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

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p. 162 p. 163

Chapter VII

Sun Worship (Continued)

Sun Worship in India

IN India, a land teeming with mythology, we find as we might expect, Sun worship a predominant feature of the Hindu religion. All the myths prove that the fancied combat between light and darkness, waged daily in the spacious field of the firmament, is of solar origin. As we have seen Osiris, the Sun-God of the Egyptians, triumphing over the demons of darkness, so in India we find Indra, the great solar deity of the Hindus, successful in his combat with Vritra the serpent of night.

The worship of Indra constitutes the very essence of the Vedic religion, although he was by no means the only Sun-God worshipped in India, for the Hindus worshipped the sun in its various aspects after the manner of the Egyptians. The rising sun was called "Brahma, "on the meridian it was known as "Siva," and in the west at nightfall, "Vishnu."

"In regard to Vishnu," says Keary, "the great

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epic of the Hindus relates that when he was armed for the fight Agni gave him a wheel with a thunderbolt nave. This can only mean a wheel that shoots out thunderbolts from its nave when it turned." 1 The wheel has throughout the ages symbolised the sun.

In Central India, Sun worship still prevails among many of the hill tribes, and the Sun is invoked as the Holy One, the Creator, and Preserver. White animals are sacrificed to him by his votaries.

One of the early and most important Sun-Gods was Sûrya. He is represented as moving daily across the sky in a golden chariot drawn by seven white horses. Perhaps the most holy verse in the Veda is the following short prayer to the Sun-God Sûrya taken from the Rig Veda, an invocation powerful in expression, and beautiful in thought:

"Sing praises unto Sûrya, to the son of Dyaus,
 May this my truthful speech guard me on every side wherever heaven and earth and days are spread abroad.
 All else that is in motion finds a place of rest. The waters ever flow, and ever mounts the sun.
 No godless man from time remotest draws thee down when thou art driving forth with wingèd dappled steeds.
 He turns him to an alien region of the east, and Sûrya thou ariseth with a different light. p. 165
 O Sûrya: with the light whereby thou scatterest gloom, and with thy ray impellest every moving thing,
 Keep far from us all feeble worthless sacrifice, and drive away disease and every evil dream.
 Sent forth, thou guardest well the path of every man, and in thy wonted way ariseth free from wrath.
 When, Sûrya, we address our prayers to thee to-day, may the gods favour this our purpose and desire.
               .         .         .         .         .         .         .
 Ne’er may we suffer want in presence of the sun, and living happy lives may we attain our age.
 Cheerful in spirit, evermore, and keen of sight, with store of children, free from sickness and from sin.
               .         .         .         .         .         .         .
 O Sûrya, with the golden hair, ascend for us day after day, still bringing purer innocence.
 Bless us with shine, bless us with perfect daylight, bless us with cold, with fervent heat and lustre.
 Bestow on us, O Sûrya, varied riches to bless us in our home, and when we travel."

The ancient Sun worship of India is reflected in the daily religious rites and festivals of the modern Hindus. Thus, the time-honoured formula repeated daily since long past ages by every Brahman, indicates clearly the divine element in the sun: "Let us meditate on the desirable light of the divine sun, may he rouse our minds." Here is a direct appeal to a solar deity, and every morning the Brahmans may be seen facing the east, standing on one foot, and stretching out

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their hands to the sun as they repeat this prayer which has come down unchanged from remote ages.

The Zoroastrians, and the modern exponents of that faith, the Parsees, saw in the sun fire and light, a manifestation of a divine and omnipotent power, and regarded them in a measure as symbols of the deity; but there can be little doubt that this distinction was not always borne out, and that the sun, and fire itself, were literally worshipped by them.

In the Parsee temples burns a fire which, it is said, has never been extinguished since it was kindled by Zoroaster four thousand years ago. In praying, the Parsees are admonished to stand before the fire, and turn their faces toward the sun, and when a young Brahman's head is tonsured, he is to this day so placed that he has the sacred fire to the east whence comes the sun of which it is a type.

Sun Worship in Greece

The ancient Sun-God of the Pelasgians, displaced by the later worship of Apollo, was Arês. "There can be no question," says Keary, 1 "that in prehistoric times the worship of Arês was

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widely extended. Traces of his worship are to be found in the Zeus Areios who was honoured at Elis, and in the name of Areiopagus of Athens." Little actual knowledge of this early worship however has come down to us.

The two great solar divinities of Greece were Helios or Hyperion, and Phœbus Apollo. Just as the Egyptians regarded their Sun-Gods Ra and Osiris as distinct aspects of the sun, so the Greeks distinguished the orb from the rays of the sun.

Helios represented to the Greeks the physical phenomenon of light, the orb of the sun which throughout the seasons rises and sets daily. Phœbus Apollo, on the contrary, was the beneficent divinity who not only created the warmth of spring-tide, but protected mankind from the dangers and diseases of the more desolate seasons. He was essentially human in his sympathies and yet wholly godlike in dignity.

Some writers, notably Hesiod, regard Hyperion as the father of the sun, moon, and dawn, and therefore the original Sun-God, and the father of Phœbus Apollo, but Homer identifies Helios with Hyperion as "he who walks on high."

