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Eclipse has long, magical history for African tribe

Charlayne Hunter-Gault in Luangwa  

From Charlayne Hunter-Gault
CNN Johannesburg Bureau

LUANGWA, Zambia (CNN) -- The Ngoni tribe's first visit to Luangwa, at the conjunction of the Zambezi and Luangwa Rivers in current-day Zambia, was marked by a solar eclipse and a sense of panic.

Some 170 years later, tribe members converged on the city for another eclipse -- and this time, for a celebration. Today, Luangwa offers not only a view of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia, but also one of the best vistas for the first total solar eclipse of the new millenium.

QuickTime Movie: Animation of a solar eclipse  
What is a solar eclipse?  

People from several countries joined the Ngoni in Luangwa on Thursday to witness the four minute-long eclipse and rare daytime appearances by Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and several bright stars.

Zulus joined the Ngoni to view and celebrate the eclipse in Luangwa. Led by the great warrior Shaka Zulu, Zulus had chased the Ngoni into Mozambique during the war in South Africa in the 1830s. At that time, the Ngoni believed Shaka Zulu used magic to create the eclipse -- hoping to help the Zulus catch up with and punish the fleeing Ngoni.

• Exploratorium: The view from Zambia
• Sky and Telescope: Eclipses

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