In ancient China, "any unusual phenomenon involving celestial bodies was noted for potential omens, either good or bad, that might befall the current Emperor," according to Sten Odenwald of the department of physics at Catholic University. An eclipse occurred in 2134 B.C., but was not predicted by Hsi and Ho, who were believed to have been two astrologers who served the Emperor Chung K'ang.
"By some accounts, the two astrologers were negligent in their duties and did not foretell the event for the Emperor," Odenwald writes in a historical article published by NASA. "They were summarily beheaded for their negligence of duty."
The ancient Chinese banged pots and drums to shoo the frightful sun-eating character away, according to the Exploratorium Science Center in San Francisco. In India, people would immerse themselves in water to help the sun fight the dragon.
Even nowadays many myths persist. In Egypt, as one example, children are often kept indoors with windows covered or shades drawn during an eclipse.
Prior to a total solar eclipse in 2006, one Indian paper advised pregnant women not to go outside during the eclipse to avoid having a blind baby or one with a cleft lip. Food cooked before the eclipse was to be thrown out afterward because it would be impure and those who are holding a knife or ax during the eclipse would cut themselves, the Hindustan Times added.
In Togo, authorities prior to the 2006 solar eclipse called on villagers to stay home. "Please, do not go out and keep your children indoors on solar eclipse day,'' Togo's minister for health said in a message broadcast on state television.
Risk of eye injury
Eclipses can indeed be dangerous.
Despite myths and rumors, a total solar eclipse is safe to watch during the darkness of totality, when no rays of the sun are passing to your eyes. The corona, or atmosphere of the sun, is often partly visible when the moon blocks out the main disk of the sun. Viewing the corona during totality also is safe.
However, looking directly at the sun, even during a partial eclipse, will damage your eyes unless you wear proper eye protection. It is extremely dangerous to eyesight to look directly at an eclipse at any stage expect during totality.