Since mankind first gazed up at the sky, he would of wondered about the Sun's place in the universe and tried to make sense of its creation. The importance of the Sun in providing light and growing crops became apparent early on and hence the Sun became a God or a Goddess in many religions across the world, some of these deities include:
Shamash was the Sun god of the Sumerian people of Mesopotamia. As he could see everything up in the sky, he was also the god of justice.
The Sumerians believed that every morning scorpion men from the East Mountain would open a gate releasing Shamash, where he would travel across the sky in a chariot to the West Mountain, where he would begin his night's journey through the Underworld back to the East Mountain.
Liza was the Sun god to the Fon people of West Africa. His twin sister was the Moon god Mawu, however they were also lovers and together they created the universe with the help of the cosmic serpant Da.
According to the Inuit story from Greenland, one day Malina and her brother Anningan got into a terrible fight, where Malina spread black grease on her brother's face. Malina ran in fear from her brother, into the sky and became the Sun. Anningan chased her and became the Moon.
Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess ran and hid in a cave in the heavens when her brother Susanowo treated her badly. With Amaterasu hiding in an cave, the world became a dark and evil place.
In desperation the gods decided to trick Amaterasu out of her cave by holding a party outside the cave. There was music and dancing and bejewelled trees and a large mirror outside the cave. Amaterasu became curious upon hearing the party and ventured out of the cave. When she did so she became captivated by her image in the mirror and light shone across the world once more.
Other cultures did not have Sun gods but still had stories about how the Sun was created or who the Sun was. These legends include:
Aborigine Sun Legend
The Aborigines saw the Sun as a woman who woke daily in her camp in the east where she would prepare a flaming bark for her journey across the sky. Before she set out each day, she would decorate herself with red ocher, spilling some on the clouds as she did so. When she reached the west she would reapply her paints, this time spilling red and yellow into the sky. From the west she would continue her long journey back east to her camp, this time underground, with her torch warming the earth causing the plants to grow.
Native American Sun Legend
There are many Native American Sun legends but I particularly like this one:
Once upon a time neither the Sun or the Moon shone upon the Earth. Nobody could do anything because it was too dark to see. The Coyote grew thin because even though he tried to hunt everyday, all he could catch was the occasional grasshopper.
One day the mighty Eagle came to visit the Coyote. The Coyote begged the Eagle to let him go hunting with him, so the next day they went hunting together.
The Eagle would circle high in the air and plunge to the ground when he sighted his prey. The Coyote did not even try and hunt and was just happy to share the Eagle's catches.
This annoyed the Eagle "I've no need of such a worthless assistant! You don't even bury the bones, leaving them scattered on the ground."
"How can I help it? It's so dark I can't even see the tip of my nose" howled the Coyote.
"We do need some light" agreed the Eagle. "I've heard that far away to the west, there are two big lights hidden, one called the Sun and the other called the Moon. Let's go and find them."
The Eagle and the Coyote started their journey and on their travels came to a wide river. The Eagle simply flew across, landing on the opposite bank. The Coyote was a little unsure about crossing the muddy river, however he had no choice but to cross and so he did. The coyote struggled across the river, almost drowning and when he eventually made it to the other side, he cried out angrily at the Eagle.
"Why didn't you help me?"
The Eagle retorted "Why didn't you grow feathers and fly across?"
The Coyote knew he should not annoy the Eagle so complained no further.
Gradually as they journeyed through the countryside they noticed that it was beginning to get lighter. The Eagle and the Coyote came across a large clearing where a number of strange and horrifying creatures were dancing and singing.
The Eagle landed beside the Coyote "Quiet, they are Katchinas, evil spirits".
The Coyote stammered "Won't they hurt us?"
"Don't be afraid" said the Eagle. "They don't know we're here".
The Eagle pointed to the two chests in the middle of the dancers, which every now and then would be opened, releasing a brilliant shaft of light. "Those are the chests where they've hidden the Sun and the Moon. We must wait until the Katchinas go to sleep and then we can steal them."
Eventually the Katchinas fell asleep and snored so loudly the rocks reverberated. The Eagle snatched the chests as it plunged from the sky and the Coyote run for all it was worth.
After a while the Coyote wondered what the Sun and Moon looked like. He begged and pleaded with the Eagle for a chance to carry the boxes and eventually the Eagle relented.
As soon as the Eagle flew off to rest on a mountain, the Coyote could no longer control himself and he lifted the lid, just a little, of the larger chest.
"Oh how marvelous!" he cried. "How radiant, I must warm my paws a little."
But as he stuck his paws inside the chest the heat of the Sun burnt them.
"Ouch! I'm burnt!" he yelled as he pulled his paws hurriedly out of the box, throwing the lid wide open in his confusion.
The Sun leapt out and climbed higher and higher into the sky, ignoring the Coyote's pleas for it to come back.
The Coyote decided to send the Moon to fetch the Sun back, so he threw open the second box lid but the Moon was just as merciless as the Sun and flew high up into the sky and hid behind the Sun's shadow.
The Eagle saw what the Coyote had done and flew back to scold him. "Now look what you've done! Instead of eternal light, night and day will be forever succeeding each other for all time. Just because you let the Sun get away."
And that is how night and day were created.
Windows to the Universe www.windows.ucar.edu/
The Sun and Moon solar-center.stanford.edu/folklore/aborigine.html
Native Indian Sun Legends www.geocities.com/starstuffs/native/myths/sun/index.htm