A Sign of the Times

I know what your thinking.

I had similar thoughts when I spotted it in the store. The red background and the symbol give a very distinctive Nazi impression to this postcard but all is not what it seems. The Swastika is a symbol that is believed to have originated in Ancient India and has influenced many different cultures.

The point of this blog entry is to look at how something like a symbol can be ‘claimed’ by a person or people and keep an association with it. World War II is still something which intrigues and haunts many paeople. It is still possible to speak to someone who fought in the war. The effect the Nazi’s had on our society is hugely profound and the way they have affected the use of the swastika is a perfect example of this. Use of this symbol in Germany is almost unheard of and in many countries is seen as inherently racist.

My eyes were instantly drawn to one thing...and not for the right reasons

Which brings us to the postcard. Why is it here? Where does it come from? What does it mean?

To find the answers to this we need to look back to the late 1700’s.  Archaeological finds of the time catapulted the symbol into the spotlight and brought it to a new wider audience. Its use rose and it became a very popular symbol. Adorning buildings and flags the symbol even became a logo of Rudyard Kipling. By the start of the 20th century the symbol had become associated with good luck and friendship.

The postcard itself has been sent as a seal of friendship from a friend holidaying in the Isle of Man to someone who lived on Railway Road in Blackburn. It was sent on the 7th June 1922. This postcard was not sent with any political or racist undertones but reflects the use of the symbol during the era it was sent in.

When the Nazi’s used the symbol for their flag it changed it’s meaning and how the symbol would be used for years to come. Would you send this postcard now? Probably not. However, with the current trend of ‘reclaiming’ words maybe there will be a day when the swastika will once again adorn postcards and buildings as a sign of friendship and luck. If it does, I imagine it may not be in my lifetime.

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Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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