Lunar Lunacies and Blood Moons

A blood moon is a foreboding sight. While technically it is just an eclipse caused by the Earth passing directly between the sun and moon, here the sunlight becomes refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere and turns the reflection blood red rather than its usual silver luminescence which inspires all sorts of fearful mythology.

Full moons already have a bad reputation, with many people believing that they cause a little extra crazy in everybody, and there have been many studies done to see if there is a correlation (a conclusive answer still seems to be elusive). The belief is pervasive though, supported in popular culture by werewolf lore, and in the commonly used words lunacy and lunatic, which trace their roots back to the Roman moon goddess Luna.

It therefore comes as no surprise then that when a full moon is the color of blood, fearful lore arises. The King James Bible even sees it as a sign of the Apocalypse:

And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the Earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness. And the moon into blood,
 Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord – King James Bible, Joel 2:30

Ancient Greeks feared the power of the moon during an eclipse, believing that witches could draw down the Goddess Selene (the Greek embodiment of the moon) and possess her spirit. In times of the blood moon, they believed she was even more powerful and that the witches could draw her blood and perform even more powerful magic.

This is to your advantage and mine, so that we may not suffer, my distinguished friend, the fate that they say befalls the creatures who would draw down the moon—the hags of Thessaly – Plato, Gorgias

To try and prevent this from happening, people would create noise during the blood moon, hoping to disrupt the witches’ rituals and allow the Goddess to return back to the skies. (Drawing down the moon is still a popular wiccan rite today, not that we are advocating the persecution of witches and fear mongering).

The Incas created similar cacophonies during the blood moon, believing that a giant jaguar was attacking the moon, and causing it to bleed. They feared that after the jaguar finished devouring the moon the earth would be next, so they tried their best to frighten it away by shaking their spears at the skies and encouraging their dogs to howl at the moon.

The Chinese took it one step further, believing that the lunar eclipse was caused by a celestial dragon swallowing the moon. They would also make loud noises to scare it away. Even the Chinese navy got in on the act and were firing their cannons into the skies during a lunar blood moon eclipse as recently as the 19th Century.

So, whether you fear the Apocalypse, wrathful rites of Thessalian witches, world devouring jaguars and celestial dragons, or just plan to witness the event as a spectacular display of light refraction, it’s probably better to be on the safe side and make some noise.

Leave a Reply