The worship of the Sun-God Helios, the counterpart of the Latin Sol, was imported into Greece from Asia, but by no means gained a high degree

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of popularity. The number seven was sacred to Helios, and in the island of Trinacria (supposed to be Sicily), it was said he had seven herds of cows, and seven herds of lambs, fifty in each herd, which never increased or diminished in numbers. The god delighted to watch them peacefully grazing when he rose in the morning, and as he left the sky at night-fall. As we shall see later in the chapter on the solar mythology of Greece, and as related in the Odyssey, the sacred herds of Helios were ruthlessly slaughtered by the misguided companions of Ulysses. Incensed by this insult the Sun-God threatened to descend into Hades and shine among the dead. He contented himself, however, by complaining to Jove, who, acknowledging the justice of his claim for vengeance, roused up a mighty storm which well-nigh destroyed the miscreants, and completely disabled their ship. Tylor 1 tells us that the Greek Sun-God Helios, to whom horses were sacrificed on the mountain top of Taygetos, was that same personal Sun to whom Socrates, when he had stayed rapt in thought till daybreak, offered a prayer before he departed. An annual festival in honour of Helios was celebrated at Rhodes with musical and athletic contests.

The Greeks believed that the Sun rose out of

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the ocean on the eastern side, and drove through the air in a chariot giving light to gods and men. The poet Milton in his Comus thus refers to the daily journey of the Sun-God:

"The star that bids the shepherd fold
 Now the top of heaven doth hold,
 And the gilded car of Day
 His glowing axle doth allay
 In the steep Atlantic stream,
 And the slope Sun his upward beam
 Shoots across the dusky pole,
 Pacing toward the other goal
 Of his chamber in the east."

In Lucian's time the Greeks kissed their hands as an act of worship to the rising Sun.

Shakespeare frequently alludes to Hyperion, and Keats wrote of his downfall, and of the accession of his successor Phœbus Apollo.

We come now to a consideration of the preeminent feature of Hellenic Sun worship, the worship of the Sun-God Phœbus Apollo, the god who is more especially the deity of the later Greeks, the Dorians and Ionians.

The authors of this religion were probably the Dorians, who inhabited the northern portion of Greece, and who founded their first kingdom in Crete. Before the Doric invasion, however, there was in Crete a species of Sun worship, for the bull-

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headed Minotaur, according to the authorities, could hardly have been anything else than a Sun-God of the Asiatic stamp.

With the coming of the Dorians to Crete, Apollo worship was established, and through the migrations of these people (about the tenth century before our era), the cult of Phœbus Apollo spread on every side, until this religion was in favour wherever the Greek language was spoken.

In Homer, Apollo is easily the greatest of all the Sun-Gods, and superior in character to almost every other deity. In the Iliad he is the central and most majestic figure.

Phœbus Apollo, or "Far-Darter" as he is sometimes called, was the son of Jupiter and Latona, and brother of Diana, the Moon Goddess. He was born on Delos, the smallest and most desolate of all the Ægean Islands, after all other places had rejected him. Delos, however, was a most appropriate birthplace for a Sun-God, as the ancients believed that the Sun was born from the sea. His name, Phœbus, signifies the glorious nature of the light of the sun, while the name Apollo probably had reference to the devastating effects of the sun's rays at mid-day.

At the birth of the Sun-God on the seventh day of the month, we are told that sacred swans made the circuit of the island seven times, and all the

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attendant goddesses gave a shout, and Delos was radiant in golden light. We have here, it is said, the echo of an old belief, that at the hour of sunrise the horizon sends forth a sound.

Zeus bestowed on the infant Apollo a cap, a lyre, and a car drawn by swans. Soon after his birth the swans carried Apollo off to the land of the Hyperboreans, where for six months of the year the climate is marked by sunshine and gentle breezes. Here the Sun-God thrived and waxed vigorous. It is not within the scope of this chapter to dwell on the myths that tell of the mighty deeds of the Far-Darter, as they come properly under the chapter on solar mythology. The establishment, however, of the Delphinian oracle, perhaps the most important event in the life of the Sun-God, is related here, as Delphi was, properly speaking, the seat of Apollo worship.

At an early date Apollo developed the attributes of a warrior, and set out in the quest of adventure. Searching for a suitable place in which to establish an oracle, he came to Delphi, a peaceful vale in Crissa, in the heart of Greece. Its solitude and sublimity completely charmed him and he chose it as the site of his oracle. His advent was not peaceable, however, as Hera had set in his path the great serpent Pytho, and a terrific combat ensued from which Apollo emerged victorious. Some

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authorities claim that this contest with Pytho signifies the war which, according to many mythologies, the Sun-God wages with the River God. The great river is the earth which flows all around the world, and which the Greeks knew by the name "Oceanus."

Perhaps, in the widest significance, this battle between Phœbus Apollo and the serpent represents the contest between the Sun-God and the earth river, for the Sun, although seemingly conquered by Oceanus each night, and smothered in his coils, emerges triumphant in the morning.

From his victory over Pytho, Apollo obtained the title of "Pythius, "and in commemoration of the event the Pythian games were instituted, in which contests the victors were crowned with wreaths of beech leaves.

