Indeed, Lewis came to Christianity from a lifelong obsession with Nordic and classical paganism, which he never disavowed. Indeed he imagined Christianity as the fulfillment of paganism, particularly that of the Solar tradition. As a serious scholar, Lewis understood how similar the Solar monotheism of the late Roman Empire was to Christianity, and it's the earlier tradition that informs his most famous work of fiction...
Lewis' first novel in The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells the story of the four Pevensie siblings- Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy - sent away from London during World War II to the countryside to stay with a kindly professor named Kirk.
Stuck inside on a rainy day, they explore the professor’s large estate and find an empty room with nothing but a wardrobe in it. Lucy, the youngest, enters into the wardrobe during a game of hide and seek and finds herself in a snowy forest. She stands near a lamppost in a clearing and encounters a faun named Mr. Tumnus. The faun then invites Lucy to his home for a typical British teatime. There, Tumnus informs Lucy that he was instructed to kidnap her. Overcome with pangs of conscience, he then lets her escape.
Lucy returns to Kirk’s estate through the wardrobe and tells the others of her adventures. They dismiss her story as childish fantasy, but during another round of hide and seek Edmund, the second youngest, follows Lucy into the wardrobe, and then into Narnia, the snowy land. Unable to find Lucy, Edmund encounters Queen Jadis the White Witch, ruler of Aslan. She offers Edmund a dessert called ‘Turkish Delight,’ which Edmund finds irresistible. The Witch then asks him to bring his brothers and sisters to Narnia.
Following this, Edmund finds Lucy in the woods, and the two return through the wardrobe together. Lucy tells Susan and Peter that Edmund too discovered the land of Narnia. Edmund's denies this, much to the consternation of Lucy. But the others end up hiding in the wardrobe one day when the professor has over visitors. They then enter the land of Narnia together. Lucy takes her siblings to see Mr Tumnus, only to discover that his home had been trashed, and he had been arrested by Maugrim the wolf, head of the White Witch’s secret police. They decide to try to find him, since they are unable to find the way to the wardrobe.
The Pevensie children then meet Mr and Mrs. Beaver, who take the kids to their home in a dam. The Beavers feed their guest and tell them of the horrible curse of the White Witch, who has kept Narnia in winter for a 100 years. They tell the Pevensies of the prophecy of Aslan, who will come and defeat the white witch. He will bring the Spring with him. The Pevensies then resolve to go meet Aslan at the Stone Table, where is supposed to appear. But Edmund flees the beavers’ home while this conversation takes place and returns to the White Witch. He lusts after the Turkish delight the witch keeps. He betrays his siblings by telling the Witch and Maugrim all that the Beavers had said of the return of Alan.
The Beavers then take the other children on journey to find Aslan. They spend a cold night huddled together in a cave. That morning they meet Father Christmas, who gives them all presents. Mr Beaver proclaims that the return of Father Christmas is a sign that the Witch’s spell is beginning to break and that Aslan’s power is on the rise. Meanwhile, the Witch takes her sleigh and her wolves to find Aslan and defeat him. Edmond is dragged behind her team, quite miserable. But the sleigh runs aground as the ice and snow begin to thaw. Springtime is coming to Aslan.
The other children then meet Aslan at the Stone Table. He greets the children and tells Peter of his destiny of king of Narnia. Aslan then learns that the Witch is planning to sacrifice Edmund, so he sends the Talking Beasts to rescue the boy from her clutches. But the White Witch comes to Aslan’s camp and claims that Edmund is rightfully hers. She claims his life on the basis of the ancient law that allows her control over all traitors. Aslan and the Witch confer and come to an agreement. Then Aslan leads his followers to the Fords of Beruna, to prepare for battle against the forces of the Witch.
That night, Aslan leaves camp for the Stone Table, where the White Witch has set up her camp. Lucy and Susan accompany him. They hide as Aslan presents himself to Witch for sacrifice. The witch orders that Aslan’s mane be shaved and that he be tied to the Stone Table. Aslan is then killed, and the Witch takes her minions to Beruna to finish off his forces. Lucy and Susan go weep for him at the Stone Table. As dawn breaks, mice begin to unravel his bonds and he is restored to life as the Sun rises. The Stone Table cracks. He and the girls then go frolic on a hilltop. After this idyll, Aslan goes and frees the animals that had been turned to stone by the Witch and kept in her courtyard.
