We present you three of the best-known solar eclipse myths, about legendary monsters who are eating the Sun. We choose one legend from Scandinavia, one from India and a third one from Philippines.
Science explained long time ago what is a total solar eclipse: the type of eclipse that occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully blocks the Sun. But, in Antiquity and Middle Age, people thought differently. Solar eclipses usually caused fear and most people believed that some monsters were devouring the Sun. Among the best known such Sun-eating monsters were the Scandinavian Skoll, the Hindu Rahu and the Philippine Bakunawa.
Solar Eclipse Myths: Skoll – Black Become the Sun’s Beams
In Norse mythology, the Sun and the Moon are chased by Fenrir’s two sons. The first of them is Skoll, who chases the horses Arvakr and Alsvior, which drag the chariot which contains the Sun. The second son is Hati, who chases Máni, the Moon. Both Fenrir’s sons will succeed in their quest only at Ragnarok, the great battle between gods, when Odin, Thor, Tyr, Freyr, Heimdallr and Loki will die.
Look how Ragnarok is described in the poem called Voluspa:
„ It sates itself on the life-blood
of fated men,
paints red the powers’ homes
with crimson gore.
Black become the sun’s beams
in the summers that follow,
weathers all treacherous.
Do you still seek to know? And what?“.
Solar Eclipse Myths: Rahu, the One Who Frightens the Sun
Rahu is very important in the Vedic astrology, where he is a „shadow planet“ (not a real planet) considered the dragon’s head or the north node of the Moon, the point where the Moon’s orbit crosses the ecliptic.
In Hindu tradition, Rahu is the severed head of an asura called Svarbhānu, which swallows the sun causing eclipses. He is depicted as a serpent with no body riding a chariot drawn by eight black horses. He was beheaded by the gods for capturing and drinking ambrosia.
On Vedic scriptures, Rahu has many names, two of the most interesting being „the one who frightens the Sun“ and „the one who makes the Moon lustreless“.
Solar Eclipse Myths: Bakunawa, the Giant Sea Serpent
In Visayan languages of the Philippines, the term bakunawa means eclipse, while Binakunawa is a verb meaning „to cause an eclipse“. But who was Bakunawa?
In Philippine mythology, he is a dragon, often represented as a gigantic sea serpent, with two sets of wings.
In Philippine mythology, there were seven moons created by Bathala, the Supreme Being, to light up the sky. The giant serpent Bakunawa became angry because people killed her sister, a sea turtle, or because they killed a human girl who loved him (there are multiple versions of the legend). Then, he took revenge by eating all the 7 moons. When the Bakunawa was about to eat the last one, the Supreme Being Bathala stopped him. Nowadays, eclipses occur when Bakunawa is trying again to eat the last remaining Moon.
This song was sung by children during Moon eclipses:
„ Our moon long ago, long ago,
Was eaten by the bakunawa.
Please have pity, return it, return it,
The crown of our king“.