Moon Lore, by Timothy Harley, , at sacred-texts.com
All round the globe, from time immemorial, those periodic phenomena known as solar and lunar eclipses have been occasions of mental disquietude and superstitious alarm. Though now regarded as perfectly natural and regular, they have seemed so preternatural
and irregular to the unscientific eye that we cannot wonder at the consternation which they have caused. And it must be confessed that a total obscuration of the sun in the middle of the day casts such a gloom over the earth that men not usually timid are still excusable if during the parenthesis they feel a temporary uneasiness, and are relieved when the ruler of the day emerges from his dark chamber, apparently rejoicing to renew his race. An eclipse of the moon, though less awe-inspiring, is nevertheless sufficiently so to awaken in the superstitious brain fearful forebodings of impending calamity. Science may demonstrate that there is nothing abnormal in these occurrences, but to the seeker after signs it wilt be throwing words away; for, as Lord Kames says, Superstitious eyes are never opened by instruction."
We will now produce a number of testimonies to show how these lunar eclipses have been viewed among the various races of the earth in ancient and modern times. The Chaldæans were careful observers of eclipses, and Berosus believed that when the moon was obscured she turned to us her dark side. Anaximenes said that her mouth was stopped. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Mathematicians said that she fell into conjunction with the bright sun. Anaxagoras of Clazomenæ (born B.C. 499) was the first to explain the eclipse of the moon as caused by the shadow of the earth cast by the sun. But he was as one born out of due time. We are all familiar with the use made by students of unfulfilled prophecy
of every extraordinary occurrence in nature, such as the sudden appearance of a comet, an earthquake, an eclipse, etc. We know how mysteriously they interpret those simple passages in the Bible about the sun being darkened and the moon being turned into blood. If they were not wilfully blind, such facts as are established by the following quotations would open their eyes to the errors in their exegesis. At any rate, they would find their theories anticipated in nearly every particular by those very heathen whom they are wont to pity as so benighted and hopelessly lost.
Grimm writes: "One of the most terrible phenomena to heathens was an eclipse of the sun or moon, which they associated with a destruction of all things and the end of the world. I may safely assume that the same superstitious notions and practices attend eclipses among nations ancient and modern. The Indian belief is that a serpent eats up the sun and moon when they arc eclipsed, or a demon devours them. To this day the Hindoos consider that a giant lays hold of the luminaries and tries to swallow them. The Chinese call the solar eclipse zhishi (solis devoratio), the lunar yueshi (lunæ devoratio), and ascribe them both to the machinations of a dragon. Nearly all the populations of Northern Asia hold the same opinion. The Finns of Europe, the Lithuanians, and the Moors in Africa, have a similar belief." 286 Flammarion says: "Among the ancient nations people used to come to the assistance of the moon, by making
a confused noise with all kinds of instruments, when it was eclipsed. It is even done now in Persia and some parts of China, where they fancy that the moon is fighting with a great dragon, and they think the noise will make him loose his hold and take to flight. Among the East Indians they have the same belief that when the sun and the moon are eclipsed, a dragon is seizing them, and astronomers who go there to observe eclipses are troubled by the fears of their native attendants, and by their endeavours to get into the water as the best place under the circumstances. In America the idea is that the sun and moon are tired when they are eclipsed. But the more refined Greeks believed for a long time that the moon was bewitched, and that the magicians made it descend from heaven to put into the herbs a certain maleficent froth. Perhaps the idea of the dragon arose from the ancient custom of calling the places in the heavens at which the eclipses of the moon took place the head and tail of the dragon." 287 Sir Edward Sherburne, in his "Annotations upon the Medea," quaintly says: "Of the beating of kettles, basons, and other brazen vessels used by the ancients when the moone was eclipsed (which they did to drown the charms of witches, that the moon might not hear them, and so be drawne from her spheare as they suppos'd), I shall not need to speake, being a thing so generally knowne, a custom continued among the Turks to this day; yet I cannot but adde, and wonder at, what Joseph Scaliger, in his 'Annotations upon[paragraph continues]
