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Sun Lore of All Ages, by William Tyler Olcott, [1914], at

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Chapter III

Solar Mythology

SOME one has said: "If no other knowledge deserves to be called useful but that which helps to enlarge our possessions or to raise our station in society, then mythology has no claim to usefulness. But if that which tends to make us happier and better can be called useful, a knowledge of mythology is useful, for it is the handmaid of literature, and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of happiness."

The solar myth, above all others, commands the attention and interest of the student of mythology, for it is the very basis of the science; it permeates the early history of all people, its influence has made itself felt in every age, and many of the customs that govern our lives to-day are of solar origin.

The sun, above all that human eyes behold, is the chief element in life, the very essence of our existence, and to its beneficent influences we owe all that we possess to-day, that is of worth. How

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few realise this fact. "'Differentiated sun-shine,' is the striking and suggestive phrase used by John Fiske in his Cosmic Philosophy to stand for all things whatsoever to be found in this great world of ours; from the tiny sun-dew, hid in the secret abiding places of spreading swamp lands, and the inconsequent midget it opens its sticky little fist to grasp, to the great forest tree, and all-consequent man armed with his conquering broadaxe. It is merely a terse symbolic way of describing the processes of cosmic evolution from the sun as the original source and continuous guiding power of our own special universe."

"Back of the present sun figures in primitive and culture lore are the animistic conceptions of the sun such as that of Manabozho, or the great white hare, of Algonquin legend, or Indra the bull sun of India. In course of time the zoömorphic sun gives place to the anthropomorphic sun, and finally we arrive at such personifications of the sun as Osiris in Egypt, Apollo in Greece, and Balder in Norse mythology. Indeed it might almost be said that all the great steps in the onward march of the human race could be found recorded in the various and multiple personifications of the sun." 1

Our ideas concerning natural phenomena are

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but the result of past ages of research in the fields of science; but when we come to a consideration of the phenomena that day and night present, in their ever-changing phases, we find it extremely difficult to clearly understand the mental viewpoint of primitive man regarding this continual change, for the uninterrupted sequence and constant repetition of this phenomena has dulled our faculties and it escapes our attention.

In ancient times, however, this continual daily process was closely observed and seriously considered, and the sun in all its aspects became at an early date in certain countries a personified godhead.

The expression "swallowed up by night" is now a mere metaphor, but the idea it conveys, that of the setting sun, was a matter of great importance to the ancients. However, the daily aspects of the sun were not alone matters of concern, the seasonable changes were closely observed, and the spring-tide sun, returning with youthful vigour after the long sleep in the night of winter, had a different name from the summer and autumnal sun. There are consequently, a multiplicity of names for the sun to be found in a study of primitive history and mythology, and an enormous mass of sun myths depicting the adventures of a primitive sun hero in terms of the varying aspects which the sun assumes during the day and year.

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There was simply no limit to the images suggested by these aspects, as Sir George Cox puts it 1:

"In the thought of these early ages the sun was the child of night or darkness, the dawn came before he was born, and died as he rose in the heavens. He strangled the serpents of the night, he went forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber, and like a giant to run his course. He had to do battle with clouds and storms, sometimes his light grew dim under their gloomy veil, and the children of men shuddered at the wrath of the hidden sun. His course might be brilliant and beneficent, or gloomy, sullen, and capricious. He might be a warrior, a friend, or a destroyer. The rays of the sun were changed into golden hair, into spears and lances, and robes of light."

From this play of the imagination the great fundamental solar myths sprang, and these furnished the theme for whole epics, and elaborate allegories. Out of this enduring thread there came to be woven the cloth of golden legend, and the wondrous tapestry of myth that illuminates the pages of man's history.

It is our pleasant task to review this variegated tapestry that fancy displays, and inspect the great treasure-house of tradition where the people of all

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ages have stored the richest gift of their imagination, the solar myth.

Perhaps the earliest sun myths are those founded on the phenomena of its rising and setting. The ancient dwellers by the seashore believed that at nightfall, when the sun disappeared in the sea, it was swallowed up by a monster. In the morning the monster disgorged its prey in the eastern sky. The story of Jonah is thought to be of solar origin, his adventure with the whale bearing a striking analogy to the daily mythical fate of the sun.

Goldhizer, 1 an eminent mythologist, claims that the Biblical story of Isaac is a sun myth, and the first Enoch, the son of Cain, is of pure solar significance. He is a famous builder of cities, a distinct solar feature, but the fact that he lived exactly 365 days, the length of the solar year, proclaims his solar character. Cain is a sun hero and among his descendants none but solar figures are to be found. Noah is clearly a mythical figure of the sun resting, the word Nôach denoting "him who rests."