His foes vanquished, the first requisite of an oracle, a priest was sought, and it is related that Apollo cast his eyes seaward and beheld a Cretan ship sailing for Pylos. Assuming the form of a dolphin he plunged into the sea, and boarded the ship to the great amazement of the crew. Under his guidance they came to the bay of Crissa, and the god in the form of a blazing star left the ship and descended into his temple. Assuming the form of a handsome youth with wavy locks, he greeted the crew as strangers, and invited them to

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land, and worship him as Apollo Delphinus, as he had met them in the form of a dolphin, and hence Delphi derived its name.


The resemblance between the lives of the Sun-God Phœbus Apollo, and Jesus Christ, the central figure and Exemplar of the Christian religion, is striking. The circumstances of their birth were in many respects similar, in that they were born in comparative obscurity. The mother of Apollo sought in vain for a suitable place to bring forth her offspring, and had recourse at last to a desolate and barren island in the midst of the sea. The Virgin Mary found her only refuge in a comfortless and humble shelter for the beasts of the field. Three gifts were presented the Far-Darter at his birth by Zeus, and the Magi presented the same number of gifts to the infant Jesus. Further, the infant Apollo was hurried away to a peaceful land soon after his birth, and in like manner the child Jesus was conveyed to a place of safety to escape a threatened danger.

For a while Phœbus Apollo hid his greatness in a beggar's garb, bearing with patience the gibes and sneers of his comrades, preferring to bide his time when all men should acknowledge his greatness. This mode of existence was in every way similar to the life of Christ.

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Again, as personifying the sun, Phœbus Apollo must necessarily be born weak and suffer hardships, he must wander far and lead a life of strife and action, but above all it was imperative that he should die. It is this last act which makes the character of the Sun-God approach the nearest to human nature.

Although the Sun-God's death at night-fall is ignominious, akin in this respect to the crucifixion, still its predominant feature is one of glory, and the reappearance of the triumphant sun after death is in every way typical of the resurrection, thus portraying in a startling manner the completeness of the analogy between the lives of Christ and Apollo.

In the Homeric hymn to Apollo we read that the Far-Darter took the shape of a dolphin, and guided men from Crete to Crissa. "This plunging of the god into the water, and his taking the shape of a fish," says Keary, 1 "is the setting of the sun, and the birth of Apollo in the mid-Ægean is his rising. Both are alike parts of the sun's daily journey."

Again, the sun is essentially nomadic in its character, a continual wanderer in the firmament and this characteristic is borne out in the life of Phœbus Apollo, who in his infancy started upon his

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travels, his life being one of ceaseless wandering and activity.

Apollo brought not only the blessings of the harvest to mankind, but he was the god of music and song. He founded great cities, and promoted colonisation, gave good laws, and in a word, was "the ideal of fair and manly youth, a pure and just god requiring clean hands of those who worshipped him." To him were sacred the wolf, the roe, the mouse, the he-goat, the swan, the dolphin, and the ram. Traces of his solar nature are revealed in some of the statues, which represent him with a full and flowing beard, typifying the sun's rays. Generally he is represented as having the figure of a youthful athlete.

It remains to mention the different titles conferred on Phœbus Apollo. The many festivals inaugurated in his honour are referred to in another chapter. As there is a beneficent side to the sun's character, displayed in its genial warmth, so there is a destructive and desolating force in its rays at mid-day. As a destroyer and producer of plagues Phœbus Apollo was styled "Carneius," and worshipped with particular zeal at Sparta. In this capacity he was also worshipped under the title "Hyacinthus," a worship that was for the most part peculiar to the Peloponnesus.

As a beneficent god the Far-Darter was styled

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[paragraph continues] "Thargelius." The most noted of the temples dedicated to his worship was situated at Amyclæ.

Apollo was regarded as the patron of herdsmen, and in this capacity was called "Nomius." He was also styled "Delphinius," and worshipped in a temple at Athens which bore the name "Delphinian."

From the fact that the number seven was sacred to Apollo he was called "Hebdomeius." As a god of light he was styled "Lycius," the original centre of this worship being Lycia, in the southwest of Asia Minor. Apollo was regarded as the father of Æsculapius, the god of medicine, and those afflicted with disease had recourse to him, for through his kind offices their bodies were purified, and health regained.

In Rome, the worship of Apollo was not established until 320 B.C., a temple being raised to him in that year in consequence of a pestilence that had swept the city. Afterwards a second temple was dedicated to his worship on the Palatine Hill.

To the poets of all ages Phœbus Apollo has been a source of inspiration, and the symbol of poetry. Callimachus, an Alexandrine Greek, who lived about 250 B.C., wrote a hymn in honour of the Sun-God Apollo. In later times, however, no distinction was made by the Greek poets between Apollo and the Sun-God Helios.

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The poet Keats wrote an ode and a hymn to Apollo, and Shelley's Hymn to Apollo is considered one of the finest and most sublime poems in our language. It is the Sun-God's description of his divine attributes, and because of its beauty is quoted in full:

"The sleepless Hours who watch me as I lie,
 Curtained with star-inwoven tapestries
 From the broad moonlight of the sky,
 Fanning the busy dreams from my dim eyes.
 Waken me when their mother, the grey Dawn,
 Tells them that dreams and that the moon is gone.

