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solar symbols

verginaA distinct eight, twelve, or sixteen rayed figure, Called the sun of Vergina.  It is so named for a stunning example found on a larnax (coffin) in the tomb of Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great and a notable member of the Argead Dynasty.  The motif itself is ubiquitous in Greek and Macedonian art.  It is most likely a solar symbol, being found in temple art depicting the sun God Helios.

Other notable examples of the motif have been found at Eleusis and at the Temple of Nemesis.

Since the discovery of the Tomb in Vergina, the sun emblem has made its way onto a number of Greek and Macedonian coins, flags, and other objects as a symbol of cultural identity.

Vergina sun from Eleusis


On an ancient coin from Crete



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sborjgali2Hecate's wheel



borjgaliThe borjgali appears on Georgian money and official documents and is a pervasive symbol of national pride. It consists of an ancient, seven-winged solar wheel, often shown rising from a symbolic tree of life. 

The solar wheel is similar to wheels found throughout Europe, especially in Norse and Iberian art.  Similar symbols are found in Armenian stonework.


In modern usage, the tree’s upward-reaching branches purportedly symbolize hope; the lower branches, the past.

Norse sun wheel


Borjgali on Georgian coin
Borjgali on Georgian coin


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The monstrance is the ceremonial vessel used in during the Roman Catholic Mass to display the consecrated communion host. Although the monstrance has taken many shapes during the period of its use, it typically, takes the shape of a solar cross, with a clear central area made of glass or crystal. The host is usually placed in a small crescent shaped holder within the crystal, called a lunette due to its moon-like shape.

Upon the death of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican televised broadcast only an empty monstrance while preparing to announce the Pontiff’s passing.

An ornate Monstrance or Ostensorium

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A common symbol of the ancient Assyrian/Mesopotamian Sun God Shamash. It is often referred to as the “Seal of Shamash,” and appears near images of the God, or to represent his presence when worn by Kings or in inscriptions.

The Seal of Shamash is a typical solar symbol, and probably represents the Sun Wheel, or solar calendar, much like the Celtic Cross or the Pueblo Zia. The four arms most likely represent the solstices and equinoxes, which were extremely important calendar days in ancient agrarian cultures.

Image of Shamash- Click for Gallery

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A Halo in religious art is a symbolic representation of the aura or nimbus of light believed in many cultures to surround a Godly or enlightened person. Halos are used especially in Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, and Hindu religious images to depict holiness. Halos can also be found in ancient Roman and Greek art, which were direct influences on the practice in Christian art.


The practice is more than likely a holdover from the identification of deities with the sun.

Hindu Krishna; Apollo with halo; pre-Christian Buddha



The point within the circle is another of the many geometric symbols used in Freemasonry. It is also one of the more complex and interesting. The emblem is a very old one, a solar-phallic symbol used in ancient Egypt to represent the eternal nature of the sun god Ra. The lines which enclose the circle call to mind the akhet, the ancient ‘gate’ of the sun, a symol of rebirth and resurrection.

In the Masonic Lodge, the emblem is associated with St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, whose feast days fall on the summer and winter solstices.

To the Pythagoreans, the point and circle represented eternity, whose “centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.” The point and the circle can be expressed as the same substance as potential (the point or monad) and as fully manifest (the circle.)

Alchemically, the point in the circle represents the sun and philosophic gold.

The point and circle as the monad, from Achilles Bocchius’ illustration of Hermetic Silence

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The Point in the Circle

The language of symbols



This image is an ancient Zia Pueblo sun symbol. “Zia” means sun, and is also the name of the symbol.

Today it is the sole symbol on the flag of the State of New Mexico, but the symbol is very old- it is found on pottery, art, and other artifacts of the Zia Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

The number four is sacred to the Zia Indians, and this emblem embodies this number as the powers of nature- the sun, the four directions, seasons, and the ages of man.

Zia tribes have sought compensation for New Mexico’s “unauthorized” use of the symbol.

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Solar Cross

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The keystone is a significant symbol in the York Rite of Freemasonry, where it figures in the unfolding symbolic tale of Hiram the builder. In masonic lore, Hiram is the inventor of the keystone, and its significance is lost upon his assassination. The ritual narrative centered around this stone recalls the biblical “stone the builders refused,” as the uninitiated, not knowing the purpose of the oddly-shaped stone, consign it to the rubbish heap. It is only rediscovered when King Solomon inquires after its whereabouts.

The letters inscribed are short for the coded phrase: “Hiram The Widows Son Sent to King Solomon,” an obvious cipher, the meaning of which is likely lost.

