Supporting Meanings: Illumination, guidance, nurturing, triumphing, will, inner light, guiding motion and journeys
Ancient Meanings: According to Diana Paxson, the Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic, and Norwegian rune poems all agree that Sowilo stands for “Sun.” In the Anglo-Saxon poem, the sun is the hope of seamen ferrying over the sea until their ship comes to land. The Icelandic poem sees the sun as a shield, which defends against the cold and melts ice. The Norwegian poem, interestingly, links the sun’s light with respect to the heavens: “Sun is the light of the lands; I bow to heaven’s doom.” Since the light of the lands is obviously cyclical in Norway (vastly different daylight hours in summer and winter), I think that this particular line also notes a respect for cycles.
Modern Meanings: Edred Thorsson sees this rune as signifying the sun and its light, the solar wheel, the wheels of the solar wagon, and the sun disk itself. It is the force of lightning which links heaven and earth, and the whirling wheels of energy we know as chakras. He also sees sowilo as the will to victory, the illuminating beacon that guides the seeker across consciousness’s sea. Similarly, Willis sees it as the light that vanquishes evil. Osborn and Longland interpret it as the sail that drives the ship in the poem, or the quartz that allows the navigator to perceive the sun’s position. Peterson views it as the life force, consciousness and wholeness, and the power to calm stormy seas. Freya Aswynn emphasizes that the sun in Norse myth is feminine, and suggests that the Sun can be seen as nurturing with its welcome heat and light. She defines sowilo as a rune of the higher self, which directs the process of individuation and provides spiritual guidance. Gundarsson focuses on sowilo as a source of invincibility and triumph, a rune of the will. Most commentators agree that sowilo is a rune of illumination and movement
My Take-Away of the Meanings: Where would we be without the sun? Without its warmth and radiation, there would be no life. And if we could imagine a world with life but no sun, it would be a rudderless life. We would have nothing to anchor our place on the planet.
Paxson’s Interpretation and Use: In readings, sowilo indicates illumination, clarification, the appearance of a guiding principle, change or development after a period of stagnation. It is a beacon of hope for those who strive. The sun mean strength, energy, life force, success, honor, and achievement. It also is the light of truth and enlightenment. It may indicate health or a need to rest and restore it. It can be interpreted as a journey rune, especially over water (in conjunction with raidho and laguz), or even a sailor. Its illumination may arrive through a teacher’s help. With isa, it may indicate a blocked will. Magically, sowilo provides guidance in journeying and can be inscribed on luggage for protection. Invoking it helps one find the right path. It can be used to kindle and maintain energy needed to carry projects through to their completion.
Paxson’s Practice for Living Sowilo: One of the most obvious ways to experience sowilo is by tracking the sun’s journey. In medieval Iceland, time was counted in day-marks, or by noting the position of the sun in regard to features in the landscape. Obviously, these features changed from place to place. Try identifying the day-marks for your own environment and use them to tell time. It can be an interesting psychological exercise, and can be easily made a spiritual one by accompanying each observation with a prayer. Doing so aligns your personal time with that of sowilo.