Kauan tekeillä ollut My Swastika-dokumenttielokuva on valmistumassa nyt alkuvuodesta. Dokumentin ohjaaja Domick Crowley tarvitsee apuasi elokuvan Suomen ensi-iltojen järjestämisessä. Haussa on teattereita tai muita tiloja (kirjastojen suuremmat kokoustilat yms., joissa dokumenttia voitaisiin näyttää käyvät myös). Erityisesti Helsinki-Turku-Tampere akselilla on apu tarpeen. Näytöksiä olisi näillä näkymin tarkoitus järjestää toukokuun aikana. Jos voit olla avuksi näytösten järjestämisessä ota Dominickiin yhteyttä! Dominick on itse tulossa paikalle Suomen näytöksiin kertomaan dokumentista, vastailemaan kysymyksiin, jne.
As a brief introduction to those who don’t know you – who are you and what do you do?
I’m a controversial, renegade Canadian artist, poet and mystic. As a young man, I had mysterious mystical experiences which awakened me to a much deeper vision of life and art. Now I’m being honoured around the world, chiefly for my efforts to reclaim the sacred swastika and repackage the spiritual.
You are from Canada – What is life like there?
Canada is full of nice people but not much culture (indigenous culture suffers from annihilation) because we have all come from elsewhere and it takes centuries to build an identity. We play hockey and hang animal corpses on our living room walls.
What is your favorite color and why?
In my dreams I was always wearing yellow, driving yellow cars, finding yellow things. For me yellow is the colour of the lover, the source of life, illumination, when the soul is filled with inspiration and creativity and blessing.
What inspires you as an artist?
Spiritual experiences and dreams, beauty and truth.
What do you aim to achieve with your art?
I express a deep part of myself, so deep that it is no longer about the small “me” but about the inner self that belongs to all beings 卐
Swastika and things related
Your relationship to Swastika is a spiritual one. Tell us about the spiritual experience that got you started in this – what happened, where and when? What is the “Secret doctrine of the Holy Fuck” involved? How this experience changed your life?
At the age of 27, in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, 5 Feb 1965, in the Mountain View Motel, I went into a trance that night and my spirit soared up into what I call the Womb of the Sacred, where I was surrounded by fiery beauty and exciting power like rolling thunder. I thought I was dying and was extremely frightened until I surrendered to it and was drawn up into a radiant light that is the absolute formless being, the Self. I call it Secret Doctrine of the Holy Fuck so it doesn’t get confused with religion which our world suffers from. It was a state of love, ecstasy and oneness with the Nameless One.
I tried to tell my wife, my friends, my relatives, about this wonderful awaken in my soul. They edged away as if I had caught some terrible disease. A local priest told me I was insane and needed to turn myself in. I had walked away from church during my art school days and his words made me realize religion will never bring about such a creative experience. I decided I would be who I truly was even if the whole world shunned me as my friends were now doing. By the way, no drugs were involved in any of my experiences, which continued almost daily for a year.
Your artist name is ManWoman. In your videos Art talk and The real me was never born you talk about feminine aspect of Swastika and its importance. Does your artist name represent your spiritual work – effort to bring feminine and masculine energies together in a harmonious way?
During my visions all opposites melted into each other. In the dreams that followed, I was always both male and female and the dream people called me ManWoman. I was told this was my real name and I don’t need to tell you how I struggled with the idea of going through life with this name. It ruined my art career.
Swastika is evidently the most important symbol, spiritual symbol, to you. Are there some other symbols that are special to you? Why Swastika is the most important symbol to you?
My art is full of symbols, archetypes that point to an inner world which cannot be communicated but only hinted at. In dreams, the swastika became the symbol for that vortex of love and truth that embraced my soul in the Womb of the Sacred.
"God cannot be represented by any image. This was my best effort (1965)."
How would you describe your spirituality? What do you believe in? I’ve got an impression that you do not much appreciate formal religions, seeing that genuine spirituality should not (or could not) be put in strict boxes that formal religions are. I’ve got an impression that you have quite shamanistic basic touch in your spirituality with some buddhist influences – Am I correct?
I would say you could see many religions in my spirituality because I’m talking about the primal experience that all founders of all religions must have experienced. I’m very open ended and experimental. My initiation into it was through a shamanistic trance, although I had no teachers and this all came at me like a bolt from the blue. – pure without the baggage of tradition or scripture or doctrine.
Buddhism has no deity but the inner Buddha which is in us all – I like that. Hinduism has so many deities that everything is holy – I like that. My experiences can be compared to what Hindus call Kundalini Shakti – the release of the sacred feminine snake up the spine to levels or chakras of illumination. I like the Sufi way of honouring the sacred wherever it is found.
I detest all religions which use their god like a club to bully all others into submission to a set of stupid mindless beliefs and are willing to die for world domination of same stupid beliefs. So many perpetrators have “god” in their back pocket to justify their actions.
If you would meet the pope, Richard Dawkins, and Dalai Llama, what would you tell them?
Gentle Swastika (1984)
I had to Google Richard Dawkins – what person of intelligence seeing all the horrors and perpetration done by religion in our world wouldn’t choose to be atheist? I would tell the pope to kiss my ass. If he’s Christ’s representative on earth then I’m the Virgin Mary. I detest what has been imposed on the innocent and the gullible by the Catholic church. I like the Dalai Lama because he promotes loving kindness. It is cute that you spelled his name Llama like the animal from South America – soft and furry.
Ah, yes, I spelled that wrong, heh! In addition to your paintings and poetry you have also written three books. What are they about?
