Search Stories

Search Events

The Russian Sun Is Something Money Can Buy

The Russian summer sun, spotted here in Olkhon Island in eastern Siberia, is a precious commodity. Anton Petukhov/Flickr

Languages: Russian (Русский)

Oksana Kondakova

How do Russian people see the sunlight? First, as something material and precious; something money can buy. That ordinary sun—the one that was here before us and will be here long after us—for a Russian person is a gift and a reward one has to work hard for. You may have heard this joke: “This year summer was pretty good, but unfortunately I was working that day.” Russians made it.

For the last couple of years I’ve been staying a lot in my hometown in Siberia. There, the whole year can be divided into eight depressing months of cold, wind and snow—if we are lucky in winter—and three short, magical months of happiness, warmth and sun. Then again comes the sluggish waiting for the summer and treating ourselves with mantras like, “there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” I am talking about Siberia where statistics say 80 percent of days per year are “sunny.” The poor citizens of Moscow and St. Petersburg deserve some sympathy.

So, bearing this context in mind, there’s no surprise that despite all the warnings doctors keep issuing, Russian people will keep laying on the beach until they get sunburns—without a t-shirt on, of course, just to have as much sun as possible.

What t-shirts, pants and decorum should we consider, when every Russian knows that this celebration is too short to miss? You say the sun is shining and you left your swimsuit at home? No worries. People sunbathing in their underwear are not that rare to see. After all, we are all fellows in misery here. Sun in Russia helps to break the ice.

It was sun-starved Russians who made restaurant owners in Turkey, Egypt and Thailand create warning signs saying “No clothes; no entrance.” Those are the same Russians that will jump over all the sanctions and limits in the world to get a sunny vacation, whatever it costs. Because for Russians, sun is something money can buy.

Oksana Kondakova for Vox Orbis, 2015

Солнце для русских – это то, что можно купить за деньги

летом в России. Здесь, на острове Ольхон в восточной Сибири, это ценное зрелище. Антон Петухов/Flickr

Оксана Кондакова

Как воспринимают солнце в России? Как материальную ценность, которую можно купить за деньги. Не шучу. Такую обычную для других народов вещь, как кусочек солнца, которое висело у нас над головой задолго до нашего рождения и будет висеть еще много веков после нас, русскому человеку еще нужно заслужить упорным трудом. Шутка про то, что «Лето в этом году было отличное, но я в этот день работал» - российское изобретение.

Так получилось, что уже пару лет я почти постоянно проживаю в родном сибирском городе, где весь год делится на унылые восемь месяцев холода, ветра, если повезет зимой, снега и волшебные, но короткие три месяца счастья, тепла, солнца и всеобщего сумасшествия по этому поводу. А затем снова вялотекущее существование в ожидании лета и мантры о том, что «у природы нет плохой погоды». И это в Сибири, где количество солнечных дней согласно статистике в среднем составляет около 80% в год. Про несчастных жителей столичных Москвы и Санкт-Петербурга и вовсе можно сочувственно промолчать. Солнце в России ­– это праздник.

В таком контексте становится понятно, почему вопреки всем предостережениям врачей русский человек будет стабильно обгорать до состояния красного рака на пляже или там, где его застала солнечная погода, развлекая других туристов ярким пунцовым цветом всего тела. Которое, естественно, ничем не прикрыто. Чтобы «влезло» как можно больше солнца. Про запас. Какие уж тут футболки, шорты и правила приличия, когда все мы понимаем, что вот-вот и праздник скоро закончится. Случилась солнечная погода, но нет купальника? Не беда. Можно остаться просто в нижнем белье, тут все свои. Солнце в России сближает.

Именно для русских туристов придуманы знаки «без одежды не входить» в ресторанах Турции, Египта и Таиланда, куда мы все равно будем стабильно приезжать каждый отпуск, несмотря на все ограничения и санкции мира. За любые деньги. Ведь солнце для русского – это ценность.

