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.