Solar Deities of Ancient Cultures

From gods that harness the power of the Sun to traditional rituals that include the sun in practices, such as funerary rites, the Sun served as a powerful entity for ancient cultures. In this article, you will touch upon a handful of myths and figures associated with the Sun, including the beliefs of the Aztecs, Chinese, Hindus, and Indonesians.


Aztec myths often mention the sun god Tonatiuh, who was believed to lead in heaven , known as Tollan. According to their beliefs, each sun represented a god that governed a separate cosmic era. The Aztecs held a fascination with the sun and used solar calendars to observe its movement and actions. Their calendar was highly accurate , comparable to the Mayans. The majority of monuments attributed to the Aztec culture have been aligned with the sun.


Chinese myths centered on cosmology state that the sky was filled with an original ten sunbirds that were meant to appear one at a time. However, one day, the birds decided to appear all at the same time. As a result, the world was so hot that nothing grew. Finally, a man named Hou Yi used a bow and arrow to shoot down nine of the birds, which is how the one sun came to be. Another myth describes a solar eclipse believed to have taken place around 2,160 BCE because the dog of heaven bit off a piece of the sun. This is why hitting pots and pans during a solar eclipse was thought to drive the ‘dog’ away , in regards to a Chinese tradition.


When reading the Sanskrit Vedas, you will find a handful of hymns dedicated to Surya (known as the Sun personified) or Savitr (referred to as “the impeller”) , a solar deity often paired with Surya. Other Hindu hymns include a group of solar deities called the Adityas. The Hindus also had the Sun God , an ancient deity who received a great deal of worship. The Sun in Sanskrit was seen as a ‘friend’ that provided warmth and optimism through light. In myths, the Sun God takes the lovely goddess Ranaadeh as his wife, who is seen as a dual figure, representing both the personification of sunlight and shadow.


The religion and myths associated with the Indonesian culture showcase solar gods as having a strong presence in the lives of people. Some tribes see the Sun as a “father” or “founder” for their people. Sometimes, the Sun is connected to an entire tribe or only linked to the royal or ruling families of a locality. Seen in the initiation rites of the culture, rituals center on the second reincarnation of the “son of the Sun.” Through the Sun, a symbolic death and rebirth takes place. During funerary ceremonies, the Sun also plays a significant role and is often seen as a mediator between the paths cross by the living and the dead.