Aslan then leads the freed beasts to battle against the forces of the White Witch. She is defeated and the Pevensie children are crown the Kings and Queens of Narnia. Years pass and the children- now grown- go hunting for the fable white stag and end back at the lamppost which marked the doorway between the two worlds. They then tumble back into the wardrobe and back into their present day. They are children once again. The Professor warns them not reenter the wardrobe, since they will return to Narnia soon enough.
AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOLAR SYMBOLS
The use and placement of pre-Christian symbols in The Lion, the With and the Wardrobe correspond with their role in the course of the narrative. And what is clear is that it is not Christ, but rather the reborn sun of the Winter Solstice that Aslan actually symbolizes. Most modern Christians are almost as weak on their Bible as they are on the traditions that influenced the construction of Christianity, so this fact is mostly lost.
- The first signifier we see in Narnia is the lamppost in the forest, an obvious phallic/obelisk symbol. Ancient obelisks were often topped with lamp-bowls. The Victorian model he uses is merely a utilitarian version of that ancient device.
- Mr. Tumnus is simply Lewis’ fanciful name for Pan. He is the first denizen of Narnia that Lucy meets, which points to his significance in the story. Pan is identified with nature and fertility, and his capture by the White Witch’s minions corresponds to the diminution of fertility in the winter months.
- Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy “about long hunting parties after the milk-white stag who would give you your wishes if you caught him. “ (pg.17) The White Stag is a manifestation of the Celtic sun god, Lugh.
- Tumnus reveals to Lucy that the Witch represents the cold winter months in this elemental struggle: “It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas, think of that” (pg. 20) It is never Christmas there, because December 25th is the day when the recovery of daylight first becomes noticeable.
- Mr. Beaver then reveals that Aslan is the strengthening Sun of the post-Solstice days as the Winter gives way to Spring on the Equinox. He tells the children that when Aslan bares his teeth “Winter meets its death. When he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again” (pg. 85) The Lion’s mane is an ancient symbol of the Sun’s rays.
- Lucy is identified as a representation of the summer months when Lewis tells us "At the name of Aslan, Lucy got the feeling you get when you wake in the morning and realize it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer." (pg. 74)
- The children shout out "Tell us about Aslan...once again that strange feeling - like the first sings of spring had come over them." (pg. 85)
- Mr Beaver says when Father Christmas shows up, “This is a nasty knock for the witch. It looks as if her power is already crumbling.” (pg. 116) This is a clear reference to the ‘Nativity of the Sun god’ on December 25th. Indeed, this is when the power of Winter “begins to crumble.”
The gifts receive from Father Christmas correspond to their identities as the four seasons.
- Similarly, Father Christmas himself says that his coming showed that “Aslan is on the move. The Witch’s magic is weakening.” (pg. 117) This is exactly the reason the Ancients celebrated the rebirth of the Sun on the day we now know as Christmas.
Father Christmas gives Susan a bow and a quiver of arrows. Arrows are an ancient symbol for the rays of the Sun, predating both Judaism and Christianity. In the ancient Egyptian hymn to Aten, the Sun’s arrows are praised:
“Thy rising [is] beautiful in the horizon of heaven, O Aten, ordainer of life. Thou dost shoot up in the horizon of the East, thou fillest every land with thy beneficence. Thou art beautiful and great and sparkling, and exalted above every land.. Thy arrows (i.e., rays) envelop (i.e., penetrate) everywhere all the lands which thou hast made."This identifies Susan as the Spring, the season where the Sun comes into its fullest power, from the Equinox to its peak on the Solstice.
Father Christmas gives Lucy a bottle with a tonic made from the fireflowers “that grow in the mountains of the Sun.” He tells Lucy that the elixir will restore anyone who is hurt to health. (pg. 118-9) Again, this reinforces Lucy's role symbolizing the hot summer months, which are signified by the fireflowers.
