General Sun Symbolism
The supreme cosmic power; the all-seeing divinity and its power; theophany; motionless being; the heart of the cosmos; the center of being and of intuitive knowledge; ‘the intelligence of the world’; enlightenment; the eye of the world and the eye of the day; the unconquered; glory; splendor; justice; royalty.
Dionysus said, “It is the visible image of the Divine Goodness…the Transcendant Archetype of Light.”
Dante said, “There is no visible thing, in all the world, more worthy to serve as a symbol of God than the sun, which illuminates with visible life, first itself, then all the celestial and mundane bodies.”
In many traditions the Sun is the universal Father, with the Moon as Mother, with noteworthy exceptions being found in the Amerindian, Maori, Teutonic, Oceanic and Japanese cultures, where, instead, the Moon is considered to be masculine and the Sun is featured as the primary feminine power.
Both the sun and rain serve as primary fertilizing forces, and so we see the sun as bridegroom and the moon goddess as bride, the Sky Father and Earth Mother. With constant rising and setting, and because its rays can be life-giving or life-taking, the Sun symbolizes both life and death, and the renewal of life through death. The Spring sun is called sol invictus. A solar disk with streams of water flowing from it represents the combination of sun and water, heat and moisture, as integral to all life. The rayed sun and rayed heart share the same symbolism of the center as being the seat of illumination, intelligence, and enlightenment. The sun in conflict with the serpent shows light warring against darkness and heavenly against chthonic powers. The sun standing still represents timelessness; the Eternal Now; the nunc stans; illumination; escape from time and the round of existence. The sun and moon together point to the male and female powers working in conjunction.
Sun symbols are the revolving wheel, disk, circle with central point, radiate circle, swastika, straight or undulating rays that represent both the light and heat of the sun, luminous chariots with sun god driving white or golden horses, or crossing the world in solar ships, a radiant face, an eye, a bronze man, a spider at the center of its web with the rays extending in all directions, solar birds and animals such as the eagle, hawk, swan, phoenix, cock, lion, ram, white or golden horse, winged or plumed serpent, the dragon of China. The white sun is associated with solar animals, but the sol niger is connected with the serpent and cththonic powers.
The colors yellow, gold, red, sometimes white; Sunday; sun gods and goddesses; magickal workings pertaining to the self, initiation, showing initiative, inspiration, uncovering the truth of the matter, bringing the darkness to light, prosperity, wealth, leadership, protection, physical energy, vitality, and honor; The numbers 1, 6, 21, and 666; Zodiac Sign – Leo; Metal – Gold; Stones – amber, citrine, tiger’s eye, goldstone; Angel: Raphael; Incense – cloves, cinnamon, frankincense; Oils – alow, bay, cedar, cinnamon, cloves, orange, rosemary, almond, angelica; Flowers/Herbs – acacia, angelica, bay, chamomile, chicory, heliotrope, honey, juniper, sunflower, ginger, patchouli; Tree – acacia, birch; Animals – eagle, lion, phoenix;
Sun Symbolism Specifics
African: In some tribes, the sun is the feminine power, the Mother; among the Bushmen is it is the supreme deity, Cagn. He is said to be able to shape-shift into a praying mantis, eland, or serpent.
Alchemical: Sol is the intellect. Sol and luna are gold and silver, king and queen; soul and body. Sol niger is the prima materia. The planetary sign of the sun, the circle with the central dot, is a symbol of completion of the Great Work.
Amerindian: The universal spirit, the heart of the sky. In some tribes the Sun represents the feminine principle. In other tribes the Sun and Moon are represented as brother and sister or man and wife. The Sun Dance is one the most significant rituals.
Astrology: Life; vitality; the incarnate character of the individual; the heart and its desires
Aztec: pure spirit; the air; Quetzalcoatl; the eagle typifies the rising sun and heavenly aspect, and either the tiger or the falling eagle is the setting sun and earthly aspect. The plumed serpent is solar. Aztecs and Incas called themselves ‘children of the sun’.
Buddhist: The light of Buddha, the Sun Buddha.
Celtic: The feminine power.
Chinese: The yang, the Great Male Principle, the heavens; the eye of the day; the active force fertilizing the earth. The sun is on of the twelve symbols of power. Ten suns in a tree denote the end of a cycle.
Egyptian: the rising sun is Horus, with Ra as the zenith and Osiris as the setting sun. The right eye is the sun and the left the moon. Horus in conflict with Set as the serpent Apop is solar power warring with darkness. The winged sun disk is the solar power of Ra and Aton and renewal of life.
Greek: The sun is the eye of Zeus. Apollo, as the sun, slays the python of darkness.
Hebrew: Divine will and guidance.
Hermetic: “The sun…is the image of the Maker.”
Hindu: The eye of Varuna; Indra is solar and overcomes the dragon of chaos and darkness, Vritra. Shiva is also the sun whose rays are the creative Shakti bringing life into the world. The world door, the entrance to knowledge, immortality.
Inca: The sun was depicted in human form, with the face as a radiant disk of gold and was known as ‘the ancestor’.
Iranian: The eye of Ormuzd or Ahura Mazda.
Islamic: The eye of Allah, all seeing and all knowing; the heart of the universe.
Japanese: The sun is a lady and a snake goddess, Amaterasu, ‘she who possesses the great sun’, born of Izanagi’s left eye, and from whom the Mikado claims descent as the rising sun; the emblem of Japan.
Maori: The sun and moon are the eyes of heaven.
Mitrhaic: Mithra is a sun god.
Oceanic: The sun is usually the Mother of All, with the moon as the Father and the stars are the children; in some parts the sun and moon are children of the first man and woman. The sun is the ‘great eyeball’.
Scandinavian: The eye of Odin/Woden, the all-seeing. The sun is depicted as the sun-snake.
Slavic: The sun god is depicted as a beautiful young man, or, sometimes, as born anew and dying each day; in Slavic symbolism, the sun and moon can change sexes.
Teutonic: The sun is feminine and the Mother, with the moon as Father.
Taoist: The sun is yang and the great celestial power; the sun and moon together symbolize supernatural being, all-radiance.
The sun and its representation has taken on many forms throughout time and across cultures. All of the thought and feeling has been poured into the idea that it represents in our collective subconscious. The most important question, this writer will always ask, is what does it mean to you?