Cultures throughout the world's history have been enamored with the power of the sun. If Mother Nature represented the feminine qualities of life, the sun has historically represented the male side. The sun has represented life, energy, power, strength, force and clarity, and the symbols of the sun are intended to reflect these qualities. In some cultures, such as the ancient Aztecs and Egyptians, this was manifested in great worship and respect for the sun. Other cultures turned away from the literal worship of sun, but instead looked to the sun as a metaphorical representation of life. Regardless of their approach, it was acknowledged that without the sun, there would be no way to sustain life. A universal interest and appreciation in the sun has led to the formation of countless symbols for the sun in various parts and time periods of the world. Looking at many ancient and modern day examples of sun symbols can allow for a look into the perpetual presence of solar symbols in the world.
The most basic sun symbolism can be as plain and uninspired as a circle; in fact most symbols of the sun are derived from this shape. In the present day flag of Japan, a simple red circle is placed in front of a white backdrop to symbolize the rising sun. The solar wheel is also a common sun symbol. It consists of a circle with a cross going through the middle and it represents the four seasons. The Triskelion is a circle formation with multiple swirls in the middle that represents the sun. The Rosette is a circular "flower of life" that is intended to symbolize the life giving properties of the sun.
A host of animal and god like creatures have also been used to symbolize the sun. The hawk, lion, salamander, rooster, phoenix, dragon, bull and swan have all been used to symbolize the sun in different cultures. Similar to the sun, animals have always represented the connection that ancient peoples felt with animals and the awe and respect that they had for an animal's creator. This relationship can explain for the connection between the sun and powerful animals occurring in nature. Many ancient cultures created gods and deities to represent the sun. In Egyptian culture, the gods Horus, Ra and Osiris were all connected with the sun in different phases (rising of the sun, setting of the sun and spirit of the sun). In Greek mythology the eyes of Zeus symbolized the sun and came to represent vision and awareness.