"Then I arise, and climbing Heaven's blue dome,
 I walk over the mountains and the waves,
 Leaving my robe upon the ocean foam;
 My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves
 Are filled with my bright presence, and the air
 Leaves the green earth to my embraces bare.

"The sunbeams are my shafts with which I kill
 Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day;
 All men who do or even imagine ill
 Fly me, and from the glory of my ray
 Good minds and open actions take new might
 Until diminished by the reign of night.

"I feed the clouds, the rainbows, and the flowers
 With their ethereal colours; the moon's globe
 And the pure stars in their eternal bowers
 Are cinctured with my power as with a robe;
 Whatever lamps on Earth or Heaven may shine
 Are portions of one power, which is mine.p. 178

"I stand at noon upon the peak of Heaven,
 Then with unwilling steps I wander down
 Into the clouds of the Atlantic even;
 For grief that I depart they weep and frown.
 What look is more delightful than the smile
 With which I soothe them from the western isle?

"I am the eye with which the Universe
 Beholds itself and knows itself divine;
 All harmony of instrument or verse,
 All prophecy, all medicine are mine,
 All light of Art or Nature; to my song
 Victory and praise in their own right belong."

The Dorians, as they migrated and founded new kingdoms, found the worship of the Sun-God Herakles flourishing in other lands, and gradually this form of religion became popular and supplanted the worship of Apollo.

Herakles was, however, considered more in the light of a solar hero than a Sun-God. In Herakles we behold the Sun, loving and beloved, wherever he goes seeking to benefit the sons of men; yet, as was the case with Apollo, sometimes bringing destruction and desolation down upon them through the fierce heat of his noonday rays.

The twelve labours of Herakles are supposed to refer to the sun's passage through the Zodiacal signs, as they suggest forcibly in many cases the successive conquests of the Sun hero. Herakles was represented on coins of Cyzicus about 500-450 B.C.

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[paragraph continues] The death of Herakles is the most impressive incident of his varied career. "No one," says Keary, 1 "who reads the account of it, can fail to be struck by the likeness of the picture to an image of the setting sun. . . . The flame of his pyre shines out far over the sea, and the sun's last rays shine out in the light of the fiery sky." The many myths related of the Sun hero, Herakles, are referred to in the chapter on solar mythology.

Japanese Sun Worship

In the spirit religion of Japan we find the worship of the Sun-God is supreme. He is regarded as the "heaven-enlightening great spirit,—below him stand all the lesser spirits through whom as mediators, guardians, and protectors, worship is paid by men."

Among the Shinto deities, however, the Sun-Goddess was the central figure. To reconcile Buddhism and Shintoism the chief priests claimed that the Sun-Goddess had been merely an incarnation of Buddha.

The shrine of the Sun-Goddess stood in the Mikado's residence, and was reverenced by that monarch as one of his family gods. Her emblem was the mirror, which is to the present day considered

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one of the sacred treasures of the Japanese sovereigns.

A temple of the Sun-Goddess was established at Watarahi in the province of Isé, and the shrine of the Goddess of Food was placed in the temple. These two deities henceforth occupy together the chief place in the Japanese Pantheon. They were honoured above all other gods by festivals and ceremonies held annually. Offerings and sacrifices were presented to these goddesses on the seventeenth day of the sixth moon, and the ritual of the invocation was in part as follows: "Hear, all you ministers of the gods, and sanctifiers of offerings, the great ritual declared in the presence of the From-Heaven-Shining-Great Deity."

At the harvest festival thanksgiving was offered to the Sun-Goddess for bestowing upon her descendants dominion over land and sea.

Sun Worship in Peru and Mexico

From Japan we cross the Pacific to find the indigenous tribes of the western continents reverencing and worshipping the Sun in ancient times. The Sun worship of Peru first claims our attention, as it easily overshadows in importance and magnificence the solar worship of any other of the western tribes.

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It has been shown that Sun worship prevails, for the most part, where the sun is welcomed for his genial warmth, and where nature suffers at his departure. Thus, in the lowlands of South America, Sun worship attained little prominence, but on the high plateaus, such as those in Peru, it flourished vigorously, and was the dominant feature of the life of the natives.

The Peruvians believed that the Sun was at once the ancestor and the founder of the Inca dynasty, and that the Incas reigned as his representatives and almost in his person. The Sun, therefore, was the sovereign lord of the world, the king of heaven and earth, and was called by them "Inti," which signifies Light.

The Peruvian villages were so built that the inhabitants could have an unobstructed view of the east, in order that each morning the nation might unite in saluting the rising Sun, and rejoice in the advent of the Lord of Light. The Sun alone of all the deities had a temple in every large town in Peru.

The Peruvian Sun temples probably exceeded in magnificence those of any other nation on the earth. In Peru, as elsewhere, a certain relationship was thought to exist between the substance of gold, and that of the sun. In the nuggets dislodged from the mountain sides they thought they

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saw the Sun's tears, consequently, in the Peruvian edifices dedicated to the worship of the Sun, we find gold used lavishly to beautify and embellish the structure.

The following description of the Great Temple of the Sun at Cuzco, the grandest ecclesiastical edifice in the empire, gives some idea of the beauty and grandeur of these places of worship:

The temple consisted of a vast central auditorium surrounded by a number of smaller buildings and was built with an elegance of masonry rarely, if ever, equalled.

