The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 is upon us. Cue religious hysteria, ancient prophecies, and visions of second-sight doomsday divinations. All of this and more will be visible to the naked eye on August 21, as the sun disappears behind the moon for a grand total of two minutes and 23 seconds.
Solar and lunar eclipses happen every 6,585.3 days, roughly translated: Every 18 years. Scientist refer to the time between each eclipse as the ominous sounding Saros Cycle. Observers estimate that first contact with the eclipse will be in Oregon around 10:15am Pacific Time, eventually following a path that will cut through 12 states including the Southern states of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Those are just the best vantage points, however. It is expected that every single man, woman, and child in the Continental US will see at least a partial eclipse since the Moon will be covering around 48 percent of the Sun’s total surface. Richmond and Hampton Roads are estimated to see close to 85 percent of the total eclipse (of the heart) starting at 1:15pm.
What does this mean for Richmond watchers?
It means if you need an excuse to ditch work and head to your favorite rooftop bar to exercise your doom-laden predictions, claim a religious exemption from some of history’s greatest solar prophecies listed below:
The sun starved Northman of Scandinavia believed a sky-wolf named ‘Skoll’ stole the sun causing an eclipse that would usher in the Viking apocalypse known colloquially as Ragnarok. The Vikings would then attempt to steal the sun back by making a raucous uproar eventually scaring Skoll into giving up his delicious solar meal, thus bringing the world back from the brink of darkness.
The Tartars are a people who inhabited parts of Western Siberia and believed a vampire tried to consume the sun – only abandoning his quest for blood soaked solar dominance when he burned his tongue.
The ancient Koreans believed that there was a king from the ‘Land of Darkness’ who deployed fire dogs called Bulgae to abscond with the sun. This great astrological caper was a way for the king to brighten his otherwise gloomy domain. According to the mythology they always fail, but whenever these cataclysmic canines try and take a bite out of the sun – a solar eclipse results.
An ancient Indian poem titled, Mahabharata, details the saga of the poor demon Rahu – more specifically – the head of the demon Rahu. According to the poet, this evil incubus stole a taste from an immortality potion (we love a good potion at RVA Mag). Outraged by this crime, the Sun and Moon reported him to the god Vishnu who promptly decapitated him before the potion could take effect. As a result, only Rahu’s head became immortal and with a never ending grudge against the Sun and Moon, he swallows them whenever he catches them causing a, you guessed it, solar eclipse. But since he is only a decapitated head and has no throat, they always slip out the other end, ending the solar eclipse.
There is one word that can best describe the Aztec feelings toward solar prophecies: Blood. They believed the Moon was an abominable deity who attacked the Sun, and if the attack was not repulsed via blood sacrifice then the Sun would disappear forever and the world would come to an abrupt end by being consumed in darkness. To prevent this eventuality, the Aztecs would conduct a ‘New Fire Ceremony’ in which all fires were extinguished and a man would be sacrificed by having his heart removed atop a dominant volcano.
Should your boss still disagree with your portentous feelings on the solar eclipse and deny you an afternoon off to appease the gods, here is a link to the ACLU in Virginia.