Myth Monday: Eclipse Edition

As you may have noticed, we experienced an eclipse today. I live pretty close to the zone of totality, so I had a nice view of it.

Throughout the ages and throughout the whole world, people have been telling stories to explain eclipses. Humans really, really like telling stories to make sense of their lives, and especially of crazy things that happen to them,  like THE SUN GOING OUT and stuff like that.

So below is a quick list of some of the stories from different cultures/countries. Follow the links or do some research to find out more – there are way too many for one blog post!

  • There are many Native American legends, but one that I found in several places was about a boy who gets really mad at the sun for burning him, and so he gets the strongest cord he can find and uses it to trap and choke the sun. Many creatures try to rescue the sun but only the mouse is able to chew through the cord and save it. Here’s one version of it from the Menomini. All of the versions have the mouse as the hero. Other legends blame black squirrels for eclipses, but I couldn’t find a story about it.
  • Hindu mythology features a demon named Rahu, who tries to destroy the sun and moon. He is decapitated by the gods and then, depending on the version, his severed head chases after the sun and tries to eat it. I mean, you have to admire his persistence. Sometimes he manages to bite the sun, and that causes eclipses.
  • The Korean Bul-Gae, or fire dogs (awesome, right??), are also very interested in devouring the sun. They are servants of the king of the Dark World, who wants the sun and moon’s light for himself. They try to eat the sun and moon so that they can bring it to their master, but are burned or frozen by turns. Their attempts cause eclipses.
  • Norse Mythology has its own version of Bul-Gae: wolves named Skoll and Hati. These wolves fly through the sky after the sun and moon, and it is prophesied that during Ragnarok, Skoll and Hati will capture the sun and moon at last, creating an eclipse as the world ends. There’s a really good write-up on them here.
  • Last but not least, there is the myth of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess. She is enmeshed in a struggle against her brother, Susano. Their rivalry escalates until they’re spawning gods and goddesses left and right, and throwing dead horses, and all kinds of similar nonsense. Eventually, Amaterasu decides she has had enough and hides herself in a cave. This causes an eclipse, which makes everyone is very upset and they decided to team up to trick her into exiting the cave.

Amaterasu_cave_edit2.jpg
Amaterasu emerging from the cave. Source
I’m surprised that there aren’t more that are simply about hiding, disguising, or kidnapping the sun; most of the ones I looked at involved destroying or devouring it. I’m sure there are many more stories that I didn’t find, though. Let me know in the comments of any I missed!

Thanks to gingernifty for this week’s topic! If you have an idea for a Myth Monday topic, comment below.

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