- Edmond- who symbolizes the dying sun of the days following Autumnal Equinox- then becomes a witness to the Sun’s gathering strength while the Vernal Equinox approaches. Lewis writes that “the mist turned from white to gold” and that “(s)hafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor.” Edmund sees the ground “covered in all directions with little yellow flowers” (pg. 131)
- The Witch’s dwarf henchman reiterates Aslan’s identity as the Sun when he cries to her, “Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan's doing.” (pg. 133)
- Aslan’s power is such that the forest is seen “passing in a few hours from January to May.” It is explained that only the Witch knew that this is what would happen when Aslan returned to Narnia. (pg. 136)
- Lewis’ description of Aslan’s camp is rife with inarguably Solar imagery, here expressed in color: “A wonderful pavilion it was - and especially now when the light of the setting sun fell upon it - with sides of what looked like yellow silk and cords of crimson and tent pegs of ivory; and high above it on a pole a banner which bore a red rampant lion..." (pg. 138)
- As the Sun sets, Aslan later takes Peter to a hilltop to show the boy his future domain. Lewis describes the sight of the castle as “shining because it was a castle and and of course the sunlight was reflected from all the windows which looked toward Peter and the sunset, but to Peter it looked like a great star resting on the seashore.” (pg. 142) This tableau was used in Disney’s The Lion King.
- The juxtaposition of the “sunset” and the boy’s future seat of kingship show that Peter will be the guardian of the Sun while it works to regain its power in the winter months. Castles were designed as fortresses meant to protect the King or lord.
- Aslan leaves his camp for his sacrifice at the Stone Table while “(t)he moonlight was bright” (pg. 163) This recalls the primacy of the moon in the winter skies of the Nordic lands that Lewis was so obsessed with.
- The Witch commands that Aslan “ first be shaved.” The cutting of the lion’s mane is an ancient motif meant to symbolize the weakening of the Sun’s rays in days leading up to the Solstice. (pg. 166) This has a parallel in the Samson stories as well.
- Aslan’s face is linked to the sunrise when Lewis writes that it “ looked nobler as the light grew and they could see it better.” Remember that the name Horus comes from the Egyptian Heru, meaning “face.”
- Aslan’s resurrection is presaged by a pack of mice who chew at his restraints to free him. Susan note that the mice “think it’ll do some good untying him.” (pg. 175) In Ancient Greece, mice were sacred to Apollo, who later became identified with Helios, god of the sun.
- Aslan’s resurrection is linked unmistakably to the sunrise. “The rising of the sun had made everything look so different...the Stone table was broken into two pieces ...and there was no Aslan.” (pg. 177)
- Christ remains in the cave for three days and nights in the Christian resurrection story, but Aslan dies at night and is reborn with the sunrise. This directly parallels the Sun’s ‘rebirth’ on the morning following the Winter Solstice, when the daylight hours begin to lengthen.
- The reborn Aslan is then depicted as “shining in the sunrise.” Aslan is bigger and stronger than before and is depicted as triumphantly shaking his regrown mane, again a ancient symbol of the Sun’s rays (pg. 178)
- Hilltops are important in this story, just as they were to ancient Sun Worshippers. After his resurrection, the first thing Aslan does is take Susan and Lucy for a hearty romp atop a hill. (pg. 179)
- The girls then "climbed onto his warm, golden back" (pg. 180) and rode atop Aslan through the forest. This corresponds to the girl’s identity as symbols of the fertile spring and summer months, when the Sun is in its glory.
- Aslan’s breath melts and thaws the ‘stone curse’ of the witch. This action compared to "lighted match" put to "a bit of newspaper.” (pg. 184) This “slow burn” corresponds to the thawing power of the Springtime sun.
- In Chapter 17 (the final chapter) we see the grown up Pevensie siblings hunting the white stag. Secret Sun readers are familiar with the number 17 as being identified with Horus avenging the death of Osiris, and the number of the New Age through the Aquarius symbolism in the Tarot.
- At the end of the story, the remnants of the Witch's army linger in the forest just as the fields thaw first and the forest stays frozen longer.
The day Lewis chose to first show the printed proofs for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the ‘Inklings’ - June 22 - is the first day following the Summer Solstice, and the day the Sun enters the astrological sign of Cancer. The significance of this day in relation to Biblical prophecy was discussed in an earlier chapter, and given the promiscuous use of Solar symbolism in his novel, my guess is that he understood the inherently Solar nature of those prophecies as well.
- Chasing the white stag into a thicket they come across the iron lamppost, then return to Britain as children. (pg. 203) This is the ‘reversal of time’ motif, yet again.
The Pevensie children’s coronation scene in the Disney/Walden adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe reveals what they are meant to represent and their thrones are all decorated with golden rising sun motifs. The order in which they are placed and each character’s role in the death and rebirth of Aslan correspond to the four stations of the Sun- the Autumnal Equinox, the Winter Solstice, The Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice.
