Halo & Sun Worship

Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 8

9And He said to me, “Go in, and see the evil abominations which they are doing there.” 10And I went in and looked and saw all kinds of creeping creatures, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Yisrayl, carved all around on the walls. 11And facing them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Yisrayl, and in their midst stood Ya’azanyahu son of Shaphan. Each one had a censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12And He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Yisra’ĕl are doing in the dark, each one in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘הוהי [YHVH] does not see us, הוהי [YHVH] has forsaken the land.’ ” 13And He said to me, “You are to see still greater abominations which they are doing.” 14And He brought me to the door of the north gate of the House of הוהי [YHVH], and I saw women sitting there, weeping for Tammuz. 15Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You are to see still greater abominations than these.” 16And He brought me into the inner court of the House of הוהי [YHVH]. And there, at the door of the Hekal [temple] of הוהי [YHVH], between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the Hekal [temple]  of הוהי [YHVH] and their faces toward the east, and they were bowing themselves eastward to the sun.

Who drew the first Halo around pictures of sains?


Most of Christendom’s icons portray a circle of light around the heads of Jesus, Mary, angels, and “saints.” This is called a halo.
Where did the halo originate? “Its origin was not Christian,” admits The Catholic Encyclopedia (1987 edition), “for it was used by pagan artists and sculptors to represent in symbol the great dignity and power of the various deities.” Furthermore, the book The Christians, by Bamber Gascoigne, contains a photograph obtained from the Capitoline Museum in Rome of a sun-god with halo. This god was worshiped by pagan Romans. Later, explains Gascoigne, “the sun’s halo” was “borrowed by Christianity.” Yes, the halo is connected with pagan sun worship.

“In the plastic arts (painting and sculpture) the symbolism of the nimbus was early in use among the pagans who determined its form. In the monuments of Hellenic and Roman art, the heads of the gods, heroes, and other distinguished persons are often found with a disc-shaped halo, a circle of light, or a rayed-fillet. They are, therefore, associated especially with gods and creatures of light such as the Phoenix. The disc of light is likewise used in the Pompeian wall paintings to typify gods and demigods only, but later, in profane art it was extended to cherubs or even simple personifications, and is simply a reminder that the figures so depicted are not human. In the miniatures of the oldest Virgil manuscript all the great personages wear a nimbus. The custom of the Egyptian and Syrian kings of having themselves represented with a rayed crown to indicate the status of demigods, spread throughout the East and the West. In Rome the halo was first used only for deceased emperors as a sign of celestial bliss, but afterwards living rulers also were given the rayed crown, and after the third century, although not first by Constantine, the simple rayed nimbus. Under Constantine the rayed crown appears only in exceptional cases on the coin, and was first adopted emblematically by Julian the Apostate. Henceforth the nimbus appears without rays, as the emperors now wished themselves considered worthy of great honour, but no longer as divine beings. In early Christian art, the rayed nimbus as well as the rayless disc were adopted in accordance with tradition. The sun and the Phoenix received, as in pagan art, a wreath or a rayed crown, also the simple halo. The latter was reserved not only for emperors but for men of genius and personifications of all kinds, although both in ecclesiastical and profane art, this emblem was usually omitted in ideal figures. In other cases the influence of ancient art tradition must not be denied.”

Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition, online

What Is A Halo?

by Wayne Blank

“The word “halo” originated from a Greek word that simply meant the sun, or the sun’s disk. By literal definition, the photograph above, of the sun, is a halo.

The pre-Christian Romans named their sun-god Helios and eventually began using the halo in their art, including of their “divine” emperors. When the Romans created their false version of Christianity, they carried over their use of the halo into supposedly Christian images whereby people eventually lost sight of what they were actually looking at.”

Sun Worship in Ancient Times


People throughout time have worshipped the sun for its powerful light and fertility. The Greeks, Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs, and modern day Christians have all considered the sun sacred in one way or another.

Egyptian Sun Worship
Sun worship was prevalent in Egyptian religion through the eighteenth dynasty. It was speculated that the sun’s movement across the sky represented the struggle between the Pharaoh’s soul and Avatar of Osiris. The “solarisation” of many sun gods reached a peak in the fifth dynasty, with the powerful Hnum-Re, Min-Re, and Amon-Re.
Ra is a particularly powerful god in Egyptian mythology, as is the sun god. He was initially identified only as the mid-day sun god, but later came to represent the sun at all times of the day.

Aztec Sun Worship
According to Aztec mythology, Tonatiuh was the sun god and was considered the leader of what was thought to be heaven.

Tonatiuth was, according to Aztec legend, the fifth sun, as the prior four were expelled from the heavens. Sacrifices were performed as a tribute to the sun god, as it is widely thought that the Aztec people believed the sun would refuse to move without it.  The Aztecs were fascinated by the movement of the sun and created a solar calendar, similar to that of the Mayans’.

Modern Religion
Many Italian churches are adorned by the symbolism of the sun and early Christians involved many aspects of the sun in their worship. Many of the converted pagans’ sun-god festivals were carried over when they professed conversion to Christianity. These can still be seen today in the Easter bonfire and sunrise services, and the Christmas burning of the Yule log. The depictions of saints often involved a sun or halo in these paintings. The use of the halo, or nimbus, originated with the pagan Greeks and Romans to represent their sun god, Helios. The halo is actually just the sun behind the person’s head. It’s easy to recognize once one realizes what it is, although it’s also often stylized to make it less obvious. Originally a very devious way of mixing idolatrous sun worship with Christianity by converts who were not all that converted.


