Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ancient Mysteries: The Sator Square

While looking on the W.W.Web for something else, I ran across something really interesting. It's called the Sator Square; it's an ancient Latin palindrome. Its meaning, though, is subject to interpretation. The phrase reads "Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas" in every direction, frontward and backward, up and down.

According to a 2003 article by Rose Mary Sheldon in Cryptologia, "The sator square is one of the oldest, unsolved word puzzles in the world. Examples of the square and numerous variations on it, have been found in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. Examples date from first-century Rome to the nineteenth century. Many questions have plagued scholars: Who composed it? What do the words mean? How has it been used in magic, religion, medicine and superstition ever since? Does the solution lie with mathematicians, philologists or theologians? All these questions remain unsolved, but the number of attempts by scholars to answer them grows yearly."

I found that there are endless websites dedicated to solving the mystery of this square and its meaning. One source, here, suggests that there are several possible interpretations:

"The usual translation is as follows:

'Sower', 'planter'
Likely an invented proper name; its similarity with arrepo, from ad repo, 'I creep towards', is coincidental
'he holds'
'(with) work', '(with care)', '(with) effort'
Two possible translations of the phrase are 'The sower Arepo holds the wheels with effort' and 'The sower Arepo leads with his hand (work) the plough (wheels).' C. W. Ceram read the square boustrophedon (in alternating directions), with tenet repeated. This produces Sator opera tenet; tenet opera sator, translated: 'The Great Sower holds in his hand all works; all works the Great Sower holds in his hand.' (Ceram 1958, p. 30)

The word arepo is enigmatic, appearing nowhere else in Latin literature. Most of those who have studied the Sator Square agree that it is a proper name, either an adaptation of a non-Latin word or a name invented specifically for this sentence. Jerome Carcopino thought that it came from a Celtic, specifically Gaulish, word for plough. David Daube argued that it represented a Hebrew or Aramaic rendition of the Greek Αλφα ω, or "Alpha-Omega" (cf. Revelation 1:8) by early Christians. J. Gwyn Griffiths contended that it came, via Alexandria, from the attested Egyptian name Ḥr-Ḥp, which he took to mean "the face of Apis"."

I find the whole thing fascinating; as one of the articles pointed out, though, this is a mystery that can never be solved--only analyzed. And those, to me, are the most compelling mysteries of all.

(Photo image: Answers.com)


Carola Rummens said...

This is realy a very magic square. I never heard of it, but looked it up in the wikipedia after I read your blog about it. Why was it writen. Was it a game with words or has it some religious meaning. It is a pitty that we will never know why it was made.
It's very nice that you wrote about this square.

Julia Buckley said...

I think it's really interesting, too! It has a timeless fascination, like Stonehenge.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Julia Buckley said...

Thanks very much!

Anonymous said...

The only palindrome in the square is TENET

Julia Buckley said...

Good point--I guess I need another term that suggests perfect symmetry. Maybe symmetry. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's a symbol for the man and God who live here in this world ,sower, plant, alpha & omega all this word is for one person! Jesus it's my opinion!

Anthony Morris said...

you may like www.newunderstandings.com
The Sator Square is something I have just solved using an ancient Greek cipher and linking it to my Partition Theory via the Swastika no less. Best Anthony

Unknown said...

You will only find the meaning in the oldest fraternity in the world AMORC I found it you can to.

Glenn Westmore said...

One of the oldest known Latin Squares is the Sator Square. This Square was supposedly found amongst the ruins of Pompeii in the volcanic ashes resulting Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, pressed in clay or carved in stone. Read more about it on my blog: http://www.glennwestmore.com.au/category/latin-squares/.

Nani said...

In the Philippines,THE MYSTERY OF SATOR is already solve


In the time of emperor Nero of rome, he kill all Christians who worship JESUS CHRIST.
Thats why all Christians, make a meeting that they use a code to hide they identity,they use PATERNOSTER ALPHA ET OMEGA but romance still know they identity because PATERNOSTER is OUR FATHER,JESUS CHRIST the one who teach them a prayer Our Father,and the Alpha et Omega this is from the testament of book of Saint Jhon meaning our God,Lord God that why the code they make,they random it from PATERNOSTER ALPHA ET OMEGA

The result is SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS, their have meaning that Sator

In essoteric Sator is a powerful sacred word,you can make talismans using Sator

Foxin said...

Finnish Sator Square: http://www.slideshare.net/HarriCarlson/finnish-sator-squarepart-1

Unknown said...

Palindrome is a word, line, verse, number, sentence, etc., reading the same backward as forward.

Anonymous said...

My mother was a witch. So am I. She made the sator square into talismans that we, (herself, her children, and loved ones) wore in lockets around our necks. These talismans protected us from harm, brought us prosperity, and when used properly, gave great power when spell casting. She passed away in 93. I haven't made any of the talismans on my own, but I do know how. Just FYI to anyone that's interested.
Blessed Be!!

Jimmy said...

You can now play Sator Square online here:

Word Square

Unknown said...

Im interested about how do you make the sator square the right way and do i write it on calves skin with doves blood or use silver for it to be powerful.

Anonymous said...

They are powerful magical words. Mysterious yet they must be used properly in good ways.

Unknown said...

My granny have it over both doors of this house. She said its to keep evil spirts out the house. I never knew what it meant or how to use it or what it means ahe told me im one of gods choosen child i dont know what that means. I see spirits in my sleep i use to see them when i was awake when i was 12 i use to hear voices talk to me at one time they stoped when i was 21.i dont know why. When someone i know past away i always see them in my dreams. So please someone help me to understand this spiritual stuff. Because i dont understand it. I wonder why god chosen me...

Unknown said...

I am interested can you teach me or made me one.. thank you very much..

Anonymous said...

The Sator square is just an ancient way of saying keep the faith. Poro tenet Aras, Hold to the Altar