Оксана Кондакова для Vox Orbis, 2015

Slavic Worship of the Sun

Photo: Ancient Slavs worshipped the sun, seen here in a 2008 photo taken in Crimea, Ukraine. Andrew Kuznetsov/Flickr

Lera Burova

Since ancient times people have been depicting the Sun, worshipping, and sanctifying it. The Sun is the source of warmth and light and life and heart: forces and traits of which it is is difficult to downplay to most people. With this universal appreciation, though, came diversification: Many nations had their own symbols and traditional features associated with this luminary.

Slavs also worshipped the Sun. Thus, several gods shared a solar nature in the ancient Russian pagan pantheon: Hors (winter Sun) and Dazhbog (the fire god) had solar aspects related to Svarog, the main Slavic solar deity, depicted as a handsome, mature man.*

It is widely known to contemporary Slavs today that the ancient Slavic calendar was based on events for the four seasonal manifestations or personas of the pagan Sun god. They are Kolyada-Yarilo-Kupayla-Svetovid: deified events marking four solar astronomical points.

Sun worship also came packaged with numerous rules, prohibitions and rites, some of which are still alive nowadays—even when we rarely reflect on their origin. For instance, people working in the fields traditionally never turned their backs to the Sun. And, after the sunset, they did not lend money so that happiness and prosperity would never leave their family. This tradition is still alive as a superstition. In the choreography of folk rituals, too, circular movement, as a rule performs a mimesis of the Sun’s path across the Earth from left to right.

There are also many solar symbols to observe in the folklore and folk art of those descended from solar traditions: a wheel, a falcon, a human eye… These are a few among many others. Solar signs also lent power to amulets. The circle, a cross in a circle, a wheel or a swastika were frequently seen in female costume adornment, as well as in the ornamentation of fabrics and in the carving of various parts of peasant’s houses, spinning tools and furniture.

Today the people’s interest in the Sun is still great. For instance, the one and only museum of the Sun in Europe opened recently in Riga and there is Sun museum in the Russian city of Novosibirsk. In certain Eastern philosophies, like Taoism, solar symbols attract beneficial chi energy and healing to your home. Therefore, the symbol of the Sun is very popular in feng shui.

*Author’s Note: Much of what I know about Slavic traditions of the past comes to me as a speaker of Russian, a Russian national, and one born of Eastern Slavic descent. I myself do keep some solar symbols in my home, but I also seek out other solar symbols from other cultures to pair with the ones at home.

Lera Burova for Vox Orbis, 2015

Славянский культ солнца

Фото: Древние славяне поклонялись солнцу, фото сделано в 2008 году в Крыму, Украина. Андрей Кузнецов/Flickr

Лера Бурова

С незапамятных времен люди изображали Солнце, поклонялись ему и обожествляли его. Солнце — это источник тепла и света, жизни и плодородия, важность которых сложно преуменьшить для любого народа. И, конечно, у каждого из них были свои символы и традиционные особенности, связанные с этим светилом.

Солнце почиталось и славянами. Так, в древнерусском языческом пантеоне солнечной природой обладали сразу несколько богов: Хорс, Дажьбог и Сварог, а солнечный бог изображался в облике прекрасного юноши.

Достоверно известно, что древний славянский календарь строился по явлениям четырех сезонных ипостасей языческого бога солнца — Коляда-Ярило-Купайла-Световит, которые были привязаны к четырем астрономическим солнечным событиям года.

С почитанием солнца связано множество правил, запретов и обрядов, часть из которых жива и в наши дни, и об истоках которых мы давно не задумываемся. Так, к примеру, работающие в поле не становились спиной к Солнцу, а после его захода не давали в долг, чтобы счастье и достаток не покинули семью. А в обрядах и народной хореографии круговое движение совершается, как правило, по солнцу, т.е. слева направо.