The roof was formed by timberworks of precious woods plated with gold, and the precious metal was so prodigally lavished on the interior that the temple bore the name of "The Place of Gold" or "Golden Palace." A thick sheet of gold six inches wide ran round the outside of the edifice as a frieze, and there was a similar decoration in every apartment. The doors opened to the east, and at the far end above the altar was a golden disk with human countenance shaped and graven to represent the sun, and studded with precious stones. It was so placed as to reflect, at certain seasons, the first rays of the rising sun on its brilliant surface, and, as it were, reproduce the likeness of the great luminary.

Around the sacred disk was arranged in a semi-circle

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the mummies of the departed Incas seated on golden thrones, so that the morning sun rays came day by day to bless the remains of the rulers of bygone ages.

The adjacent buildings were the abodes of the deities who formed the retinue of the Sun. The principal one was sacred to the Moon, the Sun's consort, who had her disk of silver, and arranged around her were the mummies of the ancient queens. Other chambers in the temple were dedicated to the stars, to lightning, and to the rainbow. Outside the temple was a great garden filled with rare and beautiful plants, which contained, also, exquisite imitations of trees, bushes, and flowering shrubs, and animals all wrought in solid gold. The vases and temple ornaments, all the utensils used by the priests in the temple, and even the conductor pipes, were composed of the precious metal.

In the Peruvian ceremonials of Sun worship, drink offerings were presented to the deity in a golden vessel, and the people believed that if the liquid disappeared the Sun partook of it, which might be truly said of it, as it soon vanished by evaporation.

Under the Incas, Sun worship became the state religion of Peru, and the central idea of the life of the people. It is evident, however, that Sun

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worship was not acceptable to all the Incas, for there is on record a protest made by an Inca that the Sun could not be a supreme and all-powerful deity, constrained as he was to pursue one fixed course in the firmament. If he was supreme he should be a free agent, argued this wise sovereign.

Columns in honour of the Sun were erected in Peru as in other lands where Sun worship prevailed, level at the top, so as to form a seat for the sun who, the Peruvians said, "loved to rest upon them." At the equinoxes and solstices they placed golden thrones upon them for the Sun-God's further convenience. Surrounding the city of Cuzco there were twelve stone columns dedicated to the sun, which represented the twelve months in the year.

Human sacrifices to the sun were common in Peru, and the rising sun looked down on sacrificial altars reddened by the blood of thousands of victims. The holiest sacrifice was the blood of a captive youth, smeared on a rock that crowned a mountain top, so that the sun's first rays would light up the gory sacrifice.

Sun worship thrived in Peru until the Spanish Conquest, when Pizarro ruthlessly overthrew the temples, and stifled the religion. It is said that the great golden disk representing the sun, that was the chief object of worship in the Great Temple

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at Cuzco, was secured as booty by one of the rough adventurers of the conquering army, and became the stake in a subsequent drunken gambling bout that the plunderer engaged in.

Although the Sun worship of the Peruvians reached a higher state of exaltation, and perfection than that of any other South American people, still the pre-eminence of the Sun, and its deification, was the very essence of the early religion of Central America, and particularly Mexico. The ancient Mexicans called themselves "Children of the Sun," and daily greeted the rising sun with hymns of praise, and offered to the solar deity a share of their meat and drink. Even to this day, the inhabitants of the interior of Mexico, as they go to mass, throw a kiss to the Sun before entering the church.

Four times by day and night the priests of the ancient Sun temples addressed their invocations and prayers to the Sun, and all the temples were dedicated to his worship. In the ceremonial of the temple worship, blood drawn from the ears of the high priest was offered to the Sun, as was also a sacrifice of quails. The priest invoked the Sun saying: "The Sun has risen, we know not how he will fulfil his course, nor whether misfortune will happen. Our Lord do your office prosperously."

The temples of the ancient Toltecs, who inhabited Mexico as far back as the year 674 of the

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[paragraph continues] Christian era, were dedicated to the Sun. The Moon they worshipped as his wife, and the Stars as his sisters. No image was allowed within these temples, and their offerings were perfumed flowers, and sweet-scented gums. They reared in adoration of the Sun and Moon great pyramids which have endured to this day and examples of which may be seen at San Juan, Teotihuacan.

The highest "El Sol" is 216 feet in height, has a base about 761 feet square, and the summit is reached by a flight of sixty-eight steps. Many strange idols have been found in this region embellished and ornamented with designs of solar significance, the sun's rays being especially noticeable in the carvings.

The supreme god of the early Mexicans was Quetzalcohuatl, who personified to them the Sun of to-day; his father was Camaxtli, the great Toltec conqueror, whom the Mexicans regarded as the Sun of yesterday:—while the god Tetzcalipoca signified to them the Sun of to-morrow.

Quetzalcohuatl is described as being regal of stature, of white complexion, and of pleasing countenance. His face was fair, and his beard bushy, and he was clothed in flowing robes. It is related that the clouds, or cloud snakes, bear down the old Sun, and choke him, but the young Quetzalcohuatl rushes up in the midst of them from

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below, and destroys them. As we shall see, the Sun-God Hercules, the solar deity of the Greeks, was famed even in his infancy for his triumph over the serpents sent to destroy him.

