A Raft with a framework of staves

The Swastika
From Baden-Powell, What Scouts Can Do: More Yarns, 1921

Editor’s Note:

Please bear in mind that this was written in 1921, long before the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany and their adoption of the Swastika as their symbol. As B-P points out, the swastika design existed in many cultures. The word "swastika" derives from the word "svastika" in the ancient Sanskrit language of India. It means "well-being."

Random House Webster’s College Dictionary provides the following definitions: 1. a symbolic or ornamental figure of ancient origin, consisting of a cross with arms of equal length, each arm having a continuation at right angles in a uniformly clockwise or counterclockwise direction. 2. this figure as the emblem of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich.

On the stole of an ancient bishop of Winchester, Edyndon, who died in 1366, is the Swastika or Scouts’ Thanks Badge. It was at that time called the " Fylfot," and was said to represent Obedience or Submission, the different arms of the cross being in reality legs in the attitude of kneeling.

But as you know from the account of the Swastika Thanks Badge which I have given you in Scouting for Boys, this symbol was used in almost every part of the world in ancient days, and therefore has various meanings given to it.

It has been found engraved on weapons belonging to the Norsemen. It was also engraved on the spindles used by the ancient Greeks in their- weaving at Troy.

In India rice is spread on the ground in the form of the Swastika at the baptism of a baby boy to bring him luck.

The Indians in North America use it as an ornament, and it has been found engraved on ancient pottery in Peru.

How it got from one country to another, separated as they are by oceans, it is difficult to guess, but some people who say they know all about these things, affirm that there was once a great continent where now there is the Atlantic Ocean, but it went under the sea in an earthquake.

This continent was called Atlantis, and joined up Europe with America.

It was supposed to have four vast rivers running from a central mountain in different directions—North, East, South, and West—and the Swastika is merely a map of Atlantis showing those four rivers rising from the same center.

The Thanks Badge

Anyway, whatever its origin was the Swastika now stands for the Badge of Fellowship among Scouts all over the world, and when anyone has done a kindness to a Scout it is their privilege to present him—or her—with this token of their gratitude, which makes him a sort of member of the Brotherhood, and entitles him to the help of any other Scout at any time and at any place.

I want specially to remind Scouts to keep their eyes open and never fail to spot anyone wearing this badge. It is their duty then to go up to such person, make the Scout sign, and ask if they can be of any service to the wearer.

I have heard of several instances where Scouts have done this, and it has greatly increased the value of the Thanks Badge to the persons who were wearing it when they found that Scouts recognized it and were anxious to do a Good Turn to them.

Baden-Powell, Baden-Powell: What Scouts Can Do–More Yarns, 1921

Chapter IV. Getting Good Sport—Life in the Wild. Part One: Knowing the Language — Deduction — Why He Was Fat and Rich — Mountineering: The Right Way to Climb Hills — Maxim for Scouts — Observation — Close to the Enemy — What the Indian Saw — An Envelope for a Boy — African Tribes
Chapter IV. Getting Good Sport—Life in the Wild. Part Two: On the March — Camping — Hunting — Fire-Lighting — Initiation of Boys — Discipline — Chivalry — Salutation of Friendship — Totem — Signalling —The Rally — Elephant Hunter and Scout — Two Narrow Escapes — The Boy Hunter —The End of a Great Career.
From Chapter VII: "Stalking and the Scout’s Staff"
From Chapter VII: "The Swastika"
From Chapter VIII: "Biking in Bosnia"
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Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1997
Last Modified: 10:30 PM on June 30, 1997