As I enjoy my Kellogg’s Raisin Bran at breakfast, a benevolent sun smiles down on me from the box. I know from social conditioning as a child (courtesy of television), that the smiling solar disc converted the healthful grapes into equally healthful raisins so that I could grow up to be big and strong. While there is no doubt some truth to this solar myth, it does demonstrate how pervasive solar personification is.
A persistent myth to minds conditioned by trinitarian concepts of early Christianity is that the ancients recognized three major goddesses. Although their names are distinct in the original languages, in English three of them begin with A and form a delightful Trinitiess: Asherah, Anat, and Astarte. So this feminine triune godhead is considered to represent the female power triangle of the ancient Ugaritic world. (Ugaritic, I know, is a far too limited term for what was a widespread idea. On the other hand, “Aramean” and “Canaanite” are inherently problematic!) It has been my contention for years that this construct is A) modern, and B) false.
Throughout the ancient world the sun was considered a major deity. And although deities frequently overlapped in their spheres of interest, the principle Ugaritic deity in charge of the sun is Shapash. (With apologies to Nicolas Wyatt, I simply can not find Asherah in her.) In the surviving Ugaritic mythology, which we know for sure is only a portion of a larger corpus, Shapash appears frequently to enlighten both gods and humans. She guides the dead to their repose in the underworld and provides them with some kind of light while the world sleeps unknowingly above. She even seems to have the ability to cure snake bites. Now in the heat of summer, there is no question of Shapash’s ability to turn our grapes into raisins. She even kept many indoors in India last week as the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century crossed that country (chalk one up for Yarikh). Let’s give the sun her due!