Quetzalcohuatl reigned over the Toltecs peaceably for many years, but finally his enemies brought about his downfall, and deposed him. Legend says he embarked in his ship and sailed down a river to the sea, where he disappeared and was no more seen. When Montezuma beheld Cortez and the Spanish ships approaching the land, he thought that the great Sun-God was returning to his beloved land.

Sun Worship of the North American Indians

Proceeding northward, we find the worship of the Sun that anciently existed and flourished in the far east, equally prominent in the life of the early Indian tribes of North America.

The chiefs of the Huron tribe claimed descent from the Sun, and believed that the sacred pipe was derived from this luminary. It was, they thought, first presented to the Pawnees, and by them transmitted to the other tribes. Many of the Indian tribes have a similar tradition.

The Iroquois regarded the Sun as a god, and offered him tobacco, which they termed "smoking the Sun." On important occasions the braves

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gathered together in a circle, squatting on the ground, the chief then lighting the calumet, and offering it thrice to the rising Sun, imploring his protection, and recommending the tribe to his care. The chief next took several puffs and passed the pipe on for all the others to smoke in turn. As in many Christian churches to-day, the prayers of the people mingle with the smoke of incense, so were the invocations of the early Indians addressed to their Sun deity, supposed to be wafted to him by the smoke that wreathed upward from the sacred calumet.

Certain tribes offered to the Sun the first game they despatched when they were out on a hunting expedition. The Apalachees of Florida, in their sacrifices to the Sun, offered nothing that had life. They regarded the Sun as the parent of life, and thought that he looked with displeasure on the destruction of any living creature. They saluted the Sun at the doors of their wigwams as he rose and set, and in the sacred hut or cave where they worshipped, the Sun's rays were permitted to enter so as to illuminate the altar at certain times of ceremonial importance. This accords closely with the ideas of orientation which played such an important part in the Sun temple worship of the Egyptians. In the course of their service of Sun worship, the Apalachees released the sacred Sun

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birds through a crevice in the roof of the cave temple. These, as they winged their way upward, were thought to convey their expressions of adoration to the Sun, the supreme deity.

To the Creeks the Sun represented the Great Spirit, toward him they directed the first puff of smoke from the calumet, as they sat in solemn council, and to him they bowed reverently in their discussions. The early Indian tribes of Virginia prostrated themselves before the rising and setting Sun and Tylor 1 tells us that the Pottawotomies would climb sometimes at sunrise to the roofs of their huts to kneel, and offer to the luminary a mess of Indian corn.

The powerful Sioux tribe regarded the Sun as the Creator and Preserver of all things and to him they sacrificed the best of the game they killed in the hunt. The Shawnees believed that the Sun animated everything, and therefore must be the Master of Life or Great Spirit.

The Sun worship of the Indian tribes dwelling in the southern portions of North America seems to have been on a more elaborate scale than that in vogue in the north. Doubtless it was influenced by the widely extended and exalted Sun worship of the South American tribes. Among the tribes inhabiting what is now the state of Louisiana, it

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was customary for the chief to face the east each morning, and prostrate himself before the rising Sun. He also smoked toward it, and then toward the three other cardinal points of the compass. These Indians even erected to the Sun a rude temple, a circular hut some thirty feet in diameter. In the midst of it was kept burning a perpetual fire, prayers were offered to the Sun three times each day, and the hut was the repository of images and religious relics. Following the Inca custom, the bones of their departed chiefs were also placed in the sacred structure. Their highest and most powerful chief was regarded as the Sun's brother, and he conducted as high priest the temple service of worship to the Sun.

The Dakota Indians called the Sun "the mysterious one of day," and believed that this deity watched over them in time of need. The following translation from portions of an Indian hymn to the Sun indicates the attitude of the worshippers toward their deity:

Great Spirit, master of our lives,
Great Spirit master of all things visible and invisible, and who daily makes them visible and invisible,
Great Spirit master of every other Spirit good or bad,
Command the good to be favourable unto us, and deter the bad from the commission of evil.
               .         .         .         .         .         .         . p. 191
O Great Spirit, when hidden in the west protect us from our enemies who violate the night, and do evil when thou art not present,
Make known to us your pleasure by sending to us the Spirit of Dreams.
               .         .         .         .         .         .         .
O Great Spirit, sleep not longer in the gloomy west, but return and call your people to light and life.

Brinton 1 tells us that the Algonquins did not regard the Sun as a divinity but merely as a symbol. They called the Sun "Wigwam of the Great Spirit," and they prayed not to the Sun but to the old man who dwelt in the Sun.

Fire worship is closely related to Sun worship, and in many cases the North American Indians regarded fire, and not the Sun, as the Creator of all things, and the Supreme Deity.

The Choctaws refer to fire as "the greater chief," and speak of it as "he who accompanies the Sun, and the Sun him." In preparing for war they invoke the aid of both the Sun and Fire.

