As we approach the summer solstice, the longest day of the the year, I find myself reflecting on my love of the long, hot days of summer. The bliss of lying on a beach caressed by the kisses of sun and breeze, with the promise of the cool inviting embrace of the sea by my side, is one of my most favorite forms of relaxation. Though the ozone layer has thinned and I can only indulge this desire in small doses now, I still love the feeling of the sun on my skin as She paints colored visions in my mind’s eye.
She – how can I personify the sun as She when from across the world we hear only of Sun Gods and Moon Goddesses? Yet hidden deep in mythology one discovers that long, long ago the sun was worshipped as a goddess. From Aditi – Hindu Solar Goddess from India to Uelanuhi – Cherokee Goddess of the Sun, the sun Goddesses symbolize, with female imagery, the power and life force of the sun. Aditi was seen as the keeper of the light that illuminates all life and ensures consciousness. She was the source of all, giving birth to the universe and the heavenly bodies. Uelanuhi was responsible for dividing time into units. She was aided by Grandmother Spiderwoman’s web to capture the sun’s warmth for humankind.
Likewise, before the ultimate life-giving power of the sun shifted from the Goddess to the God, my ancient Celtic ancestors worshipped a Sun Goddess. Sulis, a Gaulish and Brythonic goddess, has the iconography of a solar deity. The name “Sulis” has a complex etymology, with various overlapping meanings. Her name may be related to the proto-Celtic word for sun, from which the Old Irish súil (eye) was derived. which probably leads to one of Her title, “The Bright One”. Her hair radiates around her face like the sun surrounded by sun rays.
Another interpretation of the name Sulis is “Provider of Healing Waters”. She is associated with healing springs in general and the natural hot springs of Bath, England in particular. Archaeological evidence shows that the mineral hot springs at Bath were first used by Neolithic people at least 10,000 years ago. The Celts, who arrived in England around 700 BCE, probably found Sulis already ruling there. Most likely they built the first shrines at the springs. The Celts, who honored the sun on Beltane instead of the summer solstice, held their fire-festival on May 1 in reverence of Sulis.
During Roman times these baths were named Aquae Sulis, honoring Sulis as the Great Goddess of this site. The Roman’s merged Sulis with Minerva, thus giving Sulis rule over home and state. As Sulis/Minerva, She was the Goddess of City, Handcrafts and Agriculture. Agriculture is a domain that an ancient Sun Goddess could easily protect and nourish.
Through Her association with the warrior aspects of Minera, Sulis had the power to witness oaths, catch thieves, and find lost objects. Many curse tablets found at Bath call on Sulis to cast punishment on the guilty.
Sulis, Goddess of Healing, Prophecy, and Blessings is associated with healing waters and served by priestesses who kept Her eternal flame burning. The perpetual fires and the hot waters remind us of Sulis’s origins as a Sun Goddess.
Her symbols are antlers, symbols of the sun’s rays, and eyes, symbols of the sun. She is often depicted with an owl, symbolizing wisdom.
Sulis’s power reflects the divine light of the sun filtered through the healing power of water, helping Her human children and their plants to grow and prosper.
When Sulis appears take note of any psychic visions or premonitions while seeking Her help in their understanding. Place a statue of Sulis in your garden to aide in the nourishment of the plants. On your next visit to a hot spring, invoke the name of Sulis as you meditate on the healing of your body and soul. Call on Sulis for blessings on your personal journey to light, health, and wholeness.
One of my favorite places in the world is a beach named Eftalou on the Greek island of Lesbos. Here an ancient hot spring surfaces right where the Aegean meets the shore. The sun shines brightly as the hot waters flow into the cold waters of the sea. Surely Sulis would be at home here with Her Greek Goddess Sisters.
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Originally from New Orleans, she has traveled in Mexico, Central America, China, Europe and Greece and lived in Mexico and Greece. The passion and bright colors of many of these places have affected her palette and style. Judith makes art, dances with abandon and experiences the world through travel and study. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at http://judithshawart.com
20 thoughts on “Sulis, Celtic Sun Goddess of Healing and Prophecy by Judith Shaw”
Lucy Goodison’s dissertation on Minoan religion argued that the Sun was female as were the earth and the waters in ancient Crete.
