The cross — a significant symbol within the Religion of the Sun — is one of the most prolific and most ancient symbols known. It’s use as a religious symbol in antiquity was almost universal,1 and countless variations of it can be found all over the world in the form of ornamental artifacts, rock art, and the design of ancient sacred sites. It was a particularly prevalent solar symbol during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.2
The cross is a symbol with multiple meanings, including the representation of the union of male and female / heavenly and earthly forces, a symbol of the solstices and equinoxes, and a symbol of selflessness and self-sacrifice.
The most common form of the cross symbol found throughout the ancient world is known today as a “solar cross,” an often encircled cross formed by crossing a horizontal and a vertical line of equal length. This symbol is also known as Odin‘s cross in the ancient Germanic tradition, or as a “sun wheel,” a “sun cross,” a Celtic cross, etc.3
Petroglyph panel outside of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah, USA, featuring large solar cross. Photo licensed from BigStock.
Another expression of this symbol is the cruciform, where the vertical line is longer than the horizontal. Today this symbol is most commonly associated with Christianity, though its use and origins go back into antiquity and into pre-Christian times.
The Cross as a Symbol of Solstices and Equinoxes and Other Cosmic Principles
Mesoamerican Tonalpohualli sun calendar, showing the cross in the yearly cycle made by the solstices and equinoxes. Public domain image found here.
The cross encapsulates a variety of cosmic principles relating to the order and structure of creation, such as the times of the solstices (horizontal line) and equinoxes (vertical line) (which are stages of significance in the spiritual path of the sun throughout the year), the four cardinal points, the four elements, creation, etc.4
In their book, The Path of the Spiritual Sun, authors Belsebuub and Lara Atwood explain that:
“Four forms the foundation of life and encompasses the bounds of creation. It is found in the four cardinal directions; the four points of the cross of the year, which are the solstices and equinoxes; the four elements; the dimensions of our physical world which are length, width, height, and time; and the four material bodies within each person—physical, vital, astral, and mental.
The birth of stars, which then produce the rest of matter, can be found in the birth of the Son/sun and child of light, who brings the light of the first day, and proceeds to make the rest of creation. The Son, who in Hindu accounts of creation splits everything into three and stretches it out to make both earth and sky—creating the four corners of the world—is like the expansion of three-dimensional space, as well as the fourth dimension, as described by physicists and the ancient Maya. The fourth dimension is time, which is needed for beings to be able to become conscious of their own existence. Within our three-dimensional world, we find life manifest in form and substance in the form of time. Thus, in creation, the Son who is one of the three forces of creation establishes the four, creating the space-time continuum in which space and time are joined together to create the four-dimensional object we all live within, which is the foundation of life and found in the movement of the sun, forming a cross of four arms and the rotating swastika.
~ The Path of the Spiritual Sun 5
A depiction of a Knights Templar, featuring the cross symbol on outfit and staff.6
Remarkably, a paper published in 2016 in Nature Photonics by the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw, Poland, explained how a team of physicists discovered that the shape (or the hologram) of a light photon (minute particle of light) is that of a sun cross symbol where the arms expand as they go outwards,7 which was frequently used in antiquity (for example as the emblem of the Knights Templar order). This study’s findings thus further link this symbol of a unit of light with the ancient Religion of the Sun, which is a religion of light.
The solar cross symbol is also the official astronomical symbol of the Earth, depicting the planet bisected by meridian lines into four quarters.8 Interestingly, it has been commonly found depicted in association with an ancient sea-faring culture that possessed advanced navigational skills and global outposts, and which is connected with the diffusion of the ancient Religion of the Sun around the world.
On the right, a diagram of the cross formed by the division of the earth by the prime meridian and the equator lines. Public domain image found here. On the left, an example petroglyph from Sweden featuring the solar cross alongside a large ship. Photo by Bjoertvedt [CC BY-SA 4.0,] via Wikimedia Commons.
The Cross as a Symbol of Creation
Facsimile of a vignette from the Book of the Dead of Ani, featuring the Egyptian Ankh sun symbol (c. 1300 BC). Public domain image found here.
The cross symbol also represents creation, encapsulating the union of the feminine (horizontal) and masculine (vertical) forces. It can therefore be seen as an alchemical symbol.
The ancient Egyptian “ankh” is a related symbol formed of a cross with a rounded top (the earliest use of which is believed to go back to c. 3150 – 2613 BC).9
On this subject, Belsebuub and Lara Atwood share that:
“This joining of feminine and masculine forces is also symbolic of the sacred sexual practice of alchemy, in which man and woman united harness their creative powers to put to death the egos, and give birth to the imperishability of the spiritual within.