The following Ottawa legend 2 is of much interest as showing clearly the motives with which savage animists offer sacrifices to their deities, and the spirit in which they believe the gods accept them:

"Onowuttokwutto, the Ojibwa youth who has followed the moon up to the lovely heaven prairies,

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to be her husband, is taken one day by her brother the Sun to see how he gets his dinner. The two look down together through the hole in the sky upon the earth below. The Sun points out a group of children playing beside a lodge, at the same time throwing a tiny stone to hit a beautiful boy. The child falls, they see him carried into the lodge, they hear the sound of the rattle, and the song and prayers of the medicine man that the child's life might be spared. To the entreaty of the medicine man the Sun makes answer: 'Send me up the white dog.' Then the two spectators above could distinguish on the earth the hurry and bustle of preparation for a feast, a white dog killed and singed, and the people who were called assembling at the lodge. While these things were passing the Sun addressed himself to his youthful companion saying:—'There are among you in the lower world some whom you call great medicine men, but it is because their ears are open, and they hear my voice, when I have struck any one, that they are able to give relief to the sick. They direct the people to send me whatever I call for, and when they have sent it I remove my hand from those I have made sick.' When he had said this the white dog was parcelled out in dishes for those that were at the feast, then the medicine man, when they were about to begin to eat said, 'We send

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thee this, Great Manito.' Immediately the Sun and his companion saw the dog, cooked and ready to be eaten, rising to them through the air, and then and there they dined upon it."

Of all the Indian customs and forms of worship of solar significance, the great ceremonial of the Sun dance best exemplified their worship of the Sun. Although it partook of the nature of a solar festival, and might properly be included in the chapter on Solar Festivals, still the deep religious significance of this rite, and the fact that it was essentially an act of Sun worship, renders it in accord with the subject under discussion. The following description of the Sun dance of the Senecas is taken from volume xxiii., of the Journal of American Folk-Lore:

"The Seneca sun dance is called by any individual who dreams that the rite is necessary for the welfare of the community. It begins promptly at high noon, when three showers of arrows or volleys from muskets are shot heavenward to notify the sun of the intention to address him. After each of the volleys the populace shout their war cries 'for the sun loves war.' A ceremonial fire is then built, and the sun priest chants his thanksgiving song, casting from a husk basket handfuls of native tobacco upon the flames as he sings. This ceremony takes place outside of the

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[paragraph continues] Long House where the rising smoke may lift the words of the speaker to the sun. Immediately after this the entire assemblage enters the Long House where the costumed feather dancers start the Ostowa̋’´gowa. Among the Onondaga of the Grand River Reserve in Ontario the leader of the sun ceremony carries an effigy of the sun. This is a disk of wood ten inches in diameter, fastened to a handle perhaps a foot long. The disk is painted red, and has a border of yellow. Around the edge are stuck yellow-tipped down feathers from some large bird to represent the sun's rays."

The great tribal ceremony of the Kiowas was the Sun dance, which was generally celebrated each year about the middle of June. It lasted four days, and during this time the sacred image representing a human figure, and supposed to possess magical qualities, was exposed in the medicine lodge. It was the only time in the year that the sacred image was revealed to the people, and the veneration of the object was similar in many respects to the worship paid to the alleged relics of the saints that are now extant.

The Kiowas considered even the accidental shedding of blood at a Sun dance an evil omen, and their ceremonies were free from the horrible acts of self-torture that made the Sun dances of many of the Indian tribes especially revolting.

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A description of the Sun dance of the Sioux follows. 1 This is given in much detail as the subject is of prime importance in any discussion of the solar ceremonials of the Indian tribes.

After the day for the Sun dance had been appointed by the medicine men, a straight and tapering pine, forty or fifty feet high, was selected for the sun pole. This was chosen by the oldest woman in the camp, and the task of stripping it of boughs and foliage, and clearing a passage about it, was left to the gaily dressed maidens. This work was performed on the second day of the ceremony. Before sunrise the next day a long line of naked young warriors was formed, gorgeous in war paint and feathers, bearing their weapons. This line was drawn up facing the east, and the sun pole which was five or six hundred yards away.

Overlooking the scene, on a high hill, stood an old medicine man, whose sole duty was to signal the moment of the sun's rising. Suddenly the signal was given, and with a great shout the Indians mounted their ponies and rode straight at the pole, discharging their weapons at it as they advanced. Chips from the pole flew in all directions, and if it fell a new pole must be selected. Later in the day the pole was cut down, and set up in the centre of

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a great plain, guy ropes of buffalo thongs, diverging from its top, being used to steady it. These ropes were fastened at the lower end to the tops of stakes which were driven in the ground at regular intervals about the sun pole, forming a circle about it.

Early on the morning of the third day the true worship of the Sun was begun, and a number of young warriors who had prepared for the ordeal by fasting for a number of days, presented themselves, being placed facing the sun. They were arrayed in full war paint and feathers, with fists clenched across their breasts; jumping up and down in measured leaps they circled about, keeping time to the monotonous beating of the tom-toms. Now and then a similar group of young maidens would appear in another part of the arena, and take up a song. The dancing continued for intervals of from ten minutes to a quarter of an hour, broken by rests of about equal length, and lasted from sunrise to sunset. During the day horses were brought into the arena, and the medicine men, after many incantations, dipped their hands into coloured earth, and smeared it on the flanks of the animals.

