Ancient lunar eclipse myths from around the world


By Nicole Hogger

If the skies are clear, we will be lucky enough to see the lunar eclipse tonight. Although now greatly anticipated, there was once a time when the sight of a blood moon terrified many.

Tonight, on the 27th July, millions of people across the world will get the opportunity to see a lunar eclipse. Viewed from almost every inch of the globe – North America and Greenland are due to miss out – This lunar eclipse is thought to be the longest in 100 years, at 1 hour 43 minutes!

A total lunar eclipse takes place when Earth comes in between the Sun and the moon, covering the moon with its shadow. However, some sunlight still manages to reach the moon, refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere, causing an ashen red illumination.  

For thousands of years, lunar eclipses have fascinated and frightened civilisations all over the world, inspiring many myths and legends. This is not surprising, as lunar events are known to impact us in ways that are difficult to explain. Brighton police even deployed extra officers on the streets during the 2007 full moon, due to a supposed correlation between violent incidents and full moons.

In many ancient cultures, a lunar eclipse came with truly evil intentions. Ancient Incans believed that the red colouring was a jaguar attacking and eating the moon. They thought that once the jaguar had eaten the moon, it would attempt to eat Earth! The Incans would cause a great commotion, hoping that enough noise would keep the jaguar away.

In Ancient Mesopotamia, now known as Western Asia, a lunar eclipse was considered an attack on the king. Able to predict eclipses with reasonable accuracy, the Mesopotamian people would put in place a proxy king until the blood moon passed, when the king would be reinstated.

However, not all ancient cultures viewed a lunar eclipse as evil. Native American tribes in California believed that the moon was sick or wounded. The tribes would chant and sing healing songs in order to cure the moon.

In more recent times, many people across India still believe that a lunar eclipse foretells ill fortune for those in its wake. For the duration of the event, food and water are covered and pregnant women warned not to eat, drink or carry out household chores.

In addition, the astrology community believes that a blood moon can affect each zodiac sign in a different way, causing a profound effect on emotions and other aspects of personal life.   

No matter your beliefs, tonight’s lunar eclipse is due to be a breath-taking sight. If you are planning to watch the moon, the best place is out in the countryside away from any light pollution.

For those in areas that will miss out on the eclipse, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich will be streaming the event on their Facebook page.

If you wish to track the progress of tonight’s blood moon, you can access the tracker here.

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Posted on Friday Jul 27