The symbol of the cross also appears in ancient Egypt as the ankh, which was used as the hieroglyphic character for “eternal life,” again revealing the connection between the symbol of the cross, the practice of alchemy, and resurrection to eternal spiritual life. Although the exact origin of the symbol is unknown, it’s commonly believed to represent the union of masculine and feminine forces, just like the cross and tree of life.”
~ The Path of the Spiritual Sun 10
Interestingly, the Ankh is also said to symbolise the sun coming over the horizon and the union of heaven and earth.11
The cruciform symbol has been incorporated into the architecture of several known ancient sites. For example, Newgrange in Ireland (dating to 5000 BC), and Maeshowe in Scotland (dating to 3000 BC), are two chambered cairns the interior of which is shaped in the form of a cross. On winter solstice the first sun rays penetrate the inner chamber of Newgrange, which represents the union of the sacred masculine (sun) and the sacred feminine (earth) principles, and the birth of the spiritual Son born as a sun within the cave / womb of the Earth.12 A large cross is also found as a prominent feature at the Temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The Cross as a Symbol of Self-Sacrifice
Additionally, the cross is also a symbol of sacrifice and the responsibility that comes with having greater spiritual knowledge and its use for helping others. In The Path of the Spiritual Sun, it is mentioned that:
“Jesus symbolized this in carrying the heavy weight of the cross during the Passion, which shows how the initiate can’t abandon their responsibilities toward humanity, even as they are being attacked and persecuted.
Odin’s self-sacrifice on the World Tree. Public domain image found here.
This principle of self-sacrifice has been symbolized in many ancient teachings. Both Jesus and Joan of Arc allowed themselves to be betrayed and handed over to execution as an act of self-sacrifice in pursuit of a higher cause. In the Hindu story of the churning of the milky ocean, the god Shiva comes forward to swallow the terrible poison that emerges as an act of self-sacrifice to save creation and allow the churning to continue. The Maya god Quetzalcoatl created human beings from an act of self-sacrifice. The Norse god Odin undergoes crucifixion on a tree as an act of self-sacrifice, in order to give the wisdom of his sacred runes to humanity.
The principle of sacrifice exists throughout creation. Energy and materials have to be taken from somewhere in order to create something else. We see this principle at work when creating anything new. Many materials are sacrificed in order to build a house for example. Plants of all kinds, as well as animals, are surrendered too so that other plants and animals can survive. A whole cycle of sacrifice, and of give and take, exists throughout the universe.”
~ The Path of the Spiritual Sun 13
The Universal Use of the Cross Symbol
The cross is a symbol that can literally be found all over the planet, in use since prehistoric times. It has often been incorporated into ceremonial and ornamental items, such as jewelry, pottery, ritual items, clothing, etc., often depicted alongside other symbols of the Religion of the Sun.
A comparison of a solar cross from Scandinavia and America. Left: solar crosses found on stone slabs inside the Bronze Age Kivik mound in Sweden. Right: a pre-Columbian solar cross found as a petroglyph at Fountain Bluff, Illinois, USA.14
This symbol forms a prominent traditional symbolic and religious part in the day-to-day living of the nomads of Central Asia (most prominently in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) where a solar cross is incorporated as a key feature of the roof of nomadic circular homes known as “yurts” or “gers”. This sun cross roof feature is known as “shangrak” and in some areas was considered a sacred part of the house passed down from generation to generation.15 The entire structure of the circular yurt dwelling is in fact rather symbolic, representing the “universe in microcosm: the floor (Earth), the roof (sky), and the hole in the roof (the sun).”16 The roof beams extending out of the shangrak resemble sun rays cascading down over the interior of yurts.
A pre-Columbian ceramic beaker with sun symbol, Cahokia (Illinois, USA).17
Interestingly, very specific expressions of this symbol can be found in different parts of the world by unknown prehistoric cultures or by cultures separated by vast distances. For example, solar crosses with four dots in each interior section of the cross can be found in Eastern Europe as seen in artifacts by the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (c. 5200 to 3500 BC), in Sweden (2250 BC),18 in Italy (Iron Age), in Russia (c. 5000 BC), China (2300-2050 BC), in pre-Columbian Georgia, USA, etc.19
Another common example is the sun cross featured in the photo on the right, which can be found throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, ancient Mesopotamia, Africa, China, and the pre-Columbian Americas, etc. and many examples of it can be seen in the photo gallery above.
