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Lipan Apache medicine woman shares why she will be indoors during the solar eclipse

Courtesy of Marika Alvarado

Visitors are expected to flood into Texas for the total solar eclipse on April 8, with some projections expecting over a million people will venture into the state.

All across the path of totality there will be festivals and watch parties and other eventscelebrating and teaching about the phenomena in the sky.

But Marika Alvarado said for many Indigenous tribes, all this hoopla is the opposite of what tradition dictates should happen when the moon covers the sun.

Alvarado is Lipan Apache and works as a medicine woman in Austin.

“There’s so many stories when we talk about the eclipses and anything that’s going on with our skies, because it’s really important that we’re paying attention to what’s going on and how it affects us,” she said. “And of course, there’s thousands of native stories, whether it’s Navajo or whether it’s other tribes and things. But to us, traditionally it was about staying indoors and being in that prayer because, to us, there is a power exchange going on.”

Alvarado said the ring of fire that appears when the moon fully eclipses the sun can represent a rebirth.

“You would not want to be outside, because this is when the sun is fighting and so it’s the strongest. So the idea of being outside, it’s affecting you, it’s affecting all of us,” she said. “And especially if you’re a pregnant woman, you definitely have to be indoors and take care of yourself because it is affecting us in a strong way.”

Traditionally, Alvarado said mothers and caregivers would make tea for the young people in preparation for the eclipse.

“It affects our young people as opposed to us elders, because our young people are affected by the elements,” she said. “We identified some people being taken by the wind, so these are the people that have trouble with decisions, or they’re just that movement that is there all the time. So that’s our job as elders, is to anchor them down a little bit.”

Alvarado said there are a lot of cultural stories that explain what is happening during an eclipse, including the one she grew up with.

“When I was young, they’d always say that the raven is the most powerful. He’s the one that took the sun away just to show people how much power he had. And that’s when the sky went dark, because it’s hiding in the raven,” she said. “And some people say that it’s the frog that comes and fights because the frog belongs to the moon.”

Alvarado said she doesn’t share this tradition as a warning, but rather as a perspective many people might not know about. She said during the eclipse she will be inside with the blinds drawn focusing on prayer.

“To us, the power of prayer is very important,” she said. “I try to teach my young people that as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, you should just say thank you. That’s a prayer. Just say thank you. Because with us, every single day, we have a choice.”

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