The Wolfsangel (German for "wolf's hook") is a symbol originating in Germany. It is also known as the Wolf's Hook or Doppelhaken. The upright variant is also known as "thunderbolt" (Donnerkeil) and the horizontal variant as "werewolf".
Historically, the symbol possibly originated as a mason's mark and was used as a heraldic symbol in coats of arms. Today, the symbol appears in numerous city coats of arms. A variant was adopted by several military units of Nazi Germany. Due to this, along with continuing use by Neo-Nazi organisations, the symbol is now sometimes associated with Nazism as are many of the old folk symbols of the Germanic peoples, most notably the swastika.
While the actual origins of the symbol appear to have been lost in obscurity, various theoretical explanations, historical traces and folk legends persist.
The term Wolfsangel is often used to describe three distinct heraldic charges
. Incorrectly for the cramp or cramp iron (ger. Mauerhaken
) as well as for two variants of the actual wolftrap (ger. respectively Wolfsanker
The name Wolfsangel appears in a 1714 heraldic handbook, Wapenkunst, associated with a different symbol:
- Wolffs-Angel, frantz. hamecon, lat. uncus quo lupi capiuntur, ist die Form eines halben Mondes und hat inwendig in der Mitte einen Ring.
- "Wolffs-Angel, French hamecon, Latin uncus quo lupi capiuntur ("hook with which wolves are caught"), is the shape of a crescent moon with a ring inside, at mid-height"
It is likely that the Wolfsangel was originally a hunting or rather trapping tool used to capture wolves.
Many people believe the sign originated as a mason's mark
as seen in 13th to 16th century stonework. More likely, the cramp iron which is commonly confused with the Wolfshaken, might have originated as a building tool.
Alleged Runic Origins
While the symbol itself bears a parallel to the Eihwaz
rune, none of the modern symbols now called the Wolfsangel are historically part of any runic alphabet. The Eihwaz
does appear twice in the phrase, "eigi einhamr" which means, "not of one skin" and most of the other runes in the term are also represented within the mark.
The earliest documented claim that the shape is runic in origin can be traced to Guido von List's alleged mental vision of 18 "Armanen runes" in 1902 -- which is to say that it is without historical basis. The figure he calls the "Gibor rune" has a similar shape, and he attributes to it a g sound. However, it should be noted that the shape of Gibor was 'altered' in the 1930s to more closely fit with the idea that the Wolfsangel IS the same as Gibor, when in fact the form of the Gibor rune, as originally envisaged by von List is somewhat different. According to List, it is the 18th and final member of the alleged original rune row (the Younger Futhark has 16 runes). Due to this, the Wolfsangel sometimes appears listed as the 34th rune in Armanen row-influenced esoteric contexts , but the Futhorc actually only has 33 runes.
In 1910, Hermann Löns
published a classic fiction book titled Der Wehrwolf
(later published as Harm Wulf, a peasant chronicle
and The Warwolf
in English) set in a 17th-century German farming community during the Thirty Years' War
. The main character of the book, Harm Wolf, adopts the wolfsangel as a badge against the occupying forces of the ruling princes. Some printings of this book, such as the 1940 edition, showcase a very visible wolfsangel on the book cover.
The Church of Satan
has incorporated the symbol as, "a talisman of power representing nature in perfect balance." Along with the Black Sun
it is used on various merchandise in their official emporium of jewelery and ritual accessories.
Third Reich Use
In Nazi Germany, the Wolfsangel was used by:
After World War II
, the symbol was used by the following Neo-Nazi organizations:
Public exhibition of the symbol is illegal in Germany if a connection with one of these groups is apparent. In Italy, the neofascist organization Terza Posizione used a modifed wolfsangel as their symbol.
The wolfsangel is sometimes used by artists working in various forms of media, most notably musical. Various neofolk
musicians, related artists and fans have used the symbol for aesthetical approach. The symbol was once used extensively by Boyd Rice
and Death In June
. The wolfsangel has also appeared in use by Ulver
. There are two bands called Wolfsangel, one is a Russian Folk Metal band, the other is a French white power band.