Balam against the sun: today, annular solar eclipse

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Deaths, disasters, droughts and even the end of humanity is what the disappearance of the Sun represented for ancient cultures, in phenomena such as annular eclipse that can be seen today in the Yucatan Peninsula and other places in the world.

For the ancient mayansthe great sky watchers of the pre-Hispanic era, The movements of the Sun and the stars were an essential part of life. Multiple Mayan legends explain the cause of solar eclipses: one of them is that the god Jaguar (Balam) devoured the king star.

Eclipse in Mayan is called chi'bil k'in and means that the Sun or the Moon is being eaten, because at the moment of the eclipse shadows appear that look like they have been bitten and it is thought that the animal that is eating the sun or the moon is the jaguar,” explains independent research archaeologist Florentino García Cruz.

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Eclipses among the Mayan people meant catastrophic events, that is, bad omens, be they wars, famines, droughts, and even today it is thought that they affect pregnant women, because the child can come out with bodily harm. It is called chi'ibal k'in (bite of the Sun) and when it was the lunar eclipse it was called chi'ibal uj (bite of the moon),” he points out.

In small Mayan communities they continue some of the traditions to prevent the Sun or Moon from dying during an eclipse.

There are still customs such as that, when there is an eclipse, people begin to make noises, touch cans, pots, pans, or begin to shoot bullets to prevent the jaguar from eating the Sun or the Moon, and this belief is inherited from the ancestors, because precisely the Sun represents Kinich Ahau and the Moon represents the goddess Ixchel, so there is this belief that the gods must be defended,” asserts the specialist.

Another tradition is to protect pregnant women, since there is a belief that, at the time of the eclipse, kitchen utensils, such as comales, come to life and can attack the owners so the women of the home sit in the kitchen, tying everything up to prevent attacks.

This is how Cessia Esther Chuc Uc, doctor in Mesoamerican studies, tells it.president of the Ch'ilibitos civil association, which is dedicated to the rescue of Mayan traditions and customs.

He details that one of the widespread ideas was that phenomena involving lunar movements alter the fluids, as happens with the tides, so they can also affect the amniotic fluid in pregnant women.

That made us think, in our Mayan families, that they should not touch the part of the abdomen where the baby is, because it could come out with a stain on its little body and that's why the grandmothers said 'put on a red belt or red underwear and drink.' the water that comes out of annatto'... that red liquid is a way to repel the energy that these phenomena can cause,” he concludes.


From the pre-Hispanic times, the Mayans considered eclipses to be important astronomical phenomena, To this day, they have a direct impact on their society.

Therefore, the ancient mayans They spent a lot of time observing the sky, to predict its arrival and be prepared, he said. Mario Chan Colli, chronicler of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, and head of the Mayan Holistic Center.

Eclipses represented bad omens for the Mayan people and that is why there is a complex ritual to prevent their effects.

During the Caste War in the Yucatan Peninsula (1847-1901) and later period, when the mayans They knew that an eclipse was near, the grandparents isolated themselves in the ceremonial centers, where they performed rituals to ask that the “monster” not devour the sun.

These included shooting in the air and playing drums, but the inhabitants of the communities helped by going out into the streets making noise with pots and spoons.

During an eclipse, they did not let their children leave the house, because they ran the risk of being swallowed, while inside the homes they had to place the kitchen utensils upside down and remove the hammocks, “because they could become a devouring being.” says Mario Chan.

They also predicted whether the event was serious or not by tearing off a chaya leaf and observing if, instead of white resin, blood came out.

Mario Chan mentions that, today, the Mayans still use to perform these rituals, although with less recurrence.

By Fatima Vázquez.


Eclipses, along with other astronomical phenomena such as equinoxes, solstices, the movement of Venus and the Sun itself, were the basis of Mayan cosmogony and the way in which they kept track of what was happening.

The study of the movement of the stars was very important for the Mayan civilization and, from a scientific point of view, for them it served as important data in the preparation of calendars, the development of agriculture," says Freddy Poot, cultural researcher. Maya.

With the European invasion, those expressions ended; In Mayan communities they also saw the lunar eclipse, people gathered, touching pots and cans. The idea was to scare away those who were eating the Moon,” he says.

Currently, in some communities they believe that the baby will be born with a huge mole known as “Chibaluna”; It is believed that if the eclipse is solar, the mark would be red, and if the eclipse is lunar, it will be black.

By Flor Castillo.

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