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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Solar Eclipse 2018, 5 ancient myths about the phenomenon

Solar Eclipse 2018 myth: A partial solar eclipse will take place this Friday the 13th. We dig up 5 superstitions and myths associated with eclipses.

more-lifestyle Updated: Jul 12, 2018 18:32 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
Solar Eclipse 2018 myth: The partial solar eclipse takes place on Friday the 13th, which is considered an ominous date.
Solar Eclipse 2018 myth: The partial solar eclipse takes place on Friday the 13th, which is considered an ominous date. (Shutterstock)

This Friday the 13th will mark a partial solar eclipse, when the moon will pass between the sun and earth, resulting in partially blocking the Sun. While there are numerous superstitions associated with eclipses, the ominous date for this eclipse (Friday the 13th is considered unlucky and is associated with horror in Western superstition) is creating a lot of buzz online. While it will be visible to people living near the Indian Ocean, it is advised that people view it by using special glasses or lenses and not with naked eyes.

Here are some common superstitions associated with solar eclipses:

* Traditionally, Indians believed that solar eclipses are inauspicious as the Sun is not clearly seen and it could lead to an increase in bacteria and germs. Hence, during the eclipse, it was believed that people shouldn’t cook or eat food, drink water or go outdoors. Some people believe in chanting or praying during this period to protect themselves from its harmful effects. After the eclipse, many people take a bath to purify themselves and change into fresh clothes.

* Across cultures, there are different myths associated with the eclipse. In India, it was believed that the demon Rahu (an immortal head) and Ketu (his headless body) chase the Sun and moon and swallow them causing solar and lunar eclipses, but can’t hold them for long, and the Sun and moon emerge unscathed.

Also read: Century’s longest total lunar eclipse on July 27

* In Vietnam, people believe that a solar eclipse is caused by a giant frog devouring the sun. Norse cultures believe wolves devour the Sun, while the ancient Chinese blamed a dragon for swallowing it and causing the eclipse. The Greeks believed that a solar eclipse was a sign of angry gods and could portend natural disasters.

* A common belief across many cultures is that eclipses can be dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Expectant mothers are told to not step out or undertake any activity at home (especially if it involves using sharp objects, be it cutting vegetables or stitching) as it is believed that it may harm the child.

*In Africa, eclipses are a time to end feuds. The Batammaliba locals of Togo and Benin believe that an eclipse is caused by fighting between the sun and the moon. When an eclipse occurs, the Batammaliba come together and try to end their own fighting to set an example for the sun and moon to do the same.

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First Published: Jul 12, 2018 15:37 IST