The word which pre-eminently denotes the sun in the Semitic languages, the Hebrew "Shemesh," conveys the idea of rapid motion, or busy running about. Thus we see in the Psalms the sun likened to a giant or hero running a course.

Swift steeds were associated with the sun in

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[paragraph continues] Classical, Indian, Persian, and Hebrew mythologies, and in the Hebrew worship in Canaan, horses were dedicated to the sun, as indeed they were in Greece at a later date.

In the Veda the sun is frequently called "the runner," "the quick racer," or simply "the horse." This idea of the swift flight of the sun is further carried out by attributing wings to the sun, or dawn, and on the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments we find the winged solar disk inscribed.

From this it was but a step of the imagination to regard the sun as a bird, and when the sun set the ancients said: "The bird of day is weary, and has fallen into the sea." It is even thought that the hare is symbolic of Eastertide, for the very reason that fleetness of foot was its chief attribute. It is also a significant fact that the solar personification of the North American Indians was called "the Great White Hare."

"The more the Babylonian mythology is examined," says Sayce, "the more solar is its origin found to be, thus confirming the results arrived at in the Aryan and Semitic fields of research. With two exceptions only the great deities seem all to go back to the sun."

Of the mythology of Egypt, the eminent authority Renouf makes the statement: "Whatever may be the case in other mythologies, I look upon the

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sunrise and sunset, on the daily return of day and night, on the battle between light and darkness, on the whole solar drama in all its details that is acted every day, every month, every year, in heaven and in earth as the principal subject of Egyptian mythology."

The predominant mythological figures of Egypt were so much involved in the sun worship of that country, and to such an extent Sun-Gods, that a discussion of their personality and deeds pertains more properly to the chapter on Sun Worship, and is omitted therefore in this place.

There is one feature of solar mythology that is striking because of its universality, and that is the connection which the figures personifying the sun in various lands have with navigation. The Jewish Midrash compares the course of the sun to that of a ship, and curiously enough to a ship coming from Britain, which is rigged with 365 ropes (the number of days in the solar year), and to a ship coming from Alexandria which has 354 ropes (the number of days of the lunar year).

In Egypt we see on the monuments the figure of Ra, the Sun-God, in his boat sailing over the ocean of heaven. "The sun king Apollo is with the Greeks," says Goldhizer, 1 "the founder of navigation," and even the legendary Charon, the ferry-man

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of the underworld, is a development of the solar myth. The Roman Sun-God, Janus, is also brought into connection with navigation, and the Peruvian sun deity came to them from the sea, and took his leave of them in a ship which floated down a river to the sea where it vanished.

The ancient Egyptians called the sun "the Cat," for, "like the sun," says Horapollo, "the pupil of the cat's eye grows larger with the advance of day." The Egyptians imagined that a great cat stood behind the sun which was the pupil of the cat's eye.

The following sun myth found in India is quoted from Anthropology by Edward B. Tylor. It relates that: ''Vâmana, the tiny Brahman, to humble the pride of King Bali, begs of him as much land as he can measure in three steps, but when the boon is granted, the little dwarf expands into the gigantic form of Vishnu, and striding with one step across the earth, another across the air, and a third across the sky, drives Bali into the infernal regions, where he still reigns. This most remarkable of all Tom Thumb stories seems really a myth of the sun, rising tiny above the horizon, then swelling into majestic power, and crossing the universe. For Vâmana the dwarf is one of the incarnations of Vishnu, and Vishnu was originally the sun. In the hymns of the Veda the idea of

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his three steps is to be found before it had become a story, when it was as yet only a poetic metaphor of the sun crossing the airy regions in his three strides."

The ancient Hindus enthroned the Sun-God in a burning chariot, and saw in his flashing rays spirited and fiery steeds arrayed in resplendent and gleaming trappings. Where we would say, "the sun is rising," or, "he is high in the heavens," they remarked, "the sun has yoked his steeds for his journey."

One of the common appellations for the sun in mythology is "the cow," and the sun's rays are described as the cow's milk. In the Veda this is one of the most familiar conceptions. These are good examples of the part imagination has played in the development of solar mythology. Given the notion that the sun is a chariot, the rays are seen immediately to resemble steeds, and, likewise, if the sun be likened to a cow, the rays must peradventure represent milk.

The sun's rays are compared more consistently with locks of hair or hair on the face or head of the sun. The Sun-God Helios is called by the Greeks "the yellow-haired," and long locks of hair and a flowing beard are mythological attributes of the sun in many lands. In an American Indian myth the Sun-God is described as an old man with a

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full beard, and the long beards of the Peruvian and Toltec Sun-Gods are often referred to in the mythological references concerning them.

