Skip to Main Content

2024 solar eclipse: Cultural perspectives

Information about the annular eclipse including how to safely view the event

Culture, tradition and history

Six pages of the Dresden codex

Six pages of the Dresden codex: Pages (55–59, 74) on eclipses (left), multiplication tables, and a flood (far right)

Many cultures around the world have stories and traditions relating to eclipses and other astronomical events. Ancient people were skilled astrologers including the Maya, Mesopotamians, Chinese, Greeks, Indians, and others developed calendars to predict when lunar and solar eclipses would occur.

Learn more

American Indian Beliefs About the eclipse (Smithsonian Magazine, August 21st, 2017)
"The National Museum of American Indian has received numerous inquiries concerning the upcoming eclipse. Part of the museum’s mission is to provide a forum for Native people’s voices, so we went to the Internet to ask, “Does your tribe have any beliefs or protocols concerning the eclipse?” Here are some of the replies, with the correspondent’s Native affiliation (and where he or she is living now)." 

Total Solar Eclipse in China, Japan, and Korea (Cary Liu, Nancy and Peter Lee Curator of Asian Art, Princeton University Art Museum, accessed 5/2023)
"In ancient China, it was believed that occurrences in the sky directly mirrored those on earth. As the Son of Heaven, the emperor's legitimacy rested on his ability to foretell celestial phenomena, in particular the appearance of unexpected events. Failure to foresee events had serious consequences, and one missed eclipse in 2136 B.C. resulted in the execution of two court astronomers. Solar eclipses were especially feared, and it was thought that a great dragon (fig. 1) was trying to devour the sun."

Solar and Lunar Eclipses in Islam, Learn Religions, Sep. 5, 2021.
"During a solar or lunar eclipse, there is a recommended prayer called the Prayer of the Eclipse (Salat al-Khusuf) that is performed by Muslim communities who may be in congregation at the time of the eclipse."

Hindu Feasts, Fasts and Ceremonies, Sastri, S. M. Natesa (1903)

Australian Indigenous perspective, Australian Indigenous Astronomy
"In most Aboriginal cultures, the Sun is a woman and the Moon is a man. Some Aboriginal communities describe the Sun woman pursuing the Moon man across the sky from day to day, occasionally meeting during an eclipse."

Description of Omens in the Chronicle of Novgorod (Ukraine) 
“Aleksey Laushkin draws attention to the fact that in almost all cases, when chroniclers are looking for a specific consequence of a solar eclipse, they indicate someone’s death.”