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The Sun in the Underworld
For many of us we are use to viewing the sun as male ans the moon as female. This view comes to us from the Classical myths of the Greeks and Romans, who ascribed to the same gender distinctions for these celestial bodies. Modern Wicca keeps in line (to some extent) with this same view. But when we look to world mythology it becomes apparent that the sun was just as often a Goddess as a God. The same, in fact, can be said of the moon. Modern Goddess worshipers are adept at working with the energies of the moon, but we forget to see the sun as a representation of the Goddess’ power. Sometimes we need to draw on the energies of the intuitive, lucid moon, other times we need to be the vibrant sun who dances across the sky.
As today is the new moon but as it is the new moon, a time of new beginings, (and for me I have been endeavoring to rise above the stresses in my life and the obstacles in my path) one sun Goddess myth in particular comes to mind, and has been playing a role in my own personal rituals over the past month. The journey of the sun Goddess to the underworld.
At first glance it may seem odd that sun goddesses connected should be so closely connected with the underworld. When we think of the sun, light, warmth and heat come to mind. We think of the sun in its glory on a cloudless summer day. When she sinks below the horizon we know she is shedding light on the lives of those on the other side of our planet. But to our ancestors the sun’s nightly journey beyond the horizon, and eventual return, was a sacred mystery. Where did the sun go? What did it do when it was not shining its light and warmth on the world? From these questions arose an almost universal myth found across all cultures. Whether she died, traveled underground, or went willingly to bring her light to the dead, the sun nightly journeyed to the underworld or to the land of spirits. This theme is also repeated in the sun goddess’s habit of retreating to a cave. Caves were considered entrances to the underworld in several cultures, as the realm of spirits was often envisioned as a land below the earth. The Aboriginal sun goddess Yhi traveled into the deep caves of the earth to awaken the spirits of the first animals and people, symbolically bringing their spirits from the underworld to the moral world.
The Egyptian sun Goddess Hathor greeted the soul of the dead every evening and offer them food and shade under her sacred sycamore tree. The Canaanite sun goddess Shapash was charged with shining her light in the underworld and guiding souls there. She was therefore given the title Luminary of the Underworld. When Baal, the god of fertility and rain, died she searched the underworld for his spirit and restored him to life. Bast, another Egyptian sun Goddess, nightly descended into the underworld to battle the serpent Apep, who embodied chaos.
Macha, one of the thee Goddess that form the Morrigans triple form, was called the “sun of womanhood” and was equated to another Celtic sun Goddess, Grian. Yet Macha was also a goddess of death who collected the severed heads of dead warriors. As the head was the seat of the soul in the Celtic mind, she presumably brings their spirits to the Otherworld/underworld. In one story the Baltic sun goddess Saule drowned in the sea as she was descending from her journey across the sky. Her daughters (sun maidens and younger versions of herself) descended into the underworld and bargained for her release so her light could shine on the world once again. While not guiding the souls of the dead, she herself dies and is reborn with the dawn.
In story after story the female sun descends to the underworld. She conquers darkness or battles chaos or simply brings comfort to the dead. The sun travels through the underworld and returns, her light still shining and radiant. She is unique in being both a Goddess of light and one who embodies the traits of the Dark Goddess as well, via her travels through the shadowed realms. She is a light in the darkness. Teaching us to burn our brightest, even in our darkest hour. So I challenge you sisters, rethink the way you view the Goddess. The summer months are an excellent time to connect to the vibrant powers of the sun. I think we owe it to the Goddess and to ourselves to not limit our perception of the divine feminine. She can be both sun and moon. Bright Goddess and dark. Let her be a guiding light during the day, and when the sun sinks below the horizon, let her be a guide in your darkest times.
Here is a meditation/visualization I have been using to draw upon the power of the underworld sun, and as it is the new moon it is an excellent exercise to draw ne beginnings into your life.
Midnight Sun Meditation:
Sit comfortably. Visualize the sun shining above you (if you like do this while outside in the sunlight). The sun is warm and radiant, like on the most perfect of clear summer days. Slowly the sun begins to descend, her light and warmth growing closer and closer to you. Soon she hovers just above your head, right at the point of your crown chakra. Her light and warm do not harm you, instead filling you with a sense of strength and vibrance. As you take a deep breath in, see the sun’s energy filling your chakra, her beautiful light flowing through your bod and spirit filling you. Next see the sun descend to your heart chakra, then finally your root chakra. At each point breath in and fill yourself with the sun’s vibrant force.
You can end the meditation there if you like, or do this on a daily basis to connect to the sun. But to take it just a step further, and keeping in sync with the time of the new moon when you feel filled with the sun’s energy continue with the following:
Now that you are filled with the sun’s energy see yourself standing in front of a large cave. You walk forward knowing this is an entrance to the underworld. Slowly the rock beneath your feet spirals downward, bringing you deeper and deeper into the lower realms. Soon you hear sounds. You are not alone, but you are unable to see in the dark of the underworld. Soon a figure comes into view. Take a moment to take in how the person (or being, it could be an animal or just appear as unformed energy, a feeling or a mist) appears. This person or being represents the obstacles in your life. It stands before you, blocking you path. Think of the radiant sun, let the light of the sun and your own inner light shine through. As you do so the underworld becomes filled with light, and the figure dissolved as mist dissolves in the wake of the sun’s warmth. You inner light shining brightly you continue through the underworld, noticing that the path is slowly beginning to rise toward the surface. Soon you come to a cave mouth and emerge to the world above. Take another moment to see yourself shining with the radiance of the sun. Know your inner light will burn brightly whenever you are faces with life’s difficulties.