Rune 16:

Sowilo

 

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Writing this article means I'll be through the second aett (group of eight) of the Elder Futhark before the stroke of Y2K! Sowilo is reconstructed Common Germanic the Rune for the sound represented by the Roman letter "S." It was known as Sol or Sig in Old Norse, Sigel in Anglo-Saxon, and Sauil or Saugil in Gothic. Notice how close Gothic is, relatively speaking, to the original (Ur-iginal) Common Germanic. Sowilo means "sun" and Sig and its variations, except for Sigel which means sun, mean "victory." Sig was a common prefix for both men's and women's names in Germanic countries.

Sowilo's meanings include Sun, victory, warmth, success, triumph, good weather, transcendence, friendliness, honor, glory, gold, and a prize. The Sun is associated with victory in many Pagan myths. Solar heroes are a well-known mythical archetype. Jesus was one more or less. Like the Sun, he was born (at the Winter Solstice), grew, was killed, and returned to life. In the North, the Sun was barely visible in many places for months at a time during the Winter.

I checked the chapter for this Rune in Edred Thorsson's At the Well of Wyrd to check out what the three Rune Poems had to say about Sowilo. All of them mentioned the Rune in a very positive light. Check them out for yourself from their links from my webpage (http://users.aol.com/jordsvin/kindred/kindred.htm). In the North, the Sun drives away the deadly cold and the Earth returns to life from apparent frozen death. The Sun herself is never strong enough in the Northern lands to be a threat.

Thorr and Audrey Sheil see traces of the annual solar cycle in the Ragnarok myth, a complex legend with various origens which has also suffered from Christian rewriting. This is what the Christian missionaries evidently had in mind: kill off the Old Gods, bring in Jesus, and make him look as much like the returning Balder as possible! The Sheils mention that in the Ragnarok myth, Vidar kills the Fenris Wolf to avenge Odin by tearing its jaws apart. Why such a strange method? The Sheils see it as originally being done to LET ODIN OUT! Makes sense to me. The Ragnarok belongs to a variety of creation/destruction/rebirth myths common to many mythologies. Anyway, however you interpret the Ragnarok, don't mistreat (mythtreat?) it like the fundamentalist Christians do their own "Book of Revelations." Their interpretations get pretty stretched and far-fetched. I re-wrote the old Negro Spiritual "Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho" as follows: "Odin fit the Battle of Ragarok, Ragnarok, Ragnarok; Odin fit the Battle of Ragnarok and the Worlds came tumblin' down!"  It doesn't have anything to do with Sowilo, really, but I thought you might enjoy the song!

The Sun's annual cycle is the triumph of light over gloom (think of the "midwinter blahs"), right over wrong, good over evil, victory over defeat, wisdom over ignorance, and life over death. To understand the Northern Sun, think of the Goddess Freya and her Solar (Freya is not a lunar Goddess) aspects. Her boar has golden bristles. The cats who pull her chariots are associated with the Sun also. Freya is Gefn, "the Giver." Her daughter Hnoss is a "Treasure." Think of big golden lions and chests of gold.

Sowilo is the centerpoint, just as the Sun is the center of our solar system. Around it are the joy and harmony of Wunjo. Dagaz is the waxing and waning of the Sun, which nevertheless endures. Sowilo is an evolutionary force. While constant in itself, its influences wax and wane over cyclical Time, just like day-length over the cycle of the Year (Jera). While Sowilo's influence varies, it as a source remains stable. Sowilo has a polarity relationship to Perthro. Perthro is the journey to the center; Sowilo is the journey toward the outer circumference. Maintain the balance between these two Runes. Sowilo is the Gods coming to us from without, in transcendent mode. In Perthro, we find them within us, since we are their Younger Kin. That spark of the Divine within us is expressed by Sowilo's warmth. Now that the days are again growing longer (I wrote this article a bit over a week after the Winter Solstice), it is an especially good time to contemplate these mysteries. Remember that happy, upbeat old song: "Here comes the Sun! Here comes the Sun! And I say: it's alright..." Sowilo is a force for healing and a symbol of life energy. Sowilo can bring hope, happiness and the anticipation of coming good, as well as radiance, glowing, brightness, and personal warmth. Sowilo effects us both emotionally and physically. Remember how the ancestors lived. They'd be pretty cold and often on short rations right now. Still, they couldn't kill the breeding stock or eat the seed grain.

Sowilo brings the new in over the old, champions evolution over going back to the past, and represents the triumph of that which is best. Think of a political revolution in which the old order is thrown out to be replaced by something better. We have seen a lot of that in the 1990s. Think of the changes the US went through in the 1960s. Much of it was painful, but it was needed! Evolution/revolution is not always peaceful, though. The relatively bloodless end of Communism in Eastern Europe was truly a blessing. If Sowilo is the force of change, then what is old and outdated is what it acts upon. These outmoded institutions partake of elemental Earth. Not all that is old is obsolete, however. Heathenism still works fine even after at least two millennia, and seems in fine shape for the new millennium as well!

Sowilo can be used to help a good cause triumph. Be sure your cause truly IS better than the status quo, or else Sowilo may backfire. Sowilo relates to athletic competition, as it does to any striving for excellence. Still, it is NOT ethical to use Sowilo to attempt to effect the outcome of an athletic event. It can help you improve your circumstances, and lift you above difficulties. Associated Deities, besides Freya and Hnoss, include Odin (Sig-Tyr), Frey, and Thorr.

Internalize Sowilo, and use its energies to improve yourself and your life. Continuing evolution and advancement are necessary to the Runeworker's Path. Odin will not settle for the mediocrity of a half-trained Runeworker. However, the Runic studies, when taken seriously, do partake of the joy and warmth of Sowilo! Remember the passage from Havamal (verse 141), in which Odin describes what happened to him after he won the Runes:

 

"Then began I to grow and gain in insight,

 to wax eke in wisdom:

 one verse led on to another verse,

 one poem led on  to the other poem."

(Lee Hollander translation.)

Works Consulted: At the Well of Wyrd by Edred Thorsson and The Road to Bifrost Vol. III: the Runes and Holy Signs by Thorr and Audrey Sheil.

 

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last modified 01/13/2004