Total solar eclipses used to be terrifying events — here’s how ancient cultures explained them

helios painting

On August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible across parts of the United States.

As the Earth and moon sweep through space in their annual journey around the sun, the three bodies align in such a way that the Earth passes into the shadow of the moon. Observers then witness a sun that is gradually covered and uncovered by the moon’s disk – a spectacular celestial event.

But until astronomers were able to explain this phenomenon, a solar eclipse could be a terrifying event. In many cultures throughout human history, the sun was seen as an entity of supreme importance, crucial to their very existence. It was regularly worshipped as a god – Amun-Ra to the Egyptians and Helios to the Greeks – or as a goddess, such as Amaterasu for the Japanese and Saule for many Baltic cultures.

One reason the sun served as a god or goddess in so many cultures was its awesome power: Looking directly at it would severely damages the eyes, a sign of the sun diety’s wrath.

So the idea that the sun deity could be temporarily extinguished in a total eclipse inspired a number of imaginative explanations. Most involve some sort of evil entity trying to devour the sun. Such myths undoubtedly arose from the fact that during the early stages of a solar eclipse, the sun appears to have a bite taken out of it.

The various creatures include the Vikings’ sky wolves Skoll and Hati, a Chinese dragon, a Vietnamese frog and assorted Roman demons. In many cultures, it was believed that such creatures could be driven off by creating as much loud noise as possible: yelling, ringing bells, and banging pots and pans.

Perhaps the most creative version of this strand of mythologies comes from certain branches of Hindu culture. In that version, the mortal Rahu is said to have attempted to attain immortality. The sun and moon told the god Visnu of Rahu’s transgression. As punishment, Visnu decapitated Rahu.

Ever since, Rahu has sought to exact vengeance on the sun and the moon by pursuing them across the sky to eat them. Once in a while – at the time of an eclipse – Rahu actually catches the sun or the moon. In the case of a solar eclipse, Rahu slowly devours the sun, and it gradually disappears into Rahu’s throat – only to reappear from his severed neck.

In other branches of Hindu culture, the “sun eater” took the more traditional form of a dragon. To fight this beast, certain Hindu sects in India immersed themselves up to the neck in water in an act of worship, believing that the adulation would aid the sun in fighting off the dragon.

solar eclipseCarl, 4, uses special glasses to look into the sky at a partial solar eclipse near the Brandenburg Gate on March 20, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Getty Images

Other cultures had equally ingenious explanations for – and defenses against – a total solar eclipse. Eskimos thought an eclipse meant that the sun and moon had become temporarily diseased. In response, they’d cover up everything of importance – themselves included – lest they be infected by the “diseased” rays of the eclipsed sun.

For the Ojibwe tribe of the Great Lakes, the onset of total eclipse represented an extinguished sun. To prevent permanent darkness, they proceeded to fire flaming arrows at the darkened sun in an attempt to rekindkle it.

Amidst the plethora of the myths and legends and interpretations of this strange event, there are seeds of understanding about their true nature.

For example, the famed total solar eclipse of May 28, 585 B.C., occurred in the middle of a battle between the Medes and the Lydians in what is now the northeast region of modern-day Turkey. The eclipse actually ended the conflict on the spot, with both sides interpreting the event as a sign of the displeasure from the gods. But based on the writings of the ancient Greek historian Heroditus, it’s thought that the great Greek philosopher-mathematician Thales of Miletus had, coincidentally, predicted its occurrence.

Chinese, Alexandrian and Babylonian astronomers were also said to be sophisticated enough to not only understand the true nature of solar eclipses, but also to roughly predict when the “dragon” would come to devour the sun. (As with much knowledge back then, however, astronomical and astrological findings were relayed only to the ruling elites, while myths and legends continued to percolate among the general population.)

Advances in modern astronomy have given us detailed explanations for solar eclipses, to the extent that their time and location can be predicted centuries into the future and reconstructed from centuries ago.

Of course, mythologies surrounding total solar eclipses still exist today. Some conspiracy theorists say this year’s eclipse will cause the end of the world – perhaps a testament to the endurance of the superstitious side of the human psyche.