Likewise it is interesting to find the “Maltese Cross” (prevalent in Europe and the Mediterranean, and used in even more ancient times in Mesopotamia) in pre-Columbian petroglyphs in the USA.
Left: ancient Mesopotamia, center: Spain, right: pre-Columbian USA.20
The prolific use of these specific symbols around the world points to a common origin and diffusion of these symbols, and to the widespread reach of the lost ancient global civilization of the sun.
- Solar cross symbols on stone slabs, amongst other interesting rock art, found inside the Kivik mound in Sweden, c. 1400 BC. Photo by Uwe Glaubach, by [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Petroglyph panel outside of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah, USA, featuring large solar cross. Believed to have been created some time between 300 BC and 1100 AD. Photo licensed from BigStock.
- Solar cross found in Sedona, Arizona, USA estimated to be between 3000-6000 years old. Photo licensed from Alamy.
- Solar cross petroglyph at Fountain Bluff, Illinois, USA.
- Engraved shell featuring various cross symbols, as well as other sun symbols. Found at Spiro Mounds, Oklahoma, USA. Photo by Herb Roe [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Germanic Iron Age solar cross pendants found in Denmark. Public domain image found here.
- Gold disks with solar crosses, Early Bronze Age, found in western Asturias, Spain. Photo by Hispalois [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Gold “bowls” with various sun symbols and a large solar cross, found in Basque Country, Spain, c. 1200 and 801 BC. Photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Sun cross pendants, dating to the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, found in Zürich, Switzerland. Photo by Dbachmann [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Ancient Germanic jewelry featuring solar crosses and astronomical sun symbols. Photo by Slick [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Ceramic from Berlin, Germany, c. 2800-2300 BC, featuring a sun cross on the small vessel on the right. Photo by Einsamer Schütze [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- A Scandinavian solar cross “firewheel”, traditionally lit at winter solstice celebrations. Public domain photo found here.
- Solar cross symbol in Ireland, found at Gallarus Oratory. Photo by Jibi44 [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Various solar crosses formed a part of the original inscriptions on the Kilnasaggart standing stone in Ireland, also featuring an inscription in the ancient Ogham script. Public domain photo found here.
- Late 10th or 11th century solar cross found in South Wales (currently housed in the Margam Stones Museum). Photo by RobinLeicester [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Cross symbol found in Sunnyside, Beith, North Ayrshire, Scotland. Photo by Rosser1954 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Pottery from China featuring solar crosses, c. 2400 BC to 2000 BC. Motif is very similar to Cucuteni-Trypillian culture artwork from ancient Eastern Europe. Photo by By BabelStone [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Bronze Age sword hilt featuring various sun symbols and shield featuring solar cross in the center. Public domain image found here.
- A Bronze Age ceremonial item found in Sweden, c. 1500-1300 BC, featuring solar crosses. A similar item was also discovered in Hungary. Public domain image found here.
- Solar cross found in Scandinavia. A very similar petroglyph symbol is also found at the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in New Mexico, USA. Photo licensed from BigStock.
- A Villanovan culture (Iron Age, Italy) metal bowl featuring solar cross in the center with sun rays radiating outwards. Photo by By Sailko [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Ornamental sun cross pins found in Switzerland, daring between he first half of the 2nd millennium BC. Photo by Dbachmann [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Iron Age pottery from Lower Bavaria, featuring solar cross motifs. Photo by Wolfgang Sauber [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Pottery from the ancient Eastern European Cucuteni-Trypillian culture c. 5200 to 3500 BC (Modern day Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania) featuring a variety of solar crosses. Photo by Bogdan29roman [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Traditional yurt from Uzbekistan, with a solar cross motif on the sun-like roof (called “shangrak”). Photo by Man77 [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Another example of a yurt solar-cross shangrak. Photo by Emőke Dénes [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Facsimile of a vignette from the Book of the Dead of Ani, featuring the Egyptian Ankh sun symbol (c. 1300 BC).. Public domain image found here.
- Ankh symbol, Egypt c. 1508–1458 BC. Public domain image found here.
- Stela of Assyrian king (Mesopotamia) wearing a sun cross, c. 814 BC. Photo by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped.
- Sun cross found in in Aguilar de Campoo in the province of Palencia, Spain. Photo by GFreihalter [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Early Briton and European sun cross symbols, very similar to those of the Phoenicians, Hittite, Khassi, and Sumerians. Public domain scan from a sketch by L.A. Waddell, The Phoenician origin of Britons, Scots & Anglo-Saxons.