- The first in line is Edmond. He is the traitor to the Sun. It is through his subjection to the power of the White Witch leads to the death of Aslan, the Sun King. He represents Autumn, when the Sun's power weakens and dies. Aslan dies in Edmond’s ‘place’ (meaning the Autumnal Equinox in the Fall) and is then reborn.
- Second in line is Peter. Just before he leaves Narnia, Aslan bestows his authority upon Peter, who represents the Lion in winter. The name ‘Peter’ comes the Greek petra, meaning ‘stone.’ The significance of his name is symbolized by the stone statues in the garden of the White Witch symbolize the frozen earth. Peter is the young apprentice king, and his uncertainty in wielding his sword represents the reborn Sun in winter as it slowly regains its power after its ‘death’ at the solstice.
- Next is Susan. The name Susan comes from the Hebrew Shushan, meaning ‘lily.’ The lily had sexual connotations in the ancient world, and hence became associated with the ancient mother goddess Astarte (or Eostre), and the arts of sexual love and procreation. Today, lilies are used by Christians in Easter celebrations. Since she and Lucy found the reborn Aslan, she represents the Spring, when the Sun regains its power against the night.
THE BATTLE OF WINTER AND SUMMER• Last in line is Lucy. Lucy means ‘light’ and she represents the power of the Sun at its zenith. It is she who discovers Aslan, and it is her arrival in Aslan that breaks the spell of the White Witch. It is Edmond who follows her through the Wardrobe, just as the Autumn follows the Summer.
The idea of the a dramatized battle between the summer Sun and the Winter is nothing new. Sir Frazer tells us that such dramas have an ancient and venerable history:
SOMETIMES in the popular customs of the peasantry the contrast between the dormant powers of vegetation in winter and their awakening vitality in spring takes the form of a dramatic contest between actors who play the parts respectively of Winter and Summer.In Morals and Dogma, Albert Pike also explored the origin of the Solstice celebrations in ancient times:
(Prehistoric humans) knew nothing of the immutable laws of nature; and whenever the Sun commenced to tend Southward, they feared lest he might continue to do so, and by degrees disappear forever, leaving the earth to be ruled forever by darkness, storm, and cold. Hence they rejoiced when he commenced to re-ascend after the Winter Solstice, struggling against the malign influences of Aquarius and Pisces, and amicably received by the Lamb. And when at the Vernal Equinox he entered Taurus, they still more rejoiced at the assurance that the days would again be longer than the nights, that the season of seed-time had come, and the Summer and harvest would follow. And they lamented when, after the Autumnal Equinox, the malign influence of the venomous Scorpion, and vindictive Archer, and the filthy and ill-omened He-Goat dragged him down toward the Winter Solstice. Arriving there, they said he had been slain, and had gone to the realm of darkness. Remaining there three days, he rose again, and again ascended Northward in the heavens, to redeem the earth from the gloom and darkness of Winter, which soon became emblematical of sin, and evil, and suffering; as the Spring, Summer, and Autumn became emblems of happiness and immortality.In this regard, Lewis’ use of the Lion as the protagonist in this Solar ritual drama is also significant. The association of the Lion with the Sun goes back to at least the ancient Sumerians, in the third millennium before Christ. The constellation of Leo also has been invested with Solar significance:
Leo has always been associated with the Sun. Pliny wrote that Egyptians worshiped the stars of Leo because they knew that the Sun appeared to enter them during the time when the Nile flooded to bring fresh fertile soil onto the land. Because of this, it was thought that the Sun rose in Leo at the time of creation. Thus, Leo was the emblem of the fire and heat that nourished the land, intimately associated with all the blessings that rained down from the greatest of the gods that filled the world with light each day.It’s important to remind ourselves that that lion was also a pivotal symbol in the Solar religion of Mithraism as well, as is December 25th and the militaristic symbolism we see in the Narnia books.
Christians often note that Christ is named as the "Lion of Judah" in the book of Revelation, but in I Peter 5:8, the Bible tells us that the devil is also a lion: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly coincidental that Disney's Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe premiered 666 months after Lewis first presented the galleys of the book to the Inklings at Oxford. But again, 666 represented the Sun in many ancient traditions, and modern Biblical scholarship has proven that it is actually 616 which was "the number of the Beast."