Friday, August 18, 2017

Ten Eclispe Superstitions

Monday is a much anticipated day for many around the world. This will be “The Event of the Century,” when the sun, moon and earth line up to create a total eclipse.
A total solar eclipse is a unique visual occurrence. In the US, it will be visible, in some form, in all 48 states. The eclipse will pass over North America, Western Europe, Northern and Eastern Asia, Northern and Western Africa, a large section of South America and the Arctic along with islands in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Millions of people will see it.

A lunar eclipse occurs about once every 18 months, but one of this magnitude that will be viewed by millions occurs approximately once every 375 years according to Belgium astronomer Jean Meeus. (Now you see why this is such a BIG deal!)

But our ancestors have always had a dubious relationship with the heavens. In fact, most people thought the world was ending when an eclipse – full or partial – occurred. 
Here are 10 superstitions that our ancestors may have harbored during an eclipse.

1. Gods Were Angry
Ancient Greeks believed that Helios, the Sun God, (or Apollo, take your pick) drove his fiery chariot across the sky each day, and could see and understand what was happening on Earth. He would then report this behavior to Zeus. When the sun disappeared during the day, the only conclusion drawn was that the people had offended the gods and were being punished.

2. Sun and Moon Quarreling
Ancient cultures in Togo and Benin believed that the Sun god and the Moon god were arguing. The only way to make amends between the two was for those on earth to set an example and let go of their grievances toward one another.

3. Sun Being Devoured
Photo from NASA
Each culture had its version of what was happening when an eclipse took place, and most of these ancient cultures thought that something was eating the sun. 

In Hindu mythology it was believed that the demon Rahu’s severed head was devouring the sun. When this occurred, the people would grab something to bang on in order to scare Rahu into coughing up the sun.
Ancient Egyptians thought that a sow had swallowed the moon.
In Korea, ancient dogs were blamed for taking a bite out of the moon as they tried to steal it.
Other societies would throw things into the sky to scare away the demon that was trying to swallow the sun.
Native Americans believed that an eclipse happened because the sun and a bear were quarreling. The bear grabbed the sun and bite out a chunk.
4. Spirits of the Dead
Incas thought that the souls of the dead, in the shape of a jaguar, had attacked the moon and once finished with it, would come to earth. In order to save mankind, they would throw spears into the sky to keep it away.

5. Danger to the Monarch
Kings and queens believed that their power to rule was in danger of being overthrown during an eclipse. To thwart an attempt, a person was hired to sit on the throne during an eclipse so nothing bad would happen to the ruler.
6. Sacrificial Offerings
The Aztecs believed that the gods were angry and must be appeased. People of lighter complexions were immediately sacrificed and any captives were killed to quell the god’s wrath and keep them from walking the earth looking for men to eat.

7. Trickery
In 1503 Christopher Columbus and his crew were stranded in Jamaica. The natives became tired of assisting them. Columbus, knowing that an eclipse was due, told the Jamaicans that his god was angry with their treatment and would take away the moon as punishment. When the eclipse occurred, the natives agreed to tend to the crew until help arrived if the moon was restored.
8. Deform Children
The Aztecs also thought that if a pregnant woman went outside to view the eclipse, her child would be born with a cleft palate in a similar fashion to the bite that had been taken out of the moon.
9. Karma
Tibetan Buddhists believe that during an eclipse our actions are multiplied one thousand times – be they good or bad.
10. Cause of Natural Catastrophes
The Chinese believed that an eclipse foretold of the coming of famine or disease. 

Others believed that the solar eclipse of 1652 caused the Great Plague in London. 

Modern astrologers report that an eclipse can cause natural phenomenon like earthquakes and storms.
Today, in certain cultures, an eclipse still portends evil, but most of the world will be celebrating the sight of the total eclipse on Monday. If you happen to miss it, mark your calendars because there will be an annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023, and another total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 that will be visible mainly in parts of the Midwest and the East Coast.
~ Joy
And a note: My new book The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide will be shipping out next Tuesday for early orders. Click here to get your copy.

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