How to Un-Appropriate

Ancient bronze cross of Odin

Symbols are powerful. The five elements are nearly ubiquitous. Even traditions that focus on the four elements/directions have a concept that relates to the fifth element: ether, spirit, vitality, and so on.

As I reach into my own cultural heritage for symbols that represent the five elements, I’m finding that these symbols have been appropriated by racist, nationalistic, and destructive people. Appropriation means that something has been taken without permission.

The most well known symbol appropriated in hate is the swastika. This and the sowilo rune, also used by German Nazis, and many more symbols have been stolen and sullied beyond retrieval.

I don’t know how to bring back a reverence for the symbolism that, for me, represents core concepts of indigenous existence.

What I see in Odin’s cross, for instance, is the four elements with a circle that runs through each element. The circle represents the fifth element that animates and enlivens the other elements. I also see the four directions, four stages of life, four seasons, and the four phases of the moon.

In traditional herbalism, each plant is associated with an element. The symbols of the elements are a wonderful learning tool, and of course a memory tool, for categorizing plants. And everything else for that matter.

So you might see how I am frustrated that the symbols have been used to spread hate. I’m not sure how I will work through this, but I’ll post more as I grow to understand and develop the depths of my personal traditions.

General symbol directory:

Hate symbol directory:

Irish perspective: