The Sun is the star around which Earth and the rest of the planets in the solar system orbit. The earth orbits the sun at an average distance of 93 million miles and takes 365.26 days to complete a revolution—known as a sidereal year. The plane upon which the Earth travels around the Sun is called the ecliptic. From the perspective of the Earth, it appears as if the Sun is revolving around the Earth against a particular band of background stars. This band of 12 constellations is known as the Zodiac. The moon and all the planets orbit within the confines of this 18-degree-wide band, with the Sun apparently traveling on the ecliptic, its center. Therefore the latitude of the Sun is always zero. Although the Sun never appears to retrograde in the sky as the other planets do, it does appear to slow down in speed as the Earth distances itself from it in its annual orbit. This occurs during the northern hemisphere's summer months when the Sun's apparent speed falls under its mean 59 minutes and 8 seconds per day. Astrologically, it rules the sign of Leo where it is most comfortable and is exalted in the sign of Aries where the Babylonians considered it to be held in special esteem.

A seventeenth-century engraving of the Sun. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

The Mesopotamian civilizations were some of the earliest to systematically observe the movements of the Sun and planets in the sky. Because of the difficulty in locating the sun against the map of the stars during the day, the Babylonians had two methods by which they inferred its position in the zodiac. In the first method they noted the phase of the Moon and its zodiacal position and from that inferred where the Sun was located in the sky. Therefore, if the Moon were in its waxing quarter phase and located in the sign of Virgo, one could deduce that the Sun was somewhere in the sign of Gemini. In the other method, the Babylonians located the Sun by observing the constellations rising and setting just before and after the Sun, when its light was dim enough to be able to observe the star map. This second method was also popular amongst the Egyptians who used a solar calendar and had mapped the sky into constellations. In contrast, the lunar Babylonian calendar allowed them to discover that 19 solar years were roughly equal in length to 235 lunar months. This is known as the Metonic cycle, whose 19-year solar period is important in the timing of events in Hellenistic astrology.

In Sumerian the Sun was known as Utu and in Akkadian as Shamash, the names of the two solar deities of Mesopotamia. However, according to Nick Campion, the two words could mean either the visible planet or the hidden power within it, i.e. the god. Campion argues that the Sumerians considered the planets and stars to be under the power or authority of specific deities, but that they were not understood as the planet itself. This is one of the reasons why the sun-god is not the most central figure in the Mesopotamian mythologies nor of that of the Greeks who mapped much of their Pantheon onto the sky religion of the Babylonians. Another related explanation, as Robert Powell points out, is that the Babylonians noted that none of the planets were always visible in the sky, therefore no single deity could have supreme authority. Instead they governed through a council made up of all seven gods. During the Babylonian history, Marduk (the deity associated with the planet Jupiter) established himself as the president of the Council, but the Moon god, Sin, had also been known as "lord of the gods" in a time before the rulership of Marduk. Similarly during the Old Babylonian period of the Amorite king Hammurabi (1792-1750 b.c.e.), the sun god Shamash was considered the "king of the gods." In fact "Hammu" was the old Semitic name for the sun-god and thus, according to Powell, points to the worship of the solar deity.

Shamash was the son of Sin (a male lunar deity) and brother of Ishtar (associated with the planet Venus). He was the great benefactor to humanity because he ignited and supported the growth of life through his light and warmth. However, the early civilizations of the arid Mediterranean and Middle East, were all too aware of the Sun's scorching rays and his ability to burn up crops and dry up rivers and lakes. In Hellenistic and Hindu astrology this translated into a negative influence of the Sun when it was positioned too close to one of the other planets. The planet was designated as "combust" (within 8° from the Sun) or "under the Sun's beams" (within 17°) and was either interpreted as being hidden or operating in secrecy (out of sight), according to Hellenistic astrology, or as weak and ineffective in the Jyotish tradition. This concept of light translating into a higher degree of "sight" finds an echo in the Greek sun-god Helios who was also the god of seeing and often invoked to heal blindness. Medieval astrology, which was largely an Arabic evolution of the Hellenistic tradition, regarded combustion as especially detrimental. Guido Bonatti (thirteenth century) says: "A corporal conjunction with the Sun is the greatest misfortune that can befall a planet." To William Lilly, the Sun is associated with eyesight, cataracts, eye diseases and the brain—and an echo of this can be found in Vedic astrology.

One of the more notable characteristics of the Babylonian sun-god was that he was the arbiter of justice, a role associated with Jupiter in modern astrology. Powell explains this perspective in terms of the interpretation of the Sun's regularity as "infallibility," a desirable trait in the arbitration of justice. In Jacobsen, it is Utu's ability to "enlighten" or to have "clarity of vision" which is considered when he says Utu is the "power in light, the foe of darkness. On the social place he therefore becomes a power for justice and equality.. He is therefore the judge of god and men, presiding in the morning in courts such as the one we know from the Bathhouse Ritual, where demons and other evil doers are sued by their human victims. At night he judges disputes among the dead of the netherworld. He is the last appeal of the wronged who can obtain no justice from their fellow men, and their cry of despair to him, 'i-Utu!' was feared as possessing supernatural power" (as noted in Nick Campion's Cosmos: A Cultural History of Astrology.