Manilius,' reports out of Bonincontrius, an ancient commentator upon the same poet, who affirms that in a town of Italy where he lived (within these two centuries of yeares), he saw the same piece of paganisme acted upon the like occasion." 288 Another, and more recent writer, also says of these eclipses: "The Chinese imagine them to be caused by great dragons trying to devour the sun and moon, and beat drums and brass kettles to make the monsters give up their prey. Some of the tribes of American Indians speak of the moon as hunted by huge dogs, catching and tearing her till her soft light is reddened and put out by the blood flowing from her wounds. To this day in India the native beats his gong, as the moon passes across the sun's face, and it is not so very long ago that in Europe both eclipses and rushing comets were thought to show that troubles were near." 289 Respecting China, a modern traveller speaks in not very complimentary language. "If there is on the earth a nation absorbed by the affairs of this world and who trouble themselves little about what passes among the heavenly bodies, it is assuredly the Chinese. The most erudite among them just know of the existence of astronomy, or, as they call it, tienwen--'celestial literature.' But they are ignorant of the simplest principles of the science, and those who regard an eclipse as a natural phenomenon, instead of a dragon who is seeking to devour the sun and moon, are enlightened indeed." 290 This statement ought to be taken with more than one granum salis,
especially as Mrs. Somerville assures us that the Chinese had made advances in the science of astronomy 1,100 years before the Christian era, and also adds: "Their whole chronology is founded on the observation of eclipses, which prove the existence of that empire for more than 4,700 years." 291 With this discount the charge against Chinese ignorance may be passed. "A Mongolian myth makes out that the gods determined to punish Arakho for his misdeeds, but he hid so effectually that no one could find out his lurking-place. They therefore asked the sun, who gave an unsatisfactory answer; but when they asked the moon, she disclosed his whereabouts. So Arakho was dragged forth and chastised; in revenge of which he pursues both sun and moon, and whenever he comes to hand-grips with one of them, an eclipse occurs. To help the lights of heaven in their sad plight, a tremendous uproar is made with musical and other instruments, till Arakho is scared away." 292 "Referring to the Shoo, Pt. III., Bk. IV., parag. 4, we find this sentence: 'On the first day of the last month of autumn the sun and moon did not meet harmoniously in Fang.'" 293 In less euphemistic phrase, the sun and moon were crossed.
Dr. Wells Williams describes an interesting scene. "In the middle of the sixth moon lanterns are hung from the top of a pole placed on the highest part of the house. A single small lantern is deemed sufficient, but if the night be calm, a greater display is made by some householders, and especially in boats,
by exhibiting coloured glass lamps arranged in various ways. The illumination of a city like Canton, when seen from a high spot, is made still more brilliant by the moving boats on the river. On one of these festivals at Canton, an almost total eclipse of the moon called out the entire population, each one carrying something with which to make a noise, kettles, pans, sticks, drums, gongs, guns, crackers, and what not to frighten away the dragon of the sky from his hideous feast. The advancing shadow gradually caused the myriads of lanterns to show more and more distinctly, and started a still increasing clamour, till the darkness and the noise were both at their climax. Silence gradually resumed its sway as the moon recovered her fulness." 294 On another page Dr. Williams tells us that "some clouds having on one occasion covered the sky, so that an eclipse could not be seen, the courtiers joyfully repaired to the emperor to felicitate him that Heaven, touched by his virtues, had spared him the pain of witnessing the 'eating of the sun.'" 295 The following passage from Doolittle's work on the Chinese is sufficiently interesting to be given without abridgment: "It is a part of the official duties of mandarins to 'save the sun and moon when eclipsed.' Prospective eclipses are never noticed in the Imperial Calendar, published originally at Peking, and republished in the provinces. The imperial astronomers at the capital, a considerable time previous to a visible eclipse, inform the Board of Rites of its month, day, and hour.[paragraph continues]
These officers send this intelligence to the viceroys or governors of the eighteen provinces of the empire. These, in turn, communicate the information to all the principal subordinate officers in the provinces of the civil and the military grade. The officers make arrangements to save the moon or the sun at the appointed time. On the day of the eclipse, or on the day preceding it, some of them put up a written notice in or near their yamuns, for the information of the public.