It is important for those of us who are reclaiming the Goddess to realize that that idea that the Sun is male and the Moon is female is a legacy of the Indo-European invasions: this concept is found in all of the Indo-European languages.
As we reclaim our female selves, we need to know that we are not restricted to the dark, the unconscious, or the unformed. All of life, light and dark, conscious and unconscious, formed, forming, and unformed were once imagined to be female. We affirm all of these as parts of ourselves, parts of all selves.
Thanks for your eloquent art and words.
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In general you’re right about Indo-European concepts of sun and moon, but in German it’s DIE Sonne (feminine) and DER Mond (masculine).
So very true Carol – the journey to reclaiming all of our selves as whole is a good one. I am excited to be learning about our ancient roots when the sun and the moon and all of life were included in the female experience. May we return to that consciousness soon!
Yes, yhis is THE way to rediscover our true nature. The parthenogenetic Mother of All is EVERYTHING. Thank you sisters.
Brava! Splendid blog. Back in the late 80s, when hardly anyone believed that a sun deity could be anything but male (projective energy and all that), I read two new, nonfiction books about sun goddesses and then began a novel about the daughter of the sun goddess. I wrote it on a typewriter. She had lots of adventures, and by the time I got to about 400 pages, my little sun goddess was in eclipse beneath a temple somewhere. She refused to come out. She was tired. I was tired. I never finished the novel. I have no idea where all those pages went. But it’s good to see that nowadays people are seeing and acknowledging sun goddesses and moon gods. Hooray!
And Barbara, probably one of those books was Pat Monaghan’s _O Mother Sun_, a great book about sun goddesses all over the world.
Barbara, wouldn’t it be wonderful if those 400 pages appeared again and you could finish that novel! Nancy – one more book to add to my growing book list.
That sounds like a book I’d love to read!
Reblogged this on Journeying to the Goddess and commented:
It was hard for me to wrap my head around a Sun Goddess after having it instilled since starting out on my Path that the sun was masculine and the moon was feminine – especially as my interests were piqued by the Germanic and Norse hearth cultures. The idea that Sól or Sunna, a Goddess of the sun, was so strange – and stranger yet, Máni, brother of Sól, the moon personified! But as Carol P. Christ commented on this post, “As we reclaim our female selves, we need to know that we are not restricted to the dark, the unconscious, or the unformed. All of life, light and dark, conscious and unconscious, formed, forming, and unformed were once imagined to be female. We affirm all of these as parts of ourselves, parts of all selves.”
Lest we not forget the different Goddesses found throughout the world in other cultures that have solar associations http://www.goddess-guide.com/sun-goddesses.html
Daughter, I felt the same when I first discovered Sulis and her roots as a Sun Goddess. So many goddesses to learn about – so much to rediscover.
Judith, Thanks for this post. For me, it had a great deal of synchronicity, since yesterday I led a Summer Solstice Celebration in which I told the story of Saule (pronounced Sool), the sun goddess of the Balts. She, too, is associated with the sun and the water, and I realized that at summer solstice, when the crops are already in, what you need is enough sun and enough water. I also wonder to what extent the Balts and the Celts worshipped the same goddess, give the similarities of their names.
Oh, and I love your painting of Sulis. It really resonates with me, all that hot, hot orange and gold, and the green living plants reaching up to her radiance, and a taproot into the earth. It was predicted that it would rain all day yesterday here in Madison, but the sun was out when we did our ritual — how I do love magic!
Nancy that is so true. We need both sun and water. Here in the Southwest we are suffering from lack of water and a lot of sun.
That’s interesting about Saule and your Summer Solstice Celebration. I wonder also if there’s an connection between the two – bet there is….
There is also alectrona the Greek sun goddess ekhi of basque xihe of China thân mat troi sun goddess in Vietnamese gun Ana of turkic barbale of georgian and more the sun is not male all the way
Definitely true. There are many, many sun goddesses which is really not surprising considering the life-giving qualities of both women and the sun. There’s even a book out all about sun goddesses.