В фольклоре и народном искусстве Солнце имело множество символов, таких как колесо, сокол, глаз человека и многие другие. Солярные знаки также играли роль оберегов. Главным образом, это были такие символы, как круг, крест в круге, колесо или свастика, и большей частью они встречались в украшениях женского костюма, а также в орнаментации тканей и резьбе на различных частях крестьянских домой, орудий для прядения и мебели.

Как раньше, так и сейчас интерес людей к Солнцу велик. К примеру, в Риге не так давно был открыт единственный в Европе Музей Солнца, есть музей Солнца и в русском городе Новосибирске. В популярной в наше время восточной философии верят, что символы солнца способны привлекать в дом благотворную энергию ци и исцеление. Отсюда популярность использования символа Солнца в практике фен-шуй. А известный современный самобытный мексиканский художник Серхио Бустаманте творит прекрасные произведения изобразительного и ювелирного искусства в солярной тематике.

*Примечание автора: О славянских традициях прошлых времен я знаю, поскольку сама являюсь носителем русского языка и принадлежу к русскому народу, восходящему к общности восточных славян. В моем доме также имеются предметы с солнечной символикой, и я интересуюсь солярными символами других культур, которые можно было бы добавить к своей коллекции.

Лера Бурова для Vox Orbis, 2015

Perception of the Sun

Photo: During midsummer from Arpoador Beach in Rio de Janeiro, to see the sun setting over the sea is a rare event on the eastward-facing Brazilian coast. Thiago M. Bernardo/Flickr

Michel Teixeira

“I live in a tropical country, blessed by God and beautiful by nature.” This Jorge Benjor song perfectly describes the Brazilian soul. Brazilians like to say that tropical heat defines them as people. The Brazilian way is warm and friendly as a result of a sun that generously shines throughout the year, turning four seasons into two: a hot, wet summer; and a cool, dry winter.

In such a favorable climate, abundant tropical rainforests are spread throughout most of Brazil’s territory. The indigenous peoples were predominantly hunters and gatherers whose rites, instead of worshipping the sun, valued the connection with their ancestors, the rainforest and animals. One stunning example is Quarup, a ritual to honor the notable dead from the tribe found in Xingu River National Park in northeastern Brazil. Contrary to other peoples from South America, there is no notice of Brazilian Indian rites to worship the sun.

Photo: Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Neil Palmer/Flickr

In modern Brazil, however, worshipping the sun means worshipping the summer. Instead of celebrating a day to mark the beginning of the summer season, Brazilians celebrate the sun throughout the three warmest months of the year in the southern hemisphere, especially during Christmas, New Year’s and—most of all—Carnival. This is the time to leave the house for a walk, run, a bike ride, or, for those who live on the coast, to go to the beach. And it was in Arpoador, a beach in Rio de Janeiro, that young Brazilians created an ecumenical, though a bit naïve, ritual to hail the sun at the end of the day: by giving a round of applause to the sunset.

Photo: In modern Brazil worshipping the sun means worshipping the summer. Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr

Michel Teixeira for Vox Orbis, 2015

Relação Com o Sol

Foto: Durante o verão, é raro ver o sol se pondo sobre o mar no litoral brasiliero, voltado para o leste. Thiago M. Bernardo/Flickr

Michel Teixeira

“Moro num país tropical, abençoado por Deus e bonito por natureza”. O trecho da música de Jorge Benjor traduz com precisão a alma brasileira. O calor dos trópicos nos define enquanto povo. O jeito calorososo e hospitaleiro do brasileiro é um reflexo do sol que brilha o ano inteiro, reduzindo, em grande parte do país, as estações do ano a duas: um verão quente e úmido e um inverno ameno e seco.

Esse clima tropical é favorável à proliferação de florestas e, por conta dessa abundância, os grupos nativos eram, predominantemente, caçadores e coletores que, em vez de adorar o sol, tinham ritos que pediam proteção para a floresta, os animais e os antepassados. Um exemplo é o Quarup, ritual em honra aos mortos ilustres da aldeia, realizado por tribos da região do Xingu, no noroeste do Brasil. A o contrário do que acontecia com povos nativos de outras regiões da América do Sul, como nos Andes, não se sabe de rituais indígenas brasileiros voltados para o sol.

