LEGENDS OF THE SOLAR ECLIPSE TO BE EXPLORED AT TWILIGHT LUNCHEON
05 August 2017
The Butler County Times-Gazette
By Ardath Lawson, Kansas Oil Museum
The sky turned dark and the world around them dimmed, but what everyone was watching was the one thing that was still too bright to look at directly, even as it shrank: the sun. Men and women, young and old, all kept a darting furtive eye on the disc of the sun as the bite taken out of it grew and grew.
Then the noise began.
It was a scene that could have played out over thousands of years anywhere on Earth in the path of a solar or lunar eclipse. "Across the world, early societies of all kinds dealt with eclipses the same way," says Ardath Lawson, educator and curator at El Dorado's Kansas Oil Museum. "You hauled out everything you could find that would make noise -- pots, pans, rattles, guns -- and you got to raising enough of a ruckus to scare off whatever was attacking the sun." Adds Lawson, "Luckily for all of us, it always seemed to work!"
The Kansas Oil Museum is making some noise of its own about this month's upcoming solar eclipse. On Monday, August 21, starting at 11:30am, the museum will be hosting a Twilight Luncheon to observe and celebrate the first major solar eclipse in the contentinental US since 1979. In addition to a taco buffet and the opportunity to watch the progress of the eclipse out on the grounds of the boomtown, the event will feature a program exploring the perception of eclipses throughout history, from Native American legends through eclipse viewing parties held just a few decades ago in El Dorado.
The general perception of most peoples in the past, says Lawson, was -- not surprisingly -- that something was eating the sun or moon. Which particular creature was responsible for this reprehensible act changed depending on which part of the country or the world you were in. If you lived in Nordic lands, you knew the guilty party was a pair of voracious wolves that pursued the sun or moon across the sky, taking bites out of it as it fled. If you were a member of the Choctaw tribe in the southeastern US, you had to deal with the big black fox squirrel mischievously gnawing the sun down to nothing on a hungry whim.
Other myths departed from this tradition of ravenous super-critters and explained the departure of the sun in terms of theft by crafty tricksters, or punishment meted out by a god or gods to send a stern warning to disobedient humans.
"The ways that people have thought about and dealt with eclipses have encompassed a wide range over the millennia," says Lawson. "We hope people come out to enjoy the eclipse in a fun new way at the museum on August 21st!"