Solar Eclipses

Solar Eclipse
In most Aboriginal cultures, the Sun is a woman and the Moon is a man. Some Aboriginal communities describe the Sun woman pursuing the Moon man across the sky from day to day, occasionally meeting during an eclipse.
To Aboriginal communities of southeast Australia, the sky world is suspended above the heads of the people by various devices, such as trees, ropes, spirits, or by some magical means. In Euahlayi traditions of northern NSW, the Sun is a woman named Yhi who falls in love with the moon man, Bahloo. Bahloo has no interest in Yhi and constantly tries to avoid her. As the Sun and Moon move across the sky over the lunar cycle, Yhi chases Bahloo telling the spirits who hold the sky up that if they let him escape, she will cast down the spirit who holds the sky up and the sky-world will fall, hurling the world into everlasting darkness. To combat this omen of evil, the people employ a brave and well-respected member of the community, such as a Clever Man, to fight the evil of the eclipse. This includes throwing sacred objects at the Sun whilst chanting a particular song or set of words.

Lunar Eclipses

Lunar Eclipse

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is at opposition to the sun and passes through the earth’s shadow. Because of this, a lunar eclipse will always happen during a full moon. Lunar eclipses were seen by some Aboriginal groups as an omen that a relative was in danger or that someone on a journey had become sick or was injured or killed.

The Lardil of Mornington Island viewed the Moon as a greedy and selfish man who steals food and gorges, getting fatter and fatter (waxing Moon). As punishment for this action, he is cut into pieces, getting thinner (waning Moon) until he dies (new moon). The new moon, along with the sudden and apparent ‘death’ of the Moon during a lunar eclipse, served as a warning to younger generations about the Moon’s selfish nature, reinforcing the taboo of food theft and gluttony.

During a total lunar eclipse, the moon will turn dark before transforming to a reddish hue. Because the light is being refracted by the Earth’s thick atmosphere, the longer wavelengths of light dominate, giving the Moon this colour. The colour is noted by some Aboriginal groups who believed a lunar eclipse revealed the Moon-man’s blood.

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