Sacred Sun

Stephen R. Wilk

Optical phenomena created by ice crystals and sunlight have inspired visions used by many, from prophets to flag designers to UFO skeptics.


figureA sun pillar in San Francisco, Calif., USA [Wikimedia]

When Harry Mera, a physician and sometime anthropologist at the Museum of Anthropology in Santa Fe, N.M., USA, submitted his new state flag design in 1920, he probably had no idea it would start a cultural debate. His flag featured a sun symbol that Mera had seen at the museum on an 18th century pot from the Native American Zia Pueblo. But the Zia people opposed the design; they claimed the state had usurped their sacred symbol—a design so meaningful that it was not allowed off of Zia land.

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