MAP90: The Black Hour: Solar Eclipse and the Medieval Mind

The Black Hour Cover Art

The Black Hour: Solar Eclipse and the Medieval Mind

08 April 2024, a total solar eclipse will travel across North America. The path of totality stretches from Durango, Mexico up through Dallas, Texas, Arkansas, Southern Illinois, through Indianapolis, Ohio, Buffalo, New York, Toronto, Montreal and making it’s way over New Brunswick before leaving North America.

If you live in the path of totality be sure to get outside on April 8 and see the eclipse. It’s an incredible experience, even a partial eclipse. Just don’t look at the sun directly, it’s bad for your eyes.

In modern times we know what is happening. How did medieval people feel about an eclipse. Was it seen as a bad omen or a curse? Or did they understand the science behind it?

Myths

The myths surrounding solar eclipses vary from nation to nation but they all have a similar tone…something is eating the sun, or moon. The creature varies from a frog eating the sun in Vietnam to a dragon in India. India also includes the lore of the demon Rahu eating the sun but the demon is beheaded before he can swallow it so the sun falls out of his severed neck, reappearing in the sky.

The Japanese thought poison would fall from the sky during an eclipse and covered their wells. In Transylvania they believed an eclipse would bring a plague.

The Chinese believed an eclipse would grant the Emperor health and success but only if it was predicted. Failing to predict an eclipse would put the life of the Emperor in danger. Legend has it two Chinese astrologers were executed for failing to predict an eclipse in 2100 BC. An unknown author wrote this at the burial site

“Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hi Whose fate though sad was visible, Being hanged because they could not spy Th’eclipse which was invisible.”

The Norse myth explains an eclipse as the wolf fenrir eating the moon. One thing all the myths and cultures agree on is the eclipse is a harbinger of bad things to come.

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