I have recently begun to focus a great deal of metaphysical attention on the sun.
(See my article Here Comes the Sun.) This idea has been nudging at me for a couple years, and now similar
ideas are showing up in other articles I read online. What if the sun is that Source of everything with which so many of us have been seeking to connect?
Obviously, without the sun, everything on the planet would be dead, but is there more than light and heat—is the sun transmitting new genetic codes to
humanity, and to the whole planet? Plants and animals instinctively seek out sunshine. Just watch how many cats crowd onto a windowsill warmed by a sunbeam.
Plant growth is guided by sunlight. Sunflowers will turn their heads to follow the path of the sun in the sky. Ancients worshipped the sun as a god. Did they
know something we do not, or have forgotten, or has been involuntarily wiped out of our memory? I firmly believe that myths are based on a reality, and so I
wanted to learn more about what people all over the world, throughout history thought about the sun.
And I was not disappointed! This book covers a vast area of information, divided into chapters on myths and mythology, folk-lore, sun worship, solar festivals and symbols, and much more. There are also works of art and photos of temples included throughout the book. Each chapter could be expanded into a book in itself.
The downside is first of all, Too Much Information! Whoa. My head was swimming by the time I finished. It helps if you have a rudimentary knowledge of mythology, especially Greek and Egyptian. A few times I felt like the writing was awkward, almost like reading a bad translation, but Olcott was American. His spellings were inconsistent, and he used unfamiliar terms or spelling rather than more common forms, especially with names. Some of his information is questionable, or perhaps just dated. (The book was first published in 1914.) He seems to want to make a point that nearly every major mythological figure was sun-related, and some of his arguments are a little far-fetched, although I admit I am not well-educated on this subject, and perhaps with more research and study, his arguments would seem more reasonable.
There are a few ideas found in these myths that seem to appear over and over, the first and most important being that ancient people viewed the sun as a being engaged in a battle between light and darkness, or death and resurrection. When it rose in the sky, it was alive and triumphant, but died in the evening, or went into the underworld, or drowned in the sea, There are many myths that mention a long period of darkness, and some allude to the flood that covered the whole earth.
When I was reading, I took notes, and I have pages and pages. I will present a few of the myths, to give you an idea of the wealth of material in this book.
Perhaps the most amusing myth of the sun's origin comes from the Bushmen of South Africa. The sun was a man who lived on earth. The light came out of his armpit, but when he lowered his arm, darkness came. The villagers decided that the children should throw him up into the sky while he was asleep, so all could have light, which they did, and he has been there forever.
A story of the sun condemned to repeat the same action day after day is represented in the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who, as punishment, had to labor each day rolling a huge boulder to the top of the hill, only to have it roll down again.
Some ancients thought that the sun went down into the sea each night to bathe and purify itself for the next day. Many peoples believed they could hear it hissing as it lowered itself into the water.
Olcott believes Homer's great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey are solar legends:
"The might, the invincible prowess, the unwearied strength of the hero, and his powers of destruction and devastation, nay, even his divinely made shield, are merely attributes of the sun in his midday splendour."
A Japanese myth tells how the Sun-Goddess hid herself in a cave and all was dark.
To lure her out, the people constructed a mirror, and when she saw how beautiful she was, she came out of the cave.
Modoc Indians believed that the sun, like the phoenix, burned up each night, and was reduced to ashes, but was summoned each morning by the morning star, and sprung up, rejuvenated. The Cherokee Indians believed that the sky was an arch of rock swinging like a doorway at the end of the earth. Each morning, as it swung open the sun crept through.
The myth of Orpheus descending into Hades to rescue his wife Eurydikê (here is an example of what I mentioned above with unfamiliar terms, as most people recognize this name as Eurydice) can be likened to the sun descending to the underworld and ascending the next day.
Ancient Egyptians noted that the sun deviated from its course on several occasions, rising in the west and setting in the east. Modern scientific data makes an argument that pole shifts have happened on this planet several times, which would account for the reversal of the sun's regular course.
When Greek astronomers declared that the sun was not a god or being, but a huge fiery globe, it caused a stir and was considered blasphemous.
The Egyptians were truly Sun-Worshipers, and had many gods to represent many aspects of the sun including the physical disc, the intellectual sun, the heat, the light, the power, the sun in the firmament, and the sun in his resting place. The section on sun worship also provides a list of sun deities and their nation of origin.
In the Sun-Catcher chapter, the sun becomes a victim. For whatever reason, it has decided not to do its work, so it must be ensnared and bound by cords so it travels its path every day.
Sometimes it is trapped accidentally, and must be freed, especially in the American Indian legends, which employ the help of an animal. In a Dogrib Indian tale, Chapawee accidentally catches the sun in a trap set for a squirrel. He sent many animals to cut the snare, but it was the mole who triumphed. However, by getting so close to the sun, he lost his eyesight, and that is why moles are blind.
Even in the Bible we see Joshua commanding the sun. In Joshua 10:12-13 he says:
"Move not, O sun, toward Gabaon, nor thou, O moon, toward the valley of Ajalon. And the sun and the moon stood still, till the people revenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of the just? So the sun and moon stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down the space of one day."
This is truly just a smattering of the stories and information in this book! If you are interested in myths, folk lore, and the sun, here is a great read.
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