Native American Legends of the Eclipse


Legends of the EclipseWhat an historic event is taking place today! Here at Wildflower Junction, I want to talk about the fascinating legends of the eclipse that came by way of our Native Americans.

The earliest record of a solar eclipse — recorded on clay tablets in Babylonia — took place on May 3, 1375 BCE. They predicted it, so it can be assumed people had been studying them even earlier.

Many ancient cultures have fascinating legends to explain what happens during an eclipse. Beasts and demons swallow the sun. Many cultures thought it meant that the gods were angry with humanity. Yet many Native American legends had a different spin…

Tewa (Pueblo) Native Americans of New Mexico:  The angry sun was leaving the sky to visit his home in the underworld.

Pomo Band of Northern California: A bear is eating the sun. To get the bear to stop and leave, the people must make as much noise as they can until it gets scared and runs away. Some of the Cherokee have this legend also, but instead of a bear, they attribute it to a frog eating the sun.

Tlingit Tribe of Alaska:  The sun and moon were getting together to create more children which were the stars and planets.

Legends of the Eclipse

The Cree (Canada, North Dakota, Montana), the Menomini (Wisconsin), the Choctaw (Southeastern U.S.) tribes:  A boy has trapped the sun in a net because it burned him or a favorite robe. He refuses to release it. An animal then comes along and chews the net open.

The Cherokee (southern Allegheny mountains, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama): Many years ago, the daughter of the sun was killed and the sun became dark in her grief. Seven men were charged with the task to go to the land of ghosts and bring back the daughter. They did so, placing her in a box for travel. The girl begged to see out and finally the men lifted the lid, releasing a flash of red. This became the world’s first cardinal. Then, still trying to bring back the sun, the people sent dancers to dance before the sun. Finally, the sun peeked out and the upper and lower worlds were once again in balance.

Legends of the Eclipse

The Algonquin Tribe (Michigan, Ontario, Quebec):  A young boy, seeing an unusual track in the snow, decided to set his snare and catch the animal. The track belonged to the sun, and the next day when the sun came by, it was caught in the snare. The next day, the sun didn’t rise, and the earth was dark. The people found out about the boy’s snare and went to free the sun, but couldn’t get near it without getting burned. Many other animals tried to cut the cord too. Finally, the mouse was able to cut the cord with his teeth and release the sun. That is why, to this day, the mouse’s teeth are brown.

From my home, I can expect to see about 87% of the eclipse, with the deepest darkness at 1:15pm CDT.

If you are reading this early in the day, check HERE to find out the best time for you to see the peak darkness in your area.  However, unless you have purchased special glasses DO NOT look directly at the sun!

Do you have any “eclipse” legends from your own heritage?

What will YOU be doing when the eclipse happens?

I hope you take the time to experience it and feel a bit of awe and wonder!


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26 thoughts on “Native American Legends of the Eclipse”

    • Hi Debra,
      I have no idea about legends from my German/English background either. I am hoping one of those who comment today will fill me in 🙂 It is pretty cloudy here right now so I don’t know that I will see anything by the sky getting dark and then light.

  1. Good morning, I don’t have any legends that I know about but this was one fabulous article thank you for sharing. Live in Kansas so we get about 80% of the eclipse. I’m hoping to get to see it, but I will be working and they are saying cloud cover so we shall see you have a wonderful day

    • Hi Tonya! Oh yes! I remember now that you said you lived in Kansas when I mentioned that my latest book is set there. It will get darker for you than it will for me, I’m sure. I think it will be interesting to see what 13% of sunlight looks like 🙂

  2. This is the first of any legends of the eclipse that I have ever heard. I’ll be watching today. We’ll see about 75% of it here. We had a hard time finding something to view it through and had to drive out into the country to find welding lenses. And then they didn’t have the strength that was suggested, so we got two and I will double them up.

