From portents of doom to preventing pregnant women from venturing outside during an eclipse, people belonging to different religions or cultures perceive solar eclipse differently. Here are the most common beliefs from the past and present
Eclipse, in astronomy, is a cosmological phenomenon of the temporary impediment of one celestial body by another. As known by all, both earth and moon revolve in their defined orbits and take their light from the sun- the only star of the solar system. So, when the three astronomical bodies become aligned, the eclipse happens. From the perspective of earth, the moon is eclipsed when it enters the earth’s shadow, blocking all the light of the sun from reaching the moon. Hence, in the case of the lunar eclipse, ]the reddish coppery colour moon can be seen. Similarly, the sun is eclipsed when the moon comes between the sun and earth, moon shadow sweeping over the earth. Although the eclipses are fascinating events for scientists, various cultures or religions associate eclipses with fears, omens, wonders, and awe, thinking either the world would end or a great evil would follow the eclipse.
In the past, people belonging to different religions and cultures had ascribed different spiritual importance to the eclipses, particularly solar eclipses, involving gods, demons, or dragons. For instance, Ancient Greeks believed that eclipses happen in the rage of gods fighting against each other, while according to West Africans, human anger spread to the sun and the moon, who began to fight and caused an eclipse. Similarly, Ancient Chinese had faith that eclipse happens when a celestial dragon devours the sun while the Muslim Community thought that the eclipse was darkened because of the tragedy and the grief of the death of the Holy Prophet’s (P.B.U.H.) son Ibrahim. However, Hindu methodology provided a quite disturbing explanation of solar eclipse. They believed when one Hindu legend, Rahu, was beheaded, his immortal head, in perpetual pursuit of the sun, caught and swallowed it, but the sun quickly reappeared, as Rahu had no throat. Most interestingly, in Cambodia, soldiers even shot into the air to scare the mythic dragon from the sky.
Talking to the present, in many cultures, solar eclipses still have meaning and significance. In several native Americans, it is believed that eclipse can be a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children. Therefore, they are kept indoors during a solar eclipse. Likewise, in India, people believe that cooking and eating while an eclipse would turn food into poison, so they fast to keep them safe. However, not all cultures associate eclipses as harbingers of doom. In Italy, for instance, natives plant maximum flowers during an eclipse because they believe the bloomed flowers would be more colourful than flowers planted any other time of the year, and some tribes believe it is simply nature’s way of “checking in” with the sky, perhaps a sort of cleaning house. Besides all the unrealistic beliefs, the mythology of Germans seems quite compelling and relatable that a solar eclipse is a visit of two companions- the sun and the moon. Congtigently, while revolving individually in their orbitals, they, at the time of the eclipse, coincide with each other, hence, proving the companionship hypothesis psychologically true.
Resultantly, there is no scientific evidence that enchanting awe-inspiring solar eclipses can affect human behaviour, health, or the environment. Nevertheless, throughout history, eclipses have been known to have profound psychological effects on people. Moreover, scientists do emphasize that anyone watching a solar eclipse must protect their eyes. Hence, one should not look at the sun directly during a solar eclipse as it may affect your eyes tremendously, causing retinal burns.
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