Symbolisms of the Sun – The Sun Dieties

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The sun has been the inspiration of mythologies and symbolism, rituals and beliefs in all cultures throughout history. Part 2 of this article explains the various sun dieties of various cultures and their stories.

Symbolisms of the Sun

By Margo Kirtikar PhD

The sun has been the inspiration of mythologies and symbolism, rituals and beliefs in all cultures throughout the ages. In most cultures the sun stands for the male energy, light, reason and strength, as opposed to the moon which is associated with female qualities, darkness, emotion and giving.

Below I will give you a brief and incomplete historiography of the various sun symbols in different cultures followed by some practical information.

Solar Deity

A solar deity is a god or goddess who represents the sun or an aspect of it. People have worshipped a god or goddess who represents the sun, for all of recorded history.

The Sun Chariot of Trundholm

sun-chariotThe Trundholm sun chariot pulled by a horse is believed to be a sculpture illustrating an important part of Nordic Bronze Age mythology. Its also called Solvognen in Danish. It is a bronze statue of a horse and large bronze disk, which are placed on a device with spoked wheels. The horse stands on a bronze rod supported by four wheels. All of the wheels have four spokes. Although the horse is supported by wheels also, the portion that is referred to as a chariot consists solely of the disk, the axle, and the wheels. The disk is interpreted as a depiction of the sun. The disk which has a diameter of about 25 cm is gilded on one side only, the right hand side. This has been interpreted as an indication of a belief that the sub is drawn across the heavens from East to West during the day, presenting the day time, and returns from west to East during the night. According to Professor or Archeoogy at the Unniversity of Copenhagen, Klaus Randsborg, the disk might have been designed by a person with some knowledge of astronomy and that the sculpture may have functioned as a calendar. The sculpture has been dated to 14th to 15th centuries B.C.

The Winged Sun

winged-sunThe winged sun was an ancient symbol of Horus, later identified with Ra. Egypt about 3rd millennium BC.


Male and Female Sun Dieties

A solar deity (also heliolatry or sun worship), is a god or goddess who represents the sun, or an aspect of it.

Although solar dieties are generally male enemies of the lunar female diety Sun goddesses are more popular and are found on every continent. The dualism of sun/male/light and moon/female/darkness is found in many but not all european traditions.

In different religions solarised supreme dieties carry different names and are associated with different aspects of the cultural universe of the society. The Neolithic concept of a solar barge, the sun as taversing the sky in a boat, is found in ancient egypt, with Ra and Horus. The Roman Empire celebrated a festival of the birth of Unconquered Sun, when the duration of daylight first begins to increase after the winter soltice, the rebirth of the sun. In German mythology this is Sol, in Vedic Surya, and in Greej Helios or Apollo. Mesopotamian Shamas plays an important role during the Bronze Age. South American cultures have emphatic sun worship. The Slavic god Svarog is the spirit of fire.

Sun worship was exceptionally prevalent in ancient Egyptian religion. The “solarisation” of several gods (Hnum-Re, Min-Re, Amon-Re) reaches its peak in the period of the fifth dynasty. In the eighteenth dynasty, Akhenaten, changed the polytheistic religion of Egypt to a pseudo-monotheistic Atenism. The reigning sun god Amun and all other gods were replaced by the Aten. His only image was a disk, a symbol of the sun.

In Chinese mythology, there were ten suns in the sky and the world was so hot that nothing grew. A hero called Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns with his bow and arrows. The world became better ever since. In another myth, the solar eclipse was caused by the dog of heaven biting off a piece of the sun. There was a tradition in China to hit pots and pansduring a solar eclipse to drive away the dog.

In the Vedas, numerous hymns are dedicated to Surya Deva, the sun personified and Savitar the impeller, a solar deity associated with Surya. The Gayatri mantra, which is one of the most sacred of the Hindu hymns is dedictaed to the sun. The Mahabharata describes its warrior hero Karna as the son of Kunti and the sun. The Ramayana has its protagonist Rama as being from the Raghu Vamsham or the clan of kings as bright of the sun.

In African many peoples use the local word for sun as the name for their supreme being. The Munsch tribe considers the sun to be the son of the supreme being Awondo and the moon is Awondo’s daughter. The Barotse tribe believes that the sun is inhabited by the sky god Nyambi and the moon is his wife.

The solar gods have a stronger presence in Indonesia’s religious life and mythology. In some cases the sun is revered as a father or founder of the tribe. This may apply for the whole tribe or only for the royal and ruling families. In Australia and on the island of Timor, the tribal leaders are seen as direct heirs to the sun god. The sun is also seen as a mediator between the planes of the living and the dead.

There are many archaic Sun cults which incorporate themselves into newer religions in the folklore traditions. In Japan for example there is a custom that young people representing the Sun’s ancestors, the dead, paint their faces red and visit village homes, to guarantee the land’s fertility. Another important myth complex is that of the Sun Hero, which is typical of the nomad herders. These heroes are found among the African nomad tribes, the tribes from Central Asia, Gesen Khan, the Samson Jews, and also among all Indo-European peoples. The Sun Hero often saves the world renews the world, opens a new epoch, and generally brings about some major renewal to the established cosmical order.

The Sun of May in Spanish, sol de Mayo, is one of the national emblems of Argentina and Uruguay, and it is featured on the countries’ flags. It is a representation of the Inca sun god Inti. The sun, is a replica of an engraving on the Argentinian coin, approved in 1813, its value was one Spanish dollar, eight escudos. It has 16 straight and 16 waves sunbeams. It is referred as the sol de Mayo, because of the may Revolution which took place in May 1810 and marked the beginning of independence from Spain.

Practical Info

Are you aware that the sun rays are equivalent to gold rays and therefore, like gold, extremely beneficial to your health? Although it is dangerous in some areas of the world to sun bathe, it is very healthy to enjoy bright sunshine in little dosis, especially early mornings. It is healthy for the spleen, as the spleen, an important spiritual organ, tanks in energy from the sun. It is very beneficial for you to stand facing the sun and consciously breathe in deeply, while going through a positive mantra in your head. For example, you breathe in and think ‘I am now breathing in sunshine healing every cell of my body.’ As you breathe out slowly you think ‘I am breathing out all negativity and illness out of every cell of my body.’ Do this a few times, slowly and see how wonderful you will feel. Sunshine not only heals, but it purifies aswell. It is very beneficial for people who are depressed who usually like to shun sunlight. For the spleen sit or stand with your back to the sun and let it shine full blast on your back to do is work. Remember to keep your thoughts positive.

© Margo Kirtikar Ph.D., all rights reserved.




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