‘Everything is connected.’ For the Navajo Nation, the April 8 solar eclipse is a spiritual experience

By | March 31, 2024

The “Great North American Eclipse” is just over a week away.

For many on the path of totality, preparing for the April 8 total solar eclipse includes coming up with a plan of where to view it, who to view it with, and securing protective sunglasses to safely witness of the solar eclipse. procession of heavenly transformation in the sky. But for the indigenous communities of North America, it is a very different kind of preparation, and a philosophy very different from Western culture.

“The Navajo worldview includes a holistic and ordered universe in which everything is connected and all parts of the universe are involved in the whole,” said Nancy C. Maryboy, founder and president of the Indigenous educational institute, said in an edition. “At the same time, each piece contains the entire universe, creating a network of relationships and processes that are in constant flux. Unlike Western astronomy, traditional Navajo astronomy is deeply spiritual, in keeping with a worldview that views everything as living and sacred considered.”

Related: Total solar eclipse 2024 maps of the ‘path of totality’

For the Navajo (Diné) community, it is more than a celestial event: it is about history, self-awareness and honoring the sun and moon. The sky is the same for everyone, but when it comes to the worldview, the solar eclipse means something completely different. According to experts, it’s important to understand that eclipses have always been part of our lives and that when they occur, it helps us better understand how the sun, moon and Earth are all intertwined.

“It’s a very personal relationship that indigenous people have with the sky. It’s not focused through a telescope, it’s not something you take from Greek astronomy, it’s something that’s very personal and a way of knowing and a way of life.” said Maryboy. “These stories that are told among indigenous peoples are not just fairy tales, they are not just something you can laugh about and get on with your life. They are real and they are based on real constellations and stars in the sky.”

two people sit on chairs in the desert under a blue sky

two people sit on chairs in the desert under a blue sky

According to Navajo (Diné) beliefs, instead of waiting for totality to occur and then loudly cheering and celebrating, the entire experience has a more serious tone and a strong sense of reverence. For the Navajo, a solar eclipse is deeply rooted in respect for the cosmos, and serves as an event of renewal and contemplation, passing on the guidance of generations before.

“Our elders tell us that the sun, moon and earth continually renew by aligning themselves,” explained Dr. David Begay, a Navajo astronomer, stated in the same press release.

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Celestron EclipSmart Solar Eclipse Glasses on a white backgroundCelestron EclipSmart Solar Eclipse Glasses on a white background

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“It is one of the laws of nature that has been observed over the years and the sun rebalances itself through the alignment. Over the years people must have experienced that looking directly at the sun during an eclipse can hurt your eye and can damage your eye. a disability. When there’s a solar eclipse, they say to people, ‘Go inside.’ Respect the cycle and let time pass.”

But deciding how to view and experience a solar eclipse depends on the individual, and for those who decide to venture outside, there is an option for a more modern approach. While many cling to original rituals and traditions, in more recent times the development of goggles for those on the path of totality has allowed families to have another option while participating in the tradition.

“It’s about being respectful of what’s going on, being very quiet. Traditionally, people would sit inside and not eat anything,” Maryboy said.

“But they would do that either just during totality or during the entire eclipse, and it all depends on your family itself, your community with what you’re going to follow. Nowadays people go out and watch the eclipse in but we have now glasses that protect your eyes, which we never had hundreds of years ago when these protocols were established.”

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Whatever each individual decides, ultimately those within the Navajo (Diné) community hope that for the upcoming solar eclipse and the many others to come, there can be a better understanding by other cultures of their beliefs and how special they are . these cycles are.

“We think of it as something that fits into a Navajo story and provides rules for life. Living in harmony with that cosmic order, living your life on earth,” Maryboy said. “I would like people to realize how complex and beautiful Navajo astronomy is and how people live it. It’s not just something where you go outside and jump up and down and scream and get so excited… it’s more as if you’re expressing that you’re all about it. You see a once-in-a-lifetime event and you want to give it the honor and respect it deserves.”

Watch these informative videos for even more information about Navajo astronomy and their knowledge of the cosmos of the Exploratorium.

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