I was extremely saddened this week to learn that the fabulous Manwoman passed away on Tuesday morning. In fact, I still am sad by this. I meant to write something for him when it happened, but that is always easier said than done, as he had been so kind to me in the past.
I remember when I first saw Manny in an old issue of Bizarre Magazine. It’s not very often I read that magazine, but just by chance I came across it and saw him. I remember thinking, ‘wow, look at this mad bastard! I bet he’s cool’. I wasn’t wrong about him being cool, though ‘mad’ isn’t a word I’d ever use to describe him again. Quite a long time went by but I always remembered seeing his picture in the magazine, for some reason.
A couple of years later, I started working for a magazine called Tattooist Art. It was a pretty cool magazine, though it never quite ended up in print, which was a shame. My editor, Leo, asked me if I would write a feature on swastikas, as so many tattooers feature the symbol in their work. I thought this was a great idea, however I knew next to nothing about it enough to write about it. I thought it was a long shot, but I decided to try to contact the cool guy I saw in the magazine for a few pointers.
Manny was one of those people who you would consider a friend very quickly, and I ended up getting along with him very well after he replied to my emails and answered my questions. I think most people seem to feel like this about him, he was very approachable. He was one of those people who I really wanted to impress, and I kept sending him stuff I had written. He was very supportive, even after we found out that the feature would never be seen in print after Tattooist Art developed some problems.
Manny was always one of those people who loved to send positive messages to people and encourage anyone to do the same. That’s obvious in the work he did, but also the way he interacted with people. He had time for anyone, which can be very rare these days. He is such a huge inspiration, and I am extremely lucky to have been able to consider him a friend. He was, and still is, proof that good things come from standing up for what you believe in and taking action to spread love and joy.
The other night, I spent some time remembering Manny on my own, reading some old emails we sent each other. Within us having a laugh and his charming ‘older guy on the internet’ emails (“Mel, how do I add you on this Google Plus?”), I found a really small interview with him which was intended for Tattooist Art. It was supposed to be a ‘mini interview’, which would be in a column on the page. This has never seen the light of day, and I forgot about it until this week. I suppose now may be a fitting time:
You’re now known as the father of the swastika movement; how do you feel about that?
After championing the reclamation of the swastika as a sacred symbol for 40 years, it feels incredible to be acknowledged as the father of the movement. I wasn’t sure if anyone would join me during my lifetime but now it’s becoming a cause among the young and especially spreading among the tattoo community.
Why do you think it’s important to educate people as much as possible about the origins of the swastika symbol, or any other ancient symbols for that matter?
When as symbol falls into disfavor, such as what happened with the swastika unfortunately being chosen for the Nazi flag, it diminishes our vocabulary for expressing our relationship to the Great Mystery, the creative force that makes this universe so much of an adventure. People in the western, modern age are mostly oblivious to the fact that it is still a common everyday symbol for blessings in the Orient. Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains have never stopped using it.
How have you found the perceptions change in the 21st Century, in contrast to when you started in your journey of the swastika movement?
The further away from WWII we get the better the chances of restoring the symbol – the veterans are dying, the Holocaust survivors are dying, the younger generation is open for a new vision. Many people have said it’s too soon to restore it but the longer we wait the more entrenched it will be as a sign of hate, cruelty and racism. Try to imagine it as a symbol for the unimaginable love at the centre of existence.
Which ways would you advise people who are interested learn about the swastika and help to make a difference in any way?
They could buy my book Gentle Swastika, which covers the worldwide uses of the symbol over the last 10,000 years. They could tell their friends, anyone who will listen, about this amazing spiritual history of the swastika in almost every culture and religion on earth.
Manny, you are an inspiration and a true gent. I hope that you are at peace, and that your adventures after death are just as exciting as the ones you had on earth.