Halo comes from the Greek/Roman Sun-god “Helios.” Romans applied the word “gloria” to be a sunburst or ring of light around the head of “Helios.” The use of halos around the heads of angels, the Madonna and Son, and Catholic saints has been extremely popular in paintings, artwork, and statuary connected to the Roman Catholic religion for centuries. The Roman Catholic Church still uses the “gloria” sunburst in the Eucharist.

Halo Cross


Crosses often appear with a circle or arc, and can be called a Halo Cross or Tri-radiant Nimbus (Latin: Corona tri radians).

Synonyms for Halo include Nimbus, Aureole, Glory and Gloriole.

Halo Cross

Celtic Cross

perhaps the most widely recognised Halo Cross

Sun Cross

The word ‘halo’ comes from the Greek halos, which means the ring of light shown around the sun.

The Sun Cross was probably an early representation of that oldest and most powerful god – the sun1. No surprise therefore that the symbolism transferred into other religions such as Hellenistic Greek and Roman religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. And arguably the most prolific sacred art with haloes has been Christian art. Not only has the bright circle been adopted, but also the original term ‘halo’ has been retained.

Ankh Cross

Rainbow Cross

Birgitta Crown

Crown of Thorns

Enshrined Cross

Wreath Cross

A Halo Cross is a generic term for many crosses with such shapes. The Celtic Cross (above, left) is perhaps the most common and a few more

Halo Crosses in other religions

Buddhist statue in Tokyo
(Click image to enlarge)

Halos are not restricted to Christianity; other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism use halos in iconography.

The Japanese Buddhist statue on the left is shown with a kouhai or gokou (halo), holding a trident weapon to protect babies & young children.

Shiva and Parvati
(Click image to enlarge)

The Hindu god Shiva is shown here on the right with Parvati, both with a halo. Shiva has a Third Eye, a necklace made of skulls, a trident and a few snakes.

Christ, Constantine, Sol Invictus: the Unconquerable Sun

By Ralph Monday

“Constantine’s law of…321 [C.E] uniting Christians and pagans in the observance of the “venerable day of the sun” It is to be noted that this official solar worship, the final form of paganism in the empire…, was not the traditional Roman-Greek religion of Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, and the other Olympian deities. It was a product of the mingling Hellenistic-Oriental elements, exemplified in Aurelian’s establishment of Eastern Sun worship at Rome as the official religion of the empire, and in his new temple enshrining Syrian statutes statues of Bel and the sun…. Thus at last Bel, the god of Babylon, came into the official imperial temple of Rome, the center of the imperial religion. It was this late Roman-Oriental worship of one supreme god, symbolized by the sun and absorbing lesser divinities as subordinates or manifestations of the universal deity, that competed with young Christianity. This was the Roman religion that went down in defeat but infiltrated and colored the victorious church with its own elements, some of which can be seen to this day. (Cramer 4)

All the evidence suggests that Constantine viewed Christ as one of many gods in a crowded pantheon, a war god at that, who had provided him with his victory over Maxentius, and that this new Christian god could be used as a political tool to solidify his power and prestige in the empire, as well as bringing about a total homogeneity of culture to ancient Rome as witnessed by his calling of the council of Nicea in 325 C.E. to settle the Arian controversy, and also by the later solidification of the dates of Easter and Christmas, for he well knew that power and control in a complex organization depended upon common agreement in regard to the symbols that held it together.

For example, in May 330 at the dedication of the new Roman capital Constantinople Constantine was “[d]ressed in magnificent robes and wearing a diadem encrusted with jewels (another spiritual allegiance of Constantine’s, to the sun, a symbol of Apollo, first known from 310 was expressed through rays coming from the diadem”) (Freeman). The ancient connection to the sun as a god clearly exemplifies Constantine’s adoration and admiration for such a “heavenly” deity. After his death and the later collapse of the Roman Empire, the medieval civilization that arose on the ashes of shattered Rome, in particular the Catholic Church would continue the incorporation into the Christian pantheon of religious symbols far predating the beginning of Catholicism.”

This role of Christ’s connection to the sun is more fully solidified with the addition of the archetypal halo, symbolizing the sun, especially during the Middle Ages (ironically, enough, a time when the light of reason became subject to the powers of superstition). However, like the sun being recognized as a deity for millennia, the symbol of the halo can likewise be traced back to its origin in the remote past.

One of the earliest attributions of the halo to the sky god (sun) is the Egyptian. Egyptians halos commonly were drawn as a large sphere in the color of the sun. Egyptian art contains numerous examples of halos, often associated with self-created and father of all the gods, Ra, who was associated with the sun. The lion-headed Sekhmet is also depicted as having a halo. Sekhmet was sent to a deity who was sent forth to reprimand humanity when the honor of the gods was neglected. Likewise, the Greek sun god Helios (Roman Apollo) is depicted with a halo surrounding his head, in the Roman, Neptune, god of the sea, and the mythic founder of Rome, Romulus are often illustrated with halos adorning their heads. After 100 C.E. Roman emperors used the halo in imperial coins (called a nimbate), (Halos in Western Art). Constantine continued the practice, and the medieval church depicted Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the apostles backlit by the sun halo numerous times in Christian art, a practice that continues to this day.


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