If mythology is regarded as a wondrous piece of tapestry, wrought by imagination and fancy, displaying in many hues the noble deeds of gods and heroes of the ancient world, then, the part woven by the Greeks may well be considered the most conspicuous for brilliancy of conception and beauty of design of all that enters into this marvellous and priceless fabric.

It has been said that Greek mythology, in its dynastic series of ruling gods, shows an evolution from a worship of the forces of nature to a worship of the powers of the mind. It is beyond question the most complete in its details, the most perfect viewed from an artistic standpoint, the most beautiful and enduring of all the world's store of legendary lore that has come down to us, and in this wealth of mythology, the solar myth stands out supreme, as the central figure, clothed in the matchless imagery of a naturally poetical and highly artistic people.

In the following discussion of the Greek sun myths, there is much that seems so grotesque and fanciful as to border on absurdity, but the seriousness of the subject cannot be doubted, and, in order to understand it fully, with a true sense of

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appreciation, we must ever regard the legends as interpreting the natural phenomena of day and night. Bearing this fact in mind will enable us to grasp the significance of much that would otherwise be meaningless.

The daily motions and varying aspects of the living and energetic sun hero may be said to comprise the motif of almost every legend and myth bequeathed to us by the ancients.

As in the study of sun worship, the Sun-God Helios first occupies the scene as the central figure in a widely spread and popular cultus, we will first consider the legends that cluster about this mythical personage whom the Greek nation once revered and worshipped with all the fire of religious ardour.

The most interesting myth concerning Helios is that told of him in the Odyssey. It relates that when the hero Odysseus was returning to his home in Ithaca, the goddess told him of the verdant island of Trinacria, where the Sun-God Helios pastured his sacred herds, consisting of seven herds of cows and seven herds of lambs, fifty in each herd, a number which ever remained constant. Odysseus, desirous of visiting this fair isle, set out forthwith, having been warned by Circe to leave the herds of the Sun unmolested lest he suffer evil consequences. Having landed on the island, his

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companions enjoyed to the full the delightful climate, but as food was short, they ignored the warning of the goddess, slaughtered the Sun's best cattle, and feasted on them for six days, when they took their departure.

Helios, deeply incensed by their conduct, and grieving for his lost herds, in which he had taken great pride and pleasure, besought Jove's aid to punish them:

"O Father Jove, and all ye blessed gods
 Who never die, Avenge the wrong I bear
 Upon the comrades of Laertes’ son
 Ulysses, who have foully slain my beeves,
 In which I took delight whene’er I rose
 Into the starry heaven, and when again
 I sank from heaven to earth. If for the wrong
 They make not large amends, I shall go down
 To Hades, there to shine among the dead.

 The cloud-compelling Jupiter replied:
"Still shine, O sun: among the deathless gods
 And mortal men, upon the nourishing earth,
 Soon will I cleave, with a white thunderbolt
 Their galley in the midst of the black sea."

[paragraph continues] And so it came about that through the might of Jove a frightful storm arose, which well-nigh wrecked the vessel of the wanton adventurers; but Odysseus, resorting to heroic measures, prevented the loss of the ship, and his companions thus escaped with their lives.

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"Nothing is so common in Aryan Mythology," says Paley, "as the mention of cows or oxen in connection with the Sun. They seem to represent bright forms that appear to go forth in the form of luminous fleeting clouds from the home of the Sun in the east. The stealing, and recovering, or killing of these oxen is the subject of many tales in the early Greek legends."

The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece:
Where burning Sappho lived and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,—
Where Delos rose, or Phœbus sprung:
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all except the sun, is set.

We come now to the most conspicuous figure in Grecian mythology, the redoubtable hero, whose life-deeds furnish the theme for innumerable legends, songs, poems, epics, and many of the noblest and most beautiful conceptions in the world of art.

The fact that this distinguished and exalted personage personifies the sun, stamps Phœbus Apollo as the greatest and most widely known Sun-God that mythology and history have produced.

The story of his glorious birth at Delos, and his successful combat with the great serpent that Hera set in his path in the vale of Crissa, and the establishment of his oracle at Delphi, is related

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in the Chapter on Sun Worship as pertaining more particularly to his deification.

In the mythological biography of such a distinguished character as Phœbus Apollo we should expect, of course, to find allusions to his love affairs, and one of these is described in the myth of Daphne which follows:

Daphne, the personified Dawn, springs from the waters at the first flush of morning light, and as the beautiful tints of early day fade gradually in the light of the rising orb, Daphne flees from Apollo as he seeks to win her. In her flight she prays the gods to assist her, and it is related that, in answer to her prayer, she was transformed into a laurel tree, which was ever thereafter sacred to Apollo.

