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Solar Eclipses Were not Always Enjoyed - Windows to the Universe

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Ancient societies would act wild in order to free the Sun from the animal.
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Solar Eclipses Were not Always Enjoyed

Eclipses have been monitored for centuries, but it was only recently that we understood what really occurs. Eclipses have always been fascinating to watch, but they weren't always welcome. For many years, civilizations around the world feared these rare occasions.

Ancient people were convinced a solar eclipse was a sign of something horrible. Some civilizations believed that the Sun was being eaten by some sort of animal, such as a dragon or wolf. They felt the only way to free the Sun was to be chaotic. So, the people would make noises called hullabaloos while dancing around and acting crazy. They continued this until the Sun was "free" from the animal.

Others believed an eclipse was a sign of disease and death. In South America, they believed a hidden Sun was the source of smallpox and the Spanish influenza. They also believed it led to immoral acts such as incest. This lead to stories such as the Maorian myth about the Sun and Moon. The Moon god, Anningan, would chase his sister Malina, the Sun goddess, across the sky. She runs away from him because he tried to sleep with her. When he catches up with her, he rapes her before she gets away again.

Throughout history, people were terrified of what we now know as an amazing coincidence. Fortunately, society now knows the truth behind eclipses.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF