#FolkloreThursday, Carnelian, Chinese Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, folklore, folklore creatures, necromancer, Norse Mythology, Paladin, preview of work, Ra, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, short story, solar eclipse, Stories on Scrolls, Wattpad, Wikipedia, writing
A solar eclipse is a terrifying and magnificent sight.
Throughout history it had been seen as either the end of the world, the beginning of the end or as a punishment by a god. Folklore is so much fun to investigate. But let’s first look at what a solar eclipse is according to science.
As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse is a type of eclipse that occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks (“occults“) the Sun. This can happen only at new moon, when the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth in an alignment referred to as syzygy. In a total eclipse, the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon. In partial and annular eclipses, only part of the Sun is obscured.
Since looking directly at the Sun can lead to permanent eye damage or blindness, special eye protection or indirect viewing techniques are used when viewing a solar eclipse. It is technically safe to view only the total phase of a total solar eclipse with the unaided eye and without protection; however, this is a dangerous practice, as most people are not trained to recognize the phases of an eclipse, which can span over two hours while the total phase can only last up to 7.5 minutes for any one location. People referred to as eclipse chasers or umbraphiles will travel to remote locations to observe or witness predicted central solar eclipses.
For the date of the next eclipse see the section Recent and forthcoming solar eclipses.
There are four types of solar eclipses:
- A total eclipse occurs when the dark silhouette of the Moon completely obscures the intensely bright light of the Sun, allowing the much fainter solar corona to be visible. During any one eclipse, totality occurs at best only in a narrow track on the surface of Earth.
- An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon.
- A hybrid eclipse (also called annular/total eclipse) shifts between a total and annular eclipse. At certain points on the surface of Earth it appears as a total eclipse, whereas at other points it appears as annular. Hybrid eclipses are comparatively rare.
- A partial eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are not exactly in line and the Moon only partially obscures the Sun. This phenomenon can usually be seen from a large part of the Earth outside of the track of an annular or total eclipse. However, some eclipses can only be seen as a partial eclipse, because the umbra passes above the Earth’s polar regions and never intersects the Earth’s surface. Partial eclipses are virtually unnoticeable, as it takes well over 90% coverage to notice any darkening at all. Even at 99% it would be no darker than civil twilight.
Google images spouts this when you search for “solar eclipse”:
The Folklore of the Solar Eclipse
Throughout history, solar eclipses have been viewed with dread and associated with myths and superstitions. Even today, in the 21st century, some cultures consider them a bad omen.
It is not completely surprising that the phenomenon has been such a source of fear. A total eclipse, especially, can be a disturbing experience – something that appears to undermine nature itself.
During a total eclipse, unlike the partial one the UK will witness on Friday , darkness falls, the Sun’s shimmering corona becomes visible, and a chill enters the air.
Spookily, birds stop singing, confused by the apparent sudden transition from day to night.
Among modern superstitions is the belief that solar eclipses can be a danger to pregnant women and unborn children. In some cultures, young children and expectant mothers are asked to stay indoors during an eclipse.
In parts of India, people still fast during a solar eclipse because of the fear that any food cooked during the event will be poisoned.
A few superstitions offer a positive slant on eclipses. In Italy some believe that flowers planted during a solar eclipse will be brighter and more colourful than at any other time.
The Batammaliba people from Benin and Togo in West Africa have a legend that during an eclipse the Sun and Moon are fighting. The only way to stop the conflict, they believe, is for people on Earth to settle their differences.
Ancient cultures tried to understand why the Sun temporarily vanished from the Sky, so they came up with various reasons for what caused a solar eclipse.
In Vietnam, people believed that a giant frog was devouring the Sun, while Viking cultures blamed wolves for eating the Sun and causing a solar eclipse.
In ancient China, a celestial dragon was thought to lunch on the Sun, causing a solar eclipse. In fact, the Chinese word of an eclipse, chih or shih means to eat.
According to ancient Hindu mythology, the deity Rahu, is beheaded by the gods for capturing and drinking ambrosia. Rahu’s head flies off in the sky and swallows the Sun causing an eclipse.
In order to get rid of the demon, people in many cultures got together to bang pots and pans and made loud noises during a solar eclipse. It was thought that making a noise would scare the demon away.
In Norse mythology the sun is chased by a wolf.
In Norse mythology, Sköll (Old Norse “Treachery”) is a warg that chases the horses Árvakr and Alsviðr, that drag the chariot which contains the sun (Sól) through the sky every day, trying to eat her. Sköll has a brother, Hati, who chases Máni, the moon. At Ragnarök, both Sköll and Hati will succeed in their quests.
Eclipses are the sign that Sköll is dangerously close to catching Sól.
Other myths tell of deception and theft to explain the sun’s disappearance during an eclipse. Korean eclipse mythology involves fire dogs that try to steal the sun or the moon. On orders from a king, the mythical canines try their best to capture the fiery sun or the ice-cold moon. They always fail, but whenever they bite either orb, an eclipse results.
One of the more colorful stories in Krupp’s opinion involves the Hindu demon Rahu, who disguises himself as a god in order to steal a taste of an elixir that grants immortality. The sun and moon see what Rahu is up to, and they report his crime to the god Vishnu.
“Vishnu slices off his head before [the elixr] can slide past his throat,” said Krupp. As a consequence, Rahu’s head turns immortal, but his body dies.
The demon’s head continues to move through the sky, chasing the sun and the moon out of hatred. “Every now and then he catches them and swallows them,” explained Krupp. But since Rahu has no throat, the sun and the moon fall out of the bottom of his head.
