It seems almost ridiculous to be writing a post proving that Norse had a sun-goddess. After all, it’s right there in the sources that the sun is a goddess, either a human plucked from the earth to drive the sun’s chariot, or else a being who goes back to the time of creation.
In this post I have assembled all the written evidence I could find for sun-worship in pre-Christian Germanic and Scandinavian culture. I haven’t covered rock art or other visual evidence for the cult of the sun here as that is a post in itself.
We all know that Yggdrasil is the World Tree of Norse myth, and that it holds together the nine worlds. However, the Norse, like the Finns and the Hindus of India, seem to have had some notion of a world mill (or churn) as well, which turned the heavens and could grind out various products. This cosmic mill shows through the confused myths about the sun and moon.
This post covers the darker side of Helios‘ family. These include Circe, Pasiphaë, and his granddaughters Medea and Hecate. Unlike his brighter descendants, who were mostly the children of Klymene, these were the children of Perseis, an Oceanid nymph. (Her name comes from the word persô, meaning to destroy, slay, ravish, or sack with fire, so perhaps her dangerous offspring shouldn’t be a surprise.)
The family of the sun-god Helios features many minor goddesses of sun and light. Helios is the main god of the sun; his name, and his resemblance to many Indo-European sun-gods and goddesses puts that out of doubt, but it is interesting how solar females cluster around him.
Some of these goddesses may well have had their own solar cults long ago, but it’s impossible to verify now. Two of them were his mother and aunt, the other was his daughter. (Helios’s lineage also includes the witches Circe and Medea, as well as Hecate, a grand-daughter in some versions of her family tree.)
Bricta is a complex goddess, whose name comes either from the same root as Brigit: “Highest”, or else from a Gaulish word for a spell or curse. Her cult centers on Luxeuil in France, which is rich in thermal and other springs. Several dedications to her, as well as many offerings, were found at the site of the Gallo-Roman thermal baths.
The Celtic goddess Belisama comes from the south of France, where two inscriptions, from different areas, suggest that her cult was fairly widespread. One of them is to the goddess herself, while the other calls her Minerva Belisama. The first is signficant, since it shows that her cult was from pre-Roman times.
Rattawy, or Raet, is the feminine form of the name Ra, the Egyptian sun-god. Strangely, she has nothing to do with the sun-god’s cult, but seems to have led an independent existence from the 19th Dynasty onward. While some see her as simply “Mrs. Ra”, the only records we have of her tell a very different story.