A Dragon is Eating the Sun!

If you had lived during a time when people had no clue what was happening during a solar eclipse, what would you have thought when the moon covered the light of the sun and everything went dark? Why would you think the sun had disappeared?

solar eclipse, pixabay

Would you believe that a frog or toad was eating the sun? I don’t see a frog or toad as being fierce enough to consume the sun. That sounds like something that would be in a B horror movie, but this is what the Vietnamese believed.

What the Kwakiutl tribe on the western coast of Canada thought was happening was just a bit more believable: they believed that sun was being consumed by the mouth of heaven.

The Norse culture believed that the evil enchanter, Loki, was put in chains by the gods. Loki wasn’t going to allow them to get away with this. For revenge, he created giant wolves, one of which swallowed the sun.

corona detail from the 2012 total solar eclipse, flickr

Did you notice that all the above beliefs have the sun being consumed? Why is that? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the earliest word for eclipse in Chinese is shih, which means “to eat.” What did Chinese believe? They believed that a celestial dragon was having the sun for lunch.

So if you are a member of one of these ancient peoples and you believe that some animal or demon is consuming the sun, your source of heat and light, what are you going to do? Are you going to stand by and just let it happen? No, you’re going to scare this creature away from your precious sun. You’re going to bang on pots, pans, drums,  and whatever else is handy to make as much noise as possible.

Some shot flaming arrows into the sky to try and rekindle the sun. Others did the same to try and scare off whoever was attacking the sun.

solar eclipse, Nov 13, 2012, by NASA Goddard Photo, flickr

Now we know that during a solar eclipse it is the moon that blocks the light of the sun, and we know that it will only last a few minutes. The moon isn’t trying to steal the sun from us; it just crossed paths with the sun.

Still, there are people who experience fear during a solar eclipse.

One example of this is what happened during a solar eclipse in Cambodia in 1995.Soldiers fired into the air to scare the mythical dragon away from the sun. I guess when the light of the sun came back, they believed they had succeeded. The only ones injured though were the casualties from the falling bullets.

Many believe that a solar eclipse will cause pregnancy issues. That is false; a solar eclipse will not harm the fetus or the woman carrying it.

The only risk during a solar eclipse is from looking at it with unprotected eyes.

Tokyo skyline during 2012 solar eclipse, wikimedia commons

Writing Prompts
Choose one of more of the beliefs about a solar eclipse above and write a story surrounding the fear. No matter which one you choose to write about, pretend that you are a child and experiencing your very first solar eclipse. What do you think the sun has disappeared? What do you think about what everyone is doing during this time? What did you think when the sun reappeared?

The Korean culture believed that dogs were trying to steal the sun. Write about what you think these dogs were going to do with the sun if they captured it. Did the Koreans believe these mythical dogs were going to try and sell their precious sun? How would they manage to hide the sun or to move it?

The Pomo, a Native American tribe from the northwest, called an eclipse sun got bit by a bear. As they told it, the bear started a fight with the sun and took a bite out of it. Write a story about how this myth began. Did one of the tribe believe that he actually saw a bear in the sky that started the fight?

I like this one. The Tewa tribe from New Mexico believed they had made the sun angry, so he left to go to his other home in the underworld. Write about what things the Tewa believed they had done to anger the sun so much. How did they attempt to make up for it and convince the sun to come back?

The ancient Greeks believed that the gods were angry with them. Their covering of the sun would lead to disasters and destruction to punish them. Write about how they tried to appease the gods’ anger. When the sun came back, did they believe they had been given a reprieve?

Check out the below sites to learn more fascinating eclipse facts.

Solar Eclipse Myths From Around the World

Myths and Superstitions Around Solar Eclipses

Native American Eclipse Mythology

Solar Eclipse Folklore, Myths, and Superstitions

Bonnie Tyler to sing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ on Royal Caribbean cruise during total solar eclipse

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