Conversely, Hellenistic astrologers also noticed that the Sun's close rays could hide other planets and keep them from exerting their powers in an obvious way. This dual nature of the Sun is described in Ariel Guttman and Kenneth Johnson's Mythic Astrology in terms of the Greek myth involving the other solar deity, Apollo. While Helios personified the physical Sun, driving his chariot across the sky and ordering the days and the seasons, Apollo represented the Soul of the Sun. After Apollo was born of Leto and Zeus on Delos, he searched for a place where he could build his shrine. He came across a site that was guarded by a giant python, on what became known as Delphi. Apollo slew the serpent and set up his shrine, which became the oracle of Delphi where messages received by a prophetess known as the Pythoness were thought to be direct messages from the sun-god himself. Two admonitions written on the temple gates read: "Know thyself" and "Nothing in excess." According to Guttman and Johnson, the myth and the messages depict Apollo and the Sun as the "reconciler of opposites," the power of the masculine directive principle to unite with the more mystical feminine principle lying beneath directed consciousness. These two polarities are born out in the activities governed by Apollo requiring focused consciousness: mathematics, science, archery; and those requiring a deeper mystical consciousness—prophecy, dreams, oracles. As god of music and healing, Apollo depicts this ability to create order out of the numinous. Similarly, Shamash is often depicted as rising between two mountains, which to Guttman and Johnson represent the boundaries of the world—the polarities of human consciousness.

In Robert Schmidt's reconstruction of Hellenistic astrology, he distills the basic nature of the Sun as one involving the principles of selection and preference. In concrete terms these can be translated into significations of kings, leaders, the father, the head, the heart, friendship, honors, important people, gold, statues, judgment, reputation, rank, etc. Modern psychological astrology interprets the position of the Sun in the natal chart as indicative of one's ego, self-confidence, will, and intention. An exaggeration of these functions can lead to exaggerated pride, conceit, arrogance, and egocentrism. In both conceptualizations, the idea of choice and the elevation of a particular thing over another is fundamental. Glenn Perry describes the role of the Sun as the "decider subsystem" of the psyche. "The Sun is responsible for expressing or suppressing the various functions that the planets symbolize The Sun has to regulate the expression of every planet." Thus, as in the Apollo myth, the Sun is responsible for reconciling the extreme expressions of the human psyche, much in the same way that its central astronomical position regulates and balances the planets within its gravitational sphere. In a more ancient vernacular, Vettius Valens similarly says: "The all-seeing Sun, existent in a fire-like manner and as the light of the mind, the organ of perception of the soul."

While one may see in Vettius Valen's allusions to the Sun as soul, modern concepts inherent in transpersonal psychology, Schmidt states that this particular text "seems to imply that the Sun has this role in the cosmos as a whole, not in the native." The Hellenistic form of astrology which Valens practiced was rooted in a Neoplatonic conceptualization of the universe as a cosmic animal with intelligence and language. In Plato's Republic, the highest God was called "the Good" and the Sun was envisioned as its archetype or "the son of the Good." Therefore the Good was considered a "trans-

mundane sun" who created the world and everything in it through the power of its reason or Logos. In the Gospel of St. John (1:1-2), the Logos is referred to as the divine word: "In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God. According to St. John, the Logos incarnated as Christ who was therefore identified with the spirit of the Sun. It is against this background that early Christians placed the birth of Christ on December 25, which was the date of the pagan festival of Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun) and the date on which the winter solstice was celebrated (when Helios was thought to be reborn as his light increased until the summer solstice).

A case for the physical, as well as the symbolic influence of the Sun on the affairs of human beings has been made by natural astrologers such as Percy Seymour. It is well known by scientists that the Earth's magnetic field is affected by the Sun's magnetic activity (sunspots and solar flares) which rises and falls in 22-year cycles. Seymour argues that not only does the Sun's magnetic field affect events on Earth, as is evidenced from marks in tree rings every 22 years, but the other planets in the solar system also affect the magnetic activity occurring on the Sun. Specifically, "Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune cause the little eddy currents that cause the sun's magnetic field to reverse or flip over." Michel Gauquelin's lesser known studies involving planetary heredity have shown evidence that children born on days when solar activity is more disturbed, are more likely to have the same planets as their parents in certain parts of the birth chart. "The number of hereditary similarities between the child and the parent is two and a half times greater if the child has entered the world on a magnetically disturbed day than if the child is born on a calm day."


Aveni, Anthony. Stairways to the Stars. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997. Campion, Nick. Cosmos: A Cultural History of Astrology. London: London Books, 2001. DeFouw, Hart, and Robert Svoboda. Light on Life. New York: Arkana Penguin Books, 1996. Gauquelin, Michel. Cosmic Influences on Human Behavior. Santa Fe, NM: Aurora Press, 1994. Guttman, Ariel, and Kenneth Johnson. Mythic Astrology. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1998. Holden, James Herschel. A History of Horoscopic Astrology. Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers, 1996.

Lehman, J. Lee. Classical Astrology for Modern Living. Atglen, PA: Whitford Press, 1996. Louis, Anthony. Horary Astrology Plain and Simple. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1998. Perry, Glenn. Mapping the Landscape of the Soul. San Rafael, CA: Association of Astrological Psychology, 2001.

Powell, Robert. History of the Planets. San Diego: ACS Publications, 1985. Schmidt, Robert. Original Source Texts and Auxiliary Materials for the Study of Hellenistic Astrology. Cumberland, MD: Phaser Foundation, 2002. Seymour, Percy. Interview in Mountain Astrologer. August/September 1998. Wilson, James. A Complete Dictionary of Astrology. London: W. Hughes, 1819.

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