- Solar cross found at the Three Rivers petroglyph site in New Mexico, USA. Photo licensed from Alamy.
- A depiction of a Knight’s Templar by Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1667), featuring the cross symbol on outfit and staff. Public domain image found here.
- Another example of a Knight’s Templar cross. Painting by Roque Gameiro (1917). Public domain image found here.
- Thracian petroglyphs found in the Kalugerski caves in Bulgaria (c. 3rd or 2nd millenium BC), featuring several sun crosses. Sketch by Filipov Ivo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- An ancient seal from Harappa, an Indus Valley civilization, with cross symbol (estimated to be from 2600–1900 BC). Photo by Nomu420 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Ancient Slavic charm with cross in the middle. Photo licensed from BigStock.
- Pre-Columbian petroglyphs in the Valley of Fire in Nevada, USA, featuring a cross. Photo licensed from BigStock.
- Solar cross found in Sedona, Arizona, USA estimated to be between 3000-6000 years old. Photo licensed from Alamy.
- Cottonwood, Arizona petroglyphs featuring various sun symbols including a cross. Photo licensed from Bigstock.
- A selection of sun tattoos featuring various sun crosses from the Balkans, where women traditionally add these to their arms. A selection from a public domain image found here.
- Majiayao pottery from China, Neolithic period, c. 3300 – 2000 BC, featuring a sun cross motif that’s very similar to Slavic sun crosses. Note: a sun cross should be pointing upwards (like a + sign). Photo by Zhangzhugang [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- A sketch of a variety of Slavic solar cross symbols found in Slovakia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Sketched by Jenny Belikov for The Spiritual Sun.
- A variety of solar cross pendants found throughout Europe and Russia. Sketched by Jenny Belikov for The Spiritual Sun.
- Various sun ancient sun cross symbols of the Phoenicians, Hittite, Khassi, and Sumerians. Public domain scan from a sketch by L.A. Waddell, The Phoenician origin of Britons, Scots & Anglo-Saxons.
- Lycenian coin from third century AD (Asia Minor) depicting the goddess Barati seated on a solar cross. Public domain scan from a sketch by L.A. Waddell from the book The Phoenician origin of Britons, Scots & Anglo-Saxons: Discovered by Phoenician & Sumerian Inscriptions in Britain, by Pre-Roman Briton Coins & a Mass of New History. London: Williams & Norgate, Ltd., 1924. P. 55.
- Early Bronze Age pottery from Athens featuring sun cross. Photo by Zde [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- A reconstruction of a ceramic beaker found at Cahokia (Illinois, USA), featuring solar cross symbol. The engraving on the beaker is thought to represent a timber circle woodhenge. Illustration by Herb Rowe, by [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
- Eastern European Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (c. 5200 to 3500 BC, Modern day Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania) token featuring sun cross. Other similar tokens feature spirals and double spirals. Photo by CristianChirita [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- An Egyptian drinking cup featuring a sun cross motif at the base and lozenges (also a symbol of the sun), c. 1900–1550 BC. Photo credits: left: via Wikimedia Commons” target=”_blank”>Metropolitan Museum of Arts CC0], [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Right: via Wikimedia Commons” target=”_blank”>Metropolitan Museum of Arts [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Modified.
- Mesoamerican (Zapotec) funerary urn featuring a solar cross pendant.
- The Aztec god Xolotl, twin brother of Quetzalcoatl, illustrated on a cross. In other depictions it is Quetzalcoatl himself who is on the cross. Public domain image found here.
- Jesus carrying the cross (painting by Titian). Public domain image found here.
- Model of Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, featuring a cross at the entry gate when viewed from the air. Photo by Heron [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- A sketch of the cross-shaped interior layout of the Maeshowe chambered cairn in Scotland, by James Farrer in his Notice of Runic Inscriptions Discovered during Recent Excavations in the Orkneys (1862). Public domain image found here.
- The Åby petroglyphs in Sotenäs municipality, western Sweden. Photo by Bjoertvedt [CC BY-SA 4.0,] via Wikimedia Commons.
- A cross monument from Aberlemno, Scotland, featuring a variety of solar symbols and motifs. Photo by CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons” S. Rae [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- Several examples of pendants featuring sun cross.
- Slavic log cabin design from Russia, incorporating the solar cross symbol. Photo licensed from BigStock.