Enlarge / In this Maurice Leloir painting, The Sun King—King Louis XIV—and the ladies of the Court on the terrace of the Marly Castle, watch a Solar Eclipse. (credit: Christophel Fine Art/UIG via Getty Images)
The first solar eclipse to span the entire United States has lots of people justifiably excited.
The midday disappearance of the Sun is a truly novel and moving experience.
For many people, it’s spiritual. Here’s how the exceptional American author and essayist Annie Dillard described seeing an eclipse in 1979 in the Northwestern United States.
At once this disk of sky slid over the Sun like a lid.
The sky snapped over the Sun like a lens cover.
The hatch in the brain slammed.
Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky.
In the night sky was a tiny ring of light.
The hole where the sun belongs is very small.
A thin ring of light marked its place.
There was no sound.
The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed.
There was no world.
Ancient people didn’t quite know what to make of eclipses, as they didn’t fully understand the geometry of the Solar System, nor that Earth and its Moon orbited around the Sun in tandem and that sometimes the Moon passed between the Earth and Sun. Often, they believed, mythical creatures ate or captured the Sun.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that, in the modern era, humans would their own myths about the eclipse.
And because the forthcoming eclipse will cross the most prosperous country in the world, hucksters selling these myths are coming out now to peddle their ideas.
Amazingly—well, perhaps not so amazingly considering our willingness to ignore reality—some people actually believe them.
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