The Most Heavenly Body

Somehow, somewhere along the line, our beautiful star the Sun became associated with Apollo, a son of Zeus. In Hellenic culture, to be Apollonian is to be rational, disciplined, orderly. He was, in fact, a symbol of patriarchy and control.  The sun emerges Apollonian in literature, painting, sculpture... it's the great cleanser, a bringer of knowledge, of security. And even today the sun is thought masculine and Apollonian as a literary and cultural emblem.

The moon, on the other hand, is supposed to be Dionysian, meaning sensual, spontaneous, emotional. She's fickle and perhaps dangerously unreliable, and what light she can reflect is only what radiates from the sun. The Greeks thought the moon was Artemis, goddess of the hunt and sister of Apollo. Romans associated the moon with Diana, who like many things Roman is a copy of the Greek, but still a huntress, wild, emotional, untamed.

One can imagine how ancient ontological simplicity and the semiotically arbitrary grammatical genders given to nouns in Classical tongues could have perpetuated this scheme: The sun is a man, the moon a woman. Perhaps the lunar cycle, waxing and waning from full to lapsed to full yet again every 28 days gives the feminine connection some heft. The sciolistic cosmologies of ancient cultures took strange and remarkable turns, but it is to the Greek and Roman that we owe our most primal emblems here in the West.

Perhaps, then, I am turning my back on 3,000 or more years of ancestral Western dogma when I declare the sun is definitely a woman. I know her, recognize the essential truth of her, and I love her deeply, as she loves me. This is agápē in the Hellenistic sense, at once primal and maternal; I know in my bones that I am made from her, that I and all other matter in this solar system literally emerged from her, and it's only from her that all Earthly fecundity emerges. She can be severe, even savage, but she is always compelling, lovely beyond reckoning, and strange without compare.

I hope some of you will be able to see the solar eclipse in North America this August. You'll see a facet of the sun few people get to see; it will be astonishing and beautiful, unsettling and transformative. You'll never forget what you see.

The point of this little hagiography? Here are a few pictures I've taken of her over the years. You can see that male or female, the sun is not stoic and rational. The sun is very much an emotional thing.