t’s easy to see why eclipses freak people (and animals)
out. All kinds of wild beliefs spring from them, and there’s
a lot of proof in both history and in the modern day that
eclipses can make people do all sorts of bizarre things –
ranging from the weird to the wonderful. Here’s our Top
10 Mass Animal Confusion
Animals’ body-clocks get all messed up
During major solar eclipses, birds and insects will often
lapse into an eerie silence . Those that generally sleep at
night will actually begin to get ready for a nap, while
nocturnal animals begin to wake up and move around.
Since the darkest part of an eclipse doesn’t last too long,
the daytime animals wake up as soon as it’s over and the
nocturnal animals try to go back to sleep. They’re all very
confused – especially as the earth becomes colder and
winds start to rise. But some will take it in their stride and
sit and enjoy the spectacle .
9 Shadow Bands
Rows of shadows move rapidly across the ground in an
“Shadow bands” are an effect of major solar eclipses. If
you ever see them, you won’t forget them . They look like
clear, dark grey strips of paper lined up row after row, with
about the same amount of open space between the strips
as they are wide.
When the event starts, they seem to be simply lying on the
ground. And as the moon makes its way across the sun,
the bands seem to move quickly towards you over the
ground. Naturally, this freaks people out.
8 No Sex
Medieval folk believed that sex during an eclipse would
result in ugly demon-filled children
Europeans in the Middle Ages thought that you should
never get it on during a lunar eclipse, because any “moon
children” would be born with ugly demons inside
them. Then you’d have to pay for their food and shelter,
when all they’re going to be good for is being burned at
A modern superstition also has it that a pregnant woman
shouldn’t touch her belly during a lunar eclipse. Doing so
will cause the baby to be born with a birthmark – the size
of which depends on the force of the touch.
7 Birth Defects
Some Latin Americans believe red panties and a safety pin
will prevent birth defects
Talking of birth, the Indians seem to take the cake on this
one: one newspaper recently told pregnant women not to
go out during the eclipse, to stop them giving birth to a
blind baby or one with a cleft lip. One woman laments:
“I did not take any precautions when I was pregnant
during a lunar eclipse. I cut an apple even though I had
been warned not to touch any sharp objects; My son was
born with a missing finger.”
Not to be outdone, some pregnant women in Mexico and
other Latin American countries still wear bright red panties
with a safety pin stuck through them during solar eclipses
– a practice that stems from ancient Mayan and Aztec
beliefs. But instead of panties and a safety pin, the
ancients used red string and an arrowhead.
6 Columbus Tricks the Jamaicans
Columbus tricked native chiefs into giving him food by
predicting an eclipse
In early 1504, Christopher Columbus was stranded for
months on the island of Jamaica. He’d turned the natives
against him by being nasty and rude, so they refused to
help him out with food supplies.
Columbus was more than a little hungry, so he thought of
a ruse that would impress the locals. After using his tools
to work out that a lunar eclipse would soon occur, he told
the native chiefs that unless they gave him what he
needed, he’d darken the moon. The chiefs refused – and
of course, the moon went dark right on cue . The natives
freaked out, and gave cunning Columbus all the choice
cuts until he was rescued.
5 Eskimo Disease
Eskimos turn their utensils upside-down during an eclipse
If you live in the cold north, take note: disease is meant to
strike the Eskimo people whenever the women forget to
place their utensils upside-down during an eclipse.
Next time you’re snowed under in your igloo during an
eclipse, chowing down on fresh fish steaks – don’t forget
to turn your spoons, forks and knives upside-down. This a
sure way to stop the sick sun and moon from poisoning
you by shining their rays onto your cutlery. Best to hide
chopsticks to avoid confusion.
4 Tin Pots in Thailand
Thai people bang pots and set of fireworks to scare away
Many in Thailand think that an eclipse is a sign of the end
of the world. In old times, it was thought that an evil spirit
was to blame for the sun’s “going away” – so people
would bang pots and set off fireworks to scare away the
spirit and bring back the sun.
3 Golden Showers in India
Some Indians wash their eyes out with urine
India is a great country when it comes to eclipse beliefs:
some think that you shouldn’t sleep with wet hair, or it
might turn you into a lunatic (a word which has the same
Latin stem as lunar – still more proof that the so-called
lunar effect has been around for a long time).
Some also think that you should take a bath before and
after the eclipse, to wash away any evil spirits. And – get
this – that you should wash your eyes out with urine, to
stop your eyes from ever hurting again.
2 Eclipse Hunting
830 people chartered a ship to chase an eclipse
If you see an eclipse once, you’ll want to see it again.
Marcy Sigler knows the feeling. In 1972, she chartered a
ship from New York to the waters off Nova Scotia, with no
less then 830 people on board – just to see an eclipse.
Two days later, at 3:47 p.m., the travelers saw a total
eclipse in perfect weather. Crowded on the decks, the
eclipse-hunters saw the black shadow of the moon
coming towards them — a black shape, something like a
tornado, changed the color of the sea to a deep purple as
the moon flew across the sun.
1 Shadow Lovers
Eclipse-chasers are called umbraphiles: “shadow lovers”
People who chase eclipses seem to have a weird
addiction to them that is hard to explain. There’s even a
word for it: the addicts are called umbraphiles, or “shadow
Once every 16 months or so, this bunch of eccentrics will
drop whatever they’re doing and hitchhike, drive, sail, and
ride camels to the middle of nowhere – all to see “the
Every time there’s a major eclipse, you’ll see the same
people that you saw last time.