You may have already read some of the anticipatory articles foretelling comet ISON’s close encounter with the sun which is set to occur Thanksgiving day. Some of the excitement around this event comes not just from scientists and stargazers, but from laypeople wondering how it will all play out. Sun worshipers can give thanks that they are not living on ISON. Will the comet explode? Or will it pass by, relatively unaffected by the sun’s intense heat?
Nobody knows for sure. Scientists are not even sure why ISON is moving through space. It is believed to have previously been part of the Oort Cloud, a ball of debris approximately one light year away from the sun. Scientists speculate that several million years ago the gravity of a nearby star drew the comet ISON away from this cloud.
The fascination in this event is not due to the comet itself but the comet’s interaction with the sun. The sun has fascinated humans probably from the beginning of mankind.
Many philosophies and spiritual beliefs have revolved around the sun and its’ awe inspiring power. The first civilization, the Sumerians, had a sun God that over time became the central theme of successive civilizations religious beliefs.
The sun’s supreme position was said to peak with the Egyptians, but later became the center of vigorous worship in South American civilizations. The Aztec, Maya, and Inca dedicated active rituals to the sun.
The Egyptians believed the sun to be the manifestation of God, Ra. In a concept similar to that of Christianity, Ra-Atum created himself from his own will and then created the first devine couple of Shu and Tefnut, god of the air and the goddess of moisture. Atum’s tears gave rise to man who was then responsible for tending to the earth and worshipping their Gods. The sun worshipers gave thanks for its’ life sustaining ability.
Modern societies have come to see the sun as a purely scientific aspect of the universe. The sun is the center of our universe and it controls our lives with light, warmth, and energy. These combine to create seasons and air movement that give us our climate and weather patterns. These in turn control our physical environment and determine our ability to survive.
Even though we claim to understand the sun, we cannot get close enough to it to be able to control it. Our lack of understanding and possibly a lack of respect for it have allowed us to alter the earth in ways that can lead to our own destruction.
While we do not worry about colliding with the sun and burning up we are dealing with the intense heat that could destroy us through a failure to maintain our own planet. In the Egyptian belief system earth was made to provide a home that would support man and man was entrusted with caring for that home and worshipping the gods from which everything came.
As scientists and laypeople look up at the sky this Thanksgiving they are hoping to understand more and maybe watch a spectacular show. Perhaps it will restore respect for those forces that are beyond our control and man will go back to humbly accepting his position of caring for the earth rather than setting it on a path to almost certain destruction. Will sun worship return as people give thanks for the sustenance it provides?
By: Lara Stielow