Cambs Uni Publications


Icelandic Symbolism – Part Two

14th November 2015
Posted by S Taylor

The Icelandic for Swastika is Hakakross. 

This symbol has appeared in a great variety of contexts over the centuries; it appeared on cremation urns, as a charm for fishermen in all weathers and as a commercial logo for a shipping company.

Lucky charms

Ginfaxi amulet

It seems very likely that the Thorshammar was regarded by many Icelanders as a charm, to deter thieves.  It seems likely that there were fishermen operating in the North Sea who valued such an amulet.  The full significance of Ginfaxi is uncertain, but it is listed under the heading of ‘Glimugaldur ‘ or magic charms for wrestlers.

The amuletic use of the Fylfot for protection also spread to the British Isles. There is an example from the Cuerdale Hoard from Lancashire, and from the Goldborough Hoard from Yorkshire. The latter shows close resemblance to the Christian cross and may have been a Christian amulet.

Sometimes the Thorshammar or T-shaped bones were used as amulets to bring good fortune and as safeguards against drowning by Manx and Whitby fishermen.  It has been claimed that as late as the end of the 19th century the Scandinavians, Danes, Germans and English still used the Swastika as a magical charm.

There was considerable interest at the turn of the 20th Century, in connection with Iceland’s struggle for full independence, in the possibility of using the Hakakross as an emblem of national identity.  However, although it was never formally adopted as part of a national coat of arms, it did appear unofficially in a number of places. Tiles in the shape of a Hakakross were laid in the floor of the entrance to the National Library that was built around 1908.

Herring Era Museum

Herring Museum artifact

There is a rather unusual example of its use in the museum in Siglufjordur. There are various items of memorabilia including one in which the Hakakross is formed from 8 fish suitably arranged, with an inscription in German that reads ‘Prima lslandische Mattise Heringe ‘

Tags: , , ,

Comments are currently closed.