    • Good Morning, Janine! I sure hope that you have clear skies for the event. My son ordered glasses off Amazon for the family. So far it looks like it will be too cloudy to see… Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Very interesting blog. I’m in East Texas and we will get about 73% and best view at 1:12pm CST

  4. No legends that I know of. Great blog, and info that I didn’t know which makes it even better. Thank you for that, as I find it interesting what the different tribes called eclipses.

    • Hi Veda!
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog. After researching some of the other legends (Aztecs/Myans) I liked the more whimsical take that the Native Americans had on this type of an event. It seems other cultures thought offering human sacrifices would appease the gods.

  5. The only legend I heard was the one where they thought a frog was eating the sun and they had to make a lot of noise to scare it away. The one you posted. I will get to see 77% and it’s bright and sunny right now so it’s supposed to start about 1:22 here.
    Carol L

    • Hi Carol,
      Thanks for stopping by. The one about the frog took me by surprise. I guess I figured something as big and strong as the sun would require a much larger, fiercer animal to “eat” it. I just can’t figure out how that one came about. Maybe because of the way a bullfrog’s neck expands when making noise?

    • Very cool Kim! That definitely makes it a party atmosphere! It just happened here at my house, and several neighbors came over to borrow our glasses. The cloud cover was thin enough that we could see it well with the glasses.

  6. I will be getting to work about the time the eclipse is at its “leak” here in Southeast Wisconsin. With all the cloud cover, I don’t think there will be much to see.

    • I hope you saw it Theresa! You and I are very close (I’m stateline IL/WI) and the clouds did not cover it too much here. I actually thought the earth would get much darker than it did. It looked like it was about 7pm daylight savings time here. Guess that goes to show how powerful even a sliver of the sun is!

  7. Kathryn
    The eclipse today was awesome even though I wasn’t there, I watched on the news today. I was glued to TV for hours, and it felt sort of unifying, knowing people all around the country were doing the same thing. I love the legends you wrote about today…so interesting how science was explained by different people! Thanks for a great blog.

    • Hi Charlene! How great to hear from you! Oh–I agree! It was so nice to have a sense of wonder and excitement with many, many people joining in. An “American” thing. I am holding my breath to see if Karen Kay posts about it tomorrow. She is so knowledgeable about the Native American legends, since researching them and having used them in her books. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

  8. Great post, Kathryn! Thanks for sharing the legends. We had a total eclipse here in Oregon, front row view from our porch. It was fun watching through solar shades with the family as the sky went dark, the crickets starting to chirp, birds making a bit of a fuss. Such a strange experience for all 😉 The views in the sky were amazing.

  9. Stacey! It is SO GREAT to hear from you! Lucky, lucky you with your front porch view. It was fun seeing the Oregonians standing on the cliff by the sea and the beach (on the news) as the eclipse first started to happen. The crickets started to chirp?? That is so cool that you got to see it in “its totality” (as everyone is saying!) Hugs GH and Filly sister!

  10. No legends to share.
    Our daughter had a friend who lives on the side of a mountain in North Carolina. They are in the path of 100% totality. We went up yesterday and spent the night. Today we visited and the kids played until the eclipse started. We had lawn chairs out and our special glasses ready. Our 6 year old granddaughter was afraid yesterday. All the hype go to her plus I had told her some of the legends and beliefs people have had over the centuries. Once the other children showed up to play and the eclipse started she was fine and awed by the whole thing. It was a hot and humid where we were and by the time the sun was half covered we noticed the temperature going down. By 3/4, the birds and other animals had gotten quiet. When it was just a sliver, it got cooler, the solar lights cam on, and the sky was golden around the horizon. Watching it go to 100% was awesome. It was dark out, The sky was deep blue and we could see Venus, and you could see the corona, very briefly being able to look with out glasses. Then it was moving again and it reversed from a sliver to back to normal. The birds started coming out, but thins didn’t go totally back to normal even after an hour. The traffic getting home was a mess, but well worth it. I am so glad we were able to share this experience, especially with the little ones.

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