Monday, December 22, 2008

Religious Tolerance

Well... it's about that time of year again that I go off on one of my little diatribes that have very little to do with jewelry on the surface. But, with me, in the end it all comes back to jewelry. I had a special little project that I was working on for the holidays, but hadn't shared because of the symbol used. Some will take automatic offense to it, but that is when you are unaware of it's beginnings. So, with that, let's talk a little bit about religious tolerance.

I have never really been a fan of the term 'tolerance' used with the idea religion. To me, personally, tolerance is used when dealing with a screaming child on a plane or a bitter relative that you are stuck spending time with at the holidays. You tolerate all of those situations. I would prefer if we used a term more like 'religious respect' or 'religious understanding'... but religious tolerance is the term coined, so we'll go with that.

This is a time of year when we are surrounded by many different religious holidays, even though what we are bombarded with is commercialism. While most know that we are 3 days from Christmas (due to all of the television ads reminding us) many forget, or do not realize, that we are 2 days into Chanukah... and Kwanzaa begins on the 26th (though it is not a religious celebration.) But remembering specific dates is not what makes us tolerant, it is being educated (even in the slightest) and having ability to understand and show respect for each religion. With this being said, we are not going to talk about religious tolerance dealing with Catholics or Muslums or Christans or Jews... but about the Hindu religion.

About 2 years ago, I was introduced to Sal's parents, who are from India and are Hindu. And what would any good Indian family do when spending time with a jeweler but pull out every piece of jewelry they own to get a verbal appraisal of each. Well, while we were going through pendants, I came across one that was quite surprising, almost shocking, to me. It is a Hindu good luck charm that I later found out dates back to 2400 BC or possibly earlier... the Swastika.

The Hindu Swastika is an equilateral cross with arms bent at 90 degree angles, sometimes with other decorative elements added in. This symbol was once commonly seen all over the world, but with the Nazi regime adopting the emblem it is very controversial in this day and age. The Nazi Swastika is orientated differently by being rotating it 45 degrees... while the Hindu Swastika is straight up and down, similar to a cross.

Well, I felt embarrassed about my reaction to seeing the pendant because I was ignorant to their religious beliefs. And while I am not completely educated in the Hindu religion now, I am much more open minded about what I may come across.

So, where am I going with this? Well, I told you it would all come back to jewelry!

A couple of months ago, when I thought I was going to be killed in an antique shop in Ct, I bought some beautiful glass pieces that were about 125 years old. Along with this bunch, I found a Hindu Swastika. I had them all sitting on my bench and a neighbor came over and asked (in a rather defensive manner) why I had a Swastika in my possession. Well, I went through the whole explanation and she seemed satisfied, but I was still hesitant sharing this with anybody.

But you, my shiny followers, are not just anybody! So here goes... I set a Hindu Swastika for Sal's mom for Christmas...

It's a tiny little piece... no larger than a dime... set in 18K yellow gold. I had to make the bail rather larger because she wears fairly heavy chains (and always mentions how she can't wear American pendants on her chains.)

So, be happy that you learned a new piece of information... and remember to show respect to all religions.

Oh... and on a side note... I couldn't make a pendant for Sal's mom without making one for mine! This is what will be under the tree for my mum this year...

Yes, a 125 year old wiener dog portrait! It is also set it 18K yellow gold. Please... in my family wiener dogs are treated like little demi-gods, so why not wear one around you neck ;)

1 comment:

Nathaniel said...

The ancient Greeks also used that symbol in the exact same orientation. One instance that I can remember seeing in a book is the throne room of the megaron at Pylos. The frescos at Pylos, a Mycenaean settlement, date back to the Late Helladic ~1675 BC. That is almost four thousand years ago!

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