A solar deity (also known as a Sun god or goddess) is a deity that represents the sun and is usually worshipped because of the power and force that symbolize. When taking a look at recorded history, the solar deity has thrived for many years. Various beliefs, myths, and legends surround the concept of a solar deity that touches upon many different cultures.
Whether sun goddesses are paired with male lunar deities (as seen with Amaterasu of Japanese lore) or only one gender of a sun god (or goddess) exists within a culture, both genders are equally worshipped across the world. The earliest recorded belief of a solar deity is traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped early goddesses that carried a sun above their head to symbolize dignity.
Throughout ancient Egyptian culture, the sun played an important role, especially in regards to hieroglyphs and symbols. Along with the animals that represented Egyptian deities (like the lion or cow), the sun would appear on their heads. At this time, they were female with cults that survived for centuries. When male deities started to emerge in sun circles, they were associated as being the offspring of a mother. Other solar deity facts concerning ancient Egypt include:
Sun worship was predominant throughout ancient Egyptian religion with the earliest representations found in Sekhmet (warrior goddess of Upper Egypt), Hathor (feminine love, motherhood and joy), Bast (solar and war goddess worshipped until the Second Dynasty), Menhit (foreign war goddess), Nut (goddess of the sky), and Wadjet (patron and protector of Lower Egypt). Before the sun god Ra ever made an appearance in the history of the culture, Hathor preceded Isis, who gave birth to and nursed Horus and Ra.
One of the reasons the sun was significant to the ancient Egyptian culture is because it signifies the going and coming of pharaohs. They believed that the movement of the Sun across the sky represented the struggle between the soul of a pharaoh and the replacement of a new leader.
Other cross-cultural solar deities include:
Germanic and Norse
Germanic myths see the female representing the Sun and the male representing the Moon. The Old High German Sun goddess is named Sunna, who has a written history that traces back to 9th or 10th century CE. Norse traditions state that Sol rode through the sky on her chariot each day , led by two horses named Arvak and Alsvid. Other names for Sol and Sunna include: Sunna, Sunne, and Frau Sunne , where the words ‘sun’ and ‘Sunday’ came to be.
The Munsh tribe holds the belief that the Sun is the son of the supreme being known as Awondo. The Barotse tribe (of South Central Africa) sees the sky god Nyambi channeling the Sun with the Moon serving as his wife. However, it is not uncommon to find African myths view sun gods as having no special functions when compared to other deities.