"The Chinese generally have no rational idea of the cause of eclipses. The common explanation is that the sun or the moon has experienced some disaster. Some even affirm that the object eclipsed is being devoured by an immense ravenous monster. This is the most popular sentiment in Fuhchau in regard to the procuring cause of eclipses. All look upon the object eclipsed with wonder. Many are filled with apprehension and terror. Some of the common people, as well as mandarins generally, enter upon some course of action, the express object of which is to save the luminary from its dire calamity, or to rescue it from the jaws of its greedy enemy. Mandarins must act officially, and in virtue of their being officers of government. Neither they nor the people seem to regard the immense distance of the celestial object as at all interfering with the success of their efforts. The various obstacles which ought apparently to deter them from attempting to save the object eclipsed do not seem to have occurred
to them at all, or, if they have occurred, do not appear to be sufficient to cause them to desist from prosecuting their laudable endeavours. The high mandarins procure the aid of priests of the Taoist sect at their yamuns. These place an incense censer and two large candlesticks for holding red candles or tapers on a table in the principal reception room of the mandarin, or in the open space in front of it under the open heavens.
"At the commencement of the eclipse the tapers are lighted, and soon after the mandarin enters, dressed in his official robes. Taking some sticks of lighted incense in both hands, he makes his obeisance before or facing the table, raising and depressing the incense two or three times, according to the established fashion, before it is placed in the censer. Or sometimes the incense is lighted and put in the censer by one of the priests employed. The officer proceeds to perform the high ceremony of kneeling down three times, and knocking his head on the ground nine times. After this he rises from his knees. Large gongs and drums near by are now beaten as loudly as possible. The priests begin to march slowly around the tables, reciting formulas, etc., which marching they keep up, with more or less intermissions, until the eclipse has passed off.
"A uniform result always follows these official efforts to save the sun and the moon. They are invariably successful. There is not a single instance recorded in the annals of the empire when the measures prescribed
in instructions from the emperor's astronomers at Peking, and correctly carried out in the provinces by the mandarins, have not resulted in a complete rescue of the object eclipsed. Doubtless the vast majority of the common people in China believe that the burning of tapers and incense, the prostration of the mandarins, the beating of the gongs and drums, and the recitations on the part of the priests, are signally efficacious in driving away the voracious monster. They observe that the sun or the moon does not seem to be permanently injured by the attacks of its celestial enemy, although a half or nearly the whole appeared to have been swallowed up. This happy result is doubtless viewed with much complacency by the parties engaged to bring it about. The lower classes generally leave the saving of the sun or the moon, when eclipsed, to their mandarins, as it is a part of their official business. Some of the people occasionally beat in their houses a winnowing instrument, made of bamboo splints, on the occasion of an eclipse. This gives out a loud noise. Some venture to assert that the din of this instrument penetrates the clouds as high as the very temple of Heaven itself! The sailors connected with junks at this place, on the recurrence of a lunar eclipse, always contribute their aid to rescue the moon by beating their gongs in a most deafening manner.
