Ancient Sun Worship

32 Comments | June 2010

Introduction

Divinely revealed religions across the world point to a single omnipotent deity. Even traditional faiths and mythology seem to point to the worship of a single deity in their origins. However, we can also observe polytheistic traditions that seem to have evolved from an erosion of monotheism. Man’s nature still yearned for the need for a powerful creator and found solace in deities created in his own mind.

As man observed eclipses, comets, meteorites and other phenomena, he sometimes related to these larger, more powerful elements as substitute deities. Some people before the time of Abraham(as) had begun to worship the sun and stars as a great power. Even today, 21st June marks the Summer Solstice and will be marked by pagan festivities in parts of the world.

Ancient Spirituality and the Sun

Many ancient spiritual traditions existed and flourished that incorporating many different understandings of the Creator and of celestial bodies.

Objects such as stars, planets, the moon, the sun, comets and meteorites would have commanded awe and wonder. Similarly, events such as eclipses and the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) would easily have led to marvel at the forces of nature. Whilst all these objects are still as awe-inspiring as they were in ancient times, huge advances in science mean we are constantly exposed to new research on celestial bodies. We are thus no longer astonished upon hearing that a new star or galaxy has been discovered, whereas ancient man would have looked into the sky and been perplexed at objects that he could neither reach nor comprehend.

Archaeology has unearthed many ancient structures with alignments to celestial bodies and the strong notion that those people worshipped stars, the sun and the moon. Examples include Stonehenge in the UK, which is an ancient stone circle with a spiritual history, and the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico.

The stones at Stonehenge show an alignment to the appearance of the sun on the horizon at the Summer and Winter solstices when looking from the centre of the site over the tip of the Heel stone with its top just at the height of the horizon. At that time five to six thousand years ago, the knowledge of the solar cycle and calendar would have been used by social leaders as a source of power and wealth, particularly if they could direct the masses on when to sow and when to harvest.

Sunrise Over Stonehenge

Sunrise Over Stonehenge

In Ancient Egypt, although it is likely that there was monotheism in the early dynasties of rulers, over time, the sun took on a huge significance in the religion of the Egyptians and the status of Pharaoh. Some of the hieroglyphs depict Pharaoh with the sun on his head, the great Amon-Ra. Amon, or Amun was considered as the supreme creator while Ra was the much older sun-god, so the two were combined as Amon-Ra.

The great temple complex of Karnak on the Nile appears to be oriented to the direction of the summer solstice through the hypostyle hall and the adjacent hall of festivals. Gerald Hawkins strongly claimed in his work that there is evidence that the temple had been aligned to the midsummer sun, and that the temple complex contained ‘hymns of praise to that god that appears at dawn’. (Devereux, p.164) Indeed, one of the temples on the Karnak site (near the modern town of Luxor) is named after Ra-Hor-Akhty, an ancient Egyptian name that can be translated as the ‘sun brilliant on the horizon’.

In Egyptian worship, Horus is the rising sun, Ra is the noon sun and then Osiris (god of the dead) is the dying or setting sun. Some commentators even link Horus, Ra and Osiris with the Christian Trinity concept (Gordon, p.657). One of the most well known of the Egyptian Pharoahs was Amenhotep IV who eliminated the many gods of the realm and told his countrymen to worship just one god, signified by the solar disc known as aten, and even changed his name to Akhenaten. After he died, Tutankhaten who had married one of his daughters succeeded him, and he reverted back to the old traditions and changed his name to Tutankhamun. (Hagen, p.47)

The Romans and Greeks had also set up their own pantheon of deities and traded gods with other cultures. So, perhaps as a political gesture of collaboration, Alexander the Great established Ammon-Zeus, a hybrid creator to cover the Greek and Egyptian cultures and their obsession with the sun. (Gordon, p.32)

In Central and South America, the ancient cultures of the Aztecs and Mayas also relied heavily on the worship of celestial bodies, and developed quite complex calendars. Their temples such as the famous Machu Picchu site in Peru, were also associated with an Incan religious cult dedicated to the worship of the sun. The site has several stones used as guide posts known as Intihuatana (lit. ‘hitching post of the sun’) which were used by the Incans to mark the winter solstice, the Incan festival of Inti Raymi. Some commentators describe this ancient festival as one observed to tie the sun to prevent it swinging further north resulting in even shorter days.

