Spiritual meaning, folklore connected to total solar eclipse - WSMV Channel 4

Spiritual meaning, folklore connected to total solar eclipse

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The eclipse takes place Monday, Aug. 21. (WSMV) The eclipse takes place Monday, Aug. 21. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

There are five days to go until the total solar eclipse crosses from the West Coast to East Coast, coming right through Middle Tennessee.

For some, the experience brings tales of folklore and religious meaning.

People have documented eclipses for thousands of years. Before science became advanced, educators said humans had to come up with explanations for what was happening. 

"What happened and why eclipses became significant is that they became omens or signs," said Mark McEntire, a religion professor at Belmont University. "You have traditions where it's understood when an eclipse happens. Either a king is going to die or a city is going to be destroyed."

Some religions have stories associated with eclipses, such as the demon Rahu in Hinduism.

"The idea was that this demon chased the sun and the moon, and every once in a while would catch them and swallow them," McEntire said.

There are also instances in Christianity.

"In three of the gospels in the New Testament, this report that the day of the crucifixion that it became dark for three hours, from noon until 3 p.m.," McEntire said. "That of course doesn't sound like an eclipse in terms of timing but some people have tried to connect it."

There is cultural folklore of dragons trying to eat the sun and the moon or a demon's immortal head in the heavens.

"You've got records going back to Chinese ancient history and Mesopotamia where they at least remark upon these," McEntire said.

McEntire said everyone may connect to it in some way.

"I'm really finding myself more interested in watching the people. I want to see how people react to it," he said.

Some people may also believe the eclipse could mean doomsday. McEntire said the sudden darkness makes some feel uneasy.

"That uneasiness is what can make people predicting the end of the world can often play on, fear about wars and drastic weather changes, drastic economic occurrence," he said.

No matter what it means to you, some, like McEntire, see it as an interesting event in time.

"Look at how this event and what is happening pulls us together as a human community. This is something apparently that millions of people want to experience together," McEntire said.

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