Americans do not have an indigenous version of the word “swastika” using those sounds. The Navajo called them a tsil no’oli, or “whirling logs,” and in the absence of written records we have no way of knowing what the earlier Anasazi called the symbol. In ancient Greece, it was called the grammadion, and in Tibet the g-yung drung. In Chinese, the symbol is called the wan. In fact, prior to 1871, the word “swastika” was not used in English at all but was referred to by the Greek name or simply as the “hooked cross” or “crooked cross.” The point is: White is wrong on all counts.
Further, White’s etymology for the word is also false. White claims that the word embodies the names of the male and female sexual principle, reading the term as “S(a)va-stika,” “the-father (and) the earth.” This is again false. The well-established etymology for swastika gives “su” (“good”) and “asti” (“to be”) with the diminutive/intensifying suffix “ka.” Thus, su-asti-ka yields “the very good thing,” or “the auspicious thing” or “lucky charm.”
So, 0-5 on “compelling evidence of ancient immigrants.” This chapter didn’t even require any real research to realize just how silly it was. It didn’t even make a prima facie case. Proof requires something more than just "A looks like B so A must be B."
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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