Another myth refers to a hunting trip in which Apollo was accompanied by his friend Hyacinthus. They engaged in a game of quoits, and Apollo cast a quoit which rebounded and struck Hyacinthus a fatal blow. Filled with remorse at the untimely death of his friend by his hand, he transformed Hyacinthus into a beautiful flower which ever after bore his name.

According to Murray 1 "the object of this myth was to point to the alternating decay and return of life in nature, which in this instance is conceived

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under the form of a youth, the disc which was thrown by Apollo being clearly a symbol of the sun which scorches vegetation."

It is further related of Apollo that incensed at Zeus for causing the death of his son Æsculapius by a thunderbolt, he shot some of the Cyclopes, the forgers of thunderbolts. This brought down upon him the wrath of the Supreme Being, and Apollo was banished from Olympus. During his period of exile he served Admetus as a herdsman.

Keary 1 claims that Admetus is really one of the names for Hades, and this reference to his service under him indicates his descent into the underworld for the sake of purification. Here again we find the belief current that the sun at nightfall descends into the realms beneath the earth and waters.

During his term of banishment Apollo served Laomedon, the prince of Troy. As this master did not pay him the agreed amount Apollo brought down upon the city a dreadful pestilence which depopulated the entire neighbourhood. Vexed at his exile, Apollo joined with Poseidon in an effort to dethrone Zeus. The plot failed, and both gods were sentenced to assist in building the walls of Troy.

Apollo was far famed as a musician, and once

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had a quarrel with Pan who claimed that the flute was a sweeter instrument than the lyre, which was Apollo's favourite instrument. They agreed to refer the matter to Midas, King of Lydia, who favoured Pan, and Apollo, in his displeasure at the verdict, punished Midas by causing his ears to lengthen till they resembled those of an ass. Apollo apparently brooked no rivalry in his musical accomplishments, for when Marsyas boasted that he excelled Apollo in flute playing, the latter had him flayed alive.

As a mighty warrior Apollo distinguished himself in the Trojan war when he took part against the Greeks. His fury was irresistible, and it is said whole ranks of fighting men fell as he charged into their midst.

Being possessed of eternal youth, and the most accomplished of athletes, Apollo came to be regarded as the patron of youthful athletic contests, and the Pythian games he instituted to commemorate his victory over the Python were celebrated in all lands.

Space does not permit of a complete recital of the many deeds of this famous sun hero. His favourite animals were the hawk and the swan; his tree, the bay. He was represented in the perfection of united manly strength and beauty. His long hair hangs loose, his brows are wreathed

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with bay, and in his hands he bears his bow and lyre.

The wonderful and famous Apollo Belvedere shows at the same time the conception which the ancients had of this benign deity, and the high degree of perfection to which they had attained in sculpture.

Few deities had more appellations than Phœbus Apollo. He was called Delian, Delphian, Clarian, etc., from the places of his worship. He was also referred to as "the Loxian God," from the ambiguity of many of his oracular predictions. Another appellation which the god bore was "Lycius" which means either the Wolf-God, or the Golden God of Light. He is also called "the Mouse-God," because he was regarded either as the protector or as the destroyer of mice. Other names for Apollo were "Silver-bowed," "Far Shooter," "Light Producer," "Well haired," "Gold-haired," "Gold-sworded."

"The likeness between Apollo and Achilles scarcely needs to be pointed out," says Keary. 1 "Each is the ideal youth, the representative of young Greece, that which was to become in after years Hellas."

In contrasting the character of the Sun-Gods, Helios and Apollo, we note a striking similarity.

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[paragraph continues] Both are conspicuous for their brilliant appearance, both possess powers of producing and destroying life, and weapons that are invulnerable. They are endowed alike with inexhaustible powers of creating happiness or sorrow, pleasure or torment, health or sickness. The exercise of these versatile faculties furnishes the theme for the major portion of that great mass of legends which constitute the essential elements of Aryan Mythology.

In the figure of Herakles we have a Sun-God and hero whose fame has gone afar into all lands, and every age since his time has likened its greatest deeds to the power and might he displayed in the accomplishment of his superhuman deeds.

Even to-day, the construction of the Panama Canal is often alluded to as a deed worthy of Hercules, and the adjective herculean has a firm place in the literature and phraseology of modern times.

The key to the sun myths that relate to the life and deeds of Hercules is found in the idea of the sun's subservience to nature's immutable laws. The sun has a daily task which it must perform. It has a path to travel from which it must not deviate. It has ever before it a life of toil from which it cannot swerve. "Nowhere," says Cox, 1 "is the unutterable toil and scanty reward of the sun brought out so prominently as in the whole

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legend, or rather in the mass of unconnected legends which is gathered round the person of Herakles."

