The sun has been revered as a deity by a variety of peoples. However, it is clear that it was not only as a beneficial, but also as a dreaded and destructive power, that this heavenly body was adored in hot countries. So in ancient Egypt the sun god Rah (or Amon-Rah)was represented by a man bearing a sun disc on his head, which was surmounted by the Uraeus-snake. The reptile symbolizing the withering effect of the sun often has been used in the Near East. Quite different was the situation in Central and Northern Europe, where a sufficient amount of sunshine was essential for the ripening of crops. Here the sun was worshipped as a beneficial power as soon as agriculture became the principal means of support during the Neolithic period (+/- 4000 - 2000 BCI).
Consequently it was the ancient Indogermans, originally centered in the basin of the Danube, who spread its cult throughout Europe and even into other parts of the world. How firmly the befief in the creative power of the sun was rooted in the minds of these early Nordics becomes clear when we look at the ruins of the biggest megatithic monuments of Northern Europe, the sun sanctuary of Stonehenge.
Of course it is unnecessary here to desctibe in detail this gigantic monument the remains of which command, since prehistoric times, the Salisbury Plain in Southern England. The visitor wonders how it was possible to transport and set up the enormous blocks of stone the majority of which had been hewn, as modern research has proven, from the rocks of the Prescelly Chain in South Wales, a distance of 274 km measured along the overland route that was in all probability followed. What people erected this imposing monument and what was its purpose?
The scientific investigation of its ruins, which was carried through in recent times, has made it possible to answer both questions. The sanctuary was undoubtedly dedicated to the worship of the Sun as is proven by the fact that the line from the middle of the so-called "altar stone", lying in its center, to the "Hele Stone" at the entrance, is directed to the point in the NE where the sun rose on midsummer day.
According to the archaeologists there were three building periods, the first of which is dated by means of a radio-carbon test, at about 1840 BCI. Recently a number of drawings of Mycenean daggers and flanged axes were detected on some of the stones, and it is supposed that the final completion of the sanctuary, about 1700 BCI, took place under the direction of an architect from the Greek town of Mycenae.
However, its construction is ascribed to the so-called Bellbeaker Folk whose graves, known as the 'round barrows', abound in the vicinity of the monument.
This people whose original habitat lay in Central Spain spread over Europe at the beginning of the second millennium BCI, diffusing at the same time the knowledge of the first metals: copper and bronze. They reached Britain in two successive waves, the first coming from the Netherlands, the second from the western parts of Germany (about 1700 BCI).
In both countries they had mixed with elements of another people, the Indogermanic (Indo-European) Battle Axe People, whose original fatherland lay in Saxony and Thuringia. The amalgamation of both peoples makes understandable why the skeletons which have been unearthed from the round barrows belong partly to the Faelian, partly to the Nordic type, and why copper daggers as well as stone hammers were found in them.
That it was the Nordic element of the Beaker Folk that introduced the worship of the sun in Britain is admitted by one leading English archaeologist in the forllowing words: "So it was the strong Indo-European element infused into our Beaker culture by the Battle Axe Warriors which gave its religion this skyward trend. We are witnessing the triumph of a more barbaric Zeus over the ancient Earth Mother dear to the Neolithic peasantry, the goddess whom they had brought with them from the centers of her fertile power in the Mediterranean and the Near East. "
To make it clear that this replacement of one religion by another was the consequence, not of a gradual evolution, but of an invasion, we must cast a glance at the Scandinavia of the Bronze Age. There, on the rock engravings of Bohuslan in Southern Sweden, are to be seen ships bearing a sun disc and manned by men who swing battle axes; winged horses, concentric circles, spirals, wheel crosses and other symbols of the sun can also be seen.
The horses are destined to pull the sun chariot along the sky in day time, which reminds us of the ancient myth of Phaeton; a ship was thought to transport the sun through the underworld back to the East at night. A slightly different version of the same idea is well-known from the Norse legends.
To the same Nordic culture belong bronze razors adorned with a sun wheel or the head of a horse. From a later phase of the Bronze Age dates the famoussun chariot of Trundholm, a magnificent testimony to the artistic taste and professional skill of the old Nordics.
With all the Indogermanic peoples we find at the dawn of history the worship of heaven gods: Dyas piter with the Aryan Indians, Ahura mazda with the Persians, Papios with the Scythians, Zeus with the Germans and Dasjbog with the Slavs. However, the Greek Phoibos Apollo (i.e. "the radiant" Apollo), the Roman Sol invictus (the unconquered sun) and the Persian and Mitannian Mithra(s) remained genuine sun gods. The anthropomorphic (humanized) character these gods had assumed in the course of time is a late development which might be considered a degeneration.
How far the sun worship had spread during the Bronze Age becomes clear when we look at three countries that lie far apart: Peru, Egypt and Palestine. In the empire of the Inca's the sun was adored in the form of a golden disc, surrounded by beams. Its principal festival was that of the winter solstice, on June 21.
The Incas (which were an aristocratic leading class among the mongolian American Indians) are described by a Spanish author as of a white complexion with hair that was as blond as ripened wheat. Of one of their forbears, Vicacocha Inca, who was described as a blond and bearded man of white complexion, the first Spaniards were told that he had conquered the land coming from the North, and later fled overseas having suffered a crushing defeat. According to Thor Heyerdahl, he reached Polynesia where ancient legends speak of him as Kon-Tiki. All these facts and many more make it possible that sun worship was imported into Peru by immigrants from Europe.
We know today that not only the Vikings reached America before Columbus, but that also many years previous peoples from North Africa (ruled and occupied by a Nordic upper class) could cross the ocean in primitive but sea-worthy vessels.
With regard to Egypt it is generally known that the pharaoh Amenophis IV (1375-1358 BCI) tried to introduce a monotheistic religion by declaring the sun god Aten the only god, while he renamed himself Akhenaten (i.e. glory of the sun disc). The historians usually omit the fact that this pharaoh was in all probability, just as his father Amenophis III, the son of a Mitannian princess as in portraits he appears as a Nordic.
The Mitanni were ati Aryan people who had founded a mighty empire in Northern Syria. Also in this case the connection between culture and race is apparent. Another religious reform, but in the opposite direction, was carried through in 622 BC in the kingdom of Judah by King Josias. Among other cults, sun wlorship was suppressed by him in a barbaric and bloody manner. It is very remarkable when we read in II Kings 23:11 "And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun... and burned the chariot of the sun with fire". Does not this text remind us of the sun chariot of Trundholm?
Sun worshipbelongs to the sunken world of the Northern Bronze Age, the culture that was destroyed by the nature catastrophes of about 1220 BCI. With the Indogermanic religions of later times it has in common its character of nature worship. To the elrements of the former cult that submerged into christianization among the Teutons belong the feasts of the summer and winter solstices, but also a number of symbols such as the wheel cross and the swastika. It may be that the christian mode of praying with closed eyes is atso a relic of the religion of our forbears as it is impossible to look at the sun with your eyes fully open.