Tens of millions of eclipse gawkers are expected to flock inside a 70-mile wide zone between Oregon and South Carolina for the Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21.
They will seek a breathtaking two-minute glimpse of totality.
Although the fascination with eclipses has transcended millennia, long before the days of hyper computers, space stations and digital cameras, solar eclipses were events that were to be feared and avoided.
Eclipses were believed to portend punishment from the heavens, the death of kings, danger, drought and pestilence, even the end of the world.
Here are a few of the eclipse-related myths, folklore and superstition, as reported by The Old Farmer's Almanac:
- Gripped by fear, the Chippewa Indians of the Upper Great Lakes once fired flaming arrows skyward in an attempt to "rekindle" the sun.
- Transylvanian lore suggested eclipses brought plague and resulted from an angry sun turning away from men and cloaking herself in darkness because of their bad behavior.
- Japanese cultures believed the eclipse would bring poison from the sky and covered their wells to protect them.
- The eclipse brought repentance from natives in Columbia who would tend their gardens and yell skyward promises to work hard and "mend their ways."
- Asian cultures believed dragons were trying to consume the sun and moon.
- Some cultures ascribed a romantic confrontation between the sun and moon to explain eclipses while others believed it was actually a consummation of astrological affection.
- Other theories abound that fog, dew or precipitation resulting during an eclipse was dangerous or that eclipses could damage developing babies in pregnant mothers.
Even today, fear about solar eclipses continues in some parts of the world, the Old Farmer's Almanac reports:
- As recently as 2010, in some parts of the world people stayed home out of fear. Streets were empty and restaurants and hotels reported losing business. Even schools closed when students stayed home.
- In Cambodia, in 1995, soldiers shot into the air in an effort to scare off a mythic dragon. The only injuries ensued from falling bullets.
- Astronomers in Baja California, Mexico in 1991 noted hotel staff were "weeping" in terror by the darkness resulting from a total solar eclipse.