April 14, 2014, will mark the beginning of a series of total lunar eclipses sent by the heavens to strike awe and fear into the hearts of millions. That is, according to the beliefs of many past and present cultures across the world. The lunar eclipse is an astrological event that has been observed and recorded throughout the course of modern history, influencing events, and inspiring a myriad of beliefs across many cultures; usually involving some sort of bad omen it has to be said.
In Chinese mythology it is believed that the lunar eclipse occurs because of a dragon, a masculine solar energy that consumes the moon, In order to ward off the dragon the Chinese traditionally made loud noises, by smashing pots and banging mirrors. Up until the 19 century even fired cannons into the air during a lunar eclipse, to combat the dragon. The event was seen as a bad omen, a coming of disease and famine.
Across the water, in Japan, the traditional view of the lunar eclipse was again that it should be feared. The people of ancient Japan made an association with earthquakes, believing a lunar eclipse would foreshadow a disaster. Japan lies in one of the most seismically active zones in the world, so the association could have been made when a lunar eclipse coincided with an earthquake. However, the observations may not have been such a myth; there is now scientific support for an increased gravitational pull during a lunar eclipse. The Japanese too, fired shots to try to stop the eclipse.
Like in many cultures, India too has been extremely weary of the lunar eclipse, seeing it as a bad omen of luck. Several rituals are used to protect against the bad luck, including bathing afterwards, and refraining from eating during the eclipse. Some of the traditions surrounding the superstitions are still practiced today, especially with concern to pregnant women. In India pregnant women are highly advised to stay inside, and refrain from doing any housework. They fear exposure to the lunar eclipse could cause scars and deformities in unborn babies.
So far, no good news for the coming lunar eclipse. In Islamic culture however, the coming of the moon is not a time of misfortune. The lunar eclipse is not an event that is feared in this instance, rather it is revered as a connection to Allah. During the eclipse, the moon is bowed to and prayed upon, usually in congregation. A special lunar eclipse prayer, the salutul-kusaf is recited in the name of Allah, and the day is generally one to seek forgiveness, and act with kindness.
Before anyone makes the mistake of attributing superstitions like this to Eastern Mythology, and religion, the lunar eclipse was also see as a bad omen by the Romans. In 14 ACE Augustus died, and one of the events that foreshadowed his death; the omnipresent bad omen of the lunar eclipse. It is also reported that after seeing the disorder of the moon, many Roman soldiers who were on the brink of rebellion too it as a sign, and decided to restore order, and unite.
It is believed that the lunar eclipse has several references in the Bible. It has been interpreted to have foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus, which also gives it some connotations as a bad omen. Often the lunar eclipse is viewed biblically as an association with Judgement Day. It is often refereed as “blood moon,” because of the awe-inspiring red glow that is given off during a lunar eclipse totality.
The coming tetrad of lunar eclipse that America will have full view of may strike one particular prophecy hard. Some followers of the bible have taken references to the “blood moons,” combined with the timing of the upcoming eclipses (which fall on holy days such as Passover), as being a sign of the Second Coming of Christ.
The scientific perspective tells us that the eclipse is a result of the moon passing through the umbral shadow of the earth, blocking the light between the sun and the moon. The reddish glow is explained as a refraction of the light from the atmosphere of the planet, which filters out colors like blues, leaving behind the glow of the worlds sunsets, which reach the moon indirectly.
Whether or not the ancient views of the lunar eclipse as a bad omen still believe the old mythologies, many are still carried out today in respect of tradition and ceremony. For cultures across the world, the lunar eclipse can still be a sign, and for religions it can still be a time to revere God.
The interpretations across many cultures of the lunar eclipse as a bad omen, is likely to have stemmed from a combination of astronomical beliefs, and the blood-red image of the moon in the sky. Whether or not the lunar eclipse of April 14 will be a bad omen, Judgement Day, or simply an opportunity to enjoy the eerie casting of the moon in a red haze, the event can be enjoyed all across America.
By Matthew Warburton