Gentle Swastika: Reclaiming the Innocence, a history of the worldwide uses of the swastika and my vision to restore it to its sacred purpose.
Homesick For Eternity, the autobiography of my awakening years, the trials, the bliss, the astonishment, illustrated by paintings of my visions.
Midnite Freak Show: Art, Poetry and Dangerous Mysticism, my poetry plus another series of paintings.
You have been called the father of Swastika reclaimationists. How do you feel about this? Did you get the call to start to work for reclaimation of Swastika immediately during the “Swastika experience” you had, or did that call develop gradually after the experience?
I believe I earned the title “father” of the Reclaim the Swastika movement the hard way with over 40 years of being tattooed with swastikas, teaching, networking, holding the hard place of opposing all the enormous prejudice against the swastika. And sometimes angry confrontations. It takes courage.
A wise old man with white hair, white beard, and white clothes, marked my throat in a dream and asked me to restore the swastika to its holy meanings. I nearly choked because I had Polish relatives taken to Auschwitz during the war. My mother said, when she sees a swastika, it cuts right through her. Still, I won her with the evidence I accumulated for a sacred swastika.
The Waitress From Swastika Café
Has the reclaimationist work become easier as we have got more distance from WW II – or has it stayed the same or even become more difficult as the West has become more “politically correct”?
Holocaust survivors and veterans of the war are dying off. The younger generation is looking for a cause and seeking a new world view, so yes, it is spreading beyond my expectations. Political correctness will never stifle this vision. Even young Jews are joining the cause.
As reclaimationists in general, you are not happy about what Nazis did with Swastika. This is evident for example from your videos To hell with Hitler and Sacred Swastika. How often people get upset from your Swastikas? Do people “get it” easily when you start to explain to them what Swastika is really all about?
I’m not comfortable with being called a reclamationist, which suggests a particular single group. There are many people who want to see the swastika restored – Native peoples in Canada and USA, Mayans, Western Buddhists, Western Hindus, various Pagan groups, the Tattoo community and worldwide youth and rock ‘n’ roll culture – it’s hard to put us all in one pot.
What have been the best things that have happened for Swastika reclaimationists during the last decades? The worst?
Photo by Bobby Neal Adams for Re/Search #12, Modern Primitives, 1989.
My interview in RE/Search Modern Primitives reach a vast audience among the tattoo community, which helped the idea spread to many countries. Ongoing ignorance of the true meaning is the worst contributor. The release of the My Swastika documentary that started at the Tattoo Festival in Cobh, Ireland in 2010 will be another huge boost to public education. Since the Irish Festival, interviews with me have been published in magazines from UK, Ireland, France, Germany.
What does it tell about that Swastika is in the West still associated with Nazis? In addition to the obvious historical associations, are there some deeper level spiritual or other currents that are connected with this? Does this kind Western mentality involved with Swastika’s association with Nazis manifest some deep spiritual, cultural and other problems that we in the West are dealing with today? Or is this kind of question not meaningful, are those things not really connected?
What happened in WWII cannot be erased but brave people who choose to use the symbol for new or restored old meanings are what will really make a shift in the overall consciousness around the swastika. No one will remember WWII forever.
Think of the most sacred thing in your life
think of the most precious thing
and put the swastika into that place
Put the swastika into your heart.
Put the swastika on your altar.
Put the swastika on the image you use
to represent God, love, peace, or the cosmos.
Put the swastika on the thing that makes you happy.
You will begin to see what the swastika has meant to humans
over this entire planet for all of our human history.
For these places are exactly the places it occupied
for thousands of years until the Second World War,
when it fell victim to a chronic infection.
I say to hell with Hitler –
me and my friends are taking it back!
When the day comes that Swastika is reclaimed, what will that world be like? How it differs from today’s world?
The swastika exists in so many cultures, it is part of the collective unconscious as Carl Jung realized. We will be inwardly richer not having our most sacred sign stolen by an evil war. In the orient, the swastika has never been lost so this issue is mostly a problem for those nations touched by the Nazi regime.
You have a massive collection of Swastika related items in your Swastika Museum. What kind of items you have and how many items you have all in all? Is your Swastika Museum open to the public? Are there some special Swastika items you would like to get into your museum?
Lucky Swastika cigar box blankets in ManWoman's Swastika Museum.
My museum is just in my front room. People do drop in for a visit. It is not a formal museum. I have many drawers full, walls covered, filing cabinets and trunks – Victorian jewelry, turn of the century postcards, Navaho rugs, baseball caps, thousands of items. I have never counted them all. I have most of the important items. I’m not collecting more. In fact, I have been giving some away to my supporters. People can see some of the items on my YouTube videos.
Do you have any Nazi-Germany Hakenkreuzes in your collection or have you decided to not include them? Why yes or no?
When I first started in 1967 several people offered me Nazi stuff. I refused.
Later in 1985, three of my first swastika penpals and I met at the home of Carolyn O’Neil, the town historian of Swastika, Ontario, Canada. There was Douglas Youngblood from Chicago, a researcher, and Alfred Harbich, who called himself Guru Svastika, a German artist. We had many heated arguments about not including Nazi items. Carolyn and I did not want any Nazi items. The others argued for showing the complete history. We left with no agreement. I have none in my collection. My purpose was to create The Friends Of The Swastika and any tainted items would sabotage all my efforts.
You are part of the forthcoming documentary My Swastika. What kind of part you have in the documentary? What kind of hopes and expectations you have for the documentary?
