Sun Tattoos: the Force of Total Perfection

When we decide to tattoo a symbol of this kind on our skin, we are not only choosing an astronomical phenomenon but a primeval force of total perfection…

Some physics facts

The sun, the celestial body which makes it possible for our ecosystem to exist, is just a star. And around it orbit a number of bodies known to us: eight main planets (including our own Earth), a number of dwarf planets with their own satellites, and all manner of other minor bodies such as asteroids and comets. The sun is unimaginably huge (it alone takes up 99% of the space in our solar system) and is made up of hydrogen (74% of its mass) and helium. Then there’s its distance from us, a distance we could never travel, partly because we would be burnt to a cinder during our stellar voyage, partly because we would have to cover one hundred and fifty million kilometres in order to reach its edge.

James Tattooart, Tempel Tattoo, Munich, Germany
James Tattooart, Tempel Tattoo, Munich, Germany

The ancient cult of Ra

For ancient peoples, the sun was no less than a synonym for the divine. The Egyptians adored Ra (the “Sun God”), a creature which had emerged from the primeval waters of Nun. Legend had it that every single night Ra sailed into the underworld (the Duat, the twilight region of Osiris) on his royal barge, crossed Chaos and finally, at daybreak, reappeared triumphant among the living. His power was so great that the Egyptians saw him as the actual creator of man, on a par with the Christian God. He also bore the title of “First Pharaoh” and consequently was the inspiration for the most memorable Egyptian architectural works, the Pyramids. His perfection was such that the symbol of Ra was and is an enormous solar disc with a geometric dot in its exact centre.

The Apollo figure

The western world first encountered the cult of the sun through the Greek divinity Apollo (Phoebus Apollo for the Latin world). Apollo was a prototype of the “ideal man” and is often portrayed in the visual art of the time as a naked figure, brash, muscular, the epitome of pure masculine beauty. In the Greek pantheon, he was seen as the god of the arts, medicine, music and prophecy. All of these qualities led him to supplant Helios (the god of the physical Sun) in the collective imagination.

Jacob Gardner, House of Solace, Coolangatta, Australia
Jacob Gardner, House of Solace, Coolangatta, Australia

Sol Invictus

The cult of Sol Invictus coincided with the advent of Emperor Aurelian who proclaimed himself the supreme priest of the sun. The celebrations of the “birth of the sun” (or “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” which we could translate from Latin as “Birth of the Sun which shall never again be defeated”), had already been celebrated for centuries, especially in Syria and Egypt, on the night of 25th December (does that date remind you of anything?).

The Christmas similarity

The rites of the “Sun birth” required some celebrants to retire to special sanctuaries and only emerge from these exactly at midnight, announcing that a virgin had given birth to the sun itself who was represented as a little baby. This cult survived in Pagan form until the advent of Christianity and it was officially recognised as as a proper religion on 27th February 380 in the famous Edict of Thessalonika pronounced by Emperor Theodosius I.”On this day, the 25th of December,” – Chrysostom wrote – “the nativity of Christ was decided upon in Rome”.

The Sovereign Sun

The Sun represents the heart of each individual seeing as how it is situated at the centre of the solar system precisely like the cardiac muscle is positioned in the centre of the human body. This is the origin of the recurring archetype of the Sovereign Sun in the shape of a mind capable of governing the “kingdom”, a metaphor for our life in general. A good Sovereign Sun will be able to lead those who have one to a prosperous life, a happy one full of opportunities and in harmony with their natural surroundings. A bad Sovereign Sun can only lead us into the morass of self-doubt and into the annihilation of the shadows. A life in the Sun, when all is said and done, is a life worth living…