Views on The SUN ECLIPSE from Native Americans

28th August : Views on The SUN ECLIPSE from Native Americans :

Since I gave birth to my son last December, I’ve enjoyed being a full-time Mum. Couldn’t quite get close to finish writing the post I intended about Native traditional food getting again on the menu. So here is a small gift to you : a link to the The National Museum of American Indian website where Native American beliefs about eclipses are discussed. The Navajo staff at the Institute for Diné Culture, Philosophy and Government, in Rock Point, Arizona received so many inquiries about the 21 August sun eclipse that a detailed answer was issued.

(Reprinted with permission courtesy of the Institute for Diné Culture, Philosophy and Government)

Our Diné people have a completely different definition and perspective on this sacred natural phenomenon. The belief is that the Jóhonaa’éí (Sun) is the male and the Tł‘éhonaa’éí (Moon) is the female. The Sun is the most powerful deity amongst all creation, here on earth and in the universe. The Sun is the epicenter of all creation. Nothing will live or function without the Sun. The Sun controls and regulates the universe, whereas the moon controls and regulates the earth.


David Chethlahe Paladin (1926-1984, Diné [Navajo], Sun Spirits, 1971. Albuquerque, New Mexico. 25/8436

The Sun is vested with the concept of and in control of death (anoonééł), and the Moon is vested with and in control of birthing (oochííł). When a solar or lunar eclipse occurs, it is believed that a death occurs. That is the reason why an eclipse is termed daaztsą́, either Jóhonaa’éí daaztsą́ (solar eclipse) or Tł’éhonaa’éí daaztsą́ (lunar eclipse). A death is a very sacred occurrence. There are certain necessary protocols, but most important is the strict and comprehensive reverence in observing the occurrence of death (yéego dílzin dóó hodílzin). During a solar or lunar eclipse, strict and comprehensive acts of reverence must be carried out.


Melvin Bainbridge, Coyote Star

In addition to the concept of death during an eclipse, it is also believed that during an eclipse, the Sun and the Moon are mating. After the passing of the eclipse, when the sun or moon becomes fully bright once again, it is believed that a birthing has just taken place. 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 amongst all of creation as well.

Diléhé – the Pleiades, Hard Flint Boys, Melvin Bainbridge

Due to the very sacredness of death and birth, the reverence required to be shown during an eclipse is very strict and comprehensive (ts’ídá yéego hodílzin). There is only one way to be reverent during an eclipse. No shortcuts exist. We cannot simply smudge ashes or corn pollen upon ourselves and exit our homes and carry on as if it is just another day. The following acts of reverence must be carried out during an eclipse : We must stay inside, preferably in our home; we cannot eat or drink anything, cannot be asleep, cannot brush or comb our hair or wash ourselves, cannot be in an intimate act with our spouse or anyone of the opposite sex, cannot needlessly move around, are required to remain calm and still, cannot look outside, cannot look at the sun while the eclipse is occurring—yes, it also means the shadow of the sun, through a pinhole or other apparatuses; and we cannot be using the restroom.

Full article here.

To learn more about Navajo view on astronomy, you can read Sharing the skies, Navajo and Western cosmos by Nancy C. Maryboy and David Begay or Earth Is My Mother, Sky Is My Father: Space, Time, and Astronomy in Navajo Sandpainting by Trudy Griffin Pierce.

Melvin Bainbridge, a Diné painter, created several works of art inspired by the cosmos and the stars.

Nahookos Bika’ (The Bid Dipper), Melvin Bainbridge


Glenn Dean, Navajo Moonrise


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