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Who Ate the Sun??

Updated: Apr 6

OCAP - Blog #4Eclipses – Cultural Depictions

April Edition #4 – 4/4/2024

S. Ryan Wood - Odontus Creations



Eclipses – both solar and lunar – have occurred for centuries, but the one that has both plagued and fascinated mankind is the TOTAL solar eclipse during which the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the sun’s light from view.  The path on which this event can be seen as the event progresses along the earth’s surface is called a “path of totality” – a 115-mile-wide strip spanning several cities in North America where daylight becomes almost dark as night for around four to five minutes. 


Throughout the continental U.S., there have been fifteen total solar eclipses on record. Within the state of Texas, this upcoming total solar eclipse will be the first in over 100 years with the next two occurring August 12, 2045 and May 11, 2078, so this one will be a rare treat indeed!


Ancient Beliefs

So many civilizations throughout our world's history have developed their own explanations for eclipses. Human record of eclipses can be dated back to around 3340 B.C.E. noted on spiral-shaped and circular petroglyphs found in County Meath, Ireland.  The Chinese have recorded eclipse events on tortoise shells and ox bones that bascially say “The sun has been eaten”.  In the late 20th century, NASA scientists researched these ancient records (believed to be quite accurate) to study changes in the Earth’s rotation and discovered that if our planet had been rotating at the same speed then as it does now, the eclipse recorded by the Chinese around 1200 B.C.E. would not have taken place, leading scientists to discover that the Earth’s rotation has slowed by 47-thousanths of a second per day since the Chinese had recorded.


 In the Bible, Acts 2:20 says "THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD COMES." where Christians wrote that the moon turned to blood (referring to a lunar eclipse where the moon turns to a reddish hue) after Jesus’ crucifixion.  Scholars today can then determine that His crucifixion possibly occurred somewhere near Friday, April 3, 33 C.E. (Common Era) based on the adjusted calculations of the Earth’s rotation.

 

In ancient Egypt, Apep - the serpent spirit of chaos and evil – was said to have swallowed the sun god Ra during an eclipse and forced armies of other gods to defeat and cut him open to prevent plunging the world into permanent darkness.  The Vikings had belief in a wolf god Skoll who was in constant pursuit of the sun goddess Sol.  During an eclipse, Skoll was said to have caught up with Sol and if he swallowed her, it would plunge the world into darkness and initiate Ragnarok – a battle between the gods and the end of the world.

 

The Mayans, who were known for keeping meticulous records, recorded ecliptic events in

stone-carved hieroglyphs, pottery and mural paintings, and codices.  Their knowledge of astronomy was proven when they predicted the solar eclipse of July 1991.  Their application of astronomy is still used by several Mayan communities today in agriculture, Mayan calendars, and ceremonial practices.  Chaco Canyon in New Mexico is home to several petroglyphs left behind by ancient Puebloans that studied the behavior of the sun.  This example depicts the coronal mass ejection of an eclipse that took place July 11, 1097.

 

The Chinese had myths of dragons, South American societies had those of a leopard,  in Vietnam it was a giant frog, and in Korea, a pack of wild dogs.  While every culture had its own myths, they all revolved around the ‘disappearance’ of the sun.


Einstein

Perhaps one of the most amazing observations of eclipses involves Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which was validated three years after its proposal in 1916.  Einstein proposed that gravity warps time and space – one example being our sun’s gravity.  On May 29, 1919, this was confirmed as astronomers were finding that the location of some stars around the eclipse to be inconsistent with their maps – supportive evidence of Einstein’s theory.

 

A Valuable Tool

As many have learned by now (hopefully), viewing a solar eclipse MUST be safely accomplished and enjoyed using the right tools.  For simple ‘watching’ purposes, a pair of ISO-approved glasses can be acquired for a VERY low price.  For those into photographing or acquiring video of the event, you’ll need to acquire a lens filter with a 15 to 20-stop rating and an ND100000 rating (Neutral Density) which rates what light is blocked by the filter.  For more information on solar eclipse photography, visit MrEclipse.com for more extensive details.


 

 

 

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