"Without doubt, most of the mandarins understand the real occasion of eclipses, or, at least, they
have the sense to perceive that nothing which they can do will have any effect upon the object eclipsed, or the cause which produces the phenomenon; but they have no optional course in regard to the matter. They must comply with established custom, and with the understood will of their superiors. The imperial astronomers, having been taught the principles of astronomy and the causes which produce eclipses by the Roman Catholic missionaries a long while since, of course know that the common sentiments on the subject are as absurd as the common customs relating to it are useless. But the emperor and his cabinet cling to ancient practices, notwithstanding the clearest evidences of their false and irrational character." 296
Mr. Herbert Giles accounts for this Chinese obtuseness, or, as some would have it, opacity, in much the same way. Under the head of Natural Phenomena, he writes: "It is a question of more than ordinary interest to those who regard the Chinese people as a worthy object of study, What are the speculations of the working and uneducated classes concerning such natural phenomena as it is quite impossible for them to ignore? Their theory of eclipses is well known, foreign ears being periodically stunned by the gonging of an excited crowd of natives, who are endeavouring with hideous noises to prevent some imaginary dog of colossal proportions from banqueting, as the case may be, upon the sun or moon. At such laughable exhibitions of native ignorance it will be observed there is always a fair sprinkling of well-to-do, educated
persons, who not only ought to know better themselves, but should be making some effort to enlighten their less fortunate countrymen instead of joining in the din. Such a hold, however, has superstition on the minds of the best informed in a Chinese community, that under the influence of any real or supposed danger, philosophy and Confucius are scattered to the four winds of heaven, and the proudest disciple of the master proves himself after all but a man." 297 No doubt Mr. Doolittle and Mr. Giles are both right: custom and superstition form a twisted rope which pinions the popular mind. But there is yet another strand to be mentioned which makes the bond a threefold cord which it will take some time to break. Prescriptive right requires that the official or cultured class in China, answering to the clerical caste elsewhere, should keep the other classes in ignorance; because, if science and religion are fellow-helpers, science and superstition can never dwell together, and the downfall of superstition in China would be the destruction of imperial despotism and magisterial tyranny. "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. But this Paul says that they be no gods, which are made with hands: so that our craft is in danger to be set at nought. Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" The mandarins know why they encourage the mechanics and merchants to save the moon.
We once met a good story in reading one of Jean Astruc's medical works. "Theodore de Henry, of[paragraph continues]
Paris, coming one time into the church of St. Dionis, he fell prostrate at the foot of the statue of Charles the Eighth, as in a sudden fit of devotion. When being told by one of the monks that was not the image of any saint, he replied, he was not ignorant of that, but was willing to pay a grateful acknowledgment to the memory of that prince who had brought the Morbus Gallicus into France, by which he had made his own fortune." Herein lies the secret of half of the hypocrisy of the world. Thank God! the world moves; and the millennium of truth is at hand.
The literature of China is, happily, not all linsey-woolsey. The following sample is of the finest silk, worthy to adorn the purest saint.
"MING TI of the HOUSE of WEI.
"Reigned 227-239 A.D.
"On an Eclipse.--A Rescript. WE have heard that if a sovereign is remiss in government, Heaven terrifies him by calamities and strange portents. These are divine reprimands sent to recall him to a sense of duty. Thus, partial eclipses of the sun and moon are manifest warnings that the rod of empire is not wielded aright. Ever since WE ascended the throne, OUR inability to continue the glorious traditions of our departed ancestors and carry on the great work of civilization, has now culminated in a warning message from on high. It therefore
behoves Us to issue commands for personal reformation, in order to avert the impending calamity.
"But the relations of Heaven with Man are those of a father and son; and a father about to chastise his son would not be deterred were the latter to present him with a dish of meat. WE do not therefore consider it part of OUR duty to act in accordance with certain memorials advising that the prime minister and chief astronomer be instructed to offer up sacrifices on this occasion. Do ye, governors of districts and other high officers of State, seek rather to rectify your own hearts; and if any one can devise means to make up for OUR shortcomings, let him submit his proposals to the Throne." 298
The writer of that was "not far from the kingdom of God."
