Nathan Fox and The Washington Post Bring Light to the Darkness
The darkness is upon us – for an hour at least.
Today the entire United States is gearing up to witness the first total solar eclipse of its kind in 99 years. The celestial event will plunge much of the mainland US in darkness during the middle of the day, offering many a nice break from daily work and a new story to tell the next generation. The event will be lighthearted for most, an exciting topic of conversation, and that’s because we understand what’s going on astronomically. We know the moon is orbiting in such a way that it will hide sun for a few moments, and then pass through to reveal the sun again. But in centuries past when the moon covered the sun, it was less clear what was happening and many earlier cultures were terrified by the loss of the life-giving sun – so they created their own set of mythos to describe and understand the events. It’s a beautiful complex tapestry of magic and godly interference, and The Washington Post wanted to bring it to life so that our contemporaries could understand it. They asked Nathan Fox to do it. But together Nathan and WaPo wanted to take it a step further. Instead of just showing us pictures of these stories, WaPo commissioned Nathan to create an immersive 3D experience. Using your phone or clicking around the web-based 3D environment allows you to experience how nearly a dozen cultures imagined what happening – and in some cases what they decided to do about it.
Nathan’s immersive experience is paired with a comprehensive explanation of his illustrations, but if you dive into it, you’ll also hear a narration allowing you to pick out each story and see how they weave together or at least share space. In Nathan's illustration we see the Pomo's great cranky bear, the head of a demon beheaded by Vishnu, and the Chippewa's flaming arrows sent to rekindle the sun. Plus many more, in all their flaming, violent, and popular glory.
So, today, while you’re looking through your pinhole eclipse viewer, confident that the sun will return just a few minutes later, remember for a moment the uncertainty our ancestors felt in seeing the sun vanish and take a moment for thanks that our futures are at least slightly more certain.