In French heraldic terms, the Cross Barbee is known as Croix Tournée ('turn', as in a spiked turnpike) or Croix Cramponnée (crampon, as in hook, grappling iron, or the hooked attachment at the end of a scaling ladder). The same name is also applied to some Anchor Crosses.
Another English word for 'barb' is 'hook', and true to the rebus nature of heraldry, this cross is named after its shape. (Incidentally, and somewhat confusingly, the English word 'barb' comes from the Latin 'barba', which means 'beard'. From this we get the word 'barber'. Another similar sounding word is 'barbarian', which is from the Greek 'barbaros', meaning 'foreign person'.)
The arrow heads may be 'V' shaped or triangular, and may point inwards or outwards. If the edges of the arrow heads are jagged then it's called a Pheon Cross.
The Barbee Cross shows four barbed fish-hooks or fishing spears, and suggests the bible phrase "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."1 The missionary's task is to spread the Christian message to the four corners of the world, and this cross also reminds us of the compass, with its arrows pointing north, south, east and west. (See also Cardinal Cross)
There are several variations; single- or double-sided, but they all mimic a barb of some kind. The single-sided Barbee Cross (the upper image of the two shown above on the left) is similar but unrelated to the Ninja Star and Swastika. The Ninja Star and Swastika symbolize rotation, advancing forward like a propeller screw. In contrast, the Barbee Cross symbolizes holding steady.
The arrow-head shape also gives this cross the name Arrow Cross, which is favoured by white supremacists who see their goal moving in all directions. This symbol, from the centuries old Árpád striped banners, was used by the 1930s Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, a fascist group modelled on the German Nazi party, who force-marched 80,000 Jews to the Austrian border and from there to Auschwitz. Although that party has been disbanded2, this symbol (which they call Crosstar) is still popular with other racist, anti-Semitic and anti-communist groups in America. One reason is because of its simple symmetry, like the swastika. (See also the Swedish Yellow Cross.)
Much earlier, the arrow was used to symbolise the plague (see also Plague Cross) of which the Italian San Sebastian is a patron saint. In Christian art, the arrow suggests a spiritual weapon. Saint Sebastian is often depicted with his body bound to a pillar and pierced by arrows; an ordeal which he survived. This cross is additionally known therefore as the St. Sebastian Cross. He is also the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro and for some Catholics, the patron saint of homosexuals. (His naked, suffering image has for a long time been a fantasy cult icon for homo- and heterosexuals interested in BDSM.)
So much for Italians, Brazilians, Hungarians, Americans, Swedes and French. For us Australians, the barbie is a way of life!
Aussie Barbie Cross