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Moloney, J.C. (1963). Carnal Myths Involving the Sun. Am. Imago, 20(1):93-104.

(1963). American Imago, 20(1):93-104

Carnal Myths Involving the Sun

James Clark Moloney, M.D.

The disappearance of the sun at night and the reappearance of the sun in the morning were phenomena that commanded the attentions of ancient man. The more remote the man, the more simple were his explanations for the disappearance and reappearance of the sun. (11) The more civilized the ancient man, the more abstract and the more complicated were his descriptions of the sun's behavior. (11)

Early man did not know that the seeming movement or round-the-earth rotation of the sun was an illusion. Furthermore, he knew very little about the nature of the sun's warmth, the cause of the sun's winter aloofness, the reason for the disappearance of the sun at night, nor for the sun's reappearance in the morning. He was baffled by the seeming redness and seeming enlargement of the horizon sun.

The early Polynesians knew that the sun was indispensible to life. Consequently any lack of knowledge about the nature of the sun caused them anxiety. To allay this anxiety they struggled to control the sun. In myth they attempted to net and to tie the sun down. (9) But despite the accuracy of the tools of early man for measurement of the illusory movement of the sun, early man lived in an atmosphere of never ending suspense. To mitigate suspense some ancients invested the sun with activities that they had borrowed from other sources.

They ascribed to the sun, to its celestial pathway, to its relationship with the earth, the biological functions of animals. Since their knowledge of the life giving sun was too inadequate to reassure them they splinted or reinforced this knowledge with putative facts about the functions of the organs of animals. They insinuated animal activities into the great organ—the sun.

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