Bannon Declares War on Trump, Says ‘That Presidency is Over’

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Ousted White House strategist Steve Bannon has declared the Donald Trump presidency “over”, following his departure from the billionaire’s administration.

Mr Bannon, a right-wing ideologue who co-founded the Breitbart Newswebsite, pronounced himself “free” and said he now had “my hands back on my weapons” at the outlet.

He and Mr Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, agreed he would leave the White House on Friday. Mr Bannon said he had given his resignation earlier in the month, though it was also reported that Mr Trump had decided to let him go.

He told the Weekly Standard, a conservative opinion magazine: “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.       Continue reading

Man Loses Arm In Ghastly Accident Along Ibadan Expressway (graphic photos)

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A ghastly accident that occurred along Ibadan expressway earlier today, has left the man pictured above with one arm. But not the timely intervention of  emergency officials things may have been worse. After he was rescued,  he was immediately rushed to the hospital for treatment. Here are graphic photos below    Continue reading

Syria war: Rocket ‘hits Damascus trade fair’

Dancers perform at the opening of the trade fair on Thursday

A rocket has struck close to the entrance of a trade fair in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syrian media say.

The Damascus International Fair is being held for the first time since the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011.

Syrian TV said the rocket had caused casualties. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said five people had died.

The fair, which has another 10 days to run, had been a key business event before the Syrian conflict broke out.

Its general director, Fares al-Kartally, told AFP news agency earlier in the week that holding the fair, which opened on Thursday, reflected “the return of calm and stability in most regions” and would “signal the start of [the country’s] reconstruction”. Continue reading

Over N400 Billion Paid As Bribes in Buhari’s First Year As Revealed By United Nations

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Over N400 billion was paid as bribes to civil servants in the first year of President Muhammad Buhari’s administration.

This is according to a new report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in conjunction with the National Bureau of Statistics.

The National Corruption Report titled, “Bribery: public experience and response 2017” jointly coordinated by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) disclosed that “almost a third of Nigerian adults (32.3 per cent) who had contact with a public official between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay, or were requested to pay, a bribe to that public official.”

About 90.2 per cent of those living in the North West believe that government is very effective in fighting corruption. In the North East, the figure is 88.4 percent, it drops to 72.6 percent in the North Central, 68.9 percent in the South West, 41.2 percent in the South East and 41.3 percent in the South South region.             Continue reading

Best apps to stop drinking alcohol

woman holding phone with glass of red wine on the table
Quit drinking apps are designed to help you reduce your alcohol intake, stop drinking altogether, or stay sober for good.
Whether you are trying to reduce your alcohol intake or quit drinking altogether, there are apps to help you succeed. We have searched through apps aplenty to bring you the best stop drinking apps based on their design, usability, user ratings, and ability to help you reach your target.

Around 86.4 percent of adults in the United States have drunk alcohol at some point in their lifetime, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Consuming a moderate amount of alcohol – that is, up to one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men – may have health benefits, such as a reduced risk for heart disease and ischemic stroke.

However, binge drinking and heavy alcohol use are linked with car crashes, burns, falls, alcohol poisoning, violence, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, chronic diseases, cancers, memory and learning problems, and alcohol dependence.

An estimated 88,000 individuals die annually from alcohol-related causes, which makes alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

Moderating or quitting drinking alcohol involves limiting your alcohol intake as well as changing your habits and lifestyle choices, and apps can help you to achieve these goals. Here are Medical News Today‘s top 10 stop drinking apps to help you take charge of your drinking habits.

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Witnesses tell how they cowered in terror on beach during Cambrils attack

Terrified witnesses ran for their lives and cowered on a beach in Cambrils as police opened fire on terrorists who launched a second attack in Spain.

Shocking footage posted on social media showed bystanders running towards a darkened beach as gunfire rang out across the holiday destination on Thursday night.

Police shot dead five attackers wearing suicide belts as they veered into tourists at the seaside resort injuring seven people, including a police officer.

One victim remains in a critical condition after being hit by the Audi A3, Catalonian police said.                                                                          Continue reading