On August 21, skywatchers in the U.S. will gather to observe a total solar eclipse, a memorable event in which the Moon will gradually cover 100 percent of the Sun.
Thanks to modern science, the reason for an eclipse and its pathway are common knowledge and towns in the eclipse’s path, from South Carolina to Oregon, are preparing for viewing events.
However, this is a far cry from prior superstitions and myths that kept people indoors and cowering in fear as the Sun disappeared.
There are many reasons that cultures responded to an eclipse with fright rather than with celebration. Chief among them was the sentiment that somehow, there was a conflict between the celestial bodies.
Livescience writes that during a 16th-century eclipse, ancient Aztecs reacted to an eclipse in what was described as “tumult and disorder.” The detailed account, taken by the missionary Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, goes on to describe shouting and sacrifices of lighter-skinned people alongside general panic that the Sun might disappear forever, and demons of darkness would come down and eat people.
Time has shown that this panic was unfounded, but myths continue be part of the folklore.
From dangers to pregnant women to colorful flowers, these are the 5 of the top solar eclipse superstitions.
It might be hard to picture panic ensuing during an eclipse in modern day North America, but according to Livescience, ancient peoples sought to explain an eclipse the best way they could.
Some cultures believed gods and demons were involved, while others cited dragons. The Shan people, (located in present-day Vietnam) thought it was an evil spirit that took the form of a toad.
Hide your kids! Hide your wife!
It is unclear where this wive’s tale (pardon the pun) originates, but it persists. In the cultures where this myth is believed, women and small children are advised to stay indoors during an eclipse.
According to Space.com, some cultures also believed that children born during an eclipse would turn into mice.
Don’t eat that!
In India, some cultures opt to fast during an eclipse. This is done because it is believed that any food cooked during an eclipse is impure, or worse, poisonous.
Italians have long believed that if flowers are planted during an eclipse, they will be more colorful when it’s time to bloom.
Settle your differences.
The Batammaliba of Togo and Benin believe an eclipse happens because the Sun and Moon are fighting one another. In order to get the Sun back, people on Earth are advised to settle their differences and make peace.
According to NASA, the last total solar eclipse taking place over contiguous United States occurred on Feb. 26, 1979.
There will be an annular solar eclipse that will take place on October 14, 2023 and there will be another total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.