Sowilo rune
*Sowilō or *sæwelō is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the s-rune, meaning "sun". The name is attested for the same rune in all three rune poem
Rune poem
The Rune Poems are three poems that list the letters of runic alphabets while providing an explanatory poetic stanza for each letter. Three different poems have been preserved: the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, the Norwegian Rune Poem, and the Icelandic Rune Poem.The Icelandic and Norwegian poems list 16...

s. It appears as Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 sōl, Old English sigel, and Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...



The Germanic words for "Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

" have the peculiarity of alternating
Alternation (linguistics)
In linguistics, an alternation is the phenomenon of a phoneme or morpheme exhibiting variation in its phonological realization. Each of the various realizations is called an alternant...

 between -l- and -n- stems, Proto-Germanic *sunnon (Old English sunne, Old Norse, Old Saxon and Old High German sunna) vs. *sôwilô or *saewelô (Old Norse sól, Gothic sauil, also Old High German forms such as suhil).

This continues a Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 alternation *suwen- vs. *sewol- (Avestan xweng vs. Latin sōl
Soľ is a village and municipality in Vranov nad Topľou District in the Prešov Region of eastern Slovakia.-Geography:The municipality lies at an altitude of 140 metres and covers an area of 10.286 km². It has a population of about 2,293 people....

, Greek helios, Sanskrit surya
Surya Suraya or Phra Athit is the chief solar deity in Hinduism, one of the Adityas, son of Kasyapa and one of his wives, Aditi; of Indra; or of Dyaus Pitar . The term Surya also refers to the Sun, in general. Surya has hair and arms of gold...

, Welsh haul, Breton heol, Old Irish suil "eye"), a remnant of an archaic, so-called "heteroclitic", declension pattern that remained productive only in the Anatolian languages
Anatolian languages
The Anatolian languages comprise a group of extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in Asia Minor, the best attested of them being the Hittite language.-Origins:...


The Old English name of the rune, written sigel or siȝel (but pronounced /ˈsɪ jel/) is most often explained as a remnant of an otherwise extinct l-stem variant of the word for "Sun" (meaning that the spelling with g is unetymological), but alternative suggestions have been put forward.

Development and variants

The Elder Futhark s rune (reconstructed name *Sowilo) is attested in two variants, a Σ shape (four strokes), more prevalent in earlier (3rd to 5th century) inscriptions (e.g. Kylver stone
Kylver Stone
The Kylver stone, listed in the Rundata catalog as runic inscription G 88, is a Swedish runestone which dates from about 400 CE notable for its listing of each of the runes in the elder futhark.-Description:...

), and an S
S is the nineteenth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.-History: Semitic Šîn represented a voiceless postalveolar fricative . Greek did not have this sound, so the Greek sigma came to represent...

 shape (three strokes), more prevalent in later (5th to 7th century) inscriptions (e.g. Golden horns of Gallehus
Golden horns of Gallehus
The Golden Horns of Gallehus were two horns made of sheet gold, discovered in Gallehus, north of Møgeltønder in South Jutland, Denmark.The horns date to the early 5th century, i.e. the beginning of the Germanic Iron Age....

, Seeland-II-C
Seeland-II-C is a Scandinavian bracteate from Zealand, Denmark dating to the Migration period . The bracteate bears an Elder Futhark inscription which reads as:The final ttt is a triple-stacked Tiwaz rune...


Coincidentally, the Phoenician
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

 letter šin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

 from which the Old Italic
Old Italic alphabet
Old Italic refers to several now extinct alphabet systems used on the Italian Peninsula in ancient times for various Indo-European languages and non-Indo-European languages...

 s letter ancestral to the rune was derived was itself named after the Sun, shamash
Shamash was a native Mesopotamian deity and the sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian pantheons. Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, corresponding to Sumerian Utu...

, based on the Egyptian uraeus
The Uraeus is the stylized, upright form of an Egyptian spitting cobra , used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority in ancient Egypt.The Uraeus is a symbol for the goddess Wadjet, who was one of the earliest Egyptian deities and who...


The Younger Futhark
Younger Futhark
The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian runes, is a runic alphabet, a reduced form of the Elder Futhark, consisting of only 16 characters, in use from ca. 800 CE...

 Sol and the Anglo-Saxon futhorc
Anglo-Saxon Futhorc
Futhorc , a runic alphabet used by the Anglo-Saxons, was descended from the Elder Futhark of 24 runes and contained between 26 and 33 characters. It was used probably from the fifth century onward, for recording Old English and Old Frisian....

