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Guatemalan Indians To Rattle Pots, Pans During Eclipse to Resurrect Sun

July 6, 1991

SAN JOSE CHACAYA, Guatemala (AP) _ When the moon eclipses the sun this week, Guatemalan Indian villagers will ring church bells and bang pots and pans to resurrect the sun.

″People worry that the sun will go away forever,″ said Nicolas Tuis, a village elder.

Some villagers have been hoarding firewood and food for weeks in anticipation of Thursday’s eclipse.

″Everyone knows darkness is coming and they want to be prepared in case they can’t leave their house for a long time,″ said one man in this town of 1,000 Quiche and Cakchiquel Indians, west of Guatemala City.

Thursday’s total eclipse will be visible along a 6,000-mile long, 160-mile- wide path stretching from Hawaii to Brazil. Skies will darken, stars will appear, winds will change and the temperature will drop during its nearly seven-minute duration.

For most of the 40 million people expected to view the eclipse, the event will be nothing more than a spectacular show. But in places like San Jose Chacaya, the eclipse has greater significance.

Tuis says his people believe an eclipse is an announcement from God. It is not yet clear, however, what God is saying.

″It is just too pure to be understood by mortals,″ said the 75-year-old man said, shaking his head.

His neighbor, Juana Amezquita, plans to take the day off from her job as village treasurer. ″I don’t want to walk home in the dark,″ she said.

Tuis and Amezquita are descendants of the ancient Maya Indians, whose precise astronomical calculations and calendar from the first five centuries A.D. are still used in some parts of rural Guatemala.

″The Mayan priests were very concerned about an eclipse,″ said Samuel Franco, founder of Casa K’ojom, an Indian museum in Guatemala City. ″They would pray hard that the end of the world wouldn’t come.″

The ancient Mayas also believed in the healing powers of an eclipse, and some of their descendants still expose injured or ailing parts of the body during an eclipse.

Some modern-day Mayas believe a big bird is eating the sun during an eclipse. ″They will come out and play music or burn incense to try and scare the bird away,″ Franco said.

Others blame a giant bat or believe the moon is attacking the sun.

More than half of Guatemala’s 9 million people are Indians, the inheritors of an ancient tradition that ranks the moon and the sun second only to a remote and inaccessible supreme being. Millions of Mexicans are also descended from the Mayas and other pre-Hispanic cultures that revered the sun and moon.

When Joselino Lopez was a small boy, he remembers clanging utensils to wake up the sun or the moon during partial eclipses. But he doesn’t plan any special measures on Thursday.

Lopez is a convert to the evangelical Christianity that now claims the allegiance of more than 35 percent of Guatemala’s people. He says he doesn’t believe the old stories anymore.

″The Maya culture is disappearing so fast,″ said Franco. ″So many are told by missionaries that the old rituals are no good. This may be the last time anyone does anything about the eclipse.″

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