Father Borri, in his account of Cochin China, describes the effect of a lunar eclipse upon several scholars in the city of Nuoecman in the province of Pulucambi. "I showed them that the circle of the moon, on that side the eclipse began, was not so perfect as it should be, and soon after all the moon being darkened, they perceived the truth of my prediction. The commander and all of them being astonished, presently sent to give notice of it to all the ward, and spread the news of the eclipse throughout the city, that every man might go out to make the usual noise in favour of the moon; giving out everywhere that there were no such men as the
fathers, whose doctrine and books could not fail being true, since they had so exactly foretold the eclipse, which their learned men had taken no notice of; and therefore, in performance of his promise, the commander with all his family became Christians, as did many more of his ward, with some of the most learned men of the city and others of note." 299 In no unkind spirit we cannot refrain from noticing, what will strike every reader, how ready divines of all denominations are to turn the teachings of science to their own account in the propagation of their faith. It would have been seemlier for theologians in all ages, if their attitude towards physical inquirers had been less hostile; they would then have made converts through eclipses with a better grace. They would, moreover, have prevented the alienation of many of their truest friends.
Captain Beeckman gives an amusing story of an eclipse in Cantongee, in the island of Borneo, on the 10th of November, 1714. "We sat very merry till about eight at night, when, preparing to go to bed, we heard all on a sudden a most terrible outcry, mixed with squealing, halloing, whooping, firing of guns, ringing and clattering of gongs or brass pans, that we were greatly startled, imagining nothing less but that the city was surprised by the rebels. I ran immediately to the door, where I found my old fat landlord roaring and whooping like a man raving mad. This increased my astonishment, and the noise was so great that I could neither be heard, nor get an
answer to know what the matter was. At last I cried as loud as possibly I could to the old man to know the reason of this sad confusion and outcry, who in a great fright pointed up to the heavens, and said, 'Look there; see, the devil is eating up the moon!' I was very glad to hear that there was no other cause of their fright but their own ignorance. It was only a great eclipse of the moon. I smiled, and told him that there was no danger; that in a little while the moon would be as well as ever. Whereupon, catching fast hold of my sleeve, as I was returning to bed, he asked me if I was sure on't (for they take us white men to be very wise in those matters). I assured him I was, and that we always knew many years before when such a thing would happen; that it proceeded from a natural cause, according to the course and motion of the sun and moon, and that the devil had no hand in it. After the eclipse was over, the old man, being not a little rejoiced, took me in." 300 Another writer speaks of the East India Islands in general. "There is to this day hardly a country of the Archipelago in which the ceremony of frightening the supposed monster from his attack on the luminary is not performed. This consists in shouting, in striking gongs, but, above all, in striking their stampers against the sides of the wooden mortars which are used by the villagers in husking their corn." 301 That the Indians of the continent regard the phenomena in question with more than ordinary interest is evinced by their resorting in large numbers
to Benares, the ancient seat of brahminical learning and religion, on every occasion of an eclipse of the moon. Lord Kames reminds us that among the Greeks " an eclipse being held a prognostic given by the gods of some grievous calamity, Anaxagoras was accused of atheism for attempting to explain the eclipse of the moon by natural causes: he was thrown into prison, and with difficulty was relieved by the influence of Pericles. Protagoras was banished Athens for maintaining the same doctrine." 302
Thucydides tells us that an eclipse of the moon delayed the departure of the expedition against the Syracusans. "The preparations were made, and they were on the point of sailing, when the moon, being just then at the full, was eclipsed. The mass of the army was greatly moved, and called upon the generals to remain. Nicias himself, who was too much under the influence of divination and omens, refused even to discuss the question of their removal until they had remained thrice nine days, as the soothsayers prescribed. This was the reason why the departure of the Athenians was finally delayed." 303
"At any eclipse of the moone, the Romanes would take their brazen pots and pannes, and beat them, lifting up many torches and linckes lighted, and firebrandes into the aire, thinking by these superstitious meanes to reclaime the moone to her light." 304
