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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Eclipses: Are You Superstitious?

A total lunar eclipse is just days away on April 15, 2014, and will be visible in North America. The totality phase will last 78 minutes, beginning at midnight west coast time and 3am on the east coast. 

This photo shows Lucien Rudaux's painting of how a lunar eclipse might look from the moon. The only sunlight is refracted through Earth’s atmosphere at the outer edges, causing the moon to look red.

This eclipse launches a cycle of four consecutive Blood Moons, known as a tetrad lunar eclipse series. Dates to watch for are April 15, 2014, October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015 and September 28, 2015. To give you an indication of how rare tetrads are, there were none between 1600 and 1900. In this, the 21st Century, there will be 9 sets of tetrads.

A lunar eclipse happens when the Moon, Sun and Earth are all aligned exactly, with Earth sandwiched between Moon and Sun. It can only happen when the Moon is full.

Some ancient cultures interpreted lunar eclipses as the moon being swallowed by an animal. For the Maya it was a jaguar, in Egypt it was a sow, and in China it was a three-legged toad. Others thought a demon swallowed the moon. The lunar eclipse was viewed as a portent of evil or disaster. Even today, many see it as a sign of doom. A prominent religious leader wrote such a book, saying this eclipse period is apocalyptic.

Ancient people were superstitious. It’s easy for us to say they didn’t know the science behind eclipses, but is that an accurate assumption? Look at the precision in such astronomical systems as the Maya calendar, which calculated planetary movements for hundreds of centuries into their future. The Dogon people of Mali, West Africa had a complex understanding of astronomy and stars, as did many others.

Here are some definitions according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online:

ASTRONOMY: The scientific study of stars, planets, and other objects in outer space.
ASTROLOGY: The study of how the positions of the stars and movements of the planets have a supposed influence on events and on the lives and behavior of people.
ECLIPSE: The total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another.
LUNAR ECLIPSE: An eclipse in which the full moon passes partially or wholly through the umbra of the earth’s shadow.
TETRAD: An occurrence of four total lunar eclipses in a row with intervals of six lunations (semester). (According to Wikipedia.)

The photo above shows the Blood Moon Eclipse that rose during the Fall of Constantinople, when the Byzantine capital fell to the Ottomans. The siege lasted from April 5, 1453 to May 29, 1453, and the eclipse was on May 22, 1453. It was considered a prophecy fulfilled at the time.

Most people have an opinion about eclipses, one way or the other. Do you see them as omens, purely scientific events, or a blend of the two? Even knowing the science behind them, you may still see them as omens.

I'm currently editing a story I began writing in 1998. The moon, eclipses and rare lunar events feature heavily... it takes place at a castle on an isolated island off the south coast of Ireland...

For authors, eclipses can add elements of suspense, danger, and paranormal excitement to our stories. Have you used an eclipse in any of your books?

GEMMA JULIANA is a multi-published author who lives in an enchanted cottage in north Texas with her handsome hero, brave teen son and a comical dog who is really a human in disguise. She loves making new friends and hearing from readers. Exotic coffee and chocolate fuel her creativity. She writes romance, mystery and suspense with a splash of the paranormal.

Gemma’s books are available on Amazon.  
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Sandy said...

No, I'm not superstitious, and I have never thought to eclipses in a story. An interesting topic, Gemma.

Jane Leopold Quinn said...

Gemma, the story you're working on sounds really interesting. I'm not superstitious but enjoy reading stories about the possibilities. And if you started this in 1998, it must be a great love of yours. Cool...

Tina Donahue said...

Eclipses are weird, but cool.

The strangest thing I've ever seen was a few years back in the high desert of So Cal. A corona around the sun. Honest to god, it was the freakiest thing to see this huge circle around the sun, taking up most of the sky.

Absolutely amazing.

Cara Marsi said...

I consider eclipses strictly a scientific event. I've only seen one eclipse and it was really cool. We seldom see them here on the East Coast because we almost always have a cloud cover when there's an eclipse.

Gemma Juliana said...

Hi Sandy, thanks for commenting. It seemed like a timely topic with two eclipses coming this month.

Jane, yes, the story I'm working on is close to my heart. It was never intended to take this long to write. Life happened, with major upheavals and distractions, but I'm determined to write 'The End' on it soon.

Tina, what an amazing sight. It sounds like that very memorable visual will stay with you forever. Don't you wish you had a camera at moments like that?

Gemma Juliana said...

Hi Cara, If the skies are clear, the Lunar Eclipse on April 15 should be a great visual event for North America.

Paris said...

Interesting post! I've never used an eclipse but I look forward to your story!

jean hart stewart said...

Loved your post... using an eclipse in a story is an interesting idea. I've never done that, but did use St. Elmo's fire ins Redemptive Pursuit. I might blog about that someday.

Marianne Stephens said...

I'll be sure to check outside on the 15th. Eclipses can be fun to use in a paranormal story...think of all the creative aspects/consequences an author can image for this phenomena.
The 4 dates mentioned coincide with Jewish holidays...interesting coincidence.

Gemma Juliana said...

Hi Paris, Glad you enjoyed the post.

Gemma Juliana said...

Jean, St. Elmo's fire is amazing. I'll have to check out your books.

I love the Aurora Borealis as well, and anything beautiful of a celestial nature.

Gemma Juliana said...

Hi Marianne,

Yes, the eclipse can be a great addition to a paranormal plot.

I read that the Lunar Eclipse of April 15th coincides with the full moon of the first day of Passover, but I didn't realize all four dates are tied in with Jewish holidays. Very interesting, thanks for mentioning that.

Rose Gorham said...

Interesting post, Gemma. I've never used an eclipse in any of my books. Should make an interesting read!

Gemma Juliana said...

Thanks for visiting today, Rose. :)

Melissa Keir said...

Informative post! I remember watching a lunar eclipse with my mom one night before 1983...It was so fun to be outside at night to watch an event that didn't happen every day or every month.

I love when the moon is full and low to the horizon. It looks so huge and like you can touch it.

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