Near Mexico City, the ancient site of Teotihuacan seems to be aligned to the star cluster known as the Pleiades which heralded the day when the sun was at its highest point in the sky (zenith). Indeed, the two great pyramids at the site are named after the sun and the moon. The Aztecs also revelled in the worship and appeasement of the sun and happily performed human sacrifices to renew the failing energies of their sun god Huitzilopochtli. (Elaide, p.149)

Princess carrying the sun-disc on her head

Princess carrying the sun-disc on her head

Across Africa, many tribes adopted gods for natural features such as the river, mountain, moon and sun, but these were often considered to be manifestations of the great Creator god, and therefore this pantheon must be seen in a different context.

Many other cultures in Europe and Asia depicted their creator as the sun giving birth to the stars, for example the myths associated with Apollo, Baal, Marduk, Yhi and Phoebus.

Ancient civilisations across many parts of the world marvelled at the sun, moon and stars because of their distance, power and regular cycles. However, scholars such as Bastian in the 19th century and then Frazer in the early 20th Century, cautioned that sun-worship was not a global phenomenon, but was more prevalent in Mexico, Peru, Egypt, Asia and primitive Europe. (Eliade, p.124)

Abraham(as) and Heavenly Signs

The Prophet Abraham(as) grew up in a polytheistic society and his people sought their Creator in the nature around them, but without satisfaction as we read in the Qur’an:

And when the night darkened upon him, he saw a star. He said: ‘This is my Lord!’ But when it set, he said: ‘I like not those that set.’ And when he saw the moon rise with spreading light, he said: ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set, he said, ‘If my Lord guide me not, I shall surely be of the people who go astray.’ And when he saw the sun rise with spreading light, he said: ‘This is my Lord, this is the greatest.’ But when it set, he said, ‘O my people, surely I am clear of that which you associate with God. I have turned my face toward Him Who created the heavens and the earth, being ever inclined to God, and I am not of those who associate gods with God.’ (Ch.6:Vs.77-80)

These verses illustrate the extent to which society at that time (around 4000 years ago) had fallen into the worship of celestial bodies. The insight that he was given showed his understanding that bodies that set below the horizon could not exert their influence continually over man, whereas the Creator was (and is) omnipresent. The verses show how Abraham(as) used his arguments to show his people the futility of their ancient beliefs as he had been the recipient of direct revelation; it was not the case that Abraham(as) himself had been groping to find his Creator through this process,. This is reinforced in a later verse in the same chapter:

And that is Our argument which We gave to Abraham against his people. (Ch.6:V.84)

Jewish Calendar

It is from the lineage of Abraham(as) that the Jews and Muslims trace their origins. Having served under the Egyptians for generations, even after the advent of Moses(as) to free them from slavery, the Jews still reverted back to idols and images. Gradually, however, monotheism was reinstated through the strong line of prophets.

The Jewish calendar is called a lunisolar calendar in that it is based on the lunar calendar shorter than a 365-day solar calendar. Their calendar is filled with key events from Jewish history which are associated with particular seasons, for example Pesach, or Passover, is celebrated in the Spring (Christian Easter is meant to coincide with Passover) and so corrections are applied every few years to ensure that the Lunar and Solar calendars can be synchronised.

Christianity and the Sun

Christianity emerged out of Judaism and therefore all of the early Jewish Christians (Jews who had accepted Jesus(as) as their Messiah) were monotheistic. However, they lived in the context of other civilisations such as the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Persians, all of whom had strong cultures of their own. As Christians tried to politically distance themselves from the Jews, and also tried to gain acceptance in Europe, their theology sometimes became merged with local culture to the detriment of Christianity.

A key example of this was the interaction of Christianity in the Roman Empire with traditional Roman beliefs. The Romans had been persecuting Christians and despised the Jews whom they had defeated in Jerusalem around 70 CE. They wanted all races in their empire to pay tribute to the Emperor and the Roman gods and goddesses. Over three centuries, gradually Christians began to associate Jesus(as) with the Roman god Sol Invictus by depicting Jesus(as) as having a solar halo around his head just like Sol Invictus, and by adopting the holy day of their god, December 25th, as the key date for Christianity, erroneously celebrated as the birthday of Jesus(as).

