On Friday 20 March 2015, Europe’s largest solar eclipse since 1999 is set to cast an eerie darkness over the mountains and vast plains of Europe and Asia. The solar eclipse will darken most of Europe, as well as northern Asia and western and northern Africa. In the Faroe Islands, located between Norway and Iceland, there will be a total eclipse, resulting in 100% obscuration.
A solar eclipse can be frightening to people who are unaware of its astronomical explanation. With the Sun disappearing during the day and the sky darkening in a matter of minutes, it is no wonder why. Even today, an eclipse of the Sun can cause distress, inspire curiosity and be considered a bad omen in many countries and cultures across the world.
With such an incredible natural phenomenon taking place, Capita Translation and Interpreting have decided to take a look at some myths and superstitions surrounding a solar eclipse. Here are various explanations from across the world on what causes a solar eclipse, and what to do when the world around you plunges into darkness:
In India, during the time of a solar eclipse, food is neither eaten nor cooked. Many believe that when the rays of the sun don’t touch the earth, the number of germs increase. As a result, all food cooked before the eclipse is thrown away.
In Thailand, lucky objects are bought prior to a solar eclipse to ward off evil omens during the eclipse. Since black is the colour of Rahu (the demon of darkness), devotees in Thailand buy black chicken, black liquor, black beans, black eggs, black rice and black moss sticks.
In Tahiti an eclipse of the sun has a romantic connotation. Solar eclipses have been interpreted as the lovemaking of the Sun and the Moon. As a result, people in Tahiti find the event to be something to look forward to, since the eclipse seems to be the portent of a divine blessing.
The Batammaliba people, who live in Togo and Benin, Africa, use a solar eclipse as a time to reflect. According to their mythology, during a solar eclipse, the sun and the moon are fighting and that the only way to stop them from hurting each other is to encourage people on Earth to resolve their own feuds and conflicts with each other.
In ancient China, a celestial dragon is thought to ‘lunch’ on the Sun, causing a solar eclipse. In fact, the Chinese word for an eclipse, “chih” or “shih” means to eat.
The next total eclipse to reach the UK won’t be until September 2090, when south-west England will once again see the sun totally obscured by the moon. With such a long wait between now and then, be sure to take a look outside your window when this phenomenal celestial event takes place.
If you’re planning on watching the solar eclipse, then make sure you follow these safety tips to avoid damaging your eyesight.