Herakles was a son of Zeus and Alcmene. Through the malignant hate of Hera he was doomed from his birth to serve Eurystheus, and, not content by thus consigning him to a life of servitude, the goddess sent serpents to strangle him while he was but an infant. The hero, however, possessed godlike strength even in his tender years, and easily destroyed the serpents, much to the amazement of those in charge of him.

This struggle and triumph of the god over the serpents, is very like the successful combat Apollo waged against Python. It represents the great battle that the mythology of all lands presents, the subduing of the powers of darkness by the might of the omnipotent sun, the regent of light. This irresistible power, which is the chief attribute of the sun, is the predominant element in the character of the sun hero Herakles, and enables him to perform at the bidding of his master the twelve stupendous tasks that brought him endless and imperishable fame.

It is unnecessary to recite in detail these various labours. Every mythology does justice to the subject, and allusions to them appear in the arts and letters of every subsequent age. It remains,

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however, to point out the solar significance of these mighty deeds, and how, even in many details, they represent the sun's triumph over the obstacles that nature ever imposes.

The first labour was that of the conquest of the Nemean lion. The myth relates that, after slaying the ferocious beast, Herakles tore its skin off with his fingers, and thereafter it figured as his shield in many a fierce contest. The lion's skin has been likened to the "raiment of tawny cloud which the sun seems to trail behind him as he fights his way through the vapours whom he is said to overcome."

Herakles is next called upon to subdue the hideous Lernean hydra. This creature was possessed of many heads, one of which was immortal. The hero succeeded in this task by burning off the heads whenever they were raised to attack him. The immortal head he buried beneath a stone. As the beast was possessed of many heads, so the stogy nu-wind must continually supply new clouds to vanquish the sun; but the lighter vapour and mist, the immortal head, is only conquered for a time. The sun easily burns up the heavy clouds, the mortal heads, but only hides temporarily the immortal head which rises again and again to daunt him. In this fight Herakles was attended by his friend Iolaus,—this name recalls that of

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[paragraph continues] Iolê, signifying the violet-tinted clouds, the attendants of the sun in its serene moments.

"In the third month the sun enters the sign Libra, when the constellation of the Centaur rises, and in his third labour Herakles encountered and slew the Centaur. These comparisons are traceable throughout the year." For a detailed treatment of these myths the reader is referred to Anthon's Classical Dictionary.

In the madness of Herakles we see a further proof that he personifies the sun, for, as the sun rises, it increases in power until its heat destroys the fruits of the earth it loves. Herakles in his insanity kills his own children.

The marriage of Herakles with Hebe, the Goddess of youth, which took place after the performance of his twelve labours, denotes the renewal of the year at the end of each solar revolution.

It is in the last act of his life that Herakles best portrays his solar character. The poisoned coat presented by his wife Dejaneira is donned. It represents the clouds which rise from the waters and surround the sun like a dark raiment. Soon the poison infects the hero's system, inflicting pangs of anguish. Herakles tries in vain to cast it off, but the " fiery mists embrace him, and are mingled with the parting rays of the sun, and the dying hero is seen through the scattered clouds

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of the sky, tearing his own body to pieces till at last his bright form is consumed in a general conflagration."

In this death scene of the solar hero, and in the glories of his funeral pyre, we have the most famous sunset scene that has ever been presented for our contemplation. All the wondrous colouring that adorns the western sky at set of sun illuminates the canvas, and the reflection of the scene streams afar, lighting the waves of the Ægean with its clustering isles, and painting in enduring hues a scene that all nations proclaim the sublimest that nature offers to man's vision.

Anthon thus writes of the sun hero: "If Herakles be regarded as having actually existed, nothing can be more monstrous, nothing more at variance with every principle of chronology, nothing more replete with contradictions than the adventures of such an individual as poetry makes him to have been. But considered as the luminary that gives light to the world, as the god who impregnates all nature with his fertilising rays, every part of the legend teems with animation and beauty, and is marked by a pleasing and perfect harmony."

The Latin Hercules is indubitably identified with the Greek Herakles, and the legend of his life is identical with that of the Hellenic hero. It sets forth the same great struggle between the

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powers of light and darkness that we find in the primitive Hindu myth of Indra and Ahi, the source from which it sprang.

One of the solar legends which has come down to us in the simplest form is that of Sisyphus, who, so the myth relates, was condemned to spend his days in laboriously rolling a great stone to the summit of a hill. No sooner was the task accomplished than the stone rolled of its own volition to the base of the hill and his task began anew.

