Early humans interpreted the skies according to their needs, desires, wants, hopes and fears. That humans would personify and anthropomorphise the world through their personal or collective needs and wants is understandable and logical. Afterall, we cannot see the world through any interpretation except that of being a human, with all the limitations that that implies. So humans see the world through a process of "human centric tunnel vision".
The two "heavenly bodies" first worhipped by early humans were the moon and the sun. (The Egyptian god Horus had a hawk-like head with two eyes which represented the sun and the moon.) Whereas veneration of the moon was at its height during the hunting era, when humans progressed to an agrarian age, sun worship became the chief religious ceremony. As mankind further progressed with the observation of the skies, constellations were mapped and also attributed with powers which astrologers claimed influenced the lives of humankind. Observing the stars, the planets and the space in which these objects rested, (the heavens), was the realm of astrologers, necromancers, shamans, augurs, fortunetellers, druids, magi, seers, soothsayers and eventually, with the beginnings of the scientific process, astronomers.
A sun god is a god or goddess who represents the sun, or an aspect of it. People have worshipped the sun and solar deities for all of recorded history. Sun worship is also known as heliolatry. Hence, many beliefs and legends have been formed around this worship, most notably the various myths containing the "missing sun" motif from around the world. The "missing sun" motif is a theme in the myths of various cultures. It may have served to explain the disappearance of the sun at night. In Egyptian mythology, Ra passes through Duat (the underworld) every night. Apep has to be defeated in the darkness hours for Ra and his solar barge to emerge in the east each morning. In Japanese mythology, the sun goddess Amaterasu is angered by the behavior of her brother, Susanoo, and hides herself in a cave, plunging the world into darkness. In Norse mythology, both the gods Odin and Tyr have attributes of a sky father, and they are doomed to be devoured by wolves (Fenrir and Garm, respectively) at Ragnarok. Sol, the Norse sun goddess, will be devoured by the wolf Skoll.
The "missing sun motif" is probably the first religious indication of the concept of dualism. That is, an all powerful object or natural pheneomenum (the sun or daylight), is embued with holy supernatural characteristics in a continual combat against another powerful opposite, (the moon or night time.) The Roman Empire celebrated a festival of the birthday of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti). This was celebrated when the duration of daylight first began to increase after the winter solstice, which was considered to be the "rebirth" of the sun. This religious title applied to at least three distinct divinities during the later Roman Empire: El Gabal, Mithras, and Sol. December 25 was also considered to be the date of the winter solstice, which the Romans called bruma. It was therefore the day the Sun proved itself to be "unconquered" despite the shortening of daylight hours. The Sol Invictus festival has a "strong claim on the responsibility" for the date of Christmas, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Solar symbolism was popular with early Christian writers as Jesus was considered to be the "sun of righteousness."
Sun worship is a possible origin of henotheism and ultimately monotheism. In ancient Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty, Akhenaten used the Aten solar deity as a symbol of a single god. The ancient concept of a solar barge, the sun as traversing the sky in a boat, is found in ancient Egypt, with Ra and Horus. The use of the title Sol Invictus allowed several solar deities to be worshipped collectively, In Germanic mythology this is Sol, in Vedic Surya and in Greek Helios and Apollo. The Mesopotamian god Shamash, plays an important role during the Bronze Age, and "my Sun" is eventually used as an address to royalty. Similarly, South American cultures have worshipped the sun god, Inti.
Christian iconography adopted some of the artistic language of the religions which preceeded it. The depiction of Christ with a halo relates to late antiquity usage, but the radiated crown also appears and some of the earliest christian iconography uses the "sun burst motif". According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, an article on Constantine the Great: "Besides, the Sol Invictus had been adopted by the Christians in a Christian sense, as demonstrated in the Christ as Apollo-Helios in a mausoleum (c. 250) discovered beneath St. Peter's in the Vatican." From the beginning of the 3rd century "Sun of Justice" appears as a title of Christ. According to the Syriac bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi, writing in the twelfth century: "It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the "true Nativity" (my emphasis), should be solemnised on that day."
It is sometimes forgotten that the early Christians associated Jesus with the Sun. Among the church fathers, Cyprian speaks of Christ as Sol Verus, the "true sun," and Ambrose names him Sol Novus Noster, "our new sun". An interesting fact revealed in the old Roman calendars is that on the 25th of December each year they commemorated the new birth of Sol Invictus, the "unconquered sun." Cyprian invokes Christus Sol verus, and Ambrose Sol novus noster. Such sun symbolism was widespread. These early Christians used many hymns addressed to the Christ-Sun or to the Christos-Spirit, or to the Logos or Word. These terms were taken from the ancient Greek Mysteries; and the composition of these hymns, and the words could easily be construed as hymns to the sun. Which indeed was exactly what they were.
For example, the following verse from one such hymn:
Verusque Sol, illabere,
Micans nitore perpeti,
Jubarque Sancti Spiritus
Infunde nostris sensibus!(467)
That is to say:
O Thou, REAL Sun,
infill us,Shining with perpetual light!
Splendor of the holy (Cosmic) Spirit
Pervade our minds!
This is an early hymn to the Christ-Sun, used as late as the seventh century of the Christian Era and was probably in use for centuries.
'The Sun Gods'
(Contains some adult language)
sun gods , sun worship , horus , apollo , ra , religion , monotheism , heliolatry , egyptian mythology , greek mythology , roman mythology , norse mythology , sol invictus , dualism , mithras , akhenaten , sun of god , jesus , christianity , satire , irony