Foto: Vista aérea da Floresta Amazônica, próximo a Manaus, capital do estado do Amazonas. Neil Palmer/Flickr

No Brasil contemporâneo, porém, encontramos o culto solar traduzido em culto ao verão. Em vez de um dia para marcar o início da temporada, o brasileiro celebra o sol durante os três meses mais quentes do ano, marcados pelos Natal, o Réveillon e, acima de tudo, pelo carnaval. É tempo de sair de casa para correr, pedalar, caminhar ou, para quem vida no litoral, simplesmente ir à praia. E foi no Arpoador, no Rio de Janeiro, que jovens brasileiros criaram um ritual ecumênico, embora um tanto ingênuo, para saudar o sol ao fim do dia: aplaudir o poente.

Foto: No Brasil contemporâneo, encontramos o culto solar traduzido em culto ao verão. Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr

Michel Teixeira para Vox Orbis, 2015

Chhath Puja: A Worship of Sun, “The God and Environment”

Photo: Sunrise at Kanyakumari, one of the few spots in the world where you can watch the sunrise and sunset from the same area. Mehul Antani/Flickr

Rohan Singh

For faiths and traditions across the world, the sun has been one of the most important deities since the beginning of civilizations. The sun has been revered in many forms and ways. The concept of sun worship is nearly as old as mankind itself. One interesting example of mass scale sun worship is the Chhath Puja, which is celebrated in large parts of north India. It's a festival where reverence is given to Surya Dev (the Sun God) and Chhathi Maa (the Dawn Goddess) in a unique way. The rituals of Chhath Puja are extremely rigorous and include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water, standing in water for long periods of time, and Arghya (offerings) to the setting and the rising sun. In this four-day-long festival, devotees show their gratitude to the sun god for energizing the world and sustaining life on earth.

Photo: Morning view of Chhath Ghat (woshipping of the sun) in northern India. MK Tiwari

Although there is no authentic knowledge of when Chathh Puja was initially started, it is believed that it was celebrated even in the Vedic era. Rigveda has certain hymns of worshiping the Sun which describes similar rituals as that of Chhath Puja. Even in MahābhārataDraupadi is depicted as following similar kinds of rituals.

Photo: A local woman, beginning her day, worshipping god sun, Shiva Lingum and Narmada River. Nevil Zaveri/Flickr

The first day of Chhath Puja is called Nahay Khay. The ladies observing the ritual are called Vratin and they take only one meal on this day. The second day is called Kharna when fast is kept for the whole day, which ends in the evening shortly after sunset. The most rigorous phase of Chhath Puja starts when Vratins go on a fast without water for 36 hours. On the third day, the entire household accompanies the Vratins to a riverbank or water source to make the offerings (Arghya) to the setting sun. The folk songs are sung on the riverbank on the evening of Chhath. On the final day of Chhath Puja, the devotees, along with their family and friends, go to the riverbank before sunrise, in order to make the offerings (Arghya) to the rising sun. The festival ends with the breaking of the fast by the Vratins.

Photo: A small group of devotees on the bank of Narmada River, calling 'har har narmada,' after finishing 'puja’ during the Chhath Puja celebration. Nevil Zaveri/Flickr

The interesting thing is that, instead of idol worship, in Chhath Puja, the visible and physical energy of the Sun is worshipped. It is believed that observing the rituals of Chathh helps the body for the absorption of cosmic energy, giving us strength to fight many diseases. Chathh Puja is the realization of the supreme energy that the sun bestows upon us.