In the early 17th century, Christianity had to debate the place of the sun in the universe with scientists such as Galileo. The Orthodox view of the Church at that time was that man was central and therefore the earth must be at the centre of the universe and the universe must revolve around the earth. Galileo was condemned for his ‘scientific’ beliefs that were seen to be at odds with Orthodox religious beliefs. Modern science has proven the scientific view to be correct.

The long-term impact of Christian use of a Solar calendar is that its festivals are associated more with the seasons when they occur than the events they signify. Also, the legacy of the association with Sol Invictus is that the birthday of Jesus(as) is celebrated on December 25th, which used to be the winter solstice 2000 years ago. It is important to note that Jesus(as) himself would not have recognised some of the innovations that later became part of Christianity, as he was a practising Jew.

Summer Solstice

June 21st marks the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, after which the days start getting shorter.

At sites such as Stonehenge in the UK, pagans hold an annual celebration in which they chant hymns to the earth and sky, and it would be easy to assume that the site has hosted such druidic practices for thousands of years, but in actual fact, druid worship of midsummer at Stonehenge can only be traced back to 1905.

Islamic View of the Sun

The message of the Qur’an and Islam was revealed to man just over fourteen centuries ago and clearly set a monotheistic context in which celestial bodies had been created and followed the paths set for them by God.

Prayer times are set such that man is in prayer before sunrise, after midday and after sunset rather than having any connotation of praying ‘to’ the sun. The actual period when the sun is rising, is overhead at noon and in setting, are each avoided to remove any semblance of sun worship. Equally, the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar, which is ten days shorter than the Solar calendar. On the face of it, this may seem insignificant, yet the impact of festivals such as ‘Eid and Ramadan being at different times of the year in different periods prevents any association of them with a season, and maintains the focus on the meaning and significance of the festival itself. There is no regular seasonal association with ‘Eid as there is with Christmas in some cultures.

In Islam, the celestial bodies are recognised in the context of the creation of the universe, and therefore the worshipper shifts attention from the visible celestial beings, to the Creative force that put them there and set them on their orbital paths, something that some earlier peoples would have misin-terpreted out of ignorance.

Conclusion

The sun has been given an extraordinary position in early human culture, possibly as social leaders used their knowledge of seasons to maintain their own power and status through the ignorance of the masses.

It is Divine religion that has always given man the proper context for his place in the universe and in relation to his Creator. It is religion that confirmed to mankind that all of the powerful features and forces observed on earth, in the sky and as events, all originate from that same Creator and all observe the same laws of nature (science). Through religion, man no longer relies upon relics and idols or on proxies for God and more on a direct relationship with their Creator through prayer.

References

  1. Patterns in Comparative Religion, Mircea Eliade, Sheed & Ward 1993.
  2. The Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends, Stuart Gordon, Headline Books 1993.
  3. Secrets of Ancient and Sacred Places, Paul Devereux, Brockhampton Press, London 1993.
  4. Ancient Cities, Scientific American Special Issue, 1994.
  5. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, E. A. Wallis Budge, Cassel & Co, London 2001.
  6. Egypt – people, gods, Pharaohs, Rose-Marie & Rainer Hagen, Taschen, Koln, 2002.
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32 comments
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  1. Great Post thankyou.
    Thought you might like my King Arthur’s Summer Solstice at Stonehenge machinima film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wuNE5M01ME Bright Blessings, elf ~

  2. The Sun, or Surya, as His greatest name is, is truly the ultimate divinity. He chose to position Himself in the universe and controlling everything through His rays. He is the Soul of everything, He is Life as well as Death. He is the One to whom the heart naturally inclines! And beyond the Sun, He, Himself, is Infinite Light, and not just the Sun. He is Light and only Light, and is the Arch-Enemy of darkness. He will not let you worship Him unless you truly loves Him and unless it is His Eye that befalls you.

    Peace, and glory to Surya Bhagavan!

  3. All of the known words as a relizons are nothing but unlimited preaching and belives that can not be proved but a toxic object inhaler keeps us away from fact but we all have to have it.ibrahmic thought is un clear .we can not use those principle. They say “one god” the meaning of “one ” is not clear.math,litrature ,physics astronomy all have deferent meaning of “one”. They should clear it .second thing is “no one can see god”.makes one of our natural sence disable for the rest of life. In Ibharhamic thought god spend six days In creating world and seventh day he took rest .the sence of spritualty is not hidden .

