The term Black Sun (German Schwarze Sonne), also referred to as the Sonnenrad (the German for “Sun Wheel”), is a symbol of esoteric or occult significance. Its design bases on a sun wheel incorporated in a floor of Wewelsburg Castle during the Nazi era. Today, it may also be used in occult currents of Germanic neopaganism, and in Irminenschaft or Armanenschaft-inspired esotericism – but not necessarily in a racial or neo-Nazi context.
The design has loose visual parallels in Migration Age Alemannic brooches (Zierscheiben), possibly a variation of the Roman swastika fibula, thought to have been worn on Frankish and Alemannic women’s belts. Some Alemannic or Bavarian specimens incorporate a swastika symbol at the center. The number of rays in the brooches varies between five and twelve.
Goodrick-Clarke (2002) does connect the Wewelsburg design with the Early Medieval Germanic brooches, and does assume that the original artifacts had a solar significance, stating that “this twelve-spoke sun wheel derives from decorative disks of the Merovingians of the early medieval period and are supposed to represent the visible sun or its passage through the months of the year.” He further refers to scholarly discussion of the brooches in Nazi Germany, allowing for the possibility that the designers of the Wewelsburg mosaic were indeed inspired by these historical precedents.
The Wewelsburg mosaic
The shape of the symbol as it is used within Germanic mysticist esotericism and Neo-Nazism today is based primarily on the design of a floor mosaic at the castle of Wewelsburg (built 1603), a Renaissance castle located in the northwest of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
During the Third Reich the castle was to become a representative and ideological center of the order of the SS. Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS, wanted to establish the “Center of the New World”. A focus of the actual SS-activities at the castle were archaeological excavations in the surrounding region and studies on Germanic early history.
The mosaic is located in the ground floor room of the North-Tower of the castle, in the so-called Obergruppenführersaal (“Obergruppenführer hall”, completed 1939-1943). The “Obergruppenführer” (literally: “Upper-Group-Leaders”) were the highest ranking SS-generals. It is not known if the SS had a special name for the ornament, or if they attributed a special meaning to it. The sun wheel is significant for the Germanic light- and sun-mysticism which was propagated by the SS. In their studies on sense characters, the sun apart was interpreted as “the strongest and most visible expression of god”, the number twelve as significant for “the things of the target and the completion”. The mosaic at Wewelsburg itself is dark green on a whitish/greyish marble floor. Probably a golden disc was originally located in the middle of the ornament.
Traditional Christianity was to be replaced by a “völkisch” (folkish or racial) cult. Instead of Christianity, Himmler wanted a moral doctrine derived from the pre-Christian pagan Germanic heritage. Cultic ceremonies and rituals were part of the everyday life of the SS. The Wewelsburg was to be a center of a “species-compliant” religion (German: “artgemäße” Religion)
The North-Tower of the castle was to be the center of a planned circular estate, 1.27 kilometres in diameter (also see the architectural drawing and model from 1944). The architects called the complex the “Center of the World” from 1941 on.
The North-Tower, which had survived a ruin after 1815, only assumed importance for Himmler starting in the autumn of 1935. In the process of Himmler establishing the castle as a cult site (an ideological and religious center of the SS), the tower was to serve the highest-ranking SS leaders as a meeting place and probably as location for quasi-religious devotions. Nothing is known about the possible way and the kind of arrangement of designated ceremonies in the tower—the redesigned rooms were never used. According to the architects, the axis of the North-Tower was to be the actual “Center of the World”.
The inside of the complete castle was redesigned in an Nazi-specific mythological way (see the Wewelsburg SS School). SS architect Hermann Bartels presented a first draft of plans that envisioned using the North Tower on three different levels. However, a meeting in the first floor mosaic room never occurred—the building work at the room was stopped in 1943. In 1945, when the “final victory” didn’t materialize, the castle was partially blasted and set on fire by the SS, but the two redesigned rooms in the North-Tower stayed intact.
It is not known whether this symbol was placed in the marble floor at Wewelsburg before or after the National Socialist Regime and the taking over of the castle by Himmler. There is speculation as to whether the symbol was put into the hall by the Nazis or whether it was there a long time before but there is no definitive proof either way. It must be noted that the book sold by the Wewelsburg museum on the history of the castle from 1933 to 1945 makes no mention of who put it there. The plans for the North Tower by SS architect Hermann Bartels make no mention of it. Scholars today are reluctant to say with any certainty why it was put there, or by whom. Because the ceilings of the North-Tower were cast in concrete and faced with natural stone during the Third Reich, it is more likely that the ornament was created during the Himmler era.
There is, although its origins are unknown, an identical rendition of the Wewelsburg Schwarze Sonne in a wall painting at a World War II military bunker memorial to Bismarck at Hamburg below a statue of Bismarck (see Bismarck-Monument (Hamburg)). It is with a central piece incorporating a sunwheel and swastikas and the texts “Nicht durch Reden werden große Fragen entschieden, sondern durch Eisen und Blut” (“Great questions will not be resolved by talk, but by iron and blood”).
The Vienna Circle
The “Black Sun” is often associated with the mystic-esoteric aspects of National Socialism. Origin of a phantastic post war “SS mysticism” which refers to the “Black Sun” is a right-wing esoteric circle in Vienna in the early 1950s.
The former SS member Wilhelm Landig of the Vienna Circle (esoteric) “coined the idea of the Black Sun, a substitute swastika and mystical source of energy capable of regenerating the Aryan race” Rudolf J. Mund (also a former SS member and later also member of the Vienna Circle) discusses a relationship of the Black Sun with alchemy. The visible sun is described as a symbol of an invisible anti-sun: “Everything that can be comprehended by human senses is material, the shadow of the invisible spiritual light. The material fire is – seen in this way – also just the shadow of the spiritual fire.”
Nazi and Neo-Nazi significance
The term Black Sun may originate with the mystical “Central Sun” in Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophy. This invisible or burnt out Sun (Karl Maria Wiligut’s Santur in Nazi mysticism) symbolizes an opposing force or pole. Emil Rüdiger, of Rudolf John Gorslebens Edda-Gesellschaft (Edda Society), claimed that a fight between the new and the old Suns was decided 330,000 years ago, and that Santur had been the source of power of the Hyperboreans.
The Wewelsburg symbol can be deconstructed into three swastikas; a “rising”, a “zenith” & a “setting” one, the design is popular among German Neo-Nazis as a replacement for the outlawed singular swastika symbol. Another interpretation is that the symbol incorporates twelve reversed “Sig runes” of the Armanen runes.
Allegedly, the design was drawn for Heinrich Himmler from an “old Aryan emblem”, and was meant to mimic the Round table of Arthurian legend with each spoke of the sun wheel representing one “knight” or Officer of the “inner” SS. According to James Twining, “The symbol of the Black Sun unites the three most important symbols of Nazi ideology – the sun wheel, the swastika and the stylized victory rune.” and that it is symbolic in its form representing “the twelve SS Knights of The Order of the Death’s Head and their three retainers).
Erich Halik was the first to link the esoteric SS with the Black Sun roundel insignia carried by German aircraft in the polar region at the close of World War II.