The Constantinople Messenger of December 23rd, 1880, contains the following:--"Mgr. Mamarbasci, who represents the Syrian Patriarch at the Porte,
and who resides in St. Peter's Monastery in Galata, underwent a singular experience on the evening of the last eclipse of the moon. Hearing a great noise outside of the firing of revolvers and pistols, he opened his window to see what could be the cause of so much waste of powder. Being a native of Aleppo, he was at no loss to understand the cause of the disturbance as soon as he cast his eye on the heavens, and he therefore immediately withdrew his head from the window again. Hardly had he done so, however, ere a ball smashed the glass into a thousand pieces. Rising from the seat into which he had but just sat down, he perceived a conical ball on the floor of his room, which there is every reason to believe would have killed him on the spot had he remained a moment longer on the spot he had just quitted. From the yard of the mosque of Arab-Djami, which is in front of the prelate's window, the bullet had, it appears, been fired with the intention of frightening the dragon or bear which, according to oriental superstition, lies in wait to devour the moon at its eclipse. It is a fortunate circumstance that the Syrian ecclesiastic escaped scathless from the snares laid to destroy the celestial dragon." 305
In the Edda, an ancient collection of Scandinavian poetry, embodying the national mythology, Managarmer is the monster who sometimes swallows up the moon, and stains the heaven and the air with blood. "Here," says M. Mallett, "we have the cause of eclipses; and it is upon this very ancient
opinion that the general practice is founded, of making noises at that time, to fright away the monster, who would otherwise devour the two great luminaries." 306 Of the Germans, Grimm says:--"In a lighted candle, if a piece of the wick gets half detached and makes it burn away too fast, they say 'a wolf (as well as a thief) is in the candle'; this too is like the wolf devouring the sun or moon. Eclipses of sun or moon have been a terror to many heathen nations; the incipient and increasing obscuration of the luminous orb marks for them the moment when the gaping jaws of the wolf threaten to devour it, and they think by loud cries to bring it succour." 307 And again:--"The personality of the sun and moon shows itself moreover in a fiction that has well-nigh gone the round of the world. These two, in their unceasing unflagging career through the void of heaven, appear to be in flight, avoiding some pursuer. A pair of wolves are on their track, Sköll dogging the steps of the sun, Hati of the moon: they come of a giant race, the mightiest of whom, Mânagarmr (moon-dog), apparently but another name for Hati, is sure some day to overtake and swallow the moon." 308 Francis Osborn, whose Advice contains, in the opinion of Hallam, "a considerable sprinkling of sound sense and observation," thus counsels his son: "Imitate not the wild Irish or Welch, who, during eclipses, run about beating kettles and pans, thinking their clamour and vexations available to the assistance of the higher orbs." 309 "In eclipses of the moon, the Greenlanders
carry boxes and kettles to the roofs of their houses, and beat on them as hard as they can." 310 With the Californian Indians, "on an eclipse, all is consternation. They congregate and sing, as some say to appease, and others to frighten, the evil spirits. They believe that the devils are eating up the luminary, and they do not cease until it comes forth in its wonted splendour." 311 Among certain Indian tribes "dogs were supposed to stand in some peculiar relation to the moon, probably because they howl at it, and run at night; uncanny practices which have cost them dear in reputation. The custom prevailed among tribes so widely asunder as Peruvians, Tupis, Creeks, Iroquois, Algonkins, and Greenland Eskimos, to thrash the curs most soundly during an eclipse. The Creeks explained this by saying that the big dog was swallowing the sun, and that by whipping the little ones they could make him desist. What the big dog was they were not prepared to say. We know. It was the night goddess, represented by the dog, who was thus shrouding the world at midday." 312
It is well known that Columbus found his acquaintance with the calculations of astronomy of great practical value. For when, during his last expedition, he was reduced to famine by the inhabitants of the newly discovered continent, who kept him and his companions prisoners, he, aware that an eclipse was at hand, threatened to deprive them of the light of the moon, if they did not forthwith bring him provisions. At first they did not care; but when
the moon disappeared, they brought abundance of supplies, with much entreaty of pardon. This occurred on the 1st day of March, 1504, a date which modern tables of lunar eclipses may fully verify.