Ra https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_deity (one of the most important deities among Ancient Egyptian gods) travels across the sky in his solar-boat, aging as the day passes. During the night he travels through the underworld on a treacherous journey bringing light to the dead until he is reborn in the morning. Other gods go with him on his journey to protect him in his vulnerable state from the giant serpent Apep who attempts to stop Ra from completing his journey by devouring him. Solar eclipses are signs that Apep got the upper hand for a while, though Ra always manages to escape.
How Hou Yi shot the sun
In ancient Chinese mythology, the sky had not one, but 10 suns. Every day, the solar goddess Shiho would pick up one of these suns (also her sons) and wheel him across the sky in her chariot. In the meantime, the other nine would play among the leaves of the mythical Fusang tree, believed to be more than 10,000 feet tall. This system worked well until the day that the suns grew bored of their responsibility. They decided to run across the sky all at once, planning to generate enough light and heat so that they could all take a few days off. Instead, this solar scamper dried up rivers, scorched the Earth and led to widespread drought. Taking pity on suffering mortals, the sun god Dijun called in the expert archer Hou Yi. With 10 magic arrows, the story goes that Hou Yi was to discipline the irresponsible suns. The archer stalked and killed nine suns and would have snuffed out the last as well if a young boy hadn’t stolen his final arrow, saving Earth from perpetual darkness.
According to a Cherokee legend, the sun long ago grew jealous of her brother the moon because the people of Earth always looked at her with twisted-up faces and squinted eyes, while they smiled at his gentle light. The sun’s daughter lived in the middle of sky, so every day, the sun stopped to visit her. Angry at humans for their ugly expressions, the sun began using these opportunities to send down so much heat that people began to die of fever. The humans turned to the Little Men, who in Cherokee legend were friendly, magical spirits who dwelt in the forests. The Little Men said that the sun must die, so they turned one man into a rattlesnake and another into a fearsome antlered serpent called the Uktena. The rattlesnake arrived at the sun’s daughter’s house to wait for her arrival. But while he was waiting, the sun’s daughter opened her door. The rattlesnake accidentally bit her, killing her. When the sun came to see her daughter, she discovered her dead and began to weep, flooding the Earth with her tears. Desperate to please the sun and stop the weeping, the people of Earth made an attempt to rescue the dead daughter from the land of ghosts, but failed. When they returned, the sun began to weep even harder. To distract her, the people began to dance and play music until she finally became happy again.
Slowing down the sun
The Maori people of New Zealand tell a tale about a long-ago time when the days were shorter than they are now. The hero Maui often heard his brothers lamenting the lack of light during the day. He decided to solve the problem by taming the sun. Although his brothers were sceptical, they and their tribe helped Maui weave a net out of flax. Maui and his brothers then set out to the east to find the sun’s resting place. They covered the entry to the sun’s cave with nets and smeared themselves with clay to protect against the sun’s heat. When the sun emerged, it fought and struggled in the nets, but the brothers held firm. Maui began to beat the sun — some stories say he had an axe, others a club made of the jawbone of an ancestor — until the star was so weakened that it could no longer race across the sky. According to the legend, that is why the sun travels so slowly in the sky today
So much fodder for stories…
I’ve been thinking about writing Stories on Scrolls for a while now. The competition prompt on Wattpad proved to be the incentive that I needed to start writing this new series. Day of Black Sun is the result of this prompt.
This is what you get on Google images when you search for “carnelian”:
Like the unexpected fire of a sunset, or the first flash of autumn brilliance, Carnelian captivates. Its bold energy brings a rush of warmth and joy that lingers, stimulating and empowering. Known as a stone of motivation and endurance, leadership and courage, Carnelians have protected and inspired throughout history.
Ancient Warriors wore Carnelian around their neck for courage and physical power to conquer their enemies.
Necromancers are quite popular in film, television and games. This is what you get when you search Google images for “necromancer”:
They’re obviously creepy. Let’s look (quickly) at what necromancy is.
Necromancy (/ˈnɛkrəˌmænsi, -roʊ-/) or nigromancy is a supposed practice of magic involving communication with the deceased – either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily – for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, to bring someone back from the dead, or to use the deceased as a weapon, as the term may sometimes be used in a more general sense to refer to black magic or witchcraft.
Medieval necromancy is believed to be a synthesis of astral magic derived from Arabic influences and exorcism derived from Christian and Jewish teachings. Arabic influences are evident in rituals that involve moon phases, sun placement, day and time. Fumigation and the act of burying images are also found in both astral magic and necromancy. Christian and Jewish influences appear in the symbols and in the conjuration formulas used in summoning rituals.
Obviously dealing with the dead takes a lot of magic – like what a solar eclipse can provide.
Paladins are used a lot in fantasy games. This is what you get when you search Google images for “paladin”:
But they are more than just stock characters.
By the 13th century words referring specifically to Charlemagne’s peers began appearing in European languages; the earliest is the Italian paladino. Modern French has paladin, Spanish has paladín or paladino (reflecting alternate derivations from the French and Italian), while German has Paladin. By extension “paladin” has come to refer to any chivalrous hero such as King Arthur‘s Knights of the Round Table.
“Chills ran down my back as I woke. I knew that this day would be the end. If the sun was covered by the moon, the necromancer would be successful in bringing back his master. And everyone would suffer before dying horrific deaths.” – Day of Black Sun, Stories on Scrolls, Ronel Janse van Vuuren
I hope you enjoy reading the first tale in the series. Comments can be left here or on Wattpad – I always appreciate feedback. What are your experiences with solar eclipses? Did you learn something new from the folklore surrounding it? Do you like scrolls? Anything you’d like to add?
Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free ebook. I won’t share your information and I’ll only email you once a month with updates on new releases, special offers, and a bit of news.