Mythology, the Moon, and the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Winter Moon Raven, by F.T. McKinstry

Winter Moon Raven

If you live in the US, particularly in the swath along the width of the country from the northwest to the southeast, you will get a rare and special treat on August 21st: a total eclipse of the sun. In northern Vermont, where I live, we’ll get to see about 60% of it and, miracles of miracles, it’s actually going to be sunny (don’t get me started). I’m ready. I made my own camera obscura, and tried it out. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s cool af; it projects this ghostly mirror image of the sky, trees and sun, like an Otherworld portal or something.

A solar eclipse happens on a new moon, when the moon moves between the earth and the sun and the side turned toward the earth is dark. Needless to say, there’s a wealth of bizarre tales in world mythology explaining a solar eclipse. Given how creepy and unnatural it is when for no apparent reason the life-giving sun goes away, the temperature drops, and animals act weird, it stands to reason that most of these myths are gloomy and apocalyptic, such as dragons or serpents eating the sun, divine punishment, evil omens, and disputes between the gods.

The Source

The Source

Norse mythology tells of a pair of wolves named Hati and Skoll that chase the sun, and will catch it at Ragnarok, the annihilation of the cosmos. A solar eclipse was explained as the sky wolves getting a lucky break and stealing the sun. The solution was to make a lot of noise to scare the beasts away. (Hey, it must have worked; we’re still here.)

On a full moon, the earth is between the moon and the sun. I was born on a full moon. When I was a kid, I doodled and drew every mysterious, strange and beautiful thing that caught my attention, and had a particular fascination for drawing images of the sun and moon aligned and facing each other. I didn’t realize at the time that this is what happens during a full moon…but some part of me did. Since then, the full moon appears often in my paintings.

Here’s to hoping you get a chance to check out the eclipse! Protect your eyes, and watch out for the sky wolves.

© F.T. McKinstry 2017. All Rights Reserved.

3 thoughts on “Mythology, the Moon, and the 2017 Solar Eclipse

  1. I’m currently residing in NC at the far western tip in the 100% totality zone. There’s a community picnic planned down by the lake starting at 2:00 PM, shortly before the eclipse arrives at our location. I’ll be there with my tuna casserole and everyone will be wearing solar glasses which the local chamber of congress made available. They’re not designed to last for long but should be good for a couple of minutes during the once in a life time experience. 🙂

    The painting I like best of the ones you posted is the tree girl, lifting up her arms/branches to salute the full moon, they eternal symbol of femininity and love. So beautiful. So evocative. Thank you for your post.


    • Hi Jini! How excellent, you’re in the total eclipse zone. That should be an amazing experience. Getting it for real, you could write it into one of your books. Heh.

      Thank you for your kind words on the paintings. The one you like is called “The Singing Girl” and it’s always been close to my heart. Enjoy the day! 🙂


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