I’m featured and interviewed about the visions and the long journey I have been on with the Swastika. I was guest speaker at two tattoo festivals in Ireland and also an underground music festival in Denmark where I showed slides and talked about the symbol. I believe this documentary will ignite an even bigger expansion to the save the swastika movement.
ManWoman gives a talk about Swastika. 2nd Traditional Tattoo And World Culture Festival, Cobh, Co Cork, Ireland. June 3rd-6th 2011.
You took part to the 2nd Traditional Tattoo And World Culture Festival in Ireland this year. How was it? What kind of Swastika reclaimationist program and activities there were?
I have never used the term Reclamationist which is now being dubbed on us. This is a grassroots movement with no preconceived agenda. There were many playful swastikas, a swastika prayer ritual, swastika medicine wheel, swastika prayer flags and banners, swastika tattoos, swastika clothing, swastika cakes and cookies, swastika chocolate-covered marzipan handed out like communion wafers. My wife Astarté built a swastika-shaped garden in a small sacred grove where we did the prayer tie ceremony. All create by various individual with no organized plan. It was a Swastika Happening.
What is Swastika, that ancient sacred symbol, all about, in its core?
It speaks of the source of our being, our cycles of incarnation, transformation, celebration and enormous blessings 卐
What kind of plans you have for the future as an artist, as a Swastika reclaimationist?
I don’t really have plans. I’m networking with swastika people all over the globe. Sometimes the person who plants the seeds isn’t the one who reaps the harvest. I follow my vision and now it’s up to the Great Mystery to unfold it’s plans. I do not take credit for something that is inspired by the Spirit.
What makes you happy?
Being who I truly am without compromise or fear or common sense 卐
The following article is published with the kind permission of Alexa MacDermot. Her website White Lady Art – Art for contemporary Dublin can be found from here.
The article is about Irish Swastika reclaimationists Dominick Crowley of My Swastika documentary, Phil Cummins of Traditional World Culture Festival, Boz Mugabe of The Gentle Swastika blog and Trevor McLave of pro Swastika metal band Coldwar. Artist known as Manwoman is also discussed. Photos used in the article are from The Gentle Swastika blog 卐
by Alexa MacDermot
I visited Dominick at his flat in Kilmainham in March 2011, where I learned about what it was to be a Swastika reclaimationist. He is part of a group who call themselves the Gentle Swastika Collective. In Ireland the most prominent reclaimationists include Boz Mugabe, an Irish surrealist artist; Phil Cummins, a tattoo artist in Cork; Trevor McLave, lead singer of the metal/punk rock band “Cold War”; ManWoman, a Canadian artist, poet and writer; and a rock band called “Yurt”. Although Ferank Manseed, a Buddhist tattoo artist, is based in the U.K., he can also be considered a major figure on the Irish reclaimationist scene. Driven by their own artistic goals they each strive to use the tetraskellion in their art, the collective umbrella term for the hundreds of symbols that are known loosely to most people as swastikas.
The Collective has a large following world-wide made up of spiritualists, scientists, artists, and people of a multitude of varying professions, and as Dominick pointed out to me the swastika affects every possible facet of life – from architecture to theology, electronics to history.
Dominick is currently filming and editing footage for his documentary My Swastika, interviewing people from different religions, age groups, and professions about their opinions concerning the reintroduction of the swastika into mainstream society as a peaceful and healing symbol. Dominick, and his Polish fiancée, Kasia, have armed themselves with a library full of reference books with which to argue the positive of every possible argument against the reintroduction of the symbol, and serve to illustrate the reasons they see as the backbone of their project. This academic approach of presenting theories with references has the stamp of Kasia’s higher education background.
Kasia is an archaeologist, and as a scientist this “journey” into an increased awareness and understanding of the symbol is, for her, one of intellectual properties only. With an education and professional life grounded in research and documented fact, Kasia forms the logical and earthly-bound Ying to Dominick’s neo-theological Yang. For Dominick, this is a spiritual journey that came to him as a calling from Swastika itself – he uses the word to describe the spirit of the symbol that embodies it, a presence who speaks to him when meditated upon.
The Gentle Swastika Collective seem to boldly play with fire by publicising their loyalty to a symbol that is for the West very clearly associated in the mainstream psyche with Nazi Germany. When I asked what I supposed to be a constant enquiry into their response to people who might accuse them of Neo-Nazi sympathy, Dominick and Kasia replied they had not yet been asked this. Whether this was due to lack of exposure of the Collective, or a suprising number of unquestioning followers or simply a lack of general interest in the question, they told me they were not at all pro-Nazi, and furthermore that the symbol had been bastardised by Hitler’s Third Reich from its peaceful beginnings.
Anyone who has been to India might recall that the swastika has a multitude of different forms that are represented in art and architecture. Its four-legged wheel is a recurrent symbol of the Hindu faith, in particular “Jainism” meaning the seventh saint, Tirthankara Suparsva. In Hindu “svastika” means lucky or auspicious, and Jain temples and holy books contain this symbol many times over. Although the swastika is an Eastern holy symbol and is acceptable and revered in India, the people of the West are not yet a hundred years past the fall of Hitler’s hold over Europe, and thus the symbol still generates an extreme reaction to those whose families were affected in the Holocaust not so very many generations ago.
Canadian reclaimationist, ManWoman, is someone who is quick to state on his website that he has no desire to undermine or insult those who were personally or indirectly affected by the atrocities performed beneath the symbol in the Nazi camps. But is this avoidable? Certainly one cannot please everyone, but is it simply ‘too soon,’ and if so when would the time be right? Dominick believes that to disgrace the swastika because of the millions who died is unfair to the original meanings behind the symbol.