  4. Good! I am impressed. You impressed the sun god! Aha!

  5. Christianity is not rooted in sun worship. The romans are the reason for what we are seeing right now. They added paganism to Christianity because they themselves are worshipers of the Sun. But real Christians are worshipers of the SON OF GOD. Without church. Without denomination. Without Christmas. Without Easter. Without any other creed, rituals, or traditions. There is simply TRUTH. That is all. And it leads to Salvation. And this same TRUTH exposes the world for what it really is. One big sinful place full of liars and thieves. And we can see just how much people love LIES over TRUTH simply by observing them. Everything about society is founded upon deception. People are sellouts, which is the same as being liars. They lust for entertainment, which is made up of LIES as well. And its all promoted as TRUTH.

    The real TRUTH is a threat to this world. Because it rejects the traditional way of life. Nobody wants to give up anything. Sacrifice is a dirty word today. Therefore, they will reject TRUTH. And that is the same as rejecting GOD. Words mean nothing. It is our actions that matter.

  6. I noticed sun image in the alter of my church, a pentecostal church. we worship God and preach salvation but that image is troubling my mind. please if u can assure me of the interpretation of that image i will upload it to you. thanks.

  7. The SUN is the GOD of our Earth and no one can change that.

    Hear you, O man, list to my Voice singing the song of Light and of Life. Throughout all space, Light is prevalent, encompassing ALL with its banners of flame. Seek you forever in the Veil of the Darkness, somewhere you shall surely find Light. Hidden and buried, lost to man’s knowledge, deep in the finite the Infinite exists. Lost, but existing, flowing through all things, living in ALL is the Infinite Brain. In all space, there is only One wisdom. Though seeming divided, it is One in the One. All that exists comes forth from the Light, and the Light comes forth from the ALL.

    As you can see some type of knowledge was lost and that knowledge is present today.
    We live in the great AGE that was promised, the AGE of LIGHT.
    “Behold the Glory of the first Cause.” I beheld that Light, high above all darkness, reflected in my own being. I attained, as it were, to the God of all Gods, the Spirit-Sun, the Sovereign of the Sun spheres.
    “There is one, even the First, who hath no beginning, who hath no end; who hath made all things, who govern all, who is good, who is just, who illumines, who sustains.”

    I will give you a clue of what we are talking about: THE GREAT SANCTUARY CHAMBER OF THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE GODS : ours looks like this http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130706.html
    Ours in infa-red http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap020521.html

  8. ..thank you…very helpful indeed..

  9. the Macedonian flag is are sun and the greek one is not if you go to the Vatican city and see the maps only Macedonia is on the map the Macedonians are the oldest nation in Europe

  10. can i have any possible book Islamic perspective on sun and it’s energy

  11. I would like to educators in Sun worshiping

  12. Interesting!

  13. Good article. I was looking up the web for an article or short summary on the evolution of various religions and their festivals in relation to the Sun. Thanks to you for providing a crisp analysis of the same.

  14. I found this article very interesting because it shows a broad religious culture and a huge capacity to share knowledge and peaceful ideas.

  15. Awesome and interesting

  16. This article is so interesting and a great read.

  17. Thanks for this very interesting article. I recently started practicing Sun Gazing just for the sole purpose of health and well being only (physical,mental and spiritual well beings). It has nothing to do with religion at all. This practice of ‘Sun Gazing’ is quite widespread in the world today (thanks to the internet) and has been proven to be beneficial to our health if practice in the correct way (during safe hours of the sunrise and sunset). It is also known that some people who has practiced Sun Gazing for some years could live without food and yet stays alive and healthy. There are a lot other benefits in practicing Sun Gazing it is said ( you can check it in the internet ) But of course it is only science in the 21st. century, and to know that it has a root in the ancient Pagan Religion makes it the more interesting.To my mind, what is Science today is Religion to the Ancient people or science and religion are the same thing after all.

  18. Surprised you missed the HIndu view of the Sun. In the hymn Adityahridayam from Valmiki Ramayana, sage Agastya muni praises the Sun God as the creator and sustainer of the world and maker of daylight that nourishes and energizes life on earth.

