Friday, November 27, 2015

The Sun always shines above the Clouds..............

Sunset, Gilleleje, Zealand
It is late November - and it is soon midwinter, the sun sets early in the afternoon. The earth in my garden is wet, wet, wet -  and the sun has no power in the short time it shows its face during the day hours. But from December 21 at winter solstice the sun will slowly return to its usual power in spring and summertime. And then we can sing "Here comes the sun......"

We do not worship and sacrifice to the sun like the ancient people did. The sun's power over mankind was always great, especially in the countries to the North, where the sun at midwinter is like a far disc,  pale, golden and cold as the moon  -   and in some places like in The Land of the Midnight Sun it disappears for a period. No wonder the ancient people tried to recreate the sun above the southern horizon, the warmth  had to come back to bring life over nature after a dark winter -  and when the sun appeared again, its return was celebrated with cheers throughout the settlements.

Trundholm Sun Chariot
Petroglyphs with sun sign
During Stone Age and Bronze Age the sun was one of the lifegiving powers which people feared the most, but it was also the power which was mostly worshipped. It was the first of the heavenly powers which was brought to the North with the first farmers and cattle breeders about 5000 years ago. When the sun chariot from Trundholm was found,  it was a proof that the sun was worshipped in ancient times. The sun chariot was the costiest thing people had, with a golden disc and a magnificent horse, and they always sacrificed their most valuable item to the sun god.

The horse was in Bronze Age a sacred animal, it was only used in religious celebrations, stallion fights and in the first sacred ploughing of the New Year. The chariot and the horse is an unambiguously witness that the sun was worshipped in early Bronze Age - or else the sun is in ancient times most often reproduced by a sign: a wheel cross, a circle, a spiral or a fully carved disc which is seen on some petroglyphs. It is known that in the near Orient and in North India the wheel was in ancient times a commonly used image of the sun. The circle or the ring is the simplest reproduction of the sun, and together with the spiral those signs decorated the disc of the Trundholm chariot.

Midsummer celebration, Sweden, 1969.
Although people was still worshipping the sun it lost some prominence during Bronze Age. The sign of the sun did not disappear. through the times and up till present, it was still there, seen mostly as a wheel with four or more spokes . A weak reflection has been kept in the sundance on Pentecost morning . Especially in spring and midsummer many places in the North and bordering areas to the south continued the fertility-belief, which was linked to the sun and the power of the sun. They rolled burning wheels and discs down over hillsides or threw them up in the air. A sign of the sun like plaited wreaths are still put on new buildings as a celebration or at a midsummer pole -  and no one wonder why or know that this is a continuation of a fertility cult.

Sami family in spring celebration.
A special source of information about the sun cult from Prehistoric time is probably the Sami people's worshipping of gods, which continued up till the 17th  and 18th  century. It was written down by officious Swedish priests and Norwegian missionaries,  who fought a destruction-war against this worshipping. This part of the Sami religion might be due to the contact they had with the Norse people in a very distant period.
 When the Sames got lost in the mountains because of bad weather and fog, they placed as a sacrifice to the sun a holed wooden disc : a wheel. On Christmas morning they saluted the sun and drank its tribute and took omens about good or bad luck in the year to come from the sunshine upon a brass ring in water. After the homecoming they drank a tribute to the fertility gods and brought sacrifices to the sun, the bones of the sacrificed animals were placed in a circle upon a sacred table - or meat hung up in a circle-bend wicker twig. The sun would then recognize its sacrifice through the sun signs. At midsummer wreaths of leaves and grass were hung up in honour of the sun.

Swedish Christmas cakes 16th century.

A link between midwinter's solstice, old ancient sun-belief  and the fertility of the next year,  were up till present time kept in the Swedish Christmas bread,which was decorated with the signs of the sun, the wheel and the spiral. The Christmas bread was stored in winter - and in spring it was crumbled and given in small bites to both humans and animals in the farm on the first day of the spring-sowing in order to secure a good harvest.

Archaeological magazine SKALK nr. 4, 1961: P.V.Glob, "Solens Tegn".
photo Gilleleje: grethe bachmann
other photos: wikipedia. 

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