If that is the reason people would turn away from it then should we also consider other symbols that have heralded armies in fanatical religious wars? Such as the Christian crucifix for example, responsible for the Holy War that waged for nearly two hundred years between Christians and Muslims, pagans, heretics, and anyone else who wasn’t Roman Catholic. Against Hitler’s six year rampage across Europe, the Crusades killed far more people. But the Crusades are no longer present in living history whereas there are still living Holocaust survivors, and hardly-weathered memorials that still retain an acute sense of despair and horror.
Kasia realises that there is no difference in most people’s minds between the word “Hitler” and the symbol of the Nazi hakenkreuz – “hooked cross”. Indeed, the documentary Triumph of the Will (1934) by Leni Riefenstahl, was unable to use a picture of Hitler due to technical faults and substituted a swastika to achieve the same effect in post-production. Despite these vertiginous hurdles the Gentle Swastika Collective wish to reinstate the symbol, and give it a rebirth from the ashes of the Holocaust.
The documentary divides the reclaimationists into three distinct categories, that has defined the symbol in three separate ways in turn. There are those that collect memorabilia from a time when the symbol was accepted by societies in the West, and was used as logos, seen on clothing, jewellery and by businesses that deny ever using it when asked today. For these people the importance of hunting and gathering the symbol in its various forms is of historical and sociological interest. Collections in individuals’ homes across the world are full of swastikas that meant something utterly different in their time, and websites pioneering the Collective are sent photographs of these objects to post up daily. As well as objects, a fascination with swastika tattoos has risen, that leads on to the second group of reclaimationists.
Dominick understands that young people need something to fight for, something to believe in and to defend. A symbol as downtrodden and demonised as the swastika becomes like an empty vessel for people who want to champion freedom of expression, anti-establishment thinking, and to become an activist in defense of perceived injustice. Reclaiming the swastika fills a need to create a backlash against mainstream culture. For this reason we see a huge amount of people within the punk community embracing this movement as it provides a banner under which to march.
Tattoo artist Phil Cummins runs the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival, that has become an unofficial European event that brings reclaimationists together for three days a year in Cobh, Co. Cork. People can roam the fields wearing swastika symbols without fear of
2nd Traditional Tattoo And World Culture Festival, Cobh, Co Cork, Ireland. June 3rd-6th 2011.
reproach, attend spiritual ceremonies that focus on the symbol’s self-affirming aspect, and have hand-poked tattoos of a variety of patterns, including swastikas, that collectively give rise to a sensation of membership. These people feel a keen sense of belonging as they come together at the festival. Ironically, while some devotees have swastikas tattooed on body parts like their arm-pits or feet, the Hindus to whom this symbol is sacred define these areas as unclean, and therefore the tattoo is placed disrespectfully. But many attendees are not Hindu, and have embraced the symbol for their own interpretation. This freedom to do what you want with the symbol is welcomed by those who dislike religious doctrine, and are looking for something that is as inclusive as it is distinct from those who are not as ‘free-thinking’ as them. To follow swastika you can be a rebel and a hippy.
Leading the spiritual aspect of the festival is ‘Manwoman’, who has been called the father of the swastika reclamation. He has embraced the symbol in his life for over fourty years. He is a collector of swastika paraphernalia, educates interested parties about the symbol’s history, and plainly feels a deep spiritual calling to offer the overall negative current opinion about the swastika his own enlightened one. Manwoman is part of the third perceived branch of the reclaimationists, who are less concerned with the physical symbol itself and most connect with the spiritual meaning of swastika. The word itself has the universal meaning of a peaceful attitude towards the whole, with minor variations depending on each culture who uses it: the Hindus translate swastika as ‘peace and unity’, the Indians ‘all well-being’. In fact to use the word ‘swastika’ outside of speaking about the Indian symbol is incorrect. To speak about the tetraskellion in China you would call it ‘wan’, or in Japan it would become ‘manji’. There are hundreds of different tetraskellion symbols and each one has its own particular name, yet they are all associated in the West with Hitler’s atrocities.
If an individual’s aversion to the symbol stems from recent history then it also depends on the surfeit of the symbol within the country they live in. One might conclude automatically that the people of Poland would naturally despise it as an aberration, and the suggestion of reclaiming it as something other than Nazi ideology as amoral and disrespectful. But Dominick found that when interviewing public on the streets of Warsaw – the site of the largest ghetto of Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Europe – they had a more understanding opinion of reintroducing the swastika than he had encountered elsewhere. The documentary puts that down to simple saturation of the symbol throughout people’s lives, and and how it remains a part of the culture even today. People in Poland are more aware of the early history of the swastika than one would expect from a country that suffered so greatly. Rather than rejecting it outright it has been examined, dissected, and sometimes separated completely from its European history.
Some prominent Irish reclaimationists are more inclined towards the idea as a counter-culture, such as artist Boz Mugabe and musician Trevor McLave. The use of the swastika in Mugabe’s art is designed more as a provocation towards curiosity about the symbol, and questioning why it would be placed with such frequency and boldness in his paintings. The subjects of Mugabe’s work are imaginary, mythical and primitive monsters that are placed within dream-like landscapes, and so the occurrence of such a symbol within that context is more easily looked over as idiosyncrasy by a casual observer than it an isolated instance.