    Find the complete hymn written more than 5000 years ag0, with translation here:
    http://www.harekrsna.de/aditya-hridayam.htm

  19. Sun gazing will increase the size of your pineal gland in your brain. It will also help you to become heat tolerant, especially with a high chlorophyll diet.

  20. Sadly not true at all.
    Early religion was NEVER monotheistic.
    In fact the easiest deities are female divinities,

    Monotheism is much much much later development.

    I can appricate u have a certain belief system, but please! The archeological evidence shows that there there never change from monotheism to polytheism but that polytheism is actually the first religion of man kind (well animism is actually but animism and polytheism are very much related)

    Close your dusty old Koran and crack open a history book will ya!

  21. Hello,
    Theories: Jesus is a symbol for the Sun (of Heaven). His 12 disciples are the 12 constellations of the Zodiac. Other Sun symbols may include Hercules/Herakles and his 12 labours; King Arthur and his 12 knights of the round table, Solomon, Samson.

  22. This is quite an intresting read.It does explain many things,I’ve noticed and accepted the fact that sun worship is indeed a religion.But the part I’ve noticed around me is the insincerity about the religion instead of being truthful and showing who they truely are they rather hide another religion catholic.

  23. How about the concept of ‘SURYA’ in Hindu texts regarding the “Invincible Sun” and also “Sura as-Shams” in the Quran.

  24. God is omni present and what man can see and feel or experience are all the expansions of God, The Nature.

    Religion is a way to pray and seek shelter /refuge in God .

    God is one and only one and is worshipped religiously means worshipped through a well defined system or paths set by ancestor (s) , enlightened ancestors.

    Mystery of God / Nature is unfolded for the benefits of mankind but is well known to plants and animals, raptiles , insects etc.

    God created universe with diversity like colours , all to merge in one.

  25. The part where he said, the emergence of December 25th as celebration of the birthday of the Messiah, came from pagan Rome is interesting. However, it must be understood that righteousness itself could be misconstrued as ‘sun worship’ by the spiritually unlearned. Though, the word, ‘sun’ is a sinful term to refer to the Daylight or Daystar, yet it must be understood that the Almighty dwells therein ( 1 Timothy 6 : 16). We must, therefore, face the direction of the Daylight now, whenever we pray : until He returns to the earth, physically, again at about 4000 A.D.This was what was done by all the righteous men before the days of Moses ( Moshen) . But in his days The Spirit of God cane down & dwelled in a man made temple : so they had to face the temple ( His dwelling place ) whenever they prayed

  26. I am a sun worshiper , I mean I am aware of these tags around me that give me the gift of this life on Earth , so it is these things of which I ask for guidance and help in life and let me tell you that I am pretty happy with the outcome when I have asked for help , unlike when I was younger and asking the invented bankers God whom we are told of during our school life .

  27. This info was in Zeitgeist video aswell but interesting. Also if you combine this with idea from Ancient Astrononaut theory we get very belieavable conclusion..

  28. […] Tombs were reserved for royalty and selected skilled workers. There are many theories for why pyramid tombs were built, most of them around honouring the sun or aiding simple divine passage to the afterlife. The Ancient Egyptians believed that praising the gods would ensure their safe transition to the afterlife, thus some feel the sloping sides of a pyramid indicate a ladder of sorts to the sky (like ‘heaven’) or a connection with the gods. Others argue the angles represent the rays of the sun — the Egyptian religion praised the divine gods Horus (rising sun), Ra (noon sun) and Osiris (god of the dead). […]

  29. why Islam require sun for timing?

  30. A very interesting description of how the idea of a God originated in the human mind and we are still stuck with it in today’s world. We do adjust it to what we think is relevant though. To many the word God simply means human Love and I think that has very good value as well.

  31. Very thorough explanation. Islamists don’t believe in Jesus. Therefore they don’t worship the sun. If the creator symbolism originated in Egypt, we should understand that symbolism very well. If you beleive in Jesus Christ and the creator, then it’s safe to say we should all be worshiping the son and not idols. Amen. BTW can you say Maunder Minimum ?.

  32. I’m a Christian, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who has been taught a little about the pagan origins of Christmas ( one of the main reasons we don’t celebrate it) and wanted to do more research. Thanks for your useful information on Dec.25. I enjoyed​ reading this info. very much.

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