Leaf Unfurling Moon
It is a joyful time of year as the buds shapeshift into leaves, slowly unfurling in curls and spirals, an echoed pattern throughout the natural world. The delicate newborn green is so fresh and perfect. But what makes those leaves unfurl and the shoots pop out of the ground? For that matter, what gives you the ability to move your arms and feet, move your body through space? Your muscles and the food you eat, yes…but really the source is the sun! The sun drives most of the biological and physical processes of the world. It fuels plant growth as the foundation of the food chain, and it drives our weather.
Solar energy is the primary energy source that enables life on earth, mainly through photosynthesis. It is the most reliable, renewable source of energy that we have, infinite for 5 billion more years. Through nuclear fusion, the sun converts hydrogen into helium, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second, which is the source of the Sun’s light and heat. Shifts in the solar output including sun flares, sunspots as well as variations in orbit, all impact our climate and atmosphere, even throwing off the way-finding of animals such as whales.
Since ancient times, the Sun has been revered for its life-giving capacity. It was even worshipped as a deity, given its centrality to life on our planet. In English, the word Sunday meant “day of the sun”, to be ritually remembered every week. Each day as the Sun rises, it kisses the earth with warmth and light, increasing during the day until it cycles down and nears the other horizon to rest for the night. The Sun drives all the seasons and thus has shaped the agricultural and pastoral cycles since the dawn of humanity.
Manifold cultures had a wheel of the year.
This wheel guided their collective
rhythms, which at minimum, was comprised of two solstices and two equinoxes. Fire of course was symbolic of the Sun. Hearth fires in each home were a reflection of the Sun. Many early civilizations worshipped the Sun, such as Ra in Egypt, guardian of immortality. Alchemically, the Sun is associated with gold which is derived by turning lead into gold.
Gold figured predominately in the Incan culture where it adorned most preeminent places, such as the Sun Temple. Many cultures celebrated the annual death and rebirth of the Sun as a cyclic understanding of Time. This continued largely until the great religions, such as Christianity and Islam, attempted to erase these rituals, sometimes with great violence.
Midsummer, or the summer solstice, which arrives in a few weeks (in the Northern Hemisphere), was one of the key solar holidays. At this moment, the Sun has grown to its greatest strength. It is regarded as a miracle when, just at the moment of solstice or the turning point, the sun appears to stand still, after which its movement reverses toward decline and the journey to the winter solstice. The word, solstice, actually means “sun-standing”. Above the Arctic circle becomes perennial day and below the Antarctic Circle it will be perpetual polar night for a time. Every place we have lived, we track the movement of the sun, particularly how far south and then how far north it sets. We can tell the time of year just by where the sun is setting in relation to our home.
The summer solstice has often been a festival acknowledging the time of the sun’s greatest power, the vitality of life, greening at its fullest, and the nurturing and flourishing of all life, particularly in Indigenous cultures. This year, the solstice will occur on June 20 at 21:44. It is marked at many sacred sites where the sun shines through a particular gateway or opening. This year, because of COVID, the gathering at Stonehenge, part of the Pagan and Druid heritage, will be a virtual celebration to watch the sunrise, as it aligns with one of the principal axes of one half of the stones. https://www.stonehengeskyscape.co.uk/
Yet, in all things natural, there is a countervailing identity: the Sun as fierce, that which burns and kills, through heat and drought. With climate change, we are becoming more familiar with this aspect of the Sun. Sometimes these faces are understood to balance each other. But in some cultures, the Moon is the balancing element to the Sun, which brings the rest and respite of darkness. Sometimes, the Sun and Moon are understood as the two eyes of the Divine Ones, overseeing the natural order of Earth.
In patriarchal societies, the Sun has generally been regarded as Masculine, with an accompanying
sky god, a Father God. This shift occurred with the rise of agricultural revolution. The association has been prominent in Christianity….think of the solar discs that surround the head of God, Jesus, angels and various saints in classical paintings. The Sun and hence masculinity have been associated with consciousness, intellect, and action. The symbolism of the Sun has been used to enhance the prestige of many male rulers…think of Louis XIV the Sun King and his love of all things gilded.
In this process of shifting to patriarchal societies, a cosmic consciousness and sense of organic relations gave way to an analytic, rational consciousness and mechanistic relations. Much of our lives are shaped by machine metaphors and symbols. While rational thought has given us many scientific and technological advances, it has overshadowed other ways of knowing such as intuitive, embodied, emotional, and spiritual ways of knowing. Given the many global crises we have now created, the time for rebalancing has arrived. Some would say our very survival hinges on this.
Many scholars are now searching for the lost Goddesses who dominated human worship for over 20,000 years. Female scholars Riane Eisler, Merlin Stone, Charlene Spretnak and many others have used archeology, art, mythology, and history to study and revive the Feminine from the ancient worlds. Joseph Campbell suggests that over many years, female mythological models were disappeared. As a result, women have lost a sense of the fullness of their own natures, given that the Masculine was enforced as the marker.
French scholar Jean Markale suggests that there has been a sacred conflict between these Masculine and Feminine conceptions of divinity for the past four thousand years. One of the reasons the Roman Catholic Church refuses to admit women into the priesthood is that it would symbolize a return to the Goddess “cults” that predate Christianity and that took hundreds of years to suppress. This is at the root of the mistrust, hostility towards, and often erasure of women in the Christian church. To erase Goddess worship, it was called idolatry, the Goddess symbol of the snake was demonized, and Eve was held responsible for the Garden of Eden debacle. As Riane Eisler traces, the civilizations of the sword (patriarchal) overtook the civilizations of the chalice (gynocratic), and a polar reversal in gender associations occurred, a profound deception and appropriation, says Markale.
Yet, the Goddess is so integral to the human psyche that she simply emerges in a different form. She never disappears, despite multiple ways of demonizing her. In the Catholic church, as Goddess worship died out, the worship of the Virgin Mary as a Saint, rose. Yet, the Virgin Mary does not represent the full nature of the Feminine. One aspect that is not present is fierceness, and it is the fierceness of women that keeps them safe and that fertilizes their fearless leadership; which is why these aspects of the Feminine were suppressed. One could argue that the Goddess in her fullness is
rising again. She will help the rebalancing.
Markale makes it clear that the first deity ever to be worshipped was the Vast Mother. From Japan where a female goddess oversees the course of the sun, the Scythian Artemis of Tauris, the Hitite Arinna, the Nartes sagas from the North Caucasus that featured Sathana, the Egyptian Isis, to the Celtic Grainne the radiant sun-woman, to the Germanic Brynhild, the Sun was the primordial Feminine. In some places she was originally represented both the Sun (fire) and Moon (water), although the Moon was often Masculine.
Markale notes three faces of the Goddess – the Virgin of Beginnings (the fertile womb), the Divine Mother (pregnancy and maternal milk), and the Wise Crone (such as Sophia or the Oracle at Delphi). The Sun Goddess, sexual, formidable and fierce, also presides over death, and is prevailed upon to assist the journey from the earth back to the spirit world and thus grant immortality. So, it is the Feminine in all these complex forms that is the Life Genetrix, the primordial matrix, the source of the continuing cycle of Life and the escort beyond.
For this summer solstice, watch the Stonehenge event and then stand out in the sun at midday. Feel the light and heat fill your body...feel a surge of vitality. Carry this with you daily...
Then cast your gaze upon all the living beings around you, seeing
the vitality surging through them. Really feel it! Give thanks for the face of the Sun that continues Life on Earth.