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Ancient Sun Gods and Goddesses

By Yona Williams    10/2/10

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From sun chariots to shining boats, ancient mythology of many different cultures has used gods and goddesses to explain everyday occurrences, such as the rising and setting of the sun. In this article, you will encounter the Amaterasu, who had to be coaxed into delivering light to earth after she locked herself in a cave – taking her rays away from the world.

Amaterasu – Japanese Shinto

The ancient Japanese worshipped Amaterasu as their sun goddess. It was said that she was born from the left eye of the primeval being Izanagi – becoming the oldest daughter and ruler of the Plain of Heaven. Amaterasu was so bright that her parents sent her up the Celestial Ladder to heaven so that she could rule with her radiance. Worshipping Amaterasu meant that you belonged to what was called 'the cult of the sun.'

A tale involving Amaterasu features her brother, the storm-god Susanowa, who brought havoc onto earth. Because of this, she stayed hidden in a cave that she sealed with a large boulder. In her absence, the world did not receive any light or life. The earth became ruled by demons. The other gods tried everything in an attempt to bring Amaterasu out of hiding, but nothing worked. The only one successful in luring the goddess out was Uzume – the goddess of joy and happiness.

Uzume was comical and knew how to win over a crowd. She danced around the gods and Amaterasu heard their laughter. Her curiosity was sparked and when she emerged from the cave, a beam of light was let loose. The light was called the dawn. Uzume had hung a mirror on a tree located close to the cave and when the goddess caught sight of her own reflection, she came closer for a better look. The gods then grabbed Amaterasu and pulled her out of the cave. As a result, she returned to the sky and returned light back to the world.

Garuda – Vedic

In Vedic myths, the god known as the king of birds and the enemy of serpents was also associated with the "all-consuming" rays of the sun. Garuda possessed the body of a handsome man, but was equipped with the beak and talons of a predatory bird. In some depictions, he is seen with the supreme Hindu god Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi, as they ride on his back while flying across the sky.

Ra – Egyptian

Ra (also known as Re) was patron of the sun, heaven, power, and light for the ancient Egyptians. In art depictions, the god appeared with a sun disk on his head. In universal circles, Ra was recognized as the king of the gods and "all-father of creation." As the sun god, his job was to command the chariot that rode across the sky during the day. Ra was worshipped throughout Egypt and remained the central sun god for centuries. The deity was also known to take on different forms. For example, when he appeared as Ra-Atum (or Atum-Ra), he symbolized the settling sun and the journey that it took through the underworld to where it went to rise in the east.

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