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Re: origins of the Debian logo

On Thu, 2004-12-30 at 18:01 +0100, martin f krafft wrote:
> In the process of completion of my book (http://debianbook.info),
> I have one more question. Unfortunately, I am on a shitty GSM link
> right now and the available (crippled) means of research have not
> been able to produce an answer to the following:
> Where does the Debian Swirl come from?
> What does it try to symbolise?

Sorry for the delayed response, but here is a possible answer to the
second part of the question from a semiotic perspective. Although the
question was what the swirl /tries/ to symbolize, it may be of some
interest what it actually might have ended up symbolizing for some
people. Fasten seatbelts, please.

        The mirror image, or inversion, of the above entry [clockwise
        spiral] symbolizes, like that ideogram, /rotation/. It stands
        first and foremost for a /counterclockwise rotation/ and is
        therefore related to [counterclockwise swastika].
        This sign appeared in the Euphrates cultures as early as around
        2000 B.C., and [counterclockwise spiral] is an Egyptian
        hieroglyph for /thread/ or /measurement/. [Angled
        counterclockwise spiral] was used in the earliest Chinese
        ideography with the probable meaning /return/ or /homecoming/.
        The Hopi Indians seem to have given it the same meaning. [...]
        The sign was used by the Phenicians and as a pattern on Bronze
        Age jewelry found in Scania, Sweden, dating back to about 1300
        B.C. Compare with the hieroglyph [straight-line spiral with four
        angles], representing /Egypt/, i.e., that country that
        one /returns to/, the /homeland/. There is a similar usage in
        the English system of hobo signs: a /good house for work/, i.e.,
        a place that is worth returning to when one needs food and
        The sign [somewhat straightened spiral] is found painted on the
        walls of houses in Tibet [...] and has perhaps the
        meaning /home/, the place one returns to.
        It can also signify /whirlpool/ or /eddy/ on nautical charts.
        (Liungman, Carl G.: Dictionary of Symbols, W. W. Norton &
        Company Ltd, 1991 (English translation of original from 1974))

Had the spiral been a clockwise spiral, it would have signified "water,
power, independent movement and outgoing migration of tribes", as well
as "potential power", "potential movement", or, in a more modern
setting, "spin drying".

Both the clockwise and anticlockwise spirals share some common meanings.
The nautical signs mentioned above are one example. In comic strips,
they signify "rage, pain and curses" and are "often accompanied by
swastikas, exclamation marks, and other symbols of wrath and surprise".

Finally, "both [clockwise spiral] and [anticlockwise spiral] have been
used by alchemists for /horse dung/."

Go figure.

All quotes from Liungman (see above) and apologies for the missing
pictures, but honestly you do not want me to try these in ASCII...

Fabian Fagerholm <fabbe@paniq.net>

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