 Sigel runes are identical in shape, a rotated version of the later Elder Futhark rune, with the middle stroke slanting upwards, and the initial and final strokes vertical. Anglo-Saxon sigel (siȝel) is phonologically sījel /siːjel/ (from *sæwel), the yogh
The letter yogh , was used in Middle English and Older Scots, representing y and various velar phonemes. It was derived from the Old English form of the letter g.In Middle English writing, tailed z came to be indistinguishable from yogh....

 being only orthographical.

The Anglo-Saxon runes developed a variant shape , called the "bookhand" s rune because it is probably inspired by the long s
Long s
The long, medial or descending s is a form of the minuscule letter s formerly used where s occurred in the middle or at the beginning of a word, for example "ſinfulneſs" . The modern letterform was called the terminal, round, or short s.-History:The long s is derived from the old Roman cursive...

 (ſ) in Insular script
Insular script
Insular script was a medieval script system originally used in Ireland, then Great Britain, that spread to continental Europe under the influence of Celtic Christianity. Irish missionaries also took the script to continental Europe, where they founded monasteries such as Bobbio. The scripts were...

. This variant form is used in the futhorc given on the Seax of Beagnoth
Seax of Beagnoth
The Seax of Beagnoth is a 9th century Anglo-Saxon seax . It was found in the River Thames in 1857, and is now at the British Museum in London. It is a prestige weapon, decorated with elaborate patterns of inlaid copper, bronze and silver wire...


Rune poems

Rune Poem: English Translation:

Old Norwegian
Old Norwegian
Old Norwegian refers to a group of Old Norse dialects spoken and written in Norway in the Middle Ages. They bridged the dialect continuum from Old East Norse to Old West Norse.-Old Norwegian vs Common Norse:...

Sól er landa ljóme;

lúti ek helgum dóme.

Sun is the light of the world;

I bow to the divine decree.

Old Icelandic

Sól er skýja skjöldr

ok skínandi röðull

ok ísa aldrtregi.

rota siklingr.

Sun is the shield of the clouds

and shining ray

and destroyer of ice.


Sigel semannum symble biþ on hihte,

ðonne hi hine feriaþ ofer fisces beþ,

oþ hi brimhengest bringeþ to lande.

The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers

when they journey away over the fishes' bath,

until the courser of the deep bears them to land.

Armanen Runes

The Sig rune in Guido von List
Guido von List
Guido Karl Anton List, better known as Guido von List was an Austrian/German poet, journalist, writer, businessman and dealer of leather goods, mountaineer, hiker, dramatist, playwright, and rower, but was most notable as an occultist and völkisch author who is seen as one of the most important...

's Armanen Futharkh
Armanen runes
The Armanen runes, or Armanen 'Futharkh' as Guido von List referred to them, are a row of 18 runes that are closely based in shape on the Younger Futhark...

 were very loosely based on the Younger Futhark Sigel, thus changing the concept associated with it from "Sun" to "victory" (German Sieg), arriving at a sequence "Sig", "Týr" in his row, yielding Sigtýr, a name of Ódin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....


Nazi usage

List's runes were later adopted and modified by Karl Maria Wiligut
Karl Maria Wiligut
Karl Maria Wiligut was an Austrian Ariosophist- Biography :...

 who was a proponent of their occult use by the NSDAP
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 that were subsequently used widely on insignia and literature during the Third Reich
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 most strikingly as the insignia of the Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 (SS), responsible for the adoption of which was the graphic designer Walter Heck.

Germanic neopaganism

The Sowilo rune is commonly used by Germanic Neopagans
Germanic Neopaganism
Germanic neopaganism is the contemporary revival of historical Germanic paganism. Precursor movements appeared in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria. A second wave of revival began in the early 1970s...

, often without political implications.

See also

  • Fascist symbolism
    Fascist symbolism
    As there were many different manifestations of fascism, especially during the interwar years, there were also many different symbols of Fascist movements...

  • The Lindholm "amulet"
    Lindholm amulet
    The Lindholm "amulet", listed as DR 261 in Rundata, is a bone piece found in Skåne, Sweden, that is dated to the 2nd to 4th centuries and has a runic inscription.-Description:...

     that bears the word Sawilagaz which is interpreted as "the one of the Sun"
  • Rune poem
    Rune poem
    The Rune Poems are three poems that list the letters of runic alphabets while providing an explanatory poetic stanza for each letter. Three different poems have been preserved: the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, the Norwegian Rune Poem, and the Icelandic Rune Poem.The Icelandic and Norwegian poems list 16...

  • Sigelwara Land
    Sigelwara Land
    Sigelwara Land is the title of an essay in two parts by J. R. R. Tolkien, appeared in Medium AevumVol. 1, No. 3. December 1932 and Medium Aevum Vol. 3, No. 2. June 1934. It treats the etymology of the Old English word for Ethiopians, Sigelhearwan...

  • Sól (Sun)
  • SS unit insignia
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