It is said that children are the sunshine of a parent’s life. I understand the saying but from a scientific standpoint, children would be the blossoms and the parent the sun. After all, it is the sun that provides warmth which in turns provides water. The variances on earth with which locations receive the heat of the sun create weather patterns and these in turn create rain and other forms of precipitation. So, yes, the sun not only shines brightly on us at times, it also is responsible for those rainy days.
Egyptian mythology believed the sun god Re or Ra created the universe and the tears of Re/Ra fell upon the earth and became human beings. This is a different take on the sun and parenting; instead of children being the sunshine, parents are the offspring of the sun and children, of course, the offspring of the parents. Instead of sun worshipping being harmful and leading to skin cancer when taken to the extreme as is often the case in our modern world, the ancient Greeks made Apollo the god of son, logic, and reason.
Celtic mythology viewed the sun’s journey across the skies, a fallacy of belief since it is the earth that travels and not the sun, as reflecting cycles of life and death. Their sun god was Beltanus and the Gaelic celebration known as Beltane was held in May to celebrate the beginning of summer.
Today our myths about the sun are more about appearance – ours. When sunlight hits a human’s skin it affects it and causes it to darken. Based upon the hue of the skin, this can occur within fifteen minutes or take up to two hours. Sunscreen helps divert the harmful rays of the sun’s light but it must be applied every ninety minutes to be effective and seldom is that done.
The sun helps in many other ways, however, besides just giving one a tan that is so popular today. Several studies regarding conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder and Alzheimer’s have shown the benefits of sunlight on the patient. Even sitting inside in a room filled with sunlight can provide beneficial results. The sun also helps regulate our melatonin levels and tells the body when it is time to go to sleep.
The people in Togo, Benin, and Ghana also had a sun deity. Their moon god Mawu was a twin to the sun god Lisa. Seen also as creators of the universe, it was the moon or Mawu that represented birth and motherhood while the sun or Lisa characterized work, heat, and strength. We will study more about both Egyptian mythology and African mythology next month but traces of the various Chinese myths about the sun are evident in other cultures… and vice versa.
Earlier in this posting I discussed Beltanus, a Celtic sun god. He was not the only Celtic sun deity; Lugus or Lugh was another such deity. Indian mythology also had multiple sun deities with Surya, the Hindu sun god, being one of the more prominent ones. In fact, many shop owners today have a sun carved into their doorframes at the top to pay homage to this deity of their ancient mythology.
Chinese mythology is replete with sun gods. One single legend tells of ten sun gods, children of the goddess Xihe and Dijun, their father. The story tells of one fateful day when all ten sun gods elected to appear in the sky at the same time. Creating a heat too intense, they were ordered to behave by their father. Being children, they did not and so Dijun sent an archer known as Yi to shoot the suns away. Yi killed nine of the sun gods which left the one that is in our sky today.
One of the most ancient of all Chinese myths is the story of Kua Fu and the sun. The leader of a group of giants, Kua Fu vowed to chase the sun, capture it, and tame it. The land was in the middle of a drought and the giants were suffering; they held the sun responsible. The legend tells that Kua Fu ran as fast as he could along the terrain for nine days and nine nights. As he ran, he brushed sand from his shoes which created hills. Mountains were created from the three stones that held his cooking pot each night.
Eventually Kua Fu does catch up to the sun but its heat is too strong for him. He drinks from various rivers but cannot quench his thirst and dies. The story of a leader or hero who perishes when getting too close to the sun is also the story of the Greek myth about Icarus. Both stories are told to illustrate humility and the dangers of arrogance. They are another example of the diffusion and parallel plot lines the mythologies of the world contain.
The sun shines on us all, regardless of our nationality, location, creeds, or status. We are all recipients of both its beneficial qualities as well as the folly that can come from indulging in it. Whether children are the sunshine or the sunbeams, it is our responsibility to give them a safe, healthy world, one that allows for beneficial living and not corruption of natural life.
I hope today you are able to feel the warmth of life-giving rays, whether in the form of a hug from a loved one or by opening a curtain and letting the sun into a room. I believe we all have the warmth of the sun within us and should let it shine on others. We may not be able to make flowers bloom but we can make another person smile. We can provide food for another through preparation and donation. We can vote into office those who will not become slaves to their own arrogance but work for the good of all, justice and peace which will allow our universe to flourish. Today we will write our own mythologies. Today we have the chance to be the sunshine for another.