‘Cold War’, the band led by McLave, uses the swastika less overtly by occasionally wearing the Gentle Swastika Collective tee-shirt onstage, but he connects with the punk mentality of freedom of expression and supports the idea by attending and playing at the Festival. When asked, they found that pin-pointing the exact reasons behind their support of the reclaim the swastika idea impossible, because the very aspect of
2nd Traditional Tattoo And World Culture Festival, Cobh, Co Cork, Ireland. June 3rd-6th 2011.
the Collective is ever transient and shifting. They might chose to support it, and become part of something that is constantly shifting depending on who is part of the online community, or gathering, or individual polemic. Or they could distance themselves from it and risk a chance to be part of a fascinating discourse about ownership, cultural doctrine, and individual expression. I doubt either Mugabe or McLave feel strongly about outside perceptions of themselves as individuals, or their art and music. However, it may well affect how others see them and be tempted to create a one-sided argument against the decision to be part of it, as all reclaimationists may incur.
Phil Cummins, who organised the second Traditional Tattoo an World Culture Festival in Co. Cork in June this year, feels a passionate spiritual belonging to the swastika and it’s meaning of ‘all well-being’. He has already sacrificed and gained much to this calling, once again asking the question of how far an individual is willing to be dictated by the perceptions of others in the drive and ambition of their lives. Cummins invited Manwoman to Ireland in 2010, which immediately made his ideas and influence more immediate to collectors, punk anti-establishment followers, and spiritualists. The Festival changed the dynamic of the swastika Collective as it gave the online community a chance to come together, exchange ideas, and pushed it from being a commitment on cyber space to a place where rituals, talks and celebrations took place under the flagship of the swastika.
There is a palpable sense of the reclaim the swastika idea gaining momentum, and the My Swastika documentary has recorded the opinions of people from a variety of cultures, ages, and backgrounds to show where it stands today. I visited Dominick again recently and found that his allegiance to the Collective had undergone a shift. I had last heard how he was creating the documentary to challenge views of the swastika and illustrate the difference between Hitler’s bastardised symbol and the one that reflected peace and unity. He filmed the concluding interview for the film in Warsaw’s Polish Hindu Temple, and came away realising that while some may argue championing the swastika as freedom of expression, there runs the danger of doing more damage than good. My Swastika will prove that there is much to be gained from living the peaceful path that the spiritual aspect of swastika asks of its followers, and releasing the self-interest of the individual, to embrace the whole. The final part of the documentary that explores this dichotomy in full is not to be missed.
My Swastika began life as a short film that expanded into a full-length documentary, as Dominick and Kasia excavated a mountain of undocumented facts and prominent people in religious, social and peripheral groups, that enriched the understanding of the project. Reclaiming the swastika as an idea will divide, unite, and at the very least inspire debate, between people from every walk of life. The documentary will premiere at the next Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival 卐
There has been a very interesting documentary called My Swastika in the making for some time now. The documentary deals with the swastika debate, investigating the psychological, sociological, anthropological and human aspects of this controversial and spiritual symbol.
I met the documentary team and spent some time with them when they were in Finland earlier this year. I had in my mind already back then that it would be interesting to interview Dominick Crowley (writer/director/presenter/executive producer) about the film. I had fascinating long talks with him and the team about the symbol and tons of things involved.
Some months passed and we stayed in touch. At some point I remembered my idea of an interview and I finally sent a bunch of questions to Dominick. The following interview is the result of those questions and Dominick’s answers 卐
Nice to speak to you again, Dominick! How are you?
I am very well since our last meeting. At the moment we are very productive in the new company that will be producing the My Swastikadocumentary. It is being produced by 3rd Prophecy, a film company, just formed, that will be specializing in new, thought provoking films and documentaries. We are very excited.
If this interview could take place anywhere, anytime in the universe, where and when and why there and then?
Well, without trying to predict where we will be in 23 years but I would ideally like to have this interview when I am 60, in the conservatory of my beautiful self-sufficient, country home. Why 60? Well even at the age of 37 I do not consider myself to know all the facts about this subject. If this interview had be done just last year I would have a completely different set of answers to your questions. With each year we gather new knowledge and develop ourselves intellectually, morally and spiritually. So to give better, more informed answers, in a beautiful relaxing environment, then how about my place at 1pm on the 30th of June in 2034?
For those who don’t know you, please introduce yourself. Who are you, what you’ve done and what you do currently?
I was born in central Dublin in 1974. The son of a Butcher and Hygienist (but back then they were know as Cleaners). From an early age I was attracted to Spirituality, the Arts and Orientalism. I was very much the Irish Catholic and felt a strong relationship with God. In my search to expand my spiritual education I explored everything from Witchcraft to Judaism. At 16 I had the good fortune to meet the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON) where I was introduced to the Hindu Gods and Eastern philosophy and meditation. I was active in this faith for about 9 years until I decided to explore the more “mundane” aspects of live. I became a health fanatic and, instead of rejecting my human body, I fed it. I had an ambition to become a body builder. I trained with a very outgoing character who saw my theatrical energy and insisted I should become an actor, to which I followed his advice and ended up threading the boards, which then led to film, which then led to directing and producing. Now at the helm of my own film company, and with the culmination of my past experiences, I am producing a ground breaking documentary called My Swastika 卐
What My Swastika is all about? Who will be interviewed in the film, where you have been making it? What kind of crew you’ve been making the film with? What you aim to achieve with the documentary? Is the film first of its kind?
My Swastika is a documentary that explores the Swastika symbol, the people who would like to see it used worldwide, the people who would like it banned worldwide and the mentality and psychology of both. We explore the true history, which is very absent from school books, of the symbol which debatably dates back nearly 18,000 years. We look at the Swastika Reclamation movement to see if the Swastika can be used again in the West and by what means they are using to spreading their vision. We talk to Academics who are asked to examine this movement and the goals that they wish to achieve to see if it is actually possible. We also talk to people who see this reclamation movement as something dangerous and not to be taken lightly.
