Often recognized as the antipodal to the Moon, Sun symbolizes potency and energy due to its intensity and life-giving qualities. As in many cultures, the Sun acts as an emblem of life and creative power. The reverse side of this benevolence is its scorching, destructive potential.
Sun appears often in Northwest Coast art and is featured prominently in stories, often acting as a compassionate spirit guide. Although Sun is often personified as masculine, among the Nuu-chah-nulth, Sun and Moon, who are married, represent the highest powers. This indicates one of the few instances when Sun is characterized as female (Shearar).
In Haida stories, the Sun was stolen by Raven which led to great benefits for all of humankind. Before being released and illuminating the whole world, the Sun was kept in a box by an old man. Many tales also recall a time when the Sun overwhelmed and scorched the earth and its inhabitants (Shearar).
In some cases, the Sun is personified as a very elderly man. Dancers playing the part of Sun will often walk the stage slowly, just as an old man might. Despite the Kwakwaka’wakw regard of Sun as an old man, the Sun is depicted as having strong power in narratives that recognize his creative abilities (Shearar). For example, some stories illustrate that a single sunbeam is strong enough to impregnate a woman, meaning that Sun has many children such as the Mink.
Artistic Characteristics of the Sun
In art, many jewellers characterize the Sun by a round, humanoid face with any number of surrounding rays, or at least the suggestion of rays (Dawkins). The rays may be shown in the shape of hands, which expresses the creative and benevolent nature of the Sun (Shearar).
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