Sowilō

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"Sowilo" redirects here. For the Norse sun goddess, see Sól (sun).
Name
Sol
"Sun"
Shape Elder Futhark Futhorc Younger Futhark
Runic letter sowilo.svg Runic letter sowilo variant.svg Long-branch Sol.svg
Unicode
U+16CA
U+16CB
U+16CC
Transliteration s
Transcription s
IPA [s]
Position in rune-row 16 11

*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 poems. It appears as Old Norse sól, Old English sigel, and Gothic sugil.

Name[edit]

The Germanic words for "Sun" have the peculiarity of alternating 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 alternation *suwen- vs. *sewol- (Avestan xweng vs. Latin sōl, Greek helios, Sanskrit surya, 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.

The Old English name of the rune, written sigel (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),[1] but alternative suggestions have been put forward.[2]

Development and variants[edit]

The evolution of the rune in the elder futhark during the centuries.

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), and an S shape (three strokes), more prevalent in later (5th to 7th century) inscriptions (e.g. Golden horns of Gallehus, Seeland-II-C).

Coincidentally, the Phoenician letter šin from which the Old Italic s letter ancestral to the rune was derived was itself named after the Sun, shamash, based on the Egyptian uraeus hieroglyph.

The Younger Futhark Sol and the Anglo-Saxon futhorc 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.

The Anglo-Saxon runes developed a variant shape (), called the "bookhand" s rune because it is probably inspired by the long s (ſ) in Insular script. This variant form is used in the futhorc given on the Seax of Beagnoth.

Rune poems[edit]

Rune Poem:[3] English Translation:

Old Norwegian
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.

Anglo-Saxon
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.

Modern usage[edit]

Armanen Runes[edit]

Main article: Sig Rune

The Sig rune in Guido von List's Armanen Futharkh were very loosely based on the Younger Futhark Sigel, thus changing the concept associated with it from "Sun" to "victory" (German Sieg), arriving Týr" in his row, yielding Sigtýr, a name of Ódin.

Nazi usage[edit]

Oblique Sig Rune as used in Nazi occultism

List's runes were later adopted and modified by Karl Maria Wiligut who was a proponent of their occult use by the NSDAP that were subsequently used widely on insignia and literature during the Third Reich most strikingly as the insignia of the Schutzstaffel (SS), responsible for the adoption of which was the graphic designer Walter Heck.[4]

Germanic neopaganism[edit]

The Sowilo rune is commonly used by Germanic Neopagans, often without political implications.

Culture References[edit]

The symbol is used as the "s" in the band KISS.


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ following Jacob Grimm, Über Diphtongen (1845)[1]; see also e.g. Joseph Bosworth, A dictionary of the Anglo-Saxon language (1838), s.v. "Sigel"
  2. ^ Karl Schneider, Die germanischen Runennamen (1956), p. 98; R. W. V. Elliott, Runes: An Introduction (1981), p. 56; Maureen Halsall, The Old English Rune poem: a critical edition (1981), p. 133.
  3. ^ Original poems and translation from the Rune Poem Page.
  4. ^ SS Himmler's Black Order 1923-45 pg. 146 ¶ 2 § C. ISBN 0-7509-1396-7