Temple of Apollo; Portara of Naxos, Greece

Temple of Apollo; Portara of Naxos, Greece

Our sun is the most important celestial being in the sky and has been worshipped throughout time.

It is all-powerful and reigns supreme over the sky. The sun is the beginning of life here on earth and has the power over life and death. All over the world, we can find ancient tributes to the sun and its rhythms throughout the year.

The sun represents light, justice, life, and power.

Its yearly solar pattern gives us the seasons and the four directions. The solstices and equinoxes are times of magic, worship, and rituals. Mystical powers are given to the sun, and because of this, sun gods were among the most powerful of all the gods. Most ancient cultures had a sun god and they were imbued with the qualities and power of the sun like justice, life, power, and goodness.

For example, the Babylonian people thought the sun was able to penetrate through the depths of the earth, even to the underworld, and illuminate human hearts. Their sun god was called Shamash, and he possessed the same attributes as the sun; the ability to see everywhere, know everything, and judge men rightly.

Helios was the Greek sun god.

He drove the chariot of the sun across the sky each day. He is also seen as the personification of the Sun and the fundamental creative power behind it. Homer describes Helios as the god “who gives joy to mortals”. Other ancient texts say he was the source of life and regeneration.

Other gods of the sun include Huitzilopochtli of the Aztecs who was the god of the sun and master of the world. In India, the sun god, Suria is the eye of the sky who takes care of the world. In Persian mythology, the sun god is Mithra. He represents goodness and organizes the world. His path of light each day is considered the same as human destiny; birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Because the sun was so important in the lives of the ancient people, we can see how their veneration was reflected in their sacred places.

One way was to connect a sacred place to the sun’s rhythms. Aligning a place to a solstice sunrise or sunset was a common technique. It was a way for religions and cultures to connect to the power of the sun, the ultimate source of life and regeneration.

Tulum and solstice sun

The solstice sunrise at the Temple of the Descending God, Tulum, Mexico.

Many sites are designed, so the sun rises or sets over a specific point on the solstices. Sometimes, it is when the sun reaches its zenith during one particular day. Other places are designed so that the sun illuminates a statue or unique carving at the end of a long passageway such as the winter solstice sunrise at Newgrange. A different example is in Tulum, Yucatan, when on the summer and winter solstice sunrises a flash of light bursts forth from a small hole in the Temple of the Descending God.

The Egyptians aligned many of the temples to the sun.

Their sun god Ra was the king of gods and created everything. For example, in Karnak, the sunrise on the winter solstice occurs at the main axis of the temple. Interestingly enough, Karnak is one of the few places in Egypt where the solsticial line of the winter solstice sunrise and summer solstice sunset are perpendicular to the Nile River.

There is also a connection between the god of the sun and the place.

The Celtic god of light Lugh, or Lugus, gave his name in the form of the word ‘Lugar’ to the Spanish people. Lugar actually means a place in Spanish. You can find remnants of his name in Celtic settled areas such as Lugos in Spain, Lugo in Portugal, Lugdunum (Lyon) in France.

We don’t know the names of the Neolithic gods and goddesses of the sun, but we can find evidence of the importance of the sun in their ancient structures left behind. Some of these structures were huge calendars built out of massive stones, wood poles, or mounds of earth.

Stonehenge may be the most recognized stone calendar, but all around the world, there are stone circles, woodhenges, and rondels that are aligned to the solstices and equinoxes. For example, in Germany, there is a woodhenge called Goseck circle, a Neolithic structure that has openings that permitted the sunlight from the solstices to enter into the center. There are many similar examples all over in Central Europe.

In Brittany France, there is the Cromlech of Crucuno, a stone rectangle that is connected to the solstice sunrise and sunsets over the year. It is the oldest example of a solar rectangle (solsticial quadrilateral), the basic pattern, used around the world to build sacred places.

Crucuno Cromlech with solstice postions

Crucuno Cromlech with solstice positions

In North American, the Mississippian culture Cahokia in Illinois built huge mounds and woodhenges dedicated to the sun and its yearly rhythms. For example, Woodhenge Mound 72, in the ancient city of Cahokia, is aligned to the solstices, equinoxes and the cardinal directions. When you stand in the center on the solstices, the sun will rise directly above different mounds built by the Indigenous peoples.

Then there are different symbols of the sun.

The Sun wheel and the 4 directionsMost of them depict the sun with a circle and four lines radiating out from the center. This is significant because it is only from the sun that we can find the four cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west. Many ancient cultures used this symbol. It has been called the sun cross or wheel, wheel cross, or Odin’s cross.

The Cahokian people of North America elaborated on this with a solar symbol and calendar, depicting the cardinal directions and the solstice sunrise and sunset angles. The Cahokian Sun

In alchemy, the symbol of the sun is a circle with a point in the center, which represents the beginning of everything and the essence of the divine. For man, this is certainly true of the sun. It is the beginning and end of all life on earth. The depiction of the sun in alchemy

A more elaborate symbol comes from Indonesia called the Sun of Majapahit. It is an eight-pointed star using the solar rectangle (solsticial quadrilateral) of East Java as the base of the pattern. The design connects directly to the solar patterns of the place, strengthening the power of the symbol.Sun of Majapahit, Indonesia

The last solar symbol comes from the Indians of Zia Pueblo in New Mexico. Their representation of the sun is widely recognized because it was used in the State flag of New Mexico. Their portrayal of the sun was foundational to their world view and illustrated the importance of it in their lives.

Four is a sacred number to the Zia and represents the circle of life.

The circle connects the four elements of four together. These include the four cardinal directions, the four seasons of the year, the four seasons of life and the four sacred obligations one must develop. The Zia's symbol of the sun

As winter solstice draws near, it is an excellent time to reflect upon the sun’s power, light, goodness, and how it oversees everything from the heavens. As well as the wisdom of the Zia people to cultivate a healthy body, clear mind, pure spirit and a devotion to the welfare of others.

By Karen Crowley-Susani, adapted from her article in Star Nations Magazine June 2019
Tulum photo credit: Carlos Zeballos from My Architectural Moleskin

The sun’s pattern through the year is an essential piece in the puzzle of how sacred sites were created. What we call sacred geometry now, was an energetic solar geometry for ancient people. To learn more about this powerful regenerative geometry and how you can use it to bring more harmony in your life, check out our book: Secrets of Sacred Geometry; Solar Geometry for Health and Life. We also offer Certification Courses for learning how to build energetically powerful structures and houses for health and harmony.