Friday, January 15, 2010

Solar Eclipse And Superstitions

There's always something magical, divine, extra-ordinary when you get to watch such a rare celestial spectacle as a Solar Eclipse, an event when the moon steps in between the sun and the earth.The solar eclipse of January 15, 2010 is an annular eclipse of the Sun with a magnitude of 0.9190. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun, causing the sun to look like a ring, blocking most of the Sun's light. It is visible as a partial eclipse in much of Africa, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia. It is seen as annular within a narrow stretch of 300 km (190 mi) width across Central Africa, Maldives, South Kerala (India), South Tamil Nadu (India), North Sri Lanka, parts of Burma and parts of China.

While the scientific community is gearing up for the longest annular solar eclipse of the millennium, the people too are preparing themselves for the rare event in their own way. And irrespective of their educational background, a cross section of the people are still firm in their superstitious beliefs related to eclipses.

Let's have a look at superstitions related to solar eclipse all over the world

  • During eclipses, expectant mothers from Mexico and some other parts of Latin America frequently wear bright red panties with a safety pin tucked through them, the result of a tradition dating back to Aztec and Mayan days. It seems those tribes belived that the eclipse released energy that could cause birth defects and to ward off its power, pregnant women would step outside only if they tied a red string around their waists with an arrowhead attached to it.

  • The ancient Chinese believed that a dragon is trying to swallow the Sun.The Chinese would shoot fireworks and bang gongs to scare the dragon away if they know a solar eclipse is coming it seems.

  • In India, people believe when the sun rays are covered by the moon, the atmosphere becomes polluted. Therefore, for the whole day -- about 12 hours of the day time -- people observe fast and do not eat any food in the polluted atmosphere. People pray during the eclipse period so that they did not indulge in any evil activity. The same is done during Lunar Eclipse but the period of fast is only nine hours.

  • Javanese people remain inside their homes and don't venture outside.

  • Even in ancient Greece, people were superstitious about Solar Eclipse. In the Odyssey, Homer states that, “the Sun vanished out of heaven and an evil gloom covered all things about the hour of the midday meal.”

Even though superstitions persists among a huge majority of people, still science and its advocates have a few listeners, at least I have no faith in superstitions. What about you?


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