Lielvarde is a small town located about 50 km southeast of Riga, Latvia. It is from this very place that the well known Lielvarde belt originates. This woven belt in red and white depicts 22 different ancient symbols and was worn by both men and woman during festive events. Certain patterns can even be found back on Latvia’s banknotes which however in two months will be replaced by Euro bills.
The traditional Lielvarde belt, an important part of Latvia’s traditional identity
A company called Biksem recently produced some nicely colored belts decorated with patterns also used on the original Lielvare belt. Their products are the modern version of this traditional object, perfectly fitting to jeans instead of traditional costumes. Since I’ve been wearing my leather Esprit belt for at least the past five years I thought it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to maybe look for a new fresh piece once again. Latvia has a special place in my heart so the Lielvarde pattern would complement my identity as a modest explorer of the Baltic States. Yet, I stumbled upon something which made me doubt…
The modern belts offered at http://www.biksem.lv looking nicely classy
The purple belt from another angle. Hey, what’s that on the left?
Let it be clear that I’m aware of the fact that this symbol is in essence purely innocent. Back in the days it was used with a different meaning than the one it’s notorious for now. Let me illustrate that with a chart explaining a few Latvian symbols.
‘The fire cross’
As stated here, the fire cross symbolizes the energy of the sun while attracting happiness and energy. It repels evil and assists in battles. Aha. When the same symbol is mirrored it is also known as a thunder cross, connected to Perkons, the god of thunder and justice. Most Europeans would connect this symbol with Hitler’s Nazi Party. Yet, especially Buddhists and Hindus and as seen also Latvians themselves traditionally see the swastika as a well intended symbol of something good.
My fear however when wearing this belt in the Netherlands would be the reaction of the many people who don’t know about this innocence and would instantly call me a Nazi, something I’d not be too happy with of course. On the other hand we might also argue to leave the past behind (but most certainly not forgotten) and try to spice up the badly damaged image of the swastika. I’m however not sure if the right time for that has come already, it could well be to early now, but better possible in fifty years. Even though I really like Biksem’s Lielvarde belts, the swastika’s are the reason I’d not buy one for myself. The critique I’d receive, even though it would be undeserved, would restrain me from wearing this nice belt with 100% comfort. Call it weakness, call it understandable…