Friday, August 30, 2013

Sun Eaters, Moon Eaters

From Asia and the Americas, myths about animals/demons that devour the sun or the moon:

Chontal MayaJaguarLunar eclipses are caused by a jaguar eating the moon1
Tzotzil MayaJaguarSolar and lunar eclipses are caused by a jaguar consuming the sun or the moon1
Yucatec MayaAnt or JaguarLunar eclipses are caused by a jaguar or ant biting the moon1
TobaJaguarsIn the past, there was a great disaster caused by jaguars devouring the moon, causing burning pieces of moon to fall to earth, setting the entire world ablaze. When lunar eclipses occur, the tradition is to shout and make noise with kitchenware to repel the jaguars.2
VisayanBakunawaBakuwana is a gigantic winged sea serpent who, in various myths, attempts to swallow the moon. During eclipses, people would bang pots and pans to frighten off the Bakunawa or make music to distract it.3
ChineseTiangouTiangou, "Sky Dog", is a mythical beast with the appearance of "a fox with a white head". It attempts to devour the sun and moon, causing eclipses. In the past, people beat drums, bang cymbals and set off fireworks to scare Sky Dog away.4
IndianDemon SerpentRahu, depicted as a serpent with no body, was an asura who was beheaded for drinking divine nectar. The immortal head swallows the sun periodically, causing solar eclipses. His body became Ketu, which swallows the moon to cause lunar eclipses.5
BagoboMinakawaThe Minakawa is a bird as large as the Philippines island of Bohol. It lives outside the sky and attempts to swallow the moon daily. When it does succeed, the Bagobo people scream and cry so that the bird looks down to see what is causing the din and opens its mouth. The moon then escapes from the Minakawa's open mouth.6
MandayaTambanokanoThe giant crab Tambanokano is a child of the sun and the moon. A quarrelsome creature, he sometimes attempts to swallow his mother the moon. When the people on earth see him approaching the moon, they run outside, shouting and sounding gongs until the crab is frightened away and the moon is saved.7

  1. Susan Milbrath, Star Gods of the Maya
  2. Several Toba accounts of a catastrophic fire, retold by Maria Cristina Brusca and Tona Wilson in "When Jaguars At the Moon"
  3. Bakunawa on Wikipedia
  4. Tiangou on Wikipedia
  5. Rahu on Wikipedia
  6. "Story of the Eclipse", Philippine Folk-Tales
  7. Mabel Cook Cole, "The Sun and the Moon", Philippine Folk Tales

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