28 February 2007

Lunar Eclipse Lore

This Sunday, March 3, there will be a lunar eclipse. For those of you who don't know, a lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth's shadow gets between the sun and the moon. And because of the different sizes of our heavenly bodies we get to witness the lovely ring of fire, seen above. This picture is from October 2005 and is a beautiful example of this unique effect of lunar eclipses. They only occur during the full moon, when the moon is opposite the Sun in the sky. The only reason we don't have lunar eclipses every month is because the moon is tilted 5 degrees from Earth's orbit around the sun.

Tales of the lunar eclipses come from all over the world and many cultures have specific myths dealing with them. To the Norse the moon is Mani, a god who rides the moon chariot across the night sky, chased all the way by the wolf Hati (hate). When Hati manages to catch the moon chariot a lunar eclipse occurs. In Bali the moon goddess Ratih is instead hounded by the bodiless head of a demon called Kala Rau. To Hindus Rahu is the demon that causes eclipses. He rides a chariot pulled by eight black horses with his mouth wide open to swallow the sun or the moon. We all know that Stonehenge could be used to predict full moons and was built to align with the winter and summer solstices. But there are some scholars who surmise that the 19 bluestones within the inner horseshoe shape could also be used to forcast lunar eclipses.

Within modern paganism I see the lunar eclipse as a time to witness all of the phases of the moon in quick succession, 73 minutes to be exact. That is, depending on where you are in the world. This lunar eclipse will be unique because it will be at least partially visible from every continent. To find out when you'll get a glimpse and exactly what you'll see, visit NASAs visibility page. It'll be visible to only the eastern U.S., as well as other parts of the world, so when the sun sets and the moon rises for me the eclipse will have already started. It's a chance to feel the uniqueness of each stage of the moon's monthly life in a short time and reflect on how fast things can change. It's a time of retrospection and ritual. I would consider it an ideal time to work spells and rituals encouraging change or adaptation to change, metamorphosis and spiritual and emotional growth.

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