2017-08-17 / Front Page

Folklore surrounding eclipse has roots in several countries

By JANE ELLYN AARON
news editor

As the epic shadow of the solar eclipse fast approaches – sailing straight through the U.S. on Au­gust 21 – terrors and trembles have begun to settle over certain masses of people. However, fear not! It’s not a blackening to usher in the final trumpets of Armageddon, not considering that scientists have been tracking this doozy for quite some time, and as Charles Schulz put it, “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia,” so we may all rejoice on that note.

Of course, concern over a sudden darkening and drop in temperature as the moon glides over the face of the sun have long periled the world, twisting the thoughts of mankind into wondering what wickedness is surely afoot for such an occurrence to plague the planet.

Naturally, given that quite a few eclipses occurred within the B.C. eras, who wouldn’t assume some­thing dastardly was happening if the sun suddenly disappeared out of nowhere? Presuming the world is over only seems like a natural assumption.

Due to the sudden shift in plan­etary illumination, folklore sur­rounding the eclipse seems to have popped up into nearly every culture – each of them possibly more bi­zarre than the one before, and just as ominous to be sure.

Oddly enough, many of the myths surround some sort of great creature consuming the sun. Is this possibly a credible notion if so many cultures agree that a massive animal has swallowed the sun? Doubtful. But, it’s none-the-less interesting to see how the threads of creative story telling are shared amongst varying cultures.

So, Native Americans, specifi­cally the Pomo tribe, believed that a great bear traveling along the path of the Milky Way encountered the sun, though blocking his path the bear was provoked into anger and a fight ensued between the two powers. This fight accounts for the sudden darkness as the bear has shrouded the earth of its light source, and in taking a bite out of the star, proceeds onward down the Milky Way.

Wandering skywolves known as Hati and Skoll were believed to be in a heated pursuit of the sun by Vikings, and should one of the canine catch it, its light would be extinguished. In fear of their light source fading, these robust war­riors might even be heard howling to dissuade the godlike dogs from grappling with the sun.

In Korea, according to myth, there is a realm without light known as the “Kingdom of Darkness,” and from that realm giant fire dogs known as Bulgae are sent out by the king to hunt both the sun and moon. If successful, a bite taken out of either results in an eclipse.

Regarding a lunar eclipse, in Viet­nam, a giant frog “tied to the pool of Hanh by a golden chain, sometimes tried to escape when the neighbor­ing lord was sleeping” and would swallow the moon, according to the National University of Singapore. Apparently, the lord of Hanh was the only one able to make the frog disgorge the celestial body.

The Chinese account for a dragon swallowing the sun, while the Hin­dus believe that the mighty, but terrible being Kala Rau – conniv­ing to become one of the gods – is also in pursuit of the sun or moon for consumption, and several other Native American tribes also believe that some spirit or another is also out to eat the great gas giant.

Of course, it’s not all folklore and doom dictating the mood in a time of eclipse, but many wonderful things have also taken place because of the very anomaly.

Sir Arthur Eddington, British astronomer and mathematician, was lucky enough to prove Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativ­ity when a solar eclipse occurred in 1919. Officials with TimeandDate.com explain that, “by taking pic­tures of stars near the sun during totality, Eddington was able to show that gravity can bend light. This phenomenon is called gravitational deflection.”

The website also outlines that, “according to the Greek historian Herodotus, a solar eclipse in 585 BCE stopped the war between the Lydians and the Medes, who saw the dark skies as a sign to make peace with each other.” What better time to make amends with your enemies than at your impending demise?

And while these are only two isolated events, countless other positive irregularities have also resulted from an eclipse.

Certainly, very strange and won­derful imaginings have been trig­gered by this particular type of phenomenon. Yet, regardless of the century, and even the advanced ex­planations of science – though this probably lends to greater intrigue around the world – the eclipse remains awe-inspiring to the vast majorities of mankind.

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