On the fourth day of the Sun dance the self-torture began, the male dancers of the previous day participating in this rite. The row of dancers took their places promptly at sunrise, but it was not before nine or ten o'clock that the torture

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began. Each of the young men presented himself to a medicine man who took between his thumb and forefinger a fold of loose skin of the breast, and a skewer, which had been previously fastened to the lower end of a guy rope which supported the sun pole, was then passed through the victim's flesh. The object of the devotee was to break loose from this fetter which bound him to the sun pole without using his hands. This could only be accomplished by so straining against his bonds that the skewer was torn free from the skin through which it passed. The torture was frightful, and frequently the victims fainted under the ordeal. All the while the beating of the tom-toms and the weird chanting of the singers continued. When the day was about over the survivors of the ordeal of torture filed from the arena one by one, and just outside of it they knelt with arms crossed over their bleeding breasts, and with bowed heads faced the setting sun. They rose only when it had disappeared from view.

It remains to refer briefly to evidences of Sun worship in various parts of the world, and the survivals of this cultus in the religious observances and ceremonials of to-day.

In Rome, in the fifth century, it was the custom to bow to the sun before entering a church, and to salute the rising sun from the summit of a hill.

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[paragraph continues] The Emperor Constantine was an ardent votary of the sun, and it was a great triumph for Christianity when he forsook this form of idolatry.

In Armenia forms of Sun worship exist to-day, and the Bedouins of the Arabian Desert constantly practise the adoration of the rising Sun, in spite of the Prophet's command against such observances.

In the Upper Palatinate it is the custom to take off the hat to the rising sun, and in Pomerania the fever-stricken patient is admonished to face the rising sun, and invoke the sun thrice as follows: "Dear Sun, come down soon, and take the seventy-seven fevers from me, in the name of the Holy Trinity."

The rude Tartar tribes sacrificed their horses to the Sun-God, whom they say frees them from the miseries of winter, and Mongol hordes may still be met with whose high priest prays to the sun, and throws milk up into the air as an offering to the Sun-God.

In Australia and Polynesia solar mythology overshadows the deification of the sun, and the early history of these regions is rich in legends and tales of the mighty deeds of the sun hero.

No chapter on Sun worship would be complete without some reference to Stonehenge, for Druidical worship embraced, even if it was not entirely governed by, the sacred rites of solar worship.

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[paragraph continues] The position and location of the group of stones on the wide plain commanding an unobstructed view of the horizon, reveal the character of the worship of those who placed them there as solar in its nature. Those who annually meet at Stonehenge in the present day, at dawn on the twenty-first of June, note that the sun rises exactly over the centre of the stone known as "the Pointer." It has been thought by some students that the Sun worship of the Druids was introduced into England and Ireland by Egyptian colonists, as the rites of the Druids conform in a remarkable degree with those attached to Sun worship in ancient Egypt. A list of the Sun-Gods of the various nations follows, with the authorities that establish their respective claims to solar deification. 1

Deities Declared to be the Sun


Saturn or Cronus

Macrobius, Nonnus


     „         „

Pluto or Aidoneus

The Orphic Poet

Bacchus or Dionysus

Virgil, Ausonius, Macrobius, Sophocles


The Orphic Poet


All authorities


Macrobius p. 200

Deities Declared to be the Sun





     „       Nonnus


The Orphic Poet



Mercury or Hermes


Osiris, Horus, Serapis

Diodorus Siculus, Macrobius, Eusebius.

Belus or Baal




The following list indicates the principal titles given to the Sun-Gods by the ancient nations.



Baal or Belus

Chaldeans, Assyrians, Moabites





Moloch, Baal, Chemosh, Baal-Zebub, Thammuz






Adonis, Baal, Melkarth, Bel-Samen



Ethiopians p. 201



Ra, Osiris, Horus, Atum, Ptah, Mandoo, Gom, Moni, Kons, Sekhet, Pasht, Set




Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Indra, Sûrya


Adonis, Dionysus, Urotal




Arês, Herakles, Apollo, Bacchus, Liber, Dionysus

Greeks, Romans







In conclusion, no claim is made that the subject of Sun worship has been treated exhaustively in the foregoing fragmentary account of this ancient form of idolatry in many lands. The main purpose has been to indicate how widespread solar deification was, and how, at one time or another, it has been the central and predominant feature of the religious life of all people.

Again, the similarity of the ceremonials and forms of Sun worship, the sacrifices and rituals

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of the various and widely separated nations of the earth, provide features that cannot fail to interest the student of history and ethnology.

Some of these points of resemblance are so striking as to suggest that at an early date in the world's history there was some means of communication between, or link that joined, the eastern and western continents.

Because of the far-reaching influences of Sun worship—influences that exist to-day—and by reason of its importance in the life and history of the ancient nations, the subject must ever remain one of the most interesting and absorbing that the life pages of the race record.


164:1 Curiosities of Folk-Lore, C. F. Keary.

166:1 Dawn of History, C. F. Keary.

168:1 Primitive Culture, Edward B. Tylor.

174:1 Outlines of Primitive Belief, C. F. Keary.

179:1 Dawn of History, C. F. Keary.

189:1 Primitive Culture, Edward B. Tylor.

191:1 Myths of the New World, Daniel G. Brinton.

191:2 Primitive Culture, Edward B. Tylor.

195:1 T F. Schwatka in vol. xvii., Century Magazine.

199:1 The Origin of Pagan Idolatry, G. S. Faber.

Next: Chapter VIII. Sun-Catcher Myths