A Sky of Sun and Sunlight

June 23, 2014
sun shining over meadow grass

sun shining over meadow grass

Rachel Mathews

Now that it is officially summertime and the Sun is hanging around longer, The Old Farmer’s Almanac looks back at some Sun lore and history.

A Sky of Sun and Sunlight

The Sun sees all things and discovers all things. –Cicero (106–43 B.C.)

Long before these words were ever written, the ancients were paying their own kinds of homage to the Sun and, in the process, endowing the literature of folklore with a variety of memorable passages. People of that time credited the Sun’s blazing presence with godlike powers. For some, it was the possession of a major deity. To the Egyptians, for instance, it was the giant ship in which the sun god Ra carried the dead across the “azure sea” of the sky to their final resting place. The Greeks said that it was the blazing chariot driven by the handsome Helios.

Others believed it to be the eye of their premier god—a power that saw all and knew all. Other cultures looked on the Sun as a god itself. Many native peoples of the Western Hemisphere worshiped it as their supreme god, feeling that it was the giver and withholder of life. It brought the light that made work possible. When its mood was gentle, it gave fair weather that nourished the people, their crops, and their livestock. But, when it blazed too hot, it destroyed, scorching the earth, withering crops and forage, and burning people and animals alike with a killing dryness and thirst.

As they did with their other gods, the ancients sought to flatter and keep the Sun happy by honoring it with temples, rituals, and dances. Each year, the Aztecs, in a bid to make certain that the Sun never destroyed them by abandoning its daily journey, selected a handsome young man to represent their sun god, Tezcatlipoca (meaning “Smoking Mirror”). The youth was treated with reverence throughout the year, after which he was sacrificed.

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