The Sun Archetype – Part 1
The first thing I notice when I look at a new birth chart is the story told by the sun.
If you look at your own chart the symbol of the sun is a circle with a dot in the centre.
What does the sun archetype mean for your heart’s plan?
Let’s look to the Sun itself to get some idea. The Sun burns at the centre of the solar system and life on Earth is totally dependent upon its heat and light. In a similar way, the sun of your birth chart symbolises the sun archetype at your core; pure life force, the light of consciousness.
Sun energy is of paramount importance to the story of your heart’s plan. It is the source of your vitality and your will. And so much more.
Your inner sun is what enables you to be conscious of yourself as a separate living being— to be an individual, with your own special characteristics and your own path to walk.
In the light of the sun it feels as though
- you are meant to be here,
- that your life has purpose,
- and that it’s important to determine how to fulfil your potential and direct your life’s journey.
At its best, we experience the archetype of the sun as radiance, warmth, and confidence. The words ‘shine’ and ‘star’ convey some of its qualities.
The Sun Archetype in human culture
The sun is a universal symbol that carries powerful meaning beyond the tradition of astrology. Even today, in our digital world. Note the universal shorthand of the smiley face as one example 😊, it’s a cartoon like sun with a facial expression.
So, what is it about the Sun that makes it so easy for us to identify with? That makes it a powerful symbol of the human being in the human imagination? Perhaps we see in the Sun’s journey from rising to setting our own journey of life from birth to death. We might also see in the life-giving warmth of the Sun our own capacity to create and generate new life.
Humans have been closely observing the journey of the Sun for as long as we have understood the sun’s power to affect the changing of the seasons. We know that humans were tracking celestial events at least 5,000 years ago.
In very old cultures the Sun is revered as a god.
Consider these few examples.
- The prehistoric monument of Stonehenge is a giant circle of standing stones. The stones were purposefully aligned to create a portal for the rising Sun at the solstice. Stonehenge was a place of ritual and ceremony for the ancient Britons.
- The main entrance to the sacred city of Machu Picchu was also built where the Sun would rise directly through its gate at the summer solstice each year. This entrance is called Inti Punku, meaning ‘Sun door’.
- The Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten, changed official religion from the traditional worship of many gods to reverence for the Sun as the one god. This was such a radical change that it was found to be heretical after Akhenaten’s death. Thereafter, all mention of his rule was removed from official archives and his monuments destroyed. Akhenaten’s poetry survives however, to share with us his prayers to the sun. In ‘Praise to the Sun’ he describes night as the time when the Sun god, maker of all life, is resting in “light land”.
- The ancient Greeks worshipped the Sun also. Their Sun god, Helios the charioteer, drove the Sun chariot across the sky each day. The Greeks held a more complex view of the sun archetype than a simple reverence. They also warned of its dangers. One famous Greek legend counsels against flying too close to the sun. It is a cautionary tale . . .
Icarus was a young Greek warrior who was imprisoned with his father on the island of Crete. In a moment of inspiration his father set to making wings from wax and feathers so that he and his son may escape Crete and fly home to Greece. His father warned Icarus of the importance of not flying too high near the Sun, or too low near the ocean. But once he was airborne, Icarus was overcome by feeling god-like and he soared higher into the sky. Inevitably, he did fly too close to the Sun and the wax of his wings melted, causing Icarus to fall to his death.
. . . This legend today is commonly understood as warning against becoming inflated with pride, hubris and over ambition, (characteristic of the dark side of the sun archetype and explored a little more in Loving Your Sun – The Sun Part 3).
The Sun Goddess
In many myths, the sun god is a male figure. But more ancient than these, and more lost to time, are legends of the female sun goddess.
These include Arinniti, sun goddess of the Hittites, Shapash, the Canaanite goddess of the sun, known as the torch of the gods, and Sol, the sun goddess of the Scandinavian and Germanic peoples, who races across the sky in a horse drawn chariot pursued by wolves.
These ancient stories of the sun goddess add to our understanding of the sun archetype, and you may like to explore them further.
The sun goddess also continues to exist in some living cultures.
The Japanese sun goddess is the chief deity of the Shinto religion. Japanese emperors are considered her descendants. Her name, Amaterasu, means “shining in heavens”.
The legend of Amaterasu tells of her angry reaction to the violent behaviour of her jealous brother, which causes her to withdraw from the world into a secluded rock cave—thereby hiding the sun. Without her light everything begins to die.
One version of the story describes how Amaterasu is tricked into returning to the world when the worried gods hold a mirror at the cave’s entrance so as to bedazzle her with her own radiance. While she is momentarily blinded by the brilliance of her own light they snatch her out of the cave, and so life continues.
In many of the Indigenous cultures of Australia the sun is also considered to be female. She is known as Walu, the Sun-woman, by the Yolgnu people of Arnhem Land in the far north of Australia.
The Sun-woman lights up the earth with her camp fire each morning, thus bringing the dawn. She then lights a burning torch made of stringy bark and carries it across the sky from east to west, creating daylight by her journey. At day’s end, her fuel spent, she puts out her torch, and returns underground to repeat the journey the next day. *
The ancient archetype of the sun, whether it be imagined as deity, legend, story, symbol, myth or poetic association, is a lively carrier of meaning in the wide diversity of human cultures.
The eternal rebirth of the Sun archetype
Throughout cultures and time, sun energy bursts to life again and again whenever a person or an event captures its essence in a new guise.
One historical figure who certainly grabbed the collective imagination with sun energy was the medieval king, Richard 1st, known as the Lionheart. Richard 1st was a military leader noted for chivalry and courage, and it is the personification of these qualities in his iconic name, the Lionheart, that continues to live on more than 800 years since Richard’s death.
The Lionheart is a powerful sun symbol, creatively combining several of the sun’s archetypal associations—the heart (seat of courage and generosity), kingship (the divine right to rule), and the lion (king of the beasts). The lion-hearted king is an image perhaps that has always lived in the human imagination as one potential expression of the glorious sun archetype. It came to flower in the legend of Richard 1st.
The Gods Within
The people of ancient cultures imagined the gods, and the archetypes they embodied, to be in nature and the heavens. In modern cultures archetypes are considered to be like gods within, that is, dynamic forces felt on a psychological level.
With the development of depth psychology, based upon the discoveries of Freud and Jung, human consciousness is thought to be made up of many centres of energy, each based around a different theme. We can even directly experience this when we feel like one part of ourselves wants ‘this’, but an opposing part of ourselves wants ‘that’. There are many different parts to us, and each part’s need is different.
Archetypes and Psychological Complexes
Depth psychology helps us to understand that each of our parts, often called our psychological complexes, is based around an archetype. An archetype central to human experience that we personally express in a unique way.
Exploring our inner lives seeking understanding of our archetypes and our complexes is, therefore, key to helping us understand ourselves. The more that we become aware of our inner parts and their patterns, the more we can make better choices for our lives and move toward growth, healing and change.
In getting to know your archetypes it is especially important to engage with your inner sun. This part of your inner psyche is as crucial to your personal fulfilment as the Sun is to the solar system.
To connect with your sun energy you may consider benefiting from a Heart’s Plan session.
You might also like to read the next two articles in this 3-part series to discover more about how the sun lives in you. Journey to the Heart is a discussion of the sun’s role in your personal psychology, especially in its expression as the ‘hero’. Loving Your Sun explores ways you can bring sun energy into your life.
Now that you know a little more about the sun archetype, and how it lives in you and the world, look around, and within, to discover the radiant sun.