In Polytheism, a widespread phenomenon is the identification of natural forces
and objects as divinities. Being the source of light and heat, and consequently
the source of all life, sun had been regarded as a deity and worshipped as such
by all primitive man and having a surpassing place in their mythologies and
The sun's vitality is seen in the cyclical effects of causing things to grow
and wither. Moreover, because of its dominance of the world, the sun if often
seen as all-knowing, and thus sky gods of carious cultures ten to be highly
powerful and knowledgeable, if also sometimes rather remote. The sky is also
often associated with creation. The role of the sky god in ensuring food and
in providing light and warmth, over against the chaotic effects of darkness,
was a theme of various myths of the cosmic drama and was one main reason for
the connection in mythic thought between creation and light.
Apollo Of the 12 great gods of Greece, the handsomest and best loved was Apollo,
the god of light, youth, beauty, and prophecy. Apollo had many, sometimes contradictory,
attributes. As a solar god, one of his more important daily tasks is to harness
his chariot with four horses and drive the Sun across the sky. He did not directly
represent the sun, but he was a protector of crops and caused fruit to ripen.
He is often shown holding a bow with arrows symbolizing the sun's rays. As an
archer he was also known as "Hecatebolos", the god of sudden death. He was also
a healer who drove out illness, and the father of Asclepius (the god of medicine),
but in one legend he brings a terrible plague upon Argos where the king had
put one of Apollo's lovers to death.
According to Greek mythology, Apollo was the son of Zeus and twin brother of
Artemis (Diana). He was born on the island of Delos in the Aegean Sea. His mother
was the goddess Leto (Latona). Later, through confusion with Helios, he came
to be considered especially as the sun god. The Greeks connected him with agriculture
and called him "protected of the grain," "sender of fertilizing dew," "preventer
of blight," "destroyer of locusts," and "destroyer of mice." They considered
him the guardian of flocks and herds and a health-giving god.
Re, also known as Phra, or Ra, in ancient Egyptian religion, god of the sun
and of creation, one of the most important figures in the pantheon. He was thought
to travel across the sky in his solar boat day and, during the night, to make
his passage in another boat through the underworld, when, in order to be born
again for the new day, he had to vanquish the evil serpent Apepi (Apophis).
He was represented as rising from the ocean of chaos on the primeval hill, creating
himself and then in turn eight other gods. Originally he was but one of many
solar deities. Eventually, his worship came to pervade that of all other solar
gods and also that of many of the animal-headed deities. By the 5th dynasty
(c.2465-c. 2325 BC), Re had officially become god of the pharaohs, and every
king claimed to be both the son of Re and even Re himself incarnate. "Re" became
part of the royal name and he was the ultimate source of right and justice in
With the advent of the 12th dynasty (1938-1756 BC), Re was associated with Amon
of Thebes as Amon-Re, a god closely connected with the rulers. Even the revolutionary
worship of the sun disk Aton during the abortive Amarna period in the 18th dynasty
is considered to be only an offshoot of Re worship.
Mithra, also known as Mithras in the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries
AD, or Sanskrit Mithra, in Indo-Iranian mythology, the god of light, whose cult
spread from India in the east to as far west as Spain, Great Britain, and Germany.
According to myth, Mithra was born, bearing a torch and armed with a knife,
beside a sacred stream and under a sacred tree, a child of the earth itself.
He soon rode, and later killed, the life-giving cosmic bull, whose blood fertilizes
all vegetation. Mithra's slaying of the bull was a popular subject of Hellenic
art and became the prototype for a bull-slaying ritual of fertility in the Mithraic
As god of light, Mithra was associated with the Greek sun god, Helios, and the
Roman Sol Invictus. He is often paired with Anahita, goddess of the fertilizing
waters. He is also the god of justice, contract and war in pre-Zoroastrian Iran,
and honored as the patron of loyalty to the emperor.
The worship of Mithra is called Mithraism, which is always associated with the
killing of bulls. The creation of the world is the central episode of Mithraic
mythology. According to the myths, the sun god sent his messenger, the raven,
to Mithra and ordered him to sacrifice the bull, the shape of a god names Soma.
