Sowilō or *sæwelō is the reconstructed
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.
2 Development and variants
3 Rune poems
4 Modern usage
4.1 Armanen runes
5 See also
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
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.
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), but alternative suggestions
have been put forward.
Development and variants
The evolution of the rune in the elder futhark during the centuries.
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.
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
Anglo-Saxon runes developed a variant shape (ᚴ), 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.
ᛋ Sól er landa ljóme;
lúti ek helgum dóme.
Sun is the light of the world;
I bow to the divine decree.
ᛋ Sól er skýja skjöldr
ok skínandi röðull
ok ísa aldrtregi.
Sun is the shield of the clouds
and shining ray
and destroyer of ice.
ᛋ 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.
Elder Futhark Sowilo rune, earlier ("Σ") variant.
Elder Futhark Sowilo rune, later ("S") variant.
Anglo-Saxon Sigel /
Younger Futhark Sol rune
Anglo-Saxon "bookhand s"
Further information: Runic insignia of the Schutzstaffel
The Sig rune in Guido von List's Armanen Futharkh corresponds to the
Younger Futhark Sigel, thus changing the concept associated with it
from "Sun" to "victory" (German Sieg). With the following rune, Týr,
this forms Sigtýr, a name of Ódin.
It was adapted into the emblem of the SS in 1933 by Walter Heck, an
Sturmhauptführer who worked as a graphic designer for the firm of
Ferdinand Hofstätter, a producer of emblems and insignia in Bonn.
Heck's simple but striking device consisted of two sig runes drawn
side by side like lightning bolts, and was soon adopted by all
branches of the SS – though Heck himself received only a token
payment of 2.5 Reichsmarks for his work. The device had a double
meaning; as well as standing for the initials of the SS, it could be
read as a rallying cry of "Victory, Victory!". The symbol became so
ubiquitous that it was frequently typeset using runes rather than
letters; during the Nazi period, an extra key was added to German
typewriters to enable them to type the double-sig logo with a single
Internationally-renowned American rock band Kiss uses a different logo
in Germany than it does for the rest of the world, due to the two 'S's
in their logo (which spells out 'KISS') resembling the double-sig
The Lindholm "amulet" that bears the word Sawilagaz which is
interpreted as "the one of the Sun"
SS unit insignia
^ following Jacob Grimm, Über Diphtongen (1845); see also e.g.
Joseph Bosworth, A dictionary of the Anglo-Saxon language (1838), s.v.
^ 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.
^ Original poems and translation from the Rune Poem Page.
^ a b Yenne, Bill (2010). Hitler's Master of the Dark Arts: Himmler's
Black Knights and the Occult Origins of the SS. Zenith Imprint.
p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7603-3778-3. [unreliable source?]
^ Lumsden, p. 18
^ Yenne, p. 71
^ Raul (September 14, 2011). "KISS changed their logo for German
market". Feelnumb.com. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
Old English Futhorc