If we regard this as a sun myth, we see how closely the details of the legend apply to the daily course of the sun. It appears as a great sphere or ball which gradually mounts to the zenith each day as if laboriously propelled upward, on reaching the meridian it immediately begins its descent to the horizon.

Again, the sun by reason of its penetrating rays and its commanding position, suggests a power and a light from which nothing can be hid. The personification of this all-seeing eye would therefore be an all-wise being. "The Greek name Sisyphus," says Cox, "is simply a reduplicated form of Sophos, the wise, and so we have the image of a wise being compelled to ascend the heaven or mountain, and obliged in spite of his wisdom, his strength, and his power to come down as he had gone up. The idea of compulsion may soon pass into that of toil,

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and the latter into the thought of punishment, and thus the sun becomes a criminal under sentence."

In the myth of Ixîôn we have another solar legend. Ixîôn was condemned to a life of torture, being bound to a four-spoked and ever-revolving wheel. The name Ixîôn probably means "visitor," an appropriate name for the sun deity. The wheel revolves ceaselessly as the sun, and the condemned one is alternately raised into the high heavens, and lowered into the depths of the underworld. Cox 1 points out a curious but well-known characteristic of solar myths. "It is the identification of the sun both with the agent or patient, and with the thing or object by which the act is exercised. Ixîôn is the sun, and so is Ixîôn's wheel. Hercules is the sun who expires in the flames on the summit of Mount Œta, but the fiery robe which scorches him to death is the sun cloud."

The legend of Tantalus again reveals the fact that at one stage in the history of man, anthropomorphic ideas concerning the sun were prevalent. Tantalus was another victim of his misdeeds and consigned to eternal torture. It is related that he stood immersed in water to his chin, and yet dying of thirst, for as he lowered his head to drink, the water withdrew from him, and the earth appeared

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under his feet. To add to his torment luscious fruits hung alluringly from branches almost within his grasp, but no sooner did he stretch out his hands to pluck them than the wind blew them out of his reach, and their sight and that of the water only served to tantalise him.

The figure of the tortured Tantalus standing with his head alone exposed above the surface of the water clearly represents the sun setting in the western sea.

"The ancients speculated," says Paley, "on the hissing and steaming caused by the red hot orb being cooled down and extinguished in the sea. Fire and water could not co-exist, but in this myth the sun has the mastery, and it is the water that retires before the fire. Hence Homer says it was dried up by the god to punish Tantalus."

The word "Tantalus" means "the Poiser," the suspender in air of the huge disk of the sun, and one myth concerning Tantalus relates that, as a punishment for his evil deeds, he was suspended in mid air with a huge stone hanging over his head ever ready to fall and crush him, like a sword of Damocles. The ancients believed that the sun and earth were connected by a chain, and this fact reveals clearly the solar significance of the myth.

It is further related that Tantalus had had the honour of dining with Zeus. This signifies that

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the sun ascended from the mundane sphere to the upper regions.

Primitive man believed as the Bible teaches that all that exists will come to an end in a mighty conflagration, and that some day Tantalus himself would be hurled from his throne in the heavens and consume the earth. Paley says: "If Sisyphus and Tantalus do not represent the Sun-Gods, the deeds and sufferings attributed to them have no intellectual point or meaning, the origin of such wild fables is quite incapable of explanation. On the other hand, if they do, every detail in the narrative becomes simple and significant. And if it can be shown even by a single example that the sun must be meant, then the doctrine of the solar myth is established."

Another beautiful myth of solar significance is that of Kephalos and Prokris of which the following is a brief version:

"Kephalos, a Phocian chief, coming to Athens won the love of Prokris, and plighted his faith to her. But Kephalos was loved also by Eos, who sought to weaken his love for Prokris with a purpose so persistent that at last she induced him to make trial of her affection. He therefore deserts Prokris to whom after a time he returns in disguise. When in this shape he has won her love, he reveals himself, and Prokris in an agony of grief

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and shame flies to Crete where she obtains from Artemis the gift of a spear which shall never miss its mark, and of a hound which can never fail to seize its prey. With these gifts she returns to Kephalos, who after seeing her success in the chase longs to possess them. But they can be yielded only in return for his love, and thus Prokris brings home to him the wrong done to herself, and Eos is for a time discomfited.

"But Prokris still fears the jealousy of Eos, and watches Kephalos as he goes forth to hunt, until one day while she lurked among the thick bushes, she was fatally wounded accidentally by the unerring dart hurled by Kephalos.

