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Homage to thee, O Ra, at thy tremendous rising! Thou risest!
Thou shinest!
the heavens are rolled aside!

Thou art the King of Gods, thou art the All-comprising, From thee we come, in thee are deified.

- From The Egyptian Book of the Dead

Sungods: Shamash, Ra, Helios


The Roaring Sun, by Deborah Houlding

In universal terms it is a small, insignificant star, fairly average in the great scheme of things. Move in closer and it is a roaring, explosive mass of volatile radioactivity - a glowing white-hot ball of nuclear reaction, many millions of degrees Celsius and continually blasting out huge flares of electrically charged particles. This is the 'solar wind'; it flows through the solar system and interacts with all the planets. In astrology we note that the Sun rules 'the heart' and creativity. Yet how much do we really reflect upon the potency of those terms? The Sun is the very essence of creative energy and it is the central heart of our solar system. Its gravitational attraction keeps the planets in their courses; its creative energy provides nearly all their heat and light, and its wind bathes them in a solar atmosphere that circulates around the planetary system just like the blood that pulsates through our veins. Even without the benefit of our astronomical vision, this was always apparent to astrologers. Galileo summed it up when saying of the Sun:

it is rather like the heart of an animal, in which there is a continual regeneration of the vital spirits, which sustain and give life to all its members [1]

Pan the perspective back to our viewpoint - a mere 93 million miles away - and we can start to consider the Sun's astrological significance on Earth. Primitive societies seemed to have understood it so much better than we do today, because we have mastered some ability to protect ourselves from the extremes of nature. The Sun's role as the source of life was the cause of great veneration and respect to the ancients. It was worshipped for its light and warmth, but just as equally feared for its power to parch and destroy. They were constantly reminded that its relationship with the Earth dictates the whole pattern of life: annually through the seasons, and daily through the cycle of night and day.

Practically every element of astrology has developed out of recognition of the Sun's pivotal position in the ongoing conflict of darkness and light, and the eternal circle of life. The planetary rulership of the signs are dependant on it,[2] the planetary natures are derived from it,[3] and the meanings of the houses are largely an extension of it.[4] In the heavens the Sun is 'King'. To the Egyptians it was God. They had a more immediate understanding that sunrise and sunset, and summer and winter, were the children of the Sun and natural reflections of the pattern of birth and death, growth and decay that animates the whole scheme of nature. Not only was the Sun foremost in the physical conditions of their life, it was also cardinal to their spiritual beliefs.

The Sun in Ancient Myth

The characteristics of all ancient Sun-gods are remarkably similar. Shamash of the Mesopotamians, Ra of the Egyptians and Apollo of the Greeks: each portrays the qualities of 'light' and 'enlightenment' to indicate Truth, Justice and Foresight. Because the Sun-god illuminates the sky he was envisioned as the enemy of darkness and all the evils that darkness symbolised - the one 'from whom no secrets could be hidden'. A common feature in myth is to represent the hero by the Sun, associating the conflict between light and dark with that of good and evil.

The Mesopotamians saw Shamash as a healing god. Fire was generally recognised to be a purifying agent through which evil influences were banished, and Shamash was often invoked as a god of protection. They also identified a strong connection with prophecy which has influenced the astrological notion that the Sun's proper 'seat' is the 9th house. Because of their ability to dispel darkness, both the Sun and the Moon were said to rule over Justice and Destiny. The Moon-god read into the dark future and 'knew the destinies of all', while the Sun-god 'lay bare the righteous and the wicked'. In astrology, where the Sun is found, truth and light should manifest - in natal astrology it indicates the 'true being', the 'heart of consciousness'; in horary charts the Sun unafflicted brings the truth of the matter to light.

In Roman mythology the Sun-god Apollo was the twin sister of the Moon-goddess Diana. He was also the god of prophecy and healing but expressed the more creative aspects of music and sport as well. Classical myths seem to place a stronger value on the matriarchal element of society than witnessed with the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, so it is interesting that they saw the Sun as the brother of the Moon, suggesting an equivalent relationship. The Mesopotamians actually considered the Sun to be a less important deity than the Moon, but maintained their patriarchal attitude by envisioning the Moon-god (Sin) as masculine.

Helios (Sol) was his Greek equivalent. His sisters were Eos, (the goddess of Dawn), and Selene, (the goddess of the Moon). All Sun-gods have driven chariots or sailed in boats across the sky each day, bringing light to the world in their journey from east to west. Helios drove a four horse chariot and at night returned to the east in a golden bowl. From his vantage point he was all-seeing and few secrets could be kept from him. In Homer's tales he was often invoked to illuminate mysteries or called upon to be a reliable and honest witness of events. His statue at Rhodes was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

All cultures have had their sun-gods; and there are frequent connections with crosses or the possession of four eyes or ears in recognition of the Sun's stations at the cardinal points. Many have pointed out how the Christ principle reflects the solar principle and how various cults of the Sun have unified prehistoric origins that manifest in different personas for different cultures although sharing a common essence.

In the Egyptian hierarchy of gods, the Sun-god reigns supreme. Unlike the Mesopotamians, who gave precedence to the Moon, the use of a solar calendar meant the Sun-god dominated Egyptian religious doctrine and was seen as the principal force of the universe ... the divine creator of all things, the master of time and of the seasons. Egyptian symbolism has impressed a rich and powerful philosophy upon astrology, with the solar cycle acting as a founding principle to many traditional astrological techniques. There is no better way to consider the significance of the Sun in astrology, than to reflect upon its importance to a culture whose survival was dependent upon respecting and revering its power.

The link below leads to a detailed article on the role of Egyptian symbolism in astrology and the techniques that arise from their perspective of the solar cycle.

Time, the Egyptians and the Calendar  

Notes & References:
  1] Letter to Monsignor Pietro Dini, of March 1615. Quoted in Interface: Astrological Essays for Astronomers by Nick Kollerstrom; Ascella Publications, 1996
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  2] See: The Philosophy of Sign Rulership
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  3] See: The Life and Work of Ptolemy
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  4] See: Temples of the Sky; The Angles: Significance of Egyptian Solar Philosophy
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© Deborah Houlding

The Sun