Most people believe that the Sun is always rising on the east, but this is not really the case. The Sun is rising on the true east only during the spring and autumn months. In summer, it is closer to the north-east, and in winter, to the south-east. Here is an illustration from the free astronomical software, Stellarium. The dates used are the solstices and equinoxes of the year 2020.
The path of the Sun as the seasonal marker
For the ancients, predicting the change of seasons was a question of survival, especially since the introduction of agriculture. But even before that, the natural cycles determined which food to gather or which animals to hunt. Therefore, it is quite likely that these skills go back to the very dawn of human history.
There were a few different ways to do this. For example, by observing specific constellations, or just the path of the Orion on the night sky. But grouping stars in clusters is a more advanced option. The simplest method was to observe the sunrise over the course of a year. Once the first peoples settled down, they would quickly notice that the sunrise constantly moves left and right from a specific referent point, such as a large tree, or a mountain. This is how we get to the concept of the “holy tree” or a “holy mountain”.
Armed with this knowledge, they were able to reproduce it anywhere they went. All that was needed were three wooden poles or three stones. Once the positions of these markers are fine-tuned, large monoliths or important tribal totems would replace them. East became the important cardinal point, and since then, most sacral objects were facing it.
The ancient symbol Triskelion probably hides the same symbolism. It depicts the yearly path of the Sun of the eastern horizon.
The triptych gates – allegory of the Sun’s path
The civilizations progressed, and the architecture and symbolism followed. In their myths, the Sun now passed through the “gates” of the zodiac signs. And on the ground, large megalithic temples appear. On their eastern sides, we often see the triptych gates. The same symbolism exists from Mesoamerica to Asia, in some of the first world’s civilizations.
Very often, the middle gate is taller. The reason for this is that the middle gate has two events – two equinoxes, determining spring and autumn. But also because these two seasons divided the year in light and dark half, as in the symbol of Yin and Yang. In fact, many ancient calendars had only these two seasons.
In Asia, only the emperor or a high priest could use the middle gate. But we see this symbolism even in Christianity. Many churches and cathedrals have triple gates. But even more importantly, the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus follows the same symbolism. The duality of the “penitent and impenitent” thieves only echoes that between the winter and summer.