Article by Jon Alswinn and Jenny Belikov.
The sun — the source of life and light to every living physical thing — is a unifying force, a blazing fire, and the giver and destroyer of life. So it’s not surprising it has held so much importance through the ages, across distant continents, times, cultures, civilizations, and religions – tracing right back to the original global religion of the sun.
Throughout time people gathered to honor and celebrate the sun during the solstice and equinox with special ceremonies, rituals, and observances.
The solstices and equinoxes are astronomical events marking the sun’s seasonal movement in the sky each year. At the summer solstice the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, while at the winter solstice it descends to its lowest point. The spring and autumn equinoxes mark the mid points in the sun’s movement between the two solstices.
These solar events mark four equidistant points in the cycle of the sun through the calendar year, and indicate the change between the four seasons. Yet to some ancient cultures they also signified much more than that: they saw a deeper mystery to these solar movements.
So what made these cosmic events so important to these ancients? Why did these civilizations align their altars, temples, households, courts, and monuments to the journey of the sun? The answer lies in understanding the deeper significance of the spiritual meaning of the sun.
A Deeper Symbolism
The harvest and the changing seasons are certainly key points in the cycle of life, death, and resurrection in nature, but within this cycle some ancient cultures perceived a powerful deeper message.
Research reveals that these ancient cultures saw in the celestial movements of the sun a cosmic reflection of the spiritual journey they could undertake on earth within themselves. This explains why monuments, cities, and lifestyles were modeled around the solstices and equinoxes and aligned to the journey of the sun and the stars. These ancient civilizations based on the religion of the sun saw spiritual enlightenment as the real purpose of life, and sought to orient their entire societies to the spiritual principles they saw displayed above them in the heavens.
Some examples of types of ancient sites, temples, and monuments that align to the sun can be seen below:
The spiritual significance of the sun’s journey also explains why deities throughout history have been linked with the sun, and sun gods and sun men have been venerated.For example, sun-Christ savior figures have emerged time and time again within various traditions derived from the original ancient religion of the sun, and key stages in their lives often correspond to solar events. Researches have noted how many of these figures – such as Jesus, Mithra, Krishna, Quetzalcoatl, among others – often share similarities.1 They may be associated with the sun, born at the winter solstice, teach and perform wonders, die and resurrect at the spring equinox, and ascend to the heavens at the summer solstice. The future return of a sun-Christ figure is also often foretold, who will come again at a winter solstice (when the world is at its darkest) and bring light into the world once again.
Some say these similarities are the mere cultural transference of myths and tales. But when one examines these stories from a cosmic perspective, and traces the origins of cultures associated with these figures, it seems more likely the similarities exist because these figures, through their own lives on earth, illustrated the solar path to enlightenment that is literally part of creation — depicted by the sun above us to illuminate the path to enlightenment on earth. This cosmic correspondence reflects the hermetic axiom: “as above so below.”2
Celebrating the Solstice and Equinox Spiritually
Those who understood the spiritual messages encoded in the sun’s physical journey were empowered to take up the journey it symbolized in their own lives. Various ancient societies that inherited the knowledge of the religion of the sun therefore celebrated and marked these cosmic events in the fashion of their culture, although over time, their deeper understanding of these astronomical events generally diminished, and celebrations tended to lose touch with the metaphysical aspect.
However, a true celebration of the cosmic meaning of the solstices and equinoxes is not mere worship or an enactment of old rituals lacking life; rather, it commemorates the divine plan of life, displayed in the heavens so that it can be enacted in our own lives on earth. It recognizes the divine and creative powers latent in the cosmos, nature and within the individual, waiting to be kindled.
Celebrations, bonfires, gatherings, sacred dances, and re-enactments of cosmic events took place at the solstices and equinoxes through the ages as a way to teach and connect with this cosmic journey of the soul, and feel and understand its significance in a more profound and intimate way. These sacred occasions stimulated people’s souls, inspiring them to strive towards this journey to enlightenment, become one with the universe, and embody on earth what is shown in heaven, through walking the inner path of the spiritual sun/son in their own lives.
This sacred understanding has largely been lost to modern cultures, but it can rekindled today and illuminate the world once more.
How to Experience Solstice and Equinox Celebrations in the Modern Day
If you’re interested in exploring solstice and equinox celebrations first-hand, there are many ways to do so. One simple way to get started is to find a traditional revival ceremony or group near you. These events are organized independently and in many different countries by groups interested in reviving the ancient celebrations once more, and each group celebrates according to the ancient customs and traditions of the sun from their own cultural heritage. See the link below to find groups near you:
Another way to explore solstices and equinoxes is to organize it on your own — be it a small scale version for yourself or with a group of friends or interested people to get together for solstices or equinoxes. Below is a guide for how to celebrate solstices and equinoxes:
Visiting ancient sites aligned to solstices and equinoxes is also a great way to experience and connect with these times of year. You can attend an already-existing ancient site in your area, or create a shrine or even your own sacred site if you like based on the same principles that the ancient builders of sacred sites around the world employed.
- For example of some of these similarities compared, see: Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Chapter: The Cross and the Crucifixion — In particular, from The Crucified Saviors section onward. Text is available via http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/sta/sta45.htm
- For the source of this saying see verse two of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm