The Green Man
The Sun and the Moon
Dragons and Serpents
Whales and Dolphins
The Knight's Templar
For thousands of years, the Sun and Moon have filled man with inspiration, admiration and fear.
The Sun, the bringer of Light, Heat and Fire, is one of the most crucial elements needed on Earth for life. Without the Sun, life would perish rapidly. It is therefore unsurprising that many human cultures have worshipped the Sun, and sometimes the Moon, in acknowledgement of their importance, their beauty and their magnificent powers.
Throughout the thousands of religions across the globe, the Sun and the Moon have been said to be a bewildering range of entities, from the eyes of a giant in Chinese mythology to sparks of fire tossed into the air according to the Norse belief. More often, however, the Sun and Moon are personified as gods.
Frequently, the Sun is associated with masculine qualities and the Moon is portrayed as a woman. St. Francis of Assisi wrote a prayer dedicated to "Brother Sun and Sister Moon," while in West Africa, the Fon tribe tell of the male Sun god Lisa and his twin sister, the Moon goddess Mawu. However, there are exceptions; the oldest Japanese religion, Shintoism, tells us that both deities of the Sun and Moon are female; the shy but extraordinarily beautiful Sun goddess Amaterasu, who was later to be associated with the Buddha, and the goddess of the moon, Tsuki-yomi. Both were created from the tears of the higher god, Izanagi.
The ancient Egyptians, renowned for their sun-worship, knew the Sun as their chief god Ra (also known as Re or Amun-Ra), who rides across the sky in a boat called Sektet and is often represented by the falcon. The scarab beetle was thought to be sacred in Egypt, as it was believed that it carried the Sun across the sky on its back legs.
The myth of the Phoenix, the fabulous bird of the Sun and fire, may have been hatched by the Egyptian belief in the Bennu, a magnificent heron which was born within fire. The Phoenix is also found in Oriental beliefs, where it is known as Feng-Huang in China and Houou in Japan, and was thought to be born in the Sun.
Both the Greeks and Romans believed in the Sun god Apollo, who rode across the sky on a fiery chariot drawn by wild horses and is among the most famous of Sun deities in human history. Apollo, also the god of love, hunting and music, was said to be favoured among women for his handsome features and immortal strength. He also had a mortal son, named Phaeton, whose arrogance and audacity lead him to his death by falling from the sun chariot which he tried to control despite his father's warning.
The Greek legends also recount the tale of Prometheus, the skilful giant who created humans from clay. However, Prometheus was too clever for his own good - after out witting the emperor of all the gods, Zeus (later known to the Romans as Jupiter), mankind was punished by the extinguishing of all fire on Earth. But Prometheus was unwilling to let humanity suffer. He crept up Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, and stole a piece of the burning Sun. Thus, the gift of fire was once more restored to mankind.
Strikingly similar to Apollo is Tsohanoai, the god of the Sun to the Navajo tribe of north America. Tsohanoai is said to carry the sun on his back and hang it on the west wall of his house before unravelling the dark rug of Night. He also has children, two fearless sons named Killer of Enemies and Child of Water, whom he helped to overcome some of the evil spirits which once inhabited the world.
Sun and Moon peweter brooch, available at the Spiral Online Shop
To page 2 of "The Sun and the Moon"