The spiritual following of the Great Sunsuna Mother, probably the oldest religion of all, has not only survived, but is alive and thriving in modern Malta and possibly beyond.
Traditionally, rituals of male castration and virgin sacrificial death secured fertility for the islands, year after year; the celebration of life took place during a major festival on the Spring solstice. At the height of the celebrations, a man (later a bull) was castrated and sacrificed, new initiates of the order were baptized in this blood, while the priestesses were involved with the Goddess's ecstatic side, celebrating her secret mysteries. Practically nothing is known about the group, except that membership was reserved to women and castrated men.
This was a peace-loving, egalitarian society spread across the whole of Malta, wherein the Great Sunsuna Mother was, and still is, worshipped as the center of the religion. Scattered through the Maltese islands there are countless archaeological sites supporting the existence of an ancient Sunsuna religion; thousands of artifacts from Neolithic temples have been discovered, mostly in the form of female figurines.
Large, elaborate temples were erected in honor of the Great Goddess Sunsuna and can still be found dotting the Maltese landscape. According to current carbon dating, they were built in c.3600 B.C. The Gigantic rocks must be several tons in weight, those of the outer wall reaching as high as six meters. There are various theories as to how the people of those days were able to move them with the primitive tools of the period. According to an old myth a female giant called "Sunsuna" carried the rocks on her head from Ta' Cenc (on the other side of the island).
Some evidence suggest that there might be several underground temples similar to the Hypogeum that have yet to be uncovered in Malta. Apart from Ggantija there are other interesting testimonies from prehistoric times, for example: the Temples of Tal-Qighan Sannat. In Gozo close to Ta' Cenc one can also observe what are thought to be cart-tracks although their origin has yet to be established.
In a time when the struggle for a balance between survival and protection from the elements was a constant struggle, life seemed to be a miracle and those able to hold on to it persisted to preserve it and defend it through procreation. The Order of the Great Sunsuna Mother was entrusted with the responsibility to safeguard and manipulate these elements. These struggles gave the role of the Sunsuna Goddess a Renewing and Eternal Earth special importance. The Earth Mother of Fertility, the Great Sunsuna Goddess is often represented as a seated woman holding her belly.
The disappearance of this peaceful agricultural society has been linked to the repeated invasions of patriarchal societies. Archaeological evidence, mythology, and comparative linguistics indicate a contrast and conflict of the two cultures in religious and secular life. The semi nomadic invaders, labeled as "Kurgans", were from southern Russia and first arrived in the Lower Dneiper region in 5,000 B.C. and would continue to arrive for 2,000 years. They made pit graves with huts of wood or stone covered by mounds, that were not seen in Neolithic Europe before their arrival. The Kurgans also supposedly brought with them the patriarchy, which would come to replace the peaceful egalitarian system.
In the end, the cult of the Great Goddess vanished underground together with many other mysterious cults of the the time. Christianity eventually took over and Malta was plundered.
The cult simply went underground, leaving no tracks, and survived as a secret society among a small group of people in Malta, possibly up to today. The cult is now rumored to have re-emerged and under the auspices of the Spiritual Order of Sunsuna, a secretive society claiming a direct link to the great cult of Sunsuna, it is establishing itself as the Original Religion of Sunsuna. Other rumors tell of a survival of another cult in remote parts of Sicily. When the Old Religion went underground, its traditions were passed down secretly in and among the trusted priestesses and priests, until it resurfaced in the twentieth century; along with other suppressed religions. Like their ancient forebears, Sunsuna priests and priestesses revere the Goddess, practice rituals and celebrate the Goddess. Many of the ceremonies commemorate the deeds of the Great Sunsuna Goddess and her love of the islands of Malta.
Only women and castrated men were allowed to attend the main rituals and celebrations of the Goddess, however everyone on the islands would celebrate and worship Sunsuna. In an exclusive interview with one of the elder member priestesses (who prefers to remain anon.), I was let in on some of the contemporary traditions of the cult. Nowadays affiliation with the Order is still highly restricted, only invited women and men are allowed to join the Order (individually selected by the leader of the order. The cult is now, "as it has been for millennia, a very subversive organization led by the Grand Archdignitary of the Order, and a non-hierarchical system made of priestesses and priests". The role of the "Grand Archdignitary" is said to be a lifelong obligation. Upon the passing of one leader, another is selected by the eldest members of the Order, unless one has already been allotted personally by the Archdignitary during her/his rule. The election process is as secretive as the Order's past, however, the chosen one is said to be directly selected by the spirit of the Great Goddess Sunsuna. The priestess share with me that the current leader is a young male (an unprecedented move from tradition, which up to now only females are known to have ever been selected), in his mid twenties, chosen directly by, and to replace, one of the cult's longest ruling leaders, who passed away in 1994 of what is only described as tragic circumstances" following a 60 year rule.
The Order declined to name their leader or answer any further queries directly related to current beliefs and practices of the Sunsuna tradition.
Today the Philosophy of the Spiritual Order of Sunsuna is nature-attuned, minority-respecting, peaceful, and freedom loving in nature. They work to preserve the archaeological and spiritual relics of what is likely to be the Oldest Religion of all!
After years of research and dedication I have been able to gather relatively credible but anecdotal information regarding the current leader of the group. It is said he is an elusive, wealthy young scientist, an up and coming business-man and heir to a local business empire.
Local number of practitioners have declined in recent years. This is not because the overall population has become smaller but because the order has adopted an international approach and is reaching out to create chapters in several other Goddess worshiping places across the West (Scotland being one of those places).
This indicates that the new entrepreneurial approach adopted by the young Archdignitary has adapted the religion to survive the contemporary religious climate.
Limitations of my time
Please note that although I have written about and researched this Religion, I have only done this in my spare time and I encourage others to pursue Sunsun roots more rigorously. Furthermore I live out of the country so I have limited ocassions during which I can gather information.