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The Sun Cross – Symbolic Meaning and History

The sun cross, also called solar cross, sun wheel or wheel cross, is one of the oldest symbols, dating back to prehistoric cultures. It has been found around the world and holds different interpretations to various cultures.

Here’s an exploration of the sun cross, it’s history and meanings.

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What is the Sun Cross?

Sun cross image

Basic representation of the sun cross

The sun cross is believed to be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) religious symbol in the world, with links to Indian, Asian, American and European religious art from prehistoric ages.

The symbol, and its many variations, have been found around the world. Carvings from the Bronze Age show the solar cross depicted on burial urns, dating back to 1440 BC. It makes appearances on ancient cave walls, in places of worship, on coins, artwork, sculptures and in architecture.

  • The most basic form of the sun cross features an equilateral cross set within a circle. This variation is known as Odin’s cross in Norse culture. It represented Odin, the most powerful of the Nordic gods. Interestingly, the English word cross is derived from the Norse word for this symbol – kros.
  • The Celtic pagan god of thunder, Taranis, was often depicted with a spoked wheel in his hand, often associated with the solar cross. This wheel has been found on Celtic coins and jewelry. The Celtic cross is believed to be a variation of the wheel of Taranis, with the circle in its center believed to represent the sun.
  • The swastika is a variation of the solar cross, featuring bent arms in a turning motion. This symbol was considered a good luck charm and used around the globe by many cultures, including the Native Americans, until Hitler appropriated it and altered its positive symbolism forever.

Sun Cross Meaning

Celtic cross use

The Celtic cross features a variation of the sun cross

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As an ancient symbol with significance to many cultures, it’s natural that the sun cross has many meanings attributed to it. Here are some:

  • It’s a symbol of the sun, an object that has been worshipped since ancient times. The belief was that the symbol represented the chariot wheel of the Sun god. Ancient kings in Egypt and elsewhere used this symbol as they saw it as representing the highest power – the sun.
  • It represents the wheel, which gave power, strength and mobility to people and society.
  • In modern astronomy, the solar cross is used as the symbol for the Earth, rather than the sun.
  • In Christianity, the sun cross represents a halo, which is associated with angels and saints. The Christians also consider it a symbol of the power of God.
  • In neopagan and Wiccan beliefs, the solar cross represents the sun as well as the cycle of the four seasons or the four directions. It’s also considered to represent the four quadrants of the Wheel of the Year, a yearly cycle of seasonal festivals.
  • The solar cross represents the solar calendar, which charts the sun’s movements which are marked by the solstices and sometimes by the equinoxes as well.

Sun Cross in Use Today

The sun cross continues to be popular today and is used in jewelry designs, tattoos, clothing and decorative motifs. Because of its many interpretations and ancient origins, it appeals to a wide range of people from different cultures and religious beliefs.

In Brief

As one of the oldest symbols in the world, the sun cross deserves our interest and appreciation. In its many variations, this symbol can be found around the world, with significance to many cultures.

To learn more about related symbols, read our guide on the Celtic Cross. Alternatively, check out our in-depth article on the Swastika.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.