Tomorrow morning, Australia is being treated to a rare full ‘Wolf Moon’ lunar eclipse. From the moment humans looked skyward, eclipses have fascinated – and sometimes terrified us. The myths are many and varied.
Lunar eclipses have fascinated cultures across the globe, and inspired several striking myths and legends, many of which portray the event as an omen. This is not surprising, since if anything interrupts the regular rhythms of the sun or moon it impacts strongly upon us and our lives.
Aussies are in for a stellar treat tonight, with a penumbral lunar eclipse rising over parts of the country on Saturday morning. As the first of six expected lunar eclipses in 2020, it's sure to be a wonderful sight for all the lovely stargazers out there. Here are the best times to watch in Australia.
For many ancient civilisations, the “blood moon” came with evil intent. The ancient Inca people interpreted the deep red colouring as a jaguar attacking and eating the moon. They believed that the jaguar might then turn its attention to Earth, so the people would shout, shake their spears and make their dogs bark and howl, hoping to make enough noise to drive the jaguar away.
In ancient Mesopotamia, a lunar eclipse was considered a direct assault on the king. Given their ability to predict an eclipse with reasonable accuracy, they would put in place a proxy king for its duration. Someone considered to be expendable (it was not a popular job), would pose as the monarch, while the real king would go into hiding and wait for the eclipse to pass. The proxy king would then conveniently disappear, and the old king be reinstated.
Some Hindu folktales interpret lunar eclipses as the result of the demon Rahu drinking the elixir of immortality. Twin deities the sun and moon promptly decapitate Rahu, but having consumed the elixir, Rahu’s head remains immortal. Seeking revenge, Rahu’s head chases the sun and moon to devour them. If he catches them we have an eclipse – Rahu swallows the moon, which reappears out of his severed neck.
For many people in India, a lunar eclipse bears ill fortune. Food and water are covered and cleansing rituals performed. Pregnant women especially should not eat or carry out household work, in order to protect their unborn child.