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The black sun (German Schwarze Sonne) is a symbol employed by the SS during the Nazi era, and in a post-Third Reich context by neo-Nazis and some occult subcultures, such as Satanism. The first known occurrence of the symbol is on a green and white mosaic on a floor in Wewelsburg, a castle near Paderborn, Germany remodeled and expanded under Heinrich Himmler. The symbol's design consists of twelve radial sig runes, symbols employed as a logo by the Schutzstaffel. All subsequent forms extend from this mosaic. Whether the symbol had a name or held any particular significance among the SS remains unknown. Its association with the occult concept of the "black sun" (and therefore also its name) developed from the influence of a popular German novel first published in 1991.
In 1933, Heinrich Himmler acquired Wewelsburg, a castle near Paderborn, Germany. Himmler intended to make the structure into a center for the SS, and between 1936 and 1942, Himmler ordered the building expanded and rebuilt for ceremonial purposes.
A product of Himmler's remodeling, the symbol widely known today as the "Black Sun" consists of twelve circular sig runes on the floor of the structure's north tower (the Obergruppenführersaal). The intended significance of the image remains unknown, but the artist may have found inspiration from decorative Merovingian discs dating from the early medieval period (see Zierscheibe). The objects received notable discourse during the Nazi era.
In 1991, writer Russell McCloud published the popular novel Die Schwarze Sonne von Tashi Lhunpo (German 'The Black Sun of Tashi Lhunpo') which scholar Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke describes as an "occult-Nazi thriller". In the novel, McCloud links the Wewelsburg mosaic with the occult concept of the black sun, which had been introduced in the 1950s by the Landig Group as a replacement for the swastika and as a symbol for a mystic energy source that was supposed to renew the Aryan race. After the publication of the novel, the Wewelsburg symbol became popularly known as the "Black Sun".
The symbol has historically remained prominent in neo-Nazi occult circles, wherein it occurs frequently in print publications and on associated websites. However, the symbol also sees frequent use in many neo-Nazi, alt-right, and white nationalist more generally, as seen, for example, on imagery used by Vanguard America during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. Additionally, the Azov Battalion, a National Guard of Ukraine regiment widely associated with neofascism, employs the symbol in an official capacity as an emblem element, along with the Wolfsangel.
Along with other symbols from the Nazi era such as the Wolfsangel, the sig rune, and the totenkopf, the black sun is used by adherents of the Church of Satan and other Satanists. According to scholar Chris Mathews:
In defending their use, Satanists draw attention to their historical origins, as most have origins that precede their Nazi application, some stretching centuries back into the past. [Specifically], they adopt the primary iconography of the SS, the Nazi's own elite order. With these symbols, many of the pre-Nazism connections are questionable. Of the numerous permutations of the Wolfsangle, Satanists adopt the form used by the SS and numerous fascist organizations. Likewise, the Totenkopf used in the nineteenth century by the Prussian military was markedly more cartoonish than the SS's Death Head version, which is the version Church of Satan members use. The Black Sun motif is even less ambiguous. Though based on medieval German symbols, the Wewelsburg mosaic is a unique design commissioned specifically for Himmler, and its primary contemporary association is Nazi occultism, for which Nazi Satanic groups and esoteric neo-Nazis adopt it.
Mathews notes that Satanists sometimes combine Nazi imagery, such as when the Church of Satan's online store sold Wolfsangel rings by presenting them before a Black Sun background. Mathews says, "Despite the systematic exploitation of ambiguity, any denial that Nazi symbols are being used as Nazi symbols is both disingenuous and unconvincing."
In 2018, the symbol appeared on merchandise for Colombian pop singer Shakira's El Dorado World Tour. According to Live Nation Entertainment, "The necklace Live Nation designed for Shakira’s ‘El Dorado World Tour’ was based on pre-Colombian imagery ... However, some fans have expressed concern that the design bears an unintentional resemblance to neo-Nazi imagery. We sincerely apologize for this inadvertent similarity and have permanently pulled the item from the tour collection".