Jacob Charles Wilson

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✓✓ Read Receipts: Block out the Sun

An early-modern illustration of a sky filled with dragons.

I have only ever seen one eclipse, in Devon, 1999. The entire morning was spent in anticipation and, being by the sea, in drizzle and blinding fog. The moment of eclipse was barely perceptible, or perhaps my memory itself is clouded, because having read the recollections of people who for a few fleeting minutes have witnessed an unobscured total eclipse, who have felt the immensity and indifference of the universe, and who have reversed the cardinal rule, "do not look at the Sun", I cannot imagine anything more terrifying.

  • In the year 1009, the sun went dark and the moon was seen as red and a great earthquake struck. The Book of Miracles on The Guardian. I've always been wary of astrology, even in its most ironically-peddled form, but this reprinting of a beautiful 16th century illustrated manuscript is making me reconsider my position. I might start watching the skies for omens.
  • I have said that I heard screams. (I have since read that screaming, with hysteria, is a common reaction even to expected total eclipses.) People on all the hillsides, including, I think, myself, screamed when the black body of the moon detached from the sky and rolled over the sun. Total Eclipse by Annie Dillard in The Atlantic. She writes of the experience of watching the 1982 solar eclipse viewed from a mountain top in Washington State. One of the most emotive pieces of literature I've ever read.
  • Totality — that point of a solar eclipse when the sun is entirely covered by the moon — is incomprehensible. Your mind can’t grasp any of it: not the dark, nor the sunset clouds on the horizon, nor the stars; just that extraordinary wrongness, up there, that pulls the eyes toward it. How to Stay Sane During a Solar Eclipse by Helen Macdonald for The New York Times. There's a theme building, that staring at the sun drives one mad.
  • In other words, looking directly into the sun is an immanent and dialectical procedure, the source of a radically democratic mode of knowledge, and the only way to free humanity from oppression. What Happens When You Stare at the Sun by Sam Kriss for The Outline. A largely, but perhaps not totally, metaphorical essay on sun staring.
  • When the Sun is Eclipsed, shut your Chamber-windows, and put a paper before a hole, and you shall see the Sun How to watch an eclipse safely on Ask the Past. Giambattista della Porta writes in his 1658 book Natural Magick on how to safely watch an eclipse.
  • The daguerreotype revealed the moon perfectly positioned over the sun, exposing the solar corona for the first time in photography, hovering like a halo around the darkness. The First Photographs of a Solar Eclipse on Hyperallergic. Ever since Prometheus man has yearned to capture the sun, the next best thing is the camera.
  • For one hour in 2017, everything seemed fine. Relive the Momentary Joy of the Eclipse on The Outline.