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Awe and dread: How religions have responded to total solar eclipses over the centuries

Throughout history, solar eclipses have had profound impact on adherents of various religions around the world. They were viewed as messages from God or spiritual forces, inducing emotions ranging from dread to wonder.

Ahead of the total solar eclipse that will follow a long path over North America on Monday, here’s a look at how several of the world’s major religions have responded to such eclipses over the centuries and in modern times.


In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is believed that the energy of positive and negative actions is multiplied during major astronomical events such as a solar eclipse.

According to the late Lama Zopa Rinpoche with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, both lunar and solar eclipses are auspicious days for spiritual practice. He has said that the merit — which represents the positive karmic results of good intentions and actions — generated on lunar eclipses is multiplied by 700,000 and on solar eclipses by 100 million. Some of the recommended spiritual activities on these days include chanting mantras and sutras.


Some Christians have believed that an eclipse portends the coming of the “end times” that will precede Christ’s return to Earth as prophesized at various points in the Bible. One such passage is in the second chapter of Acts: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.”

There also has been a persisting belief among some Christians that an eclipse occurred during the crucifixion because three of the Bible’s four Gospels mention a three-hour period of darkness as Jesus died.

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the