In masonry, the keystone is the stone that holds together a stone arch. The oddly-shaped keystone is a feat of early engineering, allowing builders to incorporate windows, doorways, and other building elements to a building without sacrificing strength.  The main benefit of this innovation is to allow for much more natural light in a structure.

Symbolically, the stone is the last placed, completing the arch created by the pillars Jachim and Boaz. It is analogous to coagulation in the alchemical process, an emblem of completion.  Astrologically, the keystone represents the summer solstice- the sun entering the sign of Cancer at its highest point in the northern sky, as illustrated below:

Arches, from 3rd century home church at Dura Europa

Arches, from 3rd century home church at Dura Europa

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Skull and Bones (crossbones) Vitruvian Man Ashlar

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The IHS is a symbolic monogram of Christ used by the Roman Catholic Church. This monogram consists of the Greek letters iota, eta, and sigma, the first three letters of the name Iesous (Greek for Jesus), the letters of which are also used to spell out the Latin phrase “Iesous Hominem Salvator,” “Jesus, savior of man.” It relates to the story of Constantine, whose vision of the Chi-Rho was recorded by Church Father Eusebius. In the vision, Constantine was reported to have heard a voice proclaim, “In this symbol, thou shalt conquer.” Therefore, the IHS has also stood for “In Hoc Signo,” in this sign.

The symbol as it appears at right originated in Rome with the early Christians, and was popularized in the fifteenth century by Franciscan disciple Bernardine of Sienna, who promoted it as a symbol of peace.

Some evangelicals have theorized that the initials stand for “Isis, Horus, and Seb,” and are related to Egyptian sun worship, but this is a spurious claim that has never been supported by any solid evidence. Solar and Lunar symbolism have been in continual use by the Church and are most likely continuances of Roman ceremonial symbolism. There is, however, good evidence that the initials were once used to represent Bacchus, the god of wine, who early Christians identified with Jesus.

The IHS emblem today most commonly represents the communion wafer, and is closely associated with the Jesuit Order. The solar rays often depicted surrounding the emblem represent the monstrance (Ostensorium),* a decorated vessel used to display the Communion Host. The solar symbolism is probably ancient in origin, and probably borrowed from Roman ritual implements.

The three nails pictured on some examples represent the nails of the crucifix.

IHS carving in the Roman catacombs Another style

*A monstrance or ostensorium is any decorative vessel used to display relics or holy objects, but most often refers to those used to display the consecrated Host.

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Red KingChi-ro


The astrological glyph for the sun, and the alchemical symbol for Gold. This symbol originated in ancient Egypt as a symbol for the sun God Re. The sun represents the pinnacle of spiritual development and human achievement.

For more, see: Point in the circle


The Solar Disk Re
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Coptic CrossAssyrian winged solar disk


This image is taken from the 23rd image in a series of drawings from the seventeenth century alchemical work attributed to Eugenius Philalethes, the Speculum Veritatis (Mirror of Truth.) This simple symbol of a fire triangle with three radiating arrows below represents the “Perfect Red King,” the Sulfur of the Philosophers.

In alchemy, sulphur represents Sol, the fiery male element (the counterpart of Luna, mercury, the female element) of the Celestial marriage (conjunctio). Chemically, the red sulfur was a mixture of mercury (spirit) and sulfur (soul), the marriage of which also represented the spiritual goal of alchemical work. This emblem appears in the Constantine, the movie adaptation of the Hellblazer Comic Book series, as a tattoo worn as a protective device by the title character, used to summon the angel Gabriel.

The Red King and the White Queen; illustration of conjunctio
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Coptic Cross


The winged disk emblem is found in many ancient cultures around the world. The winged sun disk is one of the oldest religious symbols on earth, and it is invariably a solar symbol.

The Egyptian figure pictured above is called Behedti, with the wings of Horus, and represents the omnipotence of the sun God Re, and the divinity of the Pharaoh.

An Assyrian winged disk represents the sun God Shamash:

A similar figure, the faravohar, is associated with the prophet Zoroaster.

Some believe the depiction of the winged disk in ancient cultures is based on the appearance of the sun’s corona during a solar eclipse, as seen below:

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Akhet means dawn, or horizon, in the Kemet (Egyptian) language. An amulet shaped like the akhet represented the daily rebirth of the sun. The lower shape represents the djew, or sacred mountain, later represented by the pylons of solar temples. The akhet was guarded by the Aker, a double headed lion who insured the safe passage of the sun-barque (boat).

The akhet, guarded by the Aker
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Temple PylonsUraeusAten