Did you know that eclipses in ancient history were terrifying? The bloodstained moon and the gradual disappearance of the blazing sun was apparently an ominous sight to behold then!
Some cultures even saw these eclipses as celestial wrath that would bring misfortune and evil on them.
With the upcoming Lunar Eclipse on 31 Jan 2018, here are some quirky fun facts about lunar eclipses that you may not have known!
1. A belief that dragons ate the moon? 👹🌙
The Chinese word for eclipse is shi (食), which means “to eat.” It was derived from the 19th Century when the Chinese believed that the gradual disappearance of the moon was because a dragon was eating up the moon! Petrified, they would fire cannons at the moon to scare it off!
2. Signs of sickness and disease 😷💢
Terrified Eskimos saw the disappearance of the moon as a sign that the moon had contracted a grave disease, and that whatever – or whoever – the “diseased” rays of the moon touched would suffer from the same fate. Desperate, they covered up anything of importance – from their utensils to themselves!
3. Poisoned moon 💀⚠
Similarly, in Japan, the moon turning red seemed as if it became saturated with poison, and the people believed this! They worried about the poison falling to the ground during an eclipse, so they covered their wells to prevent the water from becoming contaminated.
4. Not a big deal 😉👍
As seen, some civilisations thought that eclipses were a terrifying omen. Well, certainly not for these guys! North American Indian tribes believed that the sun and moon leave their spots in the sky to check up on Earth and making sure everything was going well before returning to their designated spots.
5. Temporary revenge 🐍😠
Rahu an evil serpent and deity wanted to become immortal, and so he drank the divine nectar. This act was exposed by the planetary deities, Sun and Moon who revealed this to Vishnu (principal deity). Vishnu immediately cuts off Rahu’s head (leaving only his head immortal). Wanting to exact revenge on the Sun and Moon, Rahu swallows the deities. They then disappear for a time but reappear again when they pass through his disembodied head. The temporary disappearance of the moon (eclipse) is interpreted as an evil and inauspicious omen because Hindus believe that the light rays during an eclipse will expose them to evil radiation from Rahu. This explains why Hindus close the temple when an eclipse is due to occur.
This year, Thaipusam falls on the day of the lunar eclipse. The 24 hour long festival has been cut short by 5 and a half hours so that temples can be closed before the eclipse.
DID YOU KNOW….
A lunar eclipse saved Columbus
A desperate and stranded Columbus resorted to cheap deception to save his life and the lives of his motley crew. He concocted a plan using an almanac that included details on the next total lunar eclipse – he told the natives that his God was angry at them for not supplying them any more food and would convey this message through a bloodied moon. Lo and behold, in 3 days, the lunar eclipse happened. The terrified natives agreed to put him up as long as Columbus restored the moon, which he did by locking himself away until the eclipse was coming to an end.
As civilizations have advanced (through greater appreciation and understanding of science), we now know what causes eclipses.
Learn more about eclipses and how they happen in our recent blog post.
Don’t miss the ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ viewing event of the Super Blue Blood Moon at Science Centre Singapore on 31 Jan 2018! More information on the event can be found here.
So come on down – we’ll see you at the Omni-Theatre!!
– All gifs adapted from giphy.com –
By Estelle Tan and Janellia Kwan
Reviewed by Danny