S is for Sun & Stars
Symbols in Stories from Around the World
The sun is a star so it seemed only fair to spotlight both the sun and stars and the meanings of these celestial bodies. Being born in the summer, I have always respected the heat that the sun can beat down on my back. Then those summer nights had me on my back and enjoying the stars above. If I looked at the night sky for at least 10 minutes, the stars multiplied into infinity.
Stars—whether our Sun or other stars across the universe—were often deities. At one time, the Sumerians thought the planet Venus was as two four-rayed stars called the morning and evening stars and represented the dual nature of Inanna, the goddess of love and war. Her personality was much like Venus, the Roman goddess of love, as well as Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love.
The Norse believed stars were placed in the sky by Odin, the one-eyed god, along with his brothers Vili and Ve.
With many deities in the heavens, the Ancient Egyptians aligned their building of pyramids and temples with the stars. The star Sirius was connected to the goddess Isis, and today’s constellation of Orion represented her husband, Osiris.
Stars could predict great events as for Christians and the birth of Jesus Christ. The Chinese also believed stars foretold the future of things to come on earth. The Japanese thought shooting stars were spirits of the dead and were unlucky while many Europeans saw seeing these phenomena as lucky.
The Polynesians saw stars as the eyes of heaven and making note of what happens on earth.
When looking at our Sun itself, this star above all had the most power and usually was male. The Sun represented the king while the moon was oftentimes the queen. Every time the Sun rose, it confirmed to the Mayans that the current king was the rightful leader. The Mayans also conducted rituals to assure that the Sun would rise the next day.
The Cherokee tribe thought the Sun to be female. Then one time the Sun’s daughter died from a snake bite. The people sang and danced for the Sun to bring her comfort and to bring the world out of darkness.
Many cultures picture the Sun traveling across the sky by chariot. The Greek god, Apollo, the Egyptian god Ra, and the Indian god Surya amongst many others made the Sun’s trek possible.
In alchemy, the sun represented an ego. Gold was sometimes called the Sun of the earth. The goal of many alchemist was to find the secret to turn anything into gold. There is also what is known as “Black Sun” in alchemy that stands for the destructive powers of the sun. Too much gold or too much heat could mean disaster.
In Italy, the image of the Sun combined with the crucifix was designed as a symbol of peace. The Statue of Liberty has a crown that represents the rays of the sun plus the torch all link to the sun and the safety and the assurance it brings for peace and freedom.
Some stories that feature the sun or stars:
- “The Ten Suns,” Chinese tale, ten suns followed their mother Xi He to the Valley of Light and washed them in the lake and hung them in the tree to dry while one sun stayed in the sky until all ten suns wanted to be in the sky and heated the earth to such degree that Di Jun shot and killed nine of these suns until one remains today
- “Coyote and the Milky Way,” Navajo tale, coyote is annoyed at how slow the people place the stars and threw the bag of stars over his head and created the Milky Way
- “Maui and the Sun,” Polynesian tale, Maui thought the sun traveled too fast across the sky and he wanted to give more daylight to his mother to make bark cloth so he cut off hair from his wife and fashioned a rope that could not be burned and beat up the sun until it was weak and traveled slower across the sky
What stories do you know that features the sun? The stars? Lengthen or bring about light during day or night? Please comment below and share with others.
While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here: https://storycrossroads.com/2017-schedule/).
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