So far we have interviewed people from Hinduism, Falun Dafa, Pagans and others who use the symbol daily. We spoke also to military archivists, Jewish Rabbi, a psychologist, cult buster and not to forget, the everyday guy on the street.
Earlier this year our crew and I went through Europe in search of the answers to our questions. A small crew of four people who, without being paid for their work, gave their valuable time and energy to help make this documentary happen. I think people are happy to help out so much because of what we are actually trying to achieve with this project.
With the documentary our real goal is to open peoples eyes and reveal the things which you are not supposed to know.
It is a one of a kind documentary which goes out of its way to save a burning witch from the pyre. What joy it is for a filmmaker to be able to attempt a project that will change the way we see something that we were exposed to at school and was told was the truth. To bring the real truth to the audience is something worth giving your time to. With the documentary our real goal is to open peoples eyes and reveal the things which you are not supposed to know.
Do you remember the first moment of getting the idea for the documentary? How it all got started? Was it like a moment of “Yes! This is a must thing to do!” or more like “Hmm, this is somewhat crazy idea, but it would be an interesting thing to do…”?
The moment I got the idea for the documentary was when I was sitting on the steps of Original Skin Tattoo studio with my good friend Phil Cummins. We were relaxing after filming Phil’s son tattooed him. His son was 8 at the time and the tattoo was a Swastika. Don’t worry, he was supervised at all times by the hygiene conscious Phil and his assistant Dave. Over a coffee Phil explained his passion for Swastika and his mission to reclaim the symbol. This was all very very interesting and I thought immediately that it was a worthy story to tell. Now, at that time I envisioned only a 10 minute documentary. As I researched I understood that all this info would not fit into that time duration, so I thought best 20 minutes. 2 years later and looking at all the information gathered and a documentary that is 90 mins long I still think its is not enough time.
Although there has been much enthusiasm for the film, you’ve also faced lots of challenges with the documentary, which tells that the subject is hot, if not outright tabu. Tell us about the challenges regarding funding the film, prejudices involved, getting people to the documentary, etc. You must have expected challenges in making the documentary but has it been tougher than what you thought?
Straight off the bat, one of the first challenges I had, personally, was say the word Swastika in public. When first talking to friends about the project when I first started, I would tell them what subject it was, rather the same was as you would tell a racist joke while in a public place. Very quietly. After overcoming that hurdle the next was how to present the documentary. Knowing how to word and visualize the documentary was no easy task. I knew the subject I wanted to sing about but was finding it hard to find the right notes.
Funding was, and still is, the biggest hurdle of all. We are too taboo to be associated with mainstream funders and have been put through a loop the loop with funding sites. Even just setting up an email account for the documentary was difficult. The word Swastika was seen as an unacceptable word to be used as a mail address. We first tried myswastika, rejected, the my-swastika, rejected, my.swastika, my/swastika and my:)swastika. All rejected. In the end we found myswastik@ slipped through. As a side story I even tried to create a mail address name that could be more unacceptable than Swastika. So I tried to create a mail address as c$£tf^&k%£firstname.lastname@example.org.(censored version). It was accepted.
So far there has been no help from the industry itself and all work and funding has come through donated items to auction, Gentle Swastika Collective t-shirt sales and our own personal pleas to Swastika supporters. I have to say that one of the first people who gave a Geronimo cheer and helped us from the beginning was Dr Kevin Sisk from Canada. It is people and donations like that which helps us continue.
As for the documentary being tougher than what I thought? Yes. It has been a near Herculean task for us but has educated us on so many levels.
Talking about swastika today the discussion turns sooner or later to Nazi-Germany. How much this Nazi-angle to the symbol dominate the discussion and feelings about the symbol here in the Western world still? What does that tell about what Nazis did to the symbol and what it tells about the symbol itself?
Today, to the common Western person there is no difference between the two images. The peaceful Swastika and the Nazi Hakenkreuz. But you will be shocked to know that this is not entirely the fault of the Nazi’s. This is also the fault of Westerners! It is the continuation of a witch-hunt that happened in the 1930s and still exists today. Every day you can see movies, books, graffiti, etc. that associates the Swastika with the Nazis, and not all of it depicts the Hakenkreuz in its strict red, white and black coloring. Some depictions just show Hindu Swastika’s, Jain Swastika or even Buddhist Swastikas without understanding what they are depicting. By the West consistently associating the Swastika with the Nazis and not having knowledge of the difference between the Swastika and Hakenkreuz then, we as Westerners, reinforce their ownership of that image.
I always make the point that it is like jailing Charles Manson twin brother up for looking like his brother. We have to now start making a difference between the two. We have to identify that Charles and John Manson are not the same and should not be held for the others crime.
In Germany they didn’t, and don’t call the Nazi image Swastika. They call it Hakenkreuz. Most German people I spoke to didn’t know what a Swastika was. But they knew what Hakenkreuz was.
Swastika is innocent and is untarnished by Nazis. It is our view that is tarnished. As long as we in the West repeatedly remind ourselves of that connection then reclaimationists will have a hard road ahead.
To answer your other point quickly, the Nazis did not do anything to the symbol. Same as you don’t do anything to a lock when you put a key in it, other that open it. I don’t think the symbol has, is, or will be tainted. Rather I think our perceptions, understanding and knowledge of the symbol is tainted. I don’t see Swastika as the Godhead or a goal in itself. I see it as a gateway, a tool, a desire stone. Swastika gives you what you most desire or opens a door to your desires, but like all intentions what you get back may not be what you want and may come out in a negative rebound or expression. Nazis put impure ideals in their desire, what they got back was destruction. So Swastika is innocent and is untarnished by Nazis. It is our view that is tarnished. As long as we in the West repeatedly remind ourselves of that connection then reclaimationists will have a hard road ahead.
