It is commonplace to describe the sun as a symbol of the masculine, linked to reason, consciousness, and goodness. Typically, writers under the influence of essentialist ideas of gender describe an opposition between ‘‘masculine’’ sun and ‘‘feminine’’ moon, the latter representing such qualities as emotion and irrationality (‘‘lunacy’’ is derived from the Latin word for moon). However, such claims have no basis in cross-cultural mythological comparisons.
More cultures have seen the sun as a goddess than as a god. In Europe, the Celts, the pre-Hellenic Greeks, the Baltic people including the Lithuanians and Latvians, the Finns and the related Hungarians, the Scandinavians and Germans, and the Slavic peoples all envisioned the sun as female (see Saulé, Sòl, Beiwe and Xatel-Ekwa, and Solntse in those sections, respectively). Sun goddesses are found around the world: in Arabia (Al-Lat), Australia (Bila, Walo); India (Bisal-Mariamna, Bomong, Kn Sgni) and Sri Lanka (Pattinī); among the Hittites (Wurusemu), Egyptians (Hathor, Sekhmet), and Babylonians (Shapash); in Native America, among the Cherokee (Unela-nuhi), Natchez (Wal Sil), Inuit (Malina), Miwok (Hekoolas); and in many other cultures.
The sun goddess is typically depicted as generous and maternal, spreading her warmth freely among her earthly children. An example of this is found along the shores of the Baltic Sea, where the Lithuanians envisioned the sun as Saulé, the beloved sun-mother who danced in silver shoes on the hilltops on summer nights. A related image is that of the sun as a spinner or weaver, a woman who casts fibers of light across the sky. Scandinavian Sòl was described as sitting at the edge of the world each morning, weaving a net of sunlight.
Like the mother of a family living within a subsistence economy, the sun goddess was described as industrious in providing for her children’s needs. In a human mother’s case, this would be food and clothing; in the case of the sun, the goddess provides the light that causes plants to grow and thus supplies our food. Sometimes, these sun goddesses became associated with birth, both because of the sun’s maternal nature and because, at birth, an infant first sees the sunlight; Roman Lucina, ‘‘light’’ was such a goddess, as was Baltic Saulé.
Maternal love is not the only emotion that sun goddesses can represent. Egyptian Hathor, depicted as a cat, was goddess of earthly pleasure, including the arts and love.
A related goddess, Sekhmet, represented the more threatening aspects of the luminary, for she could grow as angry and destructive toward humanity as the fierce desert sun.
Violence and lust combine in the daughter of the Hungarian sun goddess Xatel-Ekwa, who baked young men she found attractive.
Myths explain the disappearance of the sun in winter as a violation, sometimes an incestuous one. Her father the moon violated Saulés Meita, daughter of the Baltic sun goddess Saulé. The Inuit sun goddess Malina, violated by her brother, tore off one breast before rising into the sky to flee from him; she became the sun, he the moon.
Her brother threatened the Khasi goddess Ka Sgni with incest, but she escaped by scorching his face with ashes, still visible on the moon today (see India).
Saami Akanidi(see Finno-Ugric) retreated from earth after being threatened with death by greedy people. Sometimes, the sun retreats on her own initiative, as in the case of the Japanese Amaterasu, who hid in a cave after being insulted by her brother, the storm god. Similarly, the annual disappearance of the Siberian Kaja é was seen as the goddess’s own choice. A variant story of disappearance appears in South America, where the sun-woman Akewawas abandoned in the sky when her sister suns descended to the earth because of their curiosity about the men who lived there. When a hairy earthling bit the solar ladder in half, the sun women were stranded on earth and became mothers of humanity. Themes of retreat and loss are thus part of sun goddess mythology.
Stories of the sun changing position from primordial times are common. Miwok Hekoolas, stuck on one side of the sky, was towed into her current position. Among the Cherokee, the spider goddess Kanene Ski Amai Yehi was the only animal who could bring the sun to this side of the world in a hand-spun basket. But she positioned it too close to earth, and the animal elders had to push the sun farther away. Among the Tunica, the sun goddess Tso moved herself, once she realized that she was scorching people with her heat (see North America for all).
Sun goddesses are connected with death and ultimate rebirth, for the luminary disappears into darkness each evening but is reborn afresh each dawn. The British Sul was embodied in hot springs near Bath, for she was imagined as descending at dusk to travel beneath the earth, heating the thermal waters as she passed through them.
Those bathing at her shrine were believed to take in the strength and endurance of a goddess who could, daily, seem to die and be reborn.
Finally, a common symbol for the sun goddess is the eye, for the goddess is imagined as an eye in the sky, able to see everything. For this reason she is sometimes associated with fortune telling, for from her height she sees past, present, and future. Hittite Wurusemuwas, like other sun goddesses, associated with such activities; shewas also a goddess of fate, controlling the destiny of everyone she observed.
Although goddesses inarguably associated with the sun are found in many cultures, scholarly bias in favor of the solar masculine has led to many goddesses with solar associations being misinterpreted. The familiar figure of the Greek Medusa, whose snake-crowned visage looks like the rayed sun, has often been described as representing the moon. Several Irish figures, including Gria´nne and A´ine, have solar associations but are not traditionally called sun goddesses. Thus, the determination of which goddesses can be described as solar divinities is worthy of additional analysis.
|90px||Questa definizione, fa parte dei nostri Dizionari; non va quindi sviluppata per forza come le altre. Solo se presenta degli errori grammaticali o di contenuto modificala per correggerla, o segnalala nell'apposita sezione. Comunque sia, segui le Linee Guida specifiche per questo genere di voci|