Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance … To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.
– T.S. Eliot introduction to “Notes on the Waste Land” 1923
The Sun might be the oldest and most universal human representation of a supreme deity. Some have deconstructed Christian mythology and compared it to myths like that of Horus and Osiris to make the argument that Christ is, or has been framed as, another form of Sun God. Whether or not this is true, it is true that many ancient cultures featured Sun deities, and that there are certain similarities between the story of Christ and older Sun deity myths.
Because of its key connection to all life on earth, and because it is visible as it passes across the sky every day, the Sun is probably an ideal concrete representation of a universal deity. At night, when the Sun is “sleeping,” “dead,” or “underground,” the Moon shines, acting as the Sun’s reflective foil. The Sun, Moon, and Stars are common characters (gods, goddesses) in mythology worldwide.
Modern Europe was deeply influenced by the Roman empire which continued cultural and mythological concepts from Ancient Greece, which in turn inherited mythological concepts from Ancient Egypt. Underneath all of that, Europe has its own pagan roots.
Roman religious practices intermingled with those of the European tribes. Later, as Christendom became the prevailing religious and political force, alternate rituals were also obviously kept alive. The May Queen ceremony is one mainstream example of an old vegetation ritual which continues today. Even the use of Christmas Trees is thought to have its roots in pagan ceremonies. These rituals are connected to Sun and Tree dieties, Fisher King / Holy Grail mythology, and the idea of blood (human) sacrifice.