Rohan Singh for Vox Orbis, 2015

Symbolic Sun

Photo: West Papua Delegation celebrates Stonehenge Summer Solstice. (2009) Ann Wuyts/Flickr

Lara Bisdomini

The sun has always had an important symbolic and spiritual meaning in each part of the world, since the Paleolithic. It can represent alternatively life, hope, energy, and/or freedom from darkness. This is why people around the world like to celebrate one day in particular: June 21, the longest day of the year.

Many of you are surely aware of the beautiful celebrations that today take place on June 21 in Stonehenge, England; China; Indonesia; India; etc. In Stonehenge thousands of people get together and admire the suggestive beauty of the sun during sunrise.

Photo: Thousands gathered at Stonehenge to witness the sun rising Thousands gathered at Stonehenge to witness the sun rising on the longest day of the year. Paul Townsend/Flickr

But not everyone knows that the sun and the summer solstice are also celebrated in Italy.

There are actually several Italian miti and leggende (legends and myths) about the sun that are still remembered today and are part of the culture.

One of them, told on the island of Capri to schoolchildren, is the story of an evil witch, jealous of the inhabitants of Capri. As the people in this area of Campania in Southern Italy were looking happy and carefree all the time, the witch decides to put a spell on the king and the prince, transforming them, respectively, into a toad and a lizard. On the summer solstice day, a young lady—also victim of the spell and transformed into a falcon—grabs the little lizard and flies with it towards the sun. When they get back to the island they are free from the spell together with all the other victims, and the island is invaded by magical sun light.

Today June 21 continues to represent a day of celebrations in Capri. But even more, the legend inspired a line of solar jewelry. The jewelry is scarcely advertised, but for the close observer, they will notice the same solar jewelry theme in a number of shop windows.

Editor’s Note: Italians’ miti e leggende reveal thinking about their world and can even explain the existence of certain forms of tangible and intangible heritage. For instance, statues of Romulus and Remus - twins sired by Mars, born to Rhea Silvia, and nursed by a she-wolf can be found in various places in Rome. Italians still recount the twins’ story as a partial account of how Rome was built. 

Lara Bisdomini for Vox Orbis, 2015

El Sol: No Te Alejes de Mi

Fotografía: Te escurres en mis manos (Argentina). Kristal Piatti

Natali Piatti

Me cuesta escribir. Estoy en el parque rodeada de nieve, gente caminando, disfrutando de una tarde de sol, que son pocas. Impresiona ver cómo el sol influye en el estado anímico de la gente, la energía que brinda. Qué poco valoramos su presencia cuando lo tenemos en exceso. Qué poco sentimos sus rayos penetrando nuestros huesos, nuestra mente. Es tan poderoso, tan supremo. La naturaleza tiene su lugar de expresión y su influencia es magnífica.

Fotografía: No te alejes de mi (Inglaterra). Frank Dean

Vengo de Argentina, un país en donde el sol abunda, en donde a veces ruegan que llueva para que sus cultivos se hidraten y den sus frutos. Qué poco valoran la presencia de una estrella tan revitalizante como el sol. Aquí en Inglaterra descubrí su importancia... Los días son tristes cuando el sol no sale y cuando este se asoma, se refleja en los rostros de la gente, que de repente convierte los parques en hormigueros humanos buscando desesperadamente el roce de sus rayos. En Inglaterra se celebra el solsticio de verano. He asistido una vez a su celebración y veneración en Stonehenge que es un lugar mágico y lleno de energías por las celebraciones paganas que tenían lugar hace 4000 años. Stonehenge fue construido de manera tal que el sol alcanza el centro de las piedras solo una vez al año. Es así que hoy día muchos tratan de mantener viva la tradición y es el único día del año en el que se permite el ingreso total al sitio, y uno lo puede recorrer desde adentro y absorber la energía de sus piedras ancestrales. Esto demuestra cuanto se valora su presencia en este país en el que las nubes luchan constantemente en el cielo para impedir que el astro rey nos cubra con su brillo.

Natali Piatti para Vox Orbis, 2015