"In the Mexican mythology we read of the woman serpent, or the moon, devoured by the sun, a myth probably descriptive of the changes in the phases of the moon." 313 More probably this myth referred to the moon's eclipse; for Bradford tells us that "the Mexicans believed when there was an eclipse of the sun or moon, that one of those bodies was being devoured by the other. The Peruvians believed these phenomena portended some great calamity; that the eclipsed body was sick and about to die, in which case the world would perish. As soon as an eclipse commenced, they made a dreadful noise with their musical instruments; they struck their dogs and made them howl, in the hope that the moon, which they believed had an affection for those animals in consequence of some signal service which they had rendered her, would have pity on their cries. The Araucanians called eclipses the 'deaths' of the sun and moon." 314 In Aglio we are told of the Mexicans that "in the year of Five Rabbits, or in 1510, there was an eclipse of the sun; they take no account of the eclipses of the moon, but only of those of the sun; for they say that the sun devours the moon when an eclipse of the moon takes place." 315 "The Tlascaltecs, regarding the sun and the moon as husband and wife, believed eclipses to be domestic
quarrels. Ribas tells how the Sinaloas held that the moon in an eclipse was darkened with the dust of battle. Her enemy had come upon her, and a terrible fight, big with consequence to those on earth, went on in heaven. In wild excitement the people beat on the sides of their houses, encouraging the moon, and shooting flights of arrows up into the sky to distract her adversary. Much the same as this was also done by certain Californians." 316 "At a lunar eclipse the Orinoko Indians seized their hoes and laboured with exemplary vigour on their growing corn, saying the moon was veiling herself in anger at their habitual laziness." 317 The umbrated moon did good in this way: as many of us remember the beautiful comet of 1858 did good, when it frightened some trembling Londoners into a speedy settlement of old debts, in anticipation of the final account. Ellis says of the Tahitians: "An eclipse of the moon filled them with dismay; they supposed the planet was natua, or under the influence of the spell of some evil spirit that was destroying it. Hence they repaired to the temple, and offered prayers for the moon's release. Some imagined that on an eclipse, the sun and moon were swallowed by the god which they had by neglect offended. Liberal presents were offered, which were supposed to induce the god to abate his anger, and eject the luminaries of day and night from his stomach." 318 The Tongans or Friendly Islanders have a notion that the earth's surface is flat, that the sun and moon "pass through the sky and come back
some way, they know not how. When the moon is eclipsed, they attribute the phenomenon to a thick cloud passing over it: the same with the sun." 319 In the Hervey Islands, the common exclamation during an eclipse is, "Alas! a divinity has devoured the moon!"
Finally, to close this chapter where it commenced, in Chaldæa, the cradle of star-reading, Sir Austen Henry Layard says: "I gained, as other travellers have done before me, some credit for wisdom and superhuman knowledge by predicting, through the aid of an almanack, a partial eclipse of the moon. It duly took place, to the great dismay of my guests, who well-nigh knocked out the bottoms of all my kitchen utensils in their endeavour to frighten away the jins who had thus laid hold of the planet. The common notion amongst ignorant Mahometans is, that an eclipse is caused by some evil spirit catching hold of the sun or moon. On such occasions, in Eastern towns, the whole population assembles with pots, pans, and other equally rude instruments of music, and, with the aid of their lungs, make a din and turmoil which might suffice to drive away a whole army of evil spirits, even at so great a distance." 320 We have reached three general conclusions. First, when the moon is occulted by the earth it is believed to be devoured by some evil demon, or by wolves or dogs. This is the superstitious vagary of the Hindoos, the Chinese, Asiatics generally, Europeans, Africans, Americans, and Polynesians. Secondly, a lunar
eclipse is the precursor of some dreadful calamity to the inhabitants of the earth. This notion is also traceable in every quarter of the globe. And thirdly, during the obscuration the light of the moon is reddened, and at last extinguished, by the blood which flows from its wounds; which belief originates with the Edda, and obtains in the Western world. Students of sacred prophecy may still elect to deem these occurrences that are purely natural as of supernatural significance, and may risk the interests of true religion in their insane disregard of science; but the truth will remain, in spite of their misconceptions, that eclipses of the moon have no concern with the moral destiny of mankind.