Astronomy

Legends about the Sun



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"Legends about the Sun"
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"If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware... I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sunrise" -Vincent Van Gough

The Sun creates the visible world around us, without its light there is darkness, coldness and death. It is no wonder our first mythological God/Goddess was The Sun, praised and worshiped in various forms, from the moment we could first cogitate about the apparent death and rebirth of the sun and therefore ourselves. Perhaps we instinctively realised that without the Sun there would be no life on earth, and soon incorporated mythological rituals to worship this ultimate giver of life. The oldest recorded interpretations of the Sun were discovered at the Apollo 11 Cave in the Huns Mountains of south-western Namibia, Africa. An incised ochre cave painting dated at 100,000 B.C, which is also the generally accepted date for the rise of Homo sapiens. Though interestingly enough, there were very few societies, which exclusively worshipped the sun as their prime God/Goddess.

"A woman who awakens daily in her camp in the east, lights a fire, and prepares the bark torch she will carry across the sky. Before setting out, she decorates herself with red ochre, which she spills, colouring the clouds red. Upon reaching the west, she reapplies her paint, again spilling reds and yellows in the sky, before returning home underneath the earth, where her torch warms the earth from below." -Aboriginal Sun Myth

The Australian Aborigines are the oldest surviving single culture, dated to over 50,000 BC in their origins. For them the sun was a divine feminine being, one of many, as it was in most cultures that pre-date, the late ancient Egyptian turn to patriarchy that was affirmed in new European culture by the Greeks onwards. Many tribal languages in Africa today, still use the name of the Sun; Ashanti-Nyankopan, Barotse-Nyambi, and Dogon-Amma, as the name for their supreme being. However like the Greek-Helios and Sumerian-Utu, although all powerful, the Sun was not assigned a specific major role in everyday ritual. That is until Akhenaton in ancient Egypt around 1352 BC.

"The higher the sun ariseth, the less shadow doth he cast; even so the greater is the goodness, the less doth it covet praise; yet cannot avoid its rewards in honours" -Amenhotep IV

Aten was until Amenhotep IV, a minor Sun God in the pantheon of ancient Egyptian God and Goddesses. Amenhotep obsessed with Aten changed his name to Akhenaton (Agreeable to Aten) and formed one of the first monotheistic religions by proclaiming the visible sun to be the ultimate God of Gods, Aten, above all others.

"How manifold it is, what thou hast made! They are hidden from the face. O sole god, like whom there is no other! Thou didst create the world according to thy desire, whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts, whatever is on earth, going upon feet, and what is on high, flying with its wings. The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt, Thou settest every man in his place, Thou suppliest their necessities: Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned. Their tongues are separate in speech, and their natures as well; their skins are distinguished, as thou distinguishest the foreign peoples. Thou makest a Nile in the underworld, Thou bringest forth as thou desirest. To maintain the people (of Egypt) according as thou madest them for thyself, The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them, The lord of every land, rising for them, the Aton of the day, great of majesty" -Great Hymn to Aten -Akhenaton

For over 1500 years, before Akhenaton, ancient Egypt had worshipped a multitude of Gods and Goddesses each with their own particular properties and associated priests and temples. In only 20 years Akhenaton formed a single rigid religious hierarchy that peaked with Aten, who was the living Sun God embodied by the Pharaoh on earth. Though it was to only last his lifetime, as Tutankhaten who succeeded Akhenaton quickly changed his name to Tutankhamun or Tutankhamen and led the Egyptians back to polytheistic or multi God/Goddess beliefs. This may have been in part to the fact that Akhenaton in his obsession with a single God for all his people, neglected Egypt's politics, agriculture, and governance resulting in wide spread chaos and pestilence which caused the death his wife Nefertiti and six daughters. So angry were the people and future Pharaoh's at this imposition of a single God, they struck Akhenaton and his descendants from their recorded histories, and demolished his temples to Aten, who was once again, relegated to all powerful but minor deity.

"The very first Gods summoned two deities Izanagi and Izanami into existence, and bestowed upon them ability to create the first lands. Izanagi and Izanami went to Amenoukihashi, the bridge between heaven and earth, and with a great-jeweled Halberd held between them, they churned the sea below. When drops of water splashed and fell from the Halberd and formed the first island, Onogoro. They descended to the island and had children Of these children, Amaterasu or the Sun Goddess was to rule the light and birth the first of five generations of whom Iwarebiko son of Ugaya and Tamayori or Emperor Jimmu, was to be the first emperor of Japan, in 660 BC." -Kojiki, records of ancient matters.

Japan or the Empire of the Sun, has long held to a rigid lineage of emperors who are believed to be direct descendants of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. The Imperial family is intrinsic to the religious beliefs of Japan; they hold a position appointed to them through a direct genetic lineage to Gods. Though descended from a Goddess, the Chrysanthemum Throne is exclusively, held by male members of the Imperial family. Recently there was a movement to change this, that was until the birth of Prince Akishino in 2006, there had been no heir to the throne since 1965.

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you."-unknown

Around 1800 BC, scattered tribes of South America Indians began to form into societies that would become the Olemec, Teotihuacan, Incan, and Mayan civilisations. By 1000 BC, the Mayans had started to construct large limestone temples to their most prominent Gods that would peak at the Sun Temple, El Mirador in Guatemala. The largest discovered Mayan city, it was home to over an estimated 19000 people, temple La Danta stretched 70 meters into the sky. Ah kin was their Sun God an ambivalent being who brought doubt with his passing but also rescued the earth from the night demons of darkness. Like the Egyptians before them Ah Kin was not an all ruling all powerful God to the Mayan's. That would take until nearly 1700 years and the rise of the Aztec Empire.

"Quetzalcoatl first stole the seed of life in the underworld, and how later the Gods created four successive worlds or suns for their subjects to live in, all of which were destroyed. Then by an act of self-sacrifice one of the Gods, Nanahuatzin, caused a fifth and final sun (Tonatiuh) to rise and the first humans, made out of maize dough could live, thanks to his sacrifice - and they, the humans, were responsible for its continued revival." - Florentine Codex -Fray Diego Duran

This was the high priest's or Quetzalcoatl's, responsibility and one they took very seriously. On the completion The Great Sun Pyramid or Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the Quetzalcoatl together sacrificed over 80,000 people, in only four days. To ensure the continuing beneficence of Tonatiuh, and assure his next ascent from the underworld, over their great empire, home to over 25,000,000 people at its peak in 1520 AD. Just one year later Hernan Cortes with the support of the Spanish government would conqueror this entire civilisation, mostly with disease-ridden blankets, perhaps the first use of biological warfare on such a large scale. His Arrival also coincided with a full solar eclipse, which was, prognosticated in the ancient Mayan/Aztec calendar to be a time of great upheaval and change.

"The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do." -Galileo

The Sun is a part of all the ancient mythologies, legendary stories and beliefs, humans tend to ascribed form and function in whatever way we can to explain the things we do not understand. It is a fundamental understanding that without the sun and our precise distance from it, life would never have had the chance to evolve. Therefore, when you next bask in those precious photons and feel a primal glow of satisfaction, and perhaps wonder. Remember our ancestors who believed they died with every sunset and fell lost to the underworld. Only to be reborn and rejoined with their fellow humans, when that golden Orb, of life giving warmth and light, reappeared once more and re-birthed the world around them.

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