The Sun in culture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Humans have long recognized the Sun's role in supporting life on Earth, and as a result many societies throughout history have paid homage to the Sun by giving it prominent roles in their religions and mythologies.

The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios. The English word sun stems from Proto-Germanic *sunnǭ.[1][2][3] Its astrological and astronomical symbol is a circle with a point at its center: Sun symbol.svg. The ancient Greeks grouped the Sun together with the other celestial bodies which moved across the sky (in relation to the starfield), calling them all planets (literally "wanderers"). This was before the acceptance of heliocentrism.

In Western society[edit]

The religious significance of the Sun has its roots in the very earliest of recorded Western history. Both the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans worshipped one or more solar deities.

Greek mythology[edit]

Many Greek myths personify the Sun as a God named Helios, who wore a shining crown and rode a chariot across the sky, causing day. Over time, the Sun became increasingly associated with Apollo. Icarus attempted to fly but the sun melted his wings.

Roman mythology[edit]

Main article: Sol Invictus

The Roman Empire adopted Helios into their own mythology as Sol. The title Sol Invictus ("the undefeated Sun") was applied to several solar deities, and depicted on several types of Roman coins during the 3rd and 4th centuries. The birth of "the undefeated Sun" was celebrated on the 25th of December from at least as early as 354.

In the Americas[edit]

The Sun was also worshiped in many pre-Columbian societies in the Americas, including the Incas and Aztecs.

Ancient Egypt[edit]

The worship of the Sun in the Eastern world has its historical origin in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians identified the Sun with Ra, one of the major deities in their religion, and the visible disk of the Sun (known as Aten) was either seen as the body or the eye of Ra. The pharaoh Akhenaten established a monotheistic religion during his reign, with Aten as its central figure.


In Hindu religious literature, the Sun is notably mentioned as the visible form of God that one can see every day. In Hinduism, Surya (Devanagari: सूर्य, sūrya) is the chief solar deity, son of Dyaus Pitar. The ritual of sandhyavandanam, performed by some Hindus, is meant to worship the Sun. Many scripts from Hindu mythology referred the sun as a King, who rides on a chariot seven horses (this is indication of seven colors from Sunlight).


In the Qur'an, the Islamic religious scripture, the Sun like other celestial objects is not endowed with any particular religious significance or symbolic meaning. Due to the widespread presence of Sun-worshiping cults in Pre-Islamic Arabia, Muslim doctrine, the Shariah forbade all prayers during the rising and setting of the Sun, to symbolically refute its divinity. Pre-Islamic Arab pagans considered solar eclipses and other celestial occurrences as omens signaling the passing of an important figure or other earthly events. However, this belief was refuted explicitly by Muhammad in the year 632 C.E, when the death of his son coincided with a solar eclipse: "The Sun and the Moon are from among the evidences of God. They do not eclipse because of someone's death or life."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In most romance languages the sun is male (e.g. le soleil in French, el sol in Spanish, Il Sole in Italian). In most Germanic languages it is female (e.g. Die Sonne in German). In Proto-Indo-European, its gender was inanimate.
  3. ^ "sun". Merriam Webster dictionary. 
  4. ^ Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Translated by Isma'il Razi A. al-Faruqi, The Life of Muhammad, American Trush Publications, 1976, ISBN 0-89259-002-5 [1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Richard Cohen (2010-11-09). Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life. Random House. ISBN 1400068754.