The rare celestial event takes places when the moon is positioned slightly closer to earth than normal, and appears slightly bigger and brighter than normal – a phenomenon called a super moon. At the same time, the moon was expected to give off a coppery red glow on the lunar surface as it slips into Earth’s shadow, known as a blood moon.
Since it appears in January, when wolves used to howl in hunger outside villages, it has earned the name wolf moon, according to The Farmers Almanac.
The blood moon’s red hue is the result of sunlight traveling through the Earth’s dusty, polluted atmosphere. The shorter, more pliable blue wavelengths of light are scattered outside the Earth’s shadow and the longer, less bendable red wavelengths are refracted toward the moon.
Astronomers and skygazers are particularly interested in this year’s blood moon, as it is the last of its kind for two years and lasts for more than an hour.
Unfortunately for those few up and about on a very cold January morning in Barga, just at as moon started to turn red it slipped below clouds and was for the most part obscured.
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.
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