To the Japanese who followed, and for those who still follow, the Shinto religion, the Goddess of the sun is Amaterasu, who is also Goddess of the universe. Her name means “shining in heaven.” The Emperor of Japan was believed to be a direct descendant of Amaterasu.
Amaterasu was the sister of Susanoo, the God of oceans and storms, and of the moon God Tsukuyomi. She shared the reign of the heavens with Tuskuyomi.
After a quarrel with her brother Susanoo, during which he destroyed her rice fields, she hid for a while inside a rock cave, and during this time the sun did not shine. Eventually she was persuaded to come out of the cave and the sun shone again.
In Honshu, Japan, at the Ise Shrine, a ceremony is held every twenty years to honor Amaterasu. At this time the buildings of the shrine are torn down and built anew at a nearby location.
The hidden sun is a common theme in mythology. In ancient Egypt, the sun God Ra traveled through the underworld every night, where he did battle with Apep, the dragon of chaos. When he had defeated Apep, the sun rose and began a new day.
For the Norsemen, the enemy of the sun was the wolf Skoll who chased the horses which pulled the chariot of the sun Goddess Sol through the sky every day.
For the Chinese, an eclipse was caused when the magical dog of heaven bit off a piece of the sun. This is said to have happened around 2,160BCE.
Ancient Egypt had many sun Gods and Goddesses over the centuries. The God Amun rose to a place of national significance and became identified with the God Ra, the earlier sun God of the Old Kingdom.
In Hinduism, in the time of the Vedas, the solar deities were the Adityas. The Rig Veda describes the Adityas as bright and as pure as streams of water, free from all deceit and falsehood. They protect the world of spirits and the earth.
Vishnu is mentioned in the Rig Veda as one of the Adityas, who created the solar year. When Vishnu’s head was cut off, due to a trick, his head became the sun.
The sacred prayer, the Gayatri Mantra, recited daily by millions of Hindus, invokes the sun God by the name Savitar.
In the Ramayana, Rama, the avatar of Vishnu, belongs to a dynasty of kings descended from Surya, the sun God. Surya is traditionally worshipped at dawn. Surya is also known as Mitra, which means friend, and by a great many other names.
Vishnu, the God of light, is identified with the sun as the source of life, blessings, nourishment, sustenance, and all good things.
It made sense to ancient people, and still does to millions of people today, to worship the sun.
The sun gives light and life to the earth and to all the plants and animals who thrive on the earth. To each of us the sun rising in the morning brings a sense of joy, peace, and positivity – a sense of renewal and optimism.
We as humans are conscious beings and does it not make sense that the spirit of consciousness and intelligence which manifests in us, must also pervade the entire universe – the oceans, the wind, the trees, the animals, the planets, the stars, and especially the sun, who gives us life?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / “This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired….You must also include a United States public domain tag to indicate why this work is in the public domain in the United States.” / “Surya receives worship from the multitudes; Tanjore School miniature painting, 1800’s “A Painting of Surya. India, Tanjore School, 19th Century.”