"This myth explains itself. Kephalos is the head of the Sun, and Kephalos loved Prokris, in other words the Sun loves the dew, but Eos also loves Kephalos, i.e., the dawn loves the Sun, and thus at once we have the groundwork for her envy of Prokris. So again when we are told that though Prokris breaks her faith, yet her love is still given to the same Kephalos different though he may appear. We have here only a myth formed from phrases, which told how the dew seems to reflect many suns which are yet the same sun. The gifts of Artemis are the rays which flash from each dewdrop, and which Prokris is described as being obliged to yield up to Kephalos, who slays her as

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unwittingly as Phoibos causes the death of Daphne. The spot where she dies is a thicket in which the last dewdrops would linger before the approach of the mid-day heats." 1

In the legend of Phaeton we have a more familiar sun myth. Phaeton, the son of Apollo, obtains his father's reluctant consent to drive for one day the chariot of the Sun. Hardly does he start upon his course, however, when the fiery steeds, realising that the reins are in inexperienced hands, run away, and the destruction of the world was threatened. Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at the unfortunate youth, and precipitated him into the river Eridanus.

"This myth reveals," says Cox, "the plague of drought, which made men say: 'Surely another, who cannot guide the horses, is driving the chariot of the sun.'"

The legend of Orpheus is akin to that of Daphne in its solar significance, as in this case Eurydice, although loved by the Sun, falls a victim to his radiancy, as he seeks to embrace her.

The myth of Meleagros reveals the capricious nature of the sun, its variations of light and shade being expressed by the alternate succession of swift deeds and moody fits of the hero when he retires sullenly from the sight of men.

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In the legend of Niobe the consuming power of the sun is manifested as aimed at those who have the temerity to face his dazzling brightness.

The tale of Althaia, regarded as a solar myth, relates to the destiny of the sun. In spite of its power and glory, it must die when the twilight hours usher in the night, but in the legend of Perseus we see once more in the slaying of the Medusa the victory of the sun over the powers of darkness. Perseus, the sun hero, is another Sun-God like Apollo, and Herakles. He has laborious tasks to perform for a tyrant master, invincible weapons, and a victorious career.

In the figure of Œdipus, the national hero of the Thebans, we have another Sun-God whose life and deeds were identical in many respects with those of the great sun heroes already referred to.

Orion, the mighty hunter, immortalised with Perseus and Herakles in the constellations, is also a personification of the sun, and in the splendour of his deeds exhibits the characteristics that made his predecessors famous.

The ancients attributed sudden deaths by sunstroke to the shafts of the angered Sun-Gods, and the sun was thought to seek the sea each night for the purpose of bathing, so that thus purified it would rise to shine the next day with renewed lustre.

Paley tells us that there is a well-known legend,

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the subject of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, which is considered to have a solar significance. "That cunning god, the patron of rogues and thieves of every description, the Mercurius of the Romans, is said to have stolen and driven off a herd of cows while yet an infant. To prevent the theft being discovered by the traces of the animals, he fixed bundles of brushwood to their feet so that none could tell the direction they had taken. Now these cows are the clouds, the 'oxen of the sun' which figure so conspicuously in the Odyssey. It is a question of interest whether the Roman legend of the fire-breathing monster and robber Cacus, who stole the oxen of Hercules (the Sun-God), on his return from the west, is not in its origin identical. The story is told by Virgil, Propertius, and Ovid. It is said that one of the cows confined in the cave suddenly lowed, and led Hercules to the spot where he killed the robber and released the herd. The return of the lost sun after a thunder-storm explains the whole story very simply. The fire-breathing Cacus is the lightning, and the voice of the cow is the muttering of the thunder."

Space does not permit us to examine and discuss in detail the argument for the solar origin of the two great Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The prayer of Thetis to Zeus to do honour to her son, on which much of the action of the Iliad 

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turns, is clearly the ascent of the Sun-God to heaven. "The might, the invincible prowess, the unwearied strength of the hero, and his powers of destruction and devastation, nay, even his divinely made shield, are merely attributes of the sun in his midday splendour."

The very fact that the sun myths have been so prolific is significant, and this is probably due to the fact that, as Fiske 1 points out, "the dramatic types to which they have given rise are of surpassing human interest." Thus they have endured through the ages, and in these myths and legends which adorn the rich pages of Grecian mythology we see man's effort to explain natural phenomena in human terms, to endow deity with man's heroic attributes, and to translate physical laws in the light of man's comprehension.

As for proofs that most of the Greek legends about the gods and heroes are of solar origin, it is pointed out that the same actions are attributed to them all. As Paley puts it: "They are all slayers of monsters or powerful foes; all court, or carry off, or return a bride; all grow up brave, all perform some wonderful feat, all go in quest of some lost treasure; generally they are exposed in infancy but survive to cause the death of their own parents. They perform set tasks or labours.

