Eclipses have caused fear, inspired curiosity, and have been associated with myths, legends and superstitions throughout history and across cultures.
Here are 12 folklore and superstitions that weave themselves around lunar eclipses.
1. A popular superstition in India is to avoid eating during an eclipse.
Cooking, eating, drinking are avoided during the eclipse period as the food goes ‘bad’ during the eclipse.
2. In US, people believe that an eclipse is a sign of the forthcoming of an apocalypse.
Scholars find its source from the Bible. According to Joel 2:31: “The Sun will turn to darkness, and the Moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”
3. In Tibet, people think that good and bad deeds are multiplied during an eclipse.
4. For the Batammaliba people of Togo and Benin in Western Africa, an eclipse meant that the Sun and Moon are fighting.
The Batammaliba people would pray so that the celestial bodies resolve their conflict.
5. In many parts of the world, pregnant women are advised to stay indoors as it is believed that the dark moon will curse the unborn child.
They are also not supposed to use knives or sharp metal objects fearing that it will leave a birthmark on the body of the unborn child.
6. In India, it is believed that if you cut yourself during an eclipse you bleed for a longer time and it can leave a scar for a lifetime.
7. The Inca saw an eclipse as an attack on the moon by a jaguar.
It was believed that after the moon was attacked, the jaguar would descend down on Earth to unleash its wrath. The Inca would make a lot of noise and force their dogs to howl and bark to drive away the eclipse.
8. The Aztecs predicted that if a solar eclipse was accompanied by an earthquake, the world would come to an end.
Every year, a ritual human sacrifice would take place to appease the gods and stop the world from ending.
9. The Greeks thought an eclipse meant that the gods would rain down punishment on the king.
To save the king from their wrath, a substitute king would be placed instead of the real one. Once the eclipse was over, the substitute king would be executed.
10. In Norse Mythology, sky wolves Hati and Skoll would chase the Sun and the Moon, waiting for Ragnarok.
When they would swallow their prey- the sun or the moon, it would mean the destruction of the Viking gods and an eternal darkness on Earth. The eclipses were seen as near misses at Ragnarok.
11. In some Australian aboriginal cultures, an eclipse meant that the Sun and the Moon are having more children.
Their children would appear in the night sky as stars.
12. The Kalina of Suriname believed that the Sun and the Moon are siblings and an eclipse meant that one of them knocked the other out.
Eclipses are a chance to see the universe in the works- the solar system doing its thing right before our eyes and it’s awe-inspiring.