A time to come together
All of which makes it interesting to ponder how ancient civilizations responded to a solar eclipse. It’s not, after all, like they could research it online. Instead, they probably consulted the village elder, who was kind of like the internet of his time — full of certitude and bereft of accuracy.
“All around the globe, ancient cultures and religions attempted to explain solar and lunar eclipses,” Calla Cofield recently wrote for Space.com. “Many of those stories involved gods, demons, dragons and other creatures that prowled through the sky and threatened to devour the sun or the moon. People prayed, made offerings, or hurled things into the sky to chase off the invaders.”
Like in Norse mythology, which says that a pair of sky wolves are trying to catch the sun or moon, and when they reach it an eclipse occurs. Or in Vietnam, where a giant toad eats the sun. Or in ancient China, where the belief was that a dragon was trying to eat the sun. Why? Because dragons love fire.
And while it is understandable that early civilizations would concoct a story to explain an eclipse, the thought of hurling things into the sky to scare away demons seems a little far-fetched.
Then there are the Batammaliba people of Africa, who believe that an eclipse means the sun and the moon are quarreling, so they encourage the celestial bodies to stop fighting. “They see it as a time of coming together and resolving old feuds and anger,” astronomer Jarita Holbrook told National Geographic. “It’s a myth that has held to this day.”
Which isn’t a bad idea. If we can’t get along during an eclipse, when can we get along? After all, an eclipse can’t be dismissed as fake news; it’s simply a reminder of how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things.
Which might be the point of tomorrow’s eclipse. And it might be why an estimated 1 million people are expected to come to Oregon to take it all in.
They’ll watch the sky go dark and welcome the return of the light and tweet about the magical experience and post selfies on Instagram.
You know, just like the ancients used to do.