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[paragraph continues] They are faithless to their first loves, they are reunited to them in the end. The simple fact, as it appears to the sense, that the sun leaves the east, and yet is found there again on the very next day, was spoken of under the figure of a bridegroom torn from his bride, soon to be reunited. In the childhood of mankind the daily death of the sun was regarded as a reality. If he was born again it was not from any astronomical necessity so to say, but from the sufferance of nature or of Varuna, the sky god, or from his own benevolence to men, either of which might fail, and the casual eclipses and obscurations might become perpetual.

"The birth and death of the sun, his connection with the dawn, and his tremendous and victorious efforts to regain it were the one theme and topic of regard. He was talked about (though in a different sort of language) just as we are always talking and are never tired of talking of the weather. Hence it is that solar myths seem all in all."

Grecian mythology in its solar aspects is reflected in the legends and traditions of the Latins. Perhaps the most typical instance of this, and certainly the most familiar Roman myth that has come down to us of this nature, is portrayed in Guido Reni's beautiful fresco of Aurora. Properly it should have been designated "Apollo," for the central figure is that of the noble Sun-God, and

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he dominates the scene. "Surrounded by all the light tripping Hours, each a very queen of loveliness, Aurora the goddess of the dawn leads the throng."

The Romans actually believed that the sun was the wheel of Apollo's chariot. Each morning the god rose from the eastern sea, and drove his four spirited steeds across the sky, and in the evening he descended into the western sea. At night, he reposed in a golden boat which was borne along the northern edge of the earth to the rising point in the east.

"Antiquity," says the Abbé Banier, 1 "has transmitted to us the names of the four horses that drew the chariot of the sun. They were Erythous or the red, Acteon, the luminous, Lampos the resplendent, and Philogœus, the earth loving. The first denotes the sun rising, whose rays are then reddish. Acteon represents the time when the same rays shot through the atmosphere are more clear, that is about the ninth or tenth hour of the morning. Lampos figures noonday when this luminary is in all his strength and glory, and Philogœus represents the setting sun that seems to kiss the earth."

In the sun myths of all nations we find allusions to the capricious nature of the sun. Now it

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smiles and gladdens the earth with its golden light, and, presently, displeased at man, shuns his presence, and hides sullenly for a time in gloomy solitude.

In a famous Japanese legend we have a description of the efforts of man to appease the Sun-Goddess when for a time she had absented herself from the sky.

The Sun-Goddess had taken refuge in a cave, and the earth knew not her light, and was dark and gloomy. The eight hundred of lesser deities took counsel as to the best means to propitiate the Goddess, and win once more her favour and her light. A great round copper mirror was procured to represent the sun's disk, and this was surrounded by a circle of saplings that indicated the rays of the radiant sun.

In the upper branches of the trees were hung balls representing the sacred jewel, and in the lower branches, blue and white pendants. A prayer was then recited by the chief priest who acted for the Emperor, and the service ended with a dance and the lighting of many fires. After a time, the Sun-Goddess yielded to the entreaties of man and left her gloomy cave for her heavenly throne, where her presence ever brings joy to the hearts of all mankind.

In another version of this myth the Sun-Goddess

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is said to have waxed inquisitive at the noise of the singing and dancing at the entrance of her retreat, and ventured forth to see what was taking place. Beholding her beautiful self in the mirror, she stepped forth into the world once more, and "her glory filled the air with rosy radiance."

The propitiatory service is akin in many respects to the ceremonial, common among many primitive tribes, of producing sunshine. The first requisite of this rite was a mock sun, and the idea seems to have been that, by instituting an unusual ceremony, the curiosity of the hidden Sun would be aroused and she would come forth to see what was taking place.


54:1 Ancient Myths in Modern Poets, Helen A. Clarke.

56:1 The Mythology of the Aryan Nations, Sir George Cox.

57:1 Mythology Among the Hebrews, Ignaz Goldhizer.

59:1 Mythology Among the Hebrews, Ignaz Goldhizer.

66:1 Manual of Mythology, Alexander S. Murray.

67:1 Outlines of Primitive Belief, Charles F. Keary.

69:1 Outlines of Primitive Belief, C. F. Keary.

70:1 The Mythology of the Aryan Nations, Sir George W. Cox.

76:1 The Mythology of the Aryan Nations, Sir George W. Cox.

80:1 The Mythology of the Aryan Nations, Sir George W. Cox.

83:1 Myths and Myth Makers, John Fiske.

85:1 The Mythology and Fables of the Ancients, Abbé Banier.

Next: Chapter IV. Solar Mythology (Continued)