Ancient Mythology: What Past Cultures Have Believed About Solar Eclipses

We’ve already talked about the solar eclipse that’s about to happen in April of this year, so it’s no secret that we’re extremely excited about it. But have you ever wondered what ancient civilizations thought about solar eclipses? Back in the days when NASA didn’t have an official website to guide us through all of the nuances of this astrological phenomenon.

Just imagine how scary it would’ve been to suddenly witness the Moon cover the Sun’s surface without any context into what that means. So it’s no surprise that there has been a rich tapestry of myths and beliefs across various ancient cultures about this topic. That’s why we’ve decided to delve into the intriguing world of ancient mythology surrounding solar eclipses and explore the diverse interpretations and stories that have been passed down through generations.

Ancient Egypt

Back in the days of ancient Egypt, where the Sun was an important part of their religion and mythology. While there isn’t any direct mention of solar eclipses in their writing, there have been certain illustrations that could’ve been inspired by it. One, that was often seen, was a battle between the god Ra and the snake Apep. Ra, the sun god, was believed to be swallowed by Apep, the serpent god of chaos, during an eclipse. Egyptians probably believed that an eclipse to be something like a temporary victory over Ra by Apep. There have also been a few mentions of “darkness by day” that could be referring to solar eclipses.

Ancient China

In ancient China, people believed that an invisible dragon ate the sun or moon during a solar or lunar eclipse. However, they also believed that there was a way to save these celestial bodies – by making a lot of noise! They believed that loud noises and music could drive away the dragon and restore the sun’s light. But that’s not where it ends. Emperors in China often saw eclipses as omens of bad fortune and would take precautions to protect themselves and their kingdom.


Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece had a different theory. They believed that solar eclipses were signs of the gods’ anger or impending disaster. They believed that the sun was so angry with the people that it wanted to leave the Earth behind. In fact, the word “eclipse” even comes from the Greek language and it translates to “abandonment”. The famous philosopher Thales of Miletus accurately predicted a solar eclipse in 585 BC, showcasing early attempts to understand and predict these celestial events without attributing them solely to divine intervention.

Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, solar eclipses were attributed to the wolves Skoll and Hati. They were said to chase the sun and the moon across the sky as part of a celestial hunt. Skoll was believed to pursue the sun, while Hati chased the moon, symbolizing the eternal cycle of day and night. When a solar eclipse occurred, it was interpreted as one of the wolves catching its celestial prey temporarily. This then led to darkness on Earth as the sun or moon seemed to disappear. Of course, the Vikings didn’t go down without a fight. They would start making loud noises in the hope to scare the wolves away.

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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