Since the beginning of human existence, civilisations have established religious beliefs that involved the Sun’s significance to some extent or other. As new civilisations developed many spiritual beliefs were based on those from the past so that there has been an evolution of the sun’s significance throughout cultural development. Even as late as the 17th century the development of tarot cards for fortune telling included a card that represents the Sun’s influence on the life of man.
If we examine history we see that the religious beliefs of the very first civilisation, the Sumerians, weren’t totally focussed on sun worship but they did have a Sun god. While the Sumerian’s Sun god wasn’t the most powerful deity in their culture it initiated the development of future Sun worship. Over the centuries the Sumerian Sun god’s influence grew while other god’s influence diminished.
By the time the Egyptian civilisation was at its peak, the Sun god had reached a supreme position. However, Sun worship reached its height and most involved form with the Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilisations of South America. The Inca culture was totally based on worship of the Sun.
Civilization Sun God
Aboriginal: Many names depending on the region: Yhi
Chinese: Ten Suns
Egyptian: Ra or Re
Roman: Sol Invictus/ Apollo
Light was brought into the dark world by Yhi, the sun spirit. As few living things can grow without light, there was a close association between the two great spirits Yhi and Baiame (the All Father or father spirit). Light and warmth were necessary for the preservation and growth of the animate world of Baiame’s creation, and these were provided by Yhi
Mahu and Liza are the main African gods They are the twin children of Nana Buluku. The twins express the balance between earth and sky as Mahu is the female (earth, moon, fertility) and Liza is the male (sun, sky, power).
The Sun is Yang and it is made of fire, while the moon is Yin. In Chinese mythology it is said that there exists ten Suns, which take turns appearing in the sky and are carried across the heavens by a chariot, which is drawn by dragons and driven by their mother.
In ancient Egyptian culture the Sun was considered the manifestation of god. He was called Ra. But his full name is Ra – Atum – Khepri. (Ra – the Sun at the zenith (noon), Atum – the setting Sun, and Khepri – the rising Sun). Ra created the first divine couple, Shu and Tefnut, who are the parents of the earth and sky. Man was born from the tears of Ra, and as man is created in his image and is issued from his flesh, the earth was created to provide care and support for mankind.
Apollo is considered the Sun god, but he became the patron god of music, poetry, mathematics and medicine as well.
The Japanese call their country Nippon or Nihon, which means “origin of the Sun”. Even their flag depicting a red ball on a white background symbolizes the Sun. Their legend of the Sun goddess Ama-terasu traces the Japanese ancestry and tells how the Japanese islands were formed.
Maui is the principal deity in Polynesian culture and takes on a variety of roles in the folk lore of these Pacific people. Maui is credited with creating the islands and of snaring the sun in New Zealand Maori legends. While two Sun Gods are mentioned in Tongan legends – Maui Fusi-Fonua and Tangoloa.
The Roman Sun god Apollo was borrowed very early on from the Greeks. The Romans believed in him as the god of light, music, and as a healer.
The Sumerians (c 3000 BC to 1400 BC) are arguably the very first sun worshipers.
In their primitive culture every divinity (god) is imagined as a celestial being.
Within their culture there existed two triads of gods, the first were considered great gods while the second triad, the triad of Planetary gods included the Sun god named Utu. Utu was not considered to be a great god. The other two gods of the Planetary triad were named Nanna – Suen (the moon) and Inanna (Venus). This however is only the beginning of Sun worship.