The Great American Eclipse

Lilah Slaughter, Head Features Editor

For a vast majority of Americans, the eclipse was a fascinating scientific phenomenon, not to mention a chance to miss school and wear blackout glasses. For others, corneas were scorched and unusual shadows fell upon everything around them; for others still, the eclipse held symbolic meaning, Native Americans and astrologers among them.

The Great American Eclipse marked a special date for the US, the first eclipse to be visible in a band across the entire continental United States in nearly 100 years. However, eclipses are a much more common occurrence than its media coverage would lead those among us to believe.

“On average, there are no less than two and no more than five solar eclipses per year. Most solar eclipses are partial with a total solar eclipse occurring once every 1 and a half years,” according to an article on Softschools.com.

However, within the next million years, the moon will drift far enough from the Earth that eclipses will no longer be noticeable.

Until then, Native Americans will celebrate each eclipse by remaining in their homes with blinds drawn, avoiding the sight of the eclipses.

“The sun is vested with the concept of and in control of death, and the Moon is vested with an in control of birthing. When a solar or lunar eclipse occurs, it is believed that a death occurs. A death is a very sacred occurrence… During a solar or lunar eclipse, strict and comprehensive reverence in observing the occurrence of death,” wrote scholar Dennis Zotigh in an article for The National Museum of the American Indian.

An example of that reverence is to avoid witnessing the eclipse, and many students in Durango followed the tradition, including Sr. Avory France of Animas High School.

“We’re somewhat traditional on these types of things. I do know that for Navajos, you’re supposed to stay inside your house and not look at the eclipse because it’s bad luck; you’re not to eat during the eclipse because it will mess with your stomach system,” said France.

While the eclipse symbolizes a time of death, it is also a time of birth for various Native American tribes, a result of the ‘mating’ of the sun and moon.

“It is believed that the mating is to give birth to, or renew, the universe and all creation. During this birthing/renewal process, the universe and all creation are reborn, realigned, and there is growth and development among all creation as well,” wrote Zotigh.

However, the symbolic power of birth mirrors that of death, and isn’t to be witnessed by Native Americans.

“You’re welcoming negativity into your life, or turmoil, or troublesome times ahead of you, as well as socially, health-wise and spiritually. You’re observing something that should not be observed,” said Bobbieann Baldwin, a Native mother, in an interview for the Denver Post.

Similar to Native Americans, astrologers believe that eclipses usher change into people’s lives. However, it applies less universally than Native American beliefs.

“Astrologers say people who may feel more strongly affected by the eclipse are those with August 21 birthdays, as well as those with Leo, Aquarius, Taurus and Scorpio zodiac signs who were born at the end of their signs, and those with Virgo, Sagittarius, Gemini and Pisces zodiac signs who were born at the start of their signs,” said Melissa Chan in an article for Time Magazine.

Those affected by the change may not experience ‘change’ per se, however will feel emotions that may accompany change.

“It sort of feels like free-flowing anxiety — like something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. They’re probably already feeling it,” said astrologer Joyce Levine in an interview for Time Magazine, several weeks before the eclipse occurred.

Though Native Americans and astrologers agree that eclipses hold symbolic relevance, many scientists debunk their theories, claiming nothing occurs beyond an overlap of the moon and sun. Whatever people may believe, less than seven seconds have become the subject of much debate.