Mithra executed it reluctantly in many relieves he is seen turning aside his
face in sorrow. But at the very moment of the death of the bull, a great miracle
happened. The white bull was metamorphosed into the moon the cloak of Mithra
was transformed into the vault of the sky, with the shining planets and fixed
stars; from the tail of the bull and from his blood sprang the first ears of
grain and the grape; from the genitals of the animal ran the holy seed which
was received by a mixing bowl. Day and Night began to alternate, the Moon started
her monthly cycle, the Seasons took up their round dance through the Year, and
thus Time was created. With the bull's death and the creation of the world,
the struggle between Good and Evil began: thus is the condition of man's life.
The raven symbolizes Air, the lion Fire, the serpent Earth, and the mixing bowl
Water. So the four elements (air, fire, earth, and water) came into being, and
from them all things were created. After the sacrifice, Mithra and the sun god
banqueted together, ate meat and bread, and drank wine. Then Mithra mounted
the chariot of the sun god and drove with him across the ocean through the air
to the end of the world.
The Aztecs of the Toltec period had four mythological eras: those of (1) the
Water Sun, which was destroyed by flood; (2) the Sun of the Earth, which was
destroyed by earthquake; (3) the Wind Sun, which was destroyed by a giant and
only Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, remaining, prophesying the destruction
of the Earth by wind and the evolution of humans into monkeys; and (4) the present
Sun of Fire, which will end in a general conflagration. Aztec religion took
definite form centering on the god Huitzilopochtli ("Hummingbird-on-the-Left"),
sun worship and human sacrifice. Aztec tradition has it that Huitzilopochtli
ordered them to take leave again in search of a permanent home. The Aztecs considered
themselves as the chosen people of Huitzilopochtli, the god of sun and war,
in whose name they were destined to conquer all rival nations.
The expansive area of North America between the Mississippi River and the Rocky
Mountains, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the sub-Arctic Indians of Canada,
embodied many cultures whose carious rites and ceremonies emerged from a common
The Sioux narrate a creation story: the Old Man, Waziya, lived beneath the Earth
with his wife. Their daughter married the Wind and bore four sons, the winds
North, East, South, and West. Together with the Sun and Moon, the winds were
the "Controllers" of the universe. In order to reach the supernatural of "Controllers,"
rituals and ceremonies had to be conducted. The most important ritual was the
Sun Dance, because the Sun was one of the principal powers. A medicine man was
responsible for the whole ritual, which had to be recited in letter-perfect
fashion, because great harm could be inflicted on the whole group if the performance
was no exact.
The peoples of Southeast Asia were most likely to be considered to have shared
a lack of inventiveness since prehistoric times and to have been "receptive"
rather than "creative" in their contacts with foreign civilizations. Cave paintings
of a pair of human hands with open palms, one holding the sun and the other
holding a human skull, are reflected in the later aesthetic tradition of Southeast
Asia: the sun symbol is found as an art motif all over the region, and a suggestion
of awe, triumph, and joy at acquiring a human head skull, are reflected in the
later aesthetic tradition of Southeast Asia: the sun symbol is found as an art
motif all over the region, and a suggestion of awe, triumph.
Pre-Islamic Arabian religion is commonly understood to be polytheistic.
South Arabian deities. In the official cults of the South Arabian kingdoms,
the devotees venerated most highly a triad of deities that were astral in character:
the moon god, the sun goddess and the god equated with the planet Venus. Sun
goddess, whose principal name, Shams, ranked third among the triad. She was
common to the various kingdoms, like 'arthtar, but whose paired epithets, describing
contrasting aspects, varied locally.
North Arabian deities. Among the peoples around the northern perimeter
of Arabia, "god," in the most generic sense, was El, or in a longer form of
the same names, Ilah. Astral or local deities, however, tended to displace El
in the Nabataean and Palmyrene kingdoms. Although El was preserved in early
Nabataean theophoric compounds, in Palmyra a more central place in the cult
went to Bel (Ball, "Lord"), and in both Petra and Palmyra to Belshamin ("Lord
of the Heavens"). With Bel, sometimes in a triad, the Palmyrenes associated
Yarhibol, a solar deity, and Agibol, a lunar deftly while Belshamin stood in
a triadic relationship with the gods Malakbel, also a solar deity, and Aglibol.
The Grandeur of Renaisassance