Solar Eclipse as A Sign: What Did Our Ancestors Believe?
Even if you do not have a deep knowledge of astrology, the phrase “Solar Eclipse” is most often perceived through the prism of collective mystical images and mysterious events. We invite you to analyze this phenomenon in detail, from an excursion into religious and mythological ideas about the Eclipse to the possibilities and the tools of modern astrology. Let’s begin!
In this article:
Solar Eclipse in Slavic Traditions: Do Demons Steal the Sun?
For example, both in pre-Christian times and for quite a long time after, if there was a solar or lunar eclipse in Kyivan Rus, a witch was considered the culprit. She either does it out of innate wickedness and seeks to harm the human race out of habit or does such fantastic things for some of her rituals.
The total solar eclipse of May 1st, 1185, which was observed by the residents of Kyivan Rus’ in particular, was also regarded as a harbinger of trouble by Prince Ihor, as mentioned in “The Tale of Ihor’s Campaign”. The main storyline follows the campaign of Russian princes against the Polovtsians. Starting from the second half of the 11th century, these tribes ravaged the lands of Kyivan Rus’, seizing property, cattle and territories, taking prisoners. The Kyiv Principality suffered from such raids in particular.
By the way, the campaign of the Russian princes against the Polovtsians led by Prince Ihor, which is described in “The Tale of Ihor’s Campaign”, the literary monument of the history of Ancient Rus, spectacularly failed. The author of the tale drew a symbolic and dramatic parallel between pridefulness as the eclipse of the soul (which inspired the Prince to this campaign) and the solar eclipse as a natural phenomenon, which obviously foreshadowed defeat. Thus, the solar eclipse had a significant place in Slavic mythology and was organically intertwined with Christian religious motifs after the Christianization of the Slavs. This is clearly demonstrated in the “The Tale of Ihor’s Campaign”, the events of which take place two hundred years after the baptism of Rus.
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A bright daytime star named the Sun is the most noted of the celestial bodies. The image of the Sun is associated with the concept of God in the large majority of religions around the world. The Sun was equated both with a woman and a man in different places of the world at different times. The image of the Sun has always been associated with a victory over the darkness or something impure or evil generated by the darkness. This is an all-seeing and all-knowing deity who can warm and protect you from various troubles and misfortunes. And as you know, there are many legends about the Sun.
For example, the ancient Slavs imagined the Sun as a giant, whose purpose is to give heat to the whole world. When the giant Sun saw dark human deeds, any evil or human misfortune, it dropped its face into its hands from the despair that overcame it. This is how the solar eclipse was explained. In other legends, the Eclipse of the Sun or Moon was explained by the devouring of the Sun by a wolf, a devil, a flying serpent, another mythical monster, or the abduction and capture of the heavenly body by sorcerers and even the devil himself.
If we ignore pagan ideas about a solar eclipse and turn to the examples from Christianity, then according to the Ukrainian folk and orthodox tradition, it is God who allows eclipses. The solar eclipse is a symbol of the severity of human sins, a call to repent, and it occurs repeatedly when the Sun drops its face into its hands, unable to bear evil human deeds.
Let’s sum up what we know. Folk tradition attributes negative features to the solar eclipse as a natural phenomenon. As we can see from the above, the machinations of demons or various kinds of evil creatures are mainly considered to be the cause of the eclipse, just as the eclipse is often perceived as God’s punishment for sins. A solar eclipse has a negative impact on the people. This is a harbinger of disasters in the form of wars, famines, epidemics, diseases, droughts or, conversely, floods, and other big tragedies. This is a sign of the end of the world, the end of the kingdom, or the ruin of the empire.
People tried to prevent the consequences of eclipses in every possible way. Our memories passed down through generations have preserved this tradition: to avoid trouble, the Slavs wore clean clothes during eclipses, lit candles and fumigated themselves and their home with incense. To prevent the eclipse from water poisoning, they closed the wells, drove the cattle into the premises, and hid themselves. It was believed that if you find yourself in an open field during a solar eclipse, you may soon lose your life.
Solar Eclipse and the Murder of Julius Caesar in Ancient Rome
We have briefly described the role of the solar eclipse in religious and mythological beliefs, using examples from Slavic culture. However, we would like to note that other cultures of the world also had ideas about this natural phenomenon with an equally colorful heritage of legends, tales of yore, and historical evidence.
Some ancient authors have said that the death of Julius Caesar was accompanied by a solar eclipse. Yes, this is the ancient Roman Emperor who had an affair with Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, and whose life came to a tragic end in 44 BC. Gaius Julius Caesar died among thousands of witnesses from 23 stab wounds inflicted on him by his former colleagues, the cream of the Roman aristocracy.
We will neither confirm nor deny information about the eclipse. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the ancient authors who described the events of the life and death of Julius Caesar and pointed out the presence of a solar eclipse, used the latter as a sign of trouble, subsequent betrayal, murder, and death, as a turning point in the fate of man and state. As you can see, people have always intuitively understood that the Sun protects life, and everything that is not light is darkness, gloom, and decay.
We have finished reviewing the cultural aspects of the solar eclipse and invite you to move with us from the time when this natural phenomenon was inexplicable to the time when astronomy gave the exact answers to the questions about eclipses, and astrology, as a connecting link between science and religion, offered its methods and clues for those who are interested. We invite you to read our articles Solar Eclipse in the Modern World and How to Prepare for the Total Solar Eclipse 2020: Self-Help Techniques During the Eclipse.