Winged sun

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"Winged Sun of Thebes" (from Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity by Samuel Sharpe, 1863)

The winged sun is a symbol associated with divinity, royalty and power in the Ancient Near East (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Persia). The symbol has also been found in the records of ancient cultures residing in various regions of South America as well as Australia.

Ancient Egypt[edit]

In Ancient Egypt, the symbol is attested from the Old Kingdom (Sneferu, 26th century BC), often flanked on either side with a uraeus. In early Egyptian religion, the symbol Behedeti represented Horus of Edfu, later identified with Ra-Harachte. It is sometimes depicted on the neck of Apis, the bull of Ptah. As time passed (according to interpretation) all of the subordinated gods of Egypt were considered to be aspects of the sun god, including e.g. Khepri.

Mesopotamia and the Levant[edit]

Stele to Assurnasiripal II at Nimrud (9th century BC), detail showing the winged sun.

From roughly 2000 BC, the symbol spread to the Levant and to Mesopotamia. It appears in reliefs with Assyrian rulers and in Hieroglyphic Anatolian as a symbol for royalty, transcribed into Latin as SOL SUUS (literally, "his own self, the Sun", i.e., "His Majesty").

Hebrew[edit]

From ca. the 8th century BC, it appears on Hebrew seals[citation needed], by now as a generic symbol for "power". One example is a seal where the winged sun is flanked by two Ankh symbols and a Hebrew inscription translating to "possession of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Juda". Numerous pottery finds dating to the same time bear the symbol together with the inscription lemelekh "king's [property]".

Compare also Malachi 4:2, referring to a winged "Sun of righteousness",

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings... (KJV)

Zoroastrianism[edit]

The Faravahar in the Persepolis. Also a small winged sun is below of it, click on the image to see.

The symbol evolved into the Faravahar (the "visual aspect of Ahura Mazda") in Zoroastrian Persia.

Greece[edit]

The winged sun is conventionally depicted as the knob of the Staff of Hermes.

Modern use[edit]

As an alchemcal symbol: a winged sun hovers over a sepulchre filled with water (from Rosary of the Philosophers).

The symbol was used on the cover of Charles Taze Russell's textbook series Studies in the Scriptures beginning with the 1911 editions. Various groups such as Freemasonry, Theosophy, Rosicrucians and Unity Church have also used it. Variations of the symbol are used as a trademark logo on vehicles produced by the Chrysler Corporation, and Harley Davidson.

Literature[edit]

  • R. Mayer, Opificius, Die geflügelte Sonne, Himmels- und Regendarstellungen im Alten Vorderasien, UF 16 (1984) 189-236.
  • D. Parayre, Carchemish entre Anatolie et Syrie à travers l'image du disque solaire ailé (ca. 1800-717 av. J.-C.), Hethitica 8 (1987) 319-360.
  • D. Parayre, Les cachets ouest-sémitiques à travers l'image du disque solaire ailé, Syria 67 (1990) 269-314.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]