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The symbology of the sun, moon and stars
Throughout all cultures, religions and mythologies, the worship and symbology of celestial bodies has been prevalent for thousands of years. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the sun played a huge part in the status of the Pharaoh. In Ancient Aztec culture, vast human sacrifices were regularly made to the Sun gods to ensure a good harvest. Look at Stonehenge, and you will see an ancient monument that worked by demonstrating the cyclic nature of the sun and seasons, thus instructing the rural population on the best times to sow and harvest.
But the symbology of the sun, along with that of the moon and stars, actually goes much further than that. Here are just some of the fascinating depictions of these celestial bodies and how they have shaped civilizations for many, many years.
The sun has been around since the beginning of time, with legible records of the first solar eclipse dating back as far as 1223 BC. The sun was worshipped as a god-like body (or perhaps even a god itself) by numerous civilizations and religions across the globe. It has the ultimate power: to bring light and life to the world. Without the sun, survival would not be possible, and ancient cultures worshipped it as if their lives quite literally depended on its existence. For this reason, the symbol of the sun was often used on ancient warrior armor, such as shields, and sacrifices were often made to it.
The sun also served as a symbol of passion and heat. Ancient cultures believed that the sun's power was what warmed the human body and what created new life - both in humans and animals. It had an essence of male protection and power. And anyone who had an ego big enough to disrespect the sun's almighty rule - such as Icarus in the famous Greek myth - would meet with a terrible fate.
The sun might have a male presence, but the moon is certainly viewed as a more feminine celestial spirit. In Greek mythology, the god of sun was the mighty Apollo, whereas the god of the moon was his sister, Artemis. The moon could be linked to more female connotations thanks to its cyclic nature. Women's natural cycles were determined by the monthly cycles of the moon, and the tides also worked alongside the lunar phases. In this way, the moon was thought to control cycles in both humans and the natural world.
The moon is shrouded in mystery. It casts light on the things that can't clearly be seen or fully understood, illuminating them with an eerie, halo-like glow. Because of its complex and mysterious nature, it plays a big part in horror and fantasy genres - think of the famous notion of the werewolf emerging by the light of a full moon. Despite this, it holds a somewhat gentle and romantic view as well, as seen in ideas such as moonlight walks and dancing in the moonlight.
The moon is a powerful yet mysterious feminine force that constantly evolves, thus representing birth, death and the cyclic nature of the circle of life.
Stars symbolize spirit and the essence of hope within the darkness. Because of their vast, incalculable number, the stars are often seen as a battle between darkness and light. As a result, there are many connotations relating to faith and protection within the symbolism of the stars. The Star of David, for example, is an instantly recognizable symbol within Jewish faith, while the image of the star shining above the stable in Bethlehem remains a significant sign of guidance within Christianity.
In contemporary culture, the stars also symbolize hope. The notion of "wishing on a star" is prevalent in many modern films and books. The idea of lost loved ones also watching down on us from the stars is another symbol of comfort, faith and hope. It's worth noting that they are also a signal of quality or reward - gold stars are issued to children who have excelled in something, and in the hospitality industry, stars are recognized as a sign of quality and luxury.
To summarize, it's evident that symbolism surrounding the sun, moon and stars has been prevalent since the beginning of human history in many guises. Their meanings have evolved over time, from a god-like deity worship to personal astrological signs. Even now, they remain awe-inspiring symbols.