How much there has been change in Western peoples view and experience of the symbol since the end of the WW II? Are we as Western people still profoundly stuck with the Nazi-association or are we getting over it sooner or later? Will swastika be reclaimed back to its former glory or is it a hopeless idea?
Very little. Apart from very small pockets of post war Swastika Reclamation supporters. It was very isolated and could only gain expression amongst the ranks of artists and academics. And even then it was a taboo subject. Canadian artist Manwoman‘s appearance in the book Modern Primitives, a book that focused on the growing tribal sub culture of tattooists, body modifications and artists at that time. His bold statement of tattooing Swastikas all over his body and views on the “sacred” Swastika gave the modern reclamation movement its foundations. It is only over the last 10 years that there has been an explosion in Swastika Reclamation movement. The Internet is one main factor for this. There is change, slow but progressive. Word is definitely spreading.
I think to truly reclaim Swastika you must first reclaim its meaning. To display the symbol is easy but to display its meaning is a completely different story.
As for will it be reclaimed? As long as Westerners can’t tell the difference between what a Swastika is and what a Hakenkreuz is, and as long as reclaimationists can’t tell the difference between the symbol and the meaning, then I think it will experiences a few stumbles on its way. I see many people collecting the symbol as way of half rebellion and half hobby but only see a few core sections extolling swa-asti-ka. I try not to use the term “the fight to reclaim the Swastika” for how can you reclaim all well being through fighting? I think to truly reclaim Swastika you must first reclaim its meaning. To display the symbol is easy but to display its meaning is a completely different story.
Who are the most important persons and groups who seek to reclaim swastika? How are they doing in their cause? What people who would like to reclaim swastika can do about it?
Everyone is as equally important as each other in reclaiming the symbol. Each group is trying to reclaim their Swastika in their way and at their own time. The majority or these groups reclaim the symbol simply by using it as their faith’s, group’s or individual thinking draws them to.
Reclaiming anything takes three things. Hard data, an understanding of the information and that information in action.
I think also if people want to reclaim the symbol the best thing they can do is what I would call a 3 step program. Step 1: Read and read and read. Not just the information on the internet, but books on the subject. If your national library, college or museum has a reading room, make use of it. Find out as much information on the subject as you possibly can. Step 2: Put all the collected information into the back of your head and meditate on what you have learned. Step 3: Understand and put into practice what you have learned about Swastika. Reclaiming anything takes three things. Hard data, an understanding of the information and that information in action.
What are the most “swastika friendly” and “swastika banning” areas in the Western world currently and how that manifests?
I was recently asked if there was any Swastika Reclamation movement in the East. Not to my knowledge in any case. In the East the Swastika is as common as the Cross in the West, it is part of the everyday culture and ambiance in its Hindu or Buddhist orientated cities. You could say that these would be Swastika Friendly areas.
In the East the Swastika is as common as the Cross in the West, it is part of the everyday culture and ambiance in its Hindu or Buddhist orientated cities.
There are also some areas in Europe that are inwardly Swastika Friendly but due to its sensitive neighbours it holds the symbol and its history to them in archive only. Finland is a fine example. Stemming from the formation of the history of the Finnish air force and the artist Gallen-Kallela’s use in design and decorations for the former, the symbol holds a place in Finnish history but sadly, like the Hopi Indian tribe, dropped its prominent use in favour for discretion. Still today I have spoken to many Finns who see this symbol as part of their proud and daring history and acknowledge its relevance to their historical national identity. Germany and Poland on the other hand have pretty much zero tolerance for the symbol. In the belly of the beast, as I call the two, the image is too strong. There are so many reclaimationists in these countries though. Some come under fire and some are simply seen as anarchists.
The strangest story I have heard is that of a young boy in Beer Sheba, Israel. The police were called to his home when a neighbour saw that on his jacket was a Swastika. The boy liked a certain heavy metal band that happened to have the symbol on the album and like all kids of that age had drawn it on his rocker jacket. Now due to the fact that Israel actually does not have an exact law on this they could not figure out what to do.
How swastika is viewed outside the Western world today? How Nazi use of the symbol and associations involved have effected non-westerners experience of the symbol? Or has the symbol been more or less immune to the Nazi taint for example among hindus and buddhists in the East?
Outside the Western world Swastika is seen in a relevant context to the country it is seen in. Even by Westerners abroad. I lived in Israel and have many Jewish friends who travel to the Far East. They see Swastika everywhere and understand the context in which it is seen in those countries; still holding that fear and distrust of the symbol which has been educated to them. The youth in the West and in most English speaking are continuously brainwashed as to the Nazi connection with the symbol. The word Swastika is continuously tied to the Nazi party through literature, cinema, and political security. Swastika, in all its form, has become the Nazi party and their history in their absence. I re-illiterate that the Nazis never officially referred to their banner as a Swastika. It is the Westerners who gave it that title and it is the Westerners who tarnish the symbol and its true meaning.
I re-illiterate that the Nazis never officially referred to their banner as a Swastika. It is the Westerners who gave it that title and it is the Westerners who tarnish the symbol and its true meaning.
As for the symbol being immune to Nazi connotations amongst the Hindus and Buddhist. Has the Crucifix been tarnished amongst Christians even after its use by the K.K.K?
What have been the best experiences in making the documentary? The worst? The most surprising? The most odd? Any special stories you’d like to share?
Meeting new friends. Mr “Sponge”. What was told to me in the Hindu Temple in Warsaw. The Jewish synagogue in Dublin. You will have to watch the dvd to understand. Spoilers!
If you could go back in time, would you still start making the documentary? Has it been too much trouble, worth it all?
All I can do is what the Universe wants me to do. Even if I travelled back in time I would probably do it all over again, simply because that is what the Universe wanted me to do. As for trouble. Getting out of bed in the morning can cause trouble. Trouble is trouble, no matter where it comes from or what you are doing. So at least all the troubles I have experienced has been while doing my work with my given skills as a human being.
How has your personal relationship to Swastika changed during making the documentary? Have you started to see swastikas here and there, everywhere? Has swastika “started to speak to you”? I guess your relationship to symbol has got deeper and more personal, right? What are the angles to swastika that you personally find most interesting?
If I was to answer any of these questions I would end up giving away my conclusion in the documentary. But I will answer one question. There is not a single angle of Swastika I don’t find interesting. It really is the most interesting subject. It covers everything. Totally fascinating.
Now that you’ve been exploring the symbol, studying it, interviewing people about it, what do you think swastika is really about at its core? What is a swastika? What is at the core of this ancient and universal symbol?
I am afraid this answer must wait until people see the documentary. I will say one thing though. When I found out what Swastika is, I ended up in a intellectual daze for 3 days. Spoilers 卐
Most of the film has been filmed, right? When can we expect the film to come out? Do you plan the film to be seen at some film festivals, will it be in theaters, etc.?
90% of the documentary has been filmed. We are still waiting on certain academics to have free time, but their interviews will be slotted in when they are ready. We were actually due to release this summer, but due to financial problems we were delayed in getting to footage we needed.
We are now in post production stage and hope to be ready by January 2011. After the film is ready we will be touring Europe and hopefully further. Attending film festivals on all scales to promote the documentary. As for theaters, well this all hangs on a distributor deal. I have constantly been asked when the film is ready, when it will be released etc. Most think that the filmmaking process is, point, shoot, print and abracadabra. In reality there is a lot of politics and deals to deal with before the public ever get to see a finished film. A very tricky road. We are presently looking at distributors in China and Japan.
Will the DVD have bonus materials? Where it can be ordered?
Yes there will be bonus material. Again we can’t possibly add all material to the actual documentary but with the option of bonus material we can add a few extra treats. As for ordering. We will be taking orders by late December 2011 and will release by mid January 2012
Why should everybody see My Swastika documentary?
I wish I could give that answer. Why should anybody see anything, because they want to. I cannot push Swastika or the views of the interviewees onto anyone. All I can answer, really, is that people should see this documentary because there is no one who will stop you. And if they do stop you then all the more reason to see it.
What you will do once My Swastika is completed? Do you have an idea for the next film already in your mind?
I shall take very long break. It has and is an exhausting process and I will look forward to some time to concentrate on writing. Our next project idea is a documentary that concentrates on the subject of animal shelters and animal welfare in so called advanced first world countries.
What makes you happy?
Having two of the most amazing women in my life. My Fiance, Kasia and my daughter Kai 卐
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Thank you for the interview, Dominick! Swastika blessings! 卐
There is an interesting documentary in the making: My Swastika. The director Dominick Crowley has said about the documentary that “My Swastika is a documentary dealing with the controversy, history and social impact of the symbol of swastika. The production itself is an academic production, non-sensationalized, and we are trying to be 100% factual and truthful about the image and we avoid any sensationalism; media, journalism, anything that kind of pop-culture or sensationalist”. I am really looking forward to seeing the final result of that project. Thus far there are out there the documentary’s trailer and behind the scenes clip. The project has also two Facebook pages, this one and especially this one.
The documentary made me think about the symbol again. The controversy about swastika is historically of course a fairly new one, thanks to the Nazis who tainted the general perception of this ancient symbol in the Western culture. Before the Nazis the symbol was used throughout the world for ages and it continues to be widely used in Eastern religions.
But what does the symbol stand for? Where has this universal symbol originated from? There are lots of ideas about these things. Generally, swastika seems to stand for a good luck and it is considered to be a holy symbol. The theories about the origins the symbol vary a lot. One theory about the origin of swastika that I haven’t seen to be pondered about a lot is that of a celestial origin, of Ursa Minor’s and Ursa Major’s rotational positions (equinoxes and solstices) around the pole star. I am somewhat surprised that this theory has not got that much attention.
If you look at the nightsky it seems to rotate around the pole star that stays in a fixed position. One of the most visible if not the most visible constellation that can be seen in the nightsky and that connects nicely with the Northern pole star is that of Ursa Major. I might get a bit poetical here, but thinking of the importance of a yearly cycle of life for people in pre-industrial, agricultural age, the yearly cycle seems to be very important. It is about a whole cycle of life here on Earth, and thus something holy, since holy refers to something that from a special angle covers all of life. You can find swastika right from the nightsky. This idea can be found nicely from Ph.D. Joscelyn Godwin’s The Polar Myth.
Illustration from Godwin's book, p. 147
Here are some notes about what some present day Taoist practitioners have to say about the Big Dipper (Ursa Major), its origin and function in Taoism, and about its meaning in Taoist astrology. A to Z Japanese Buddhist sanctuary has some interesting notes about Northern Polestar and the Big Dipper as well. There are of course many sites about swastika in Buddhism too, for example here and here.