Sunday, March 04, 2007

Moon Shadow

The first total lunar eclipse in three years was seen last night all over the world where a lot of people went “nuts” over the phenomenon; from Europe to Africa to Asia to the Americas, people watched this rare occurrence with enthusiasm and excitement.

A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow and can only take place when the moon is full and when the sun, earth and moon are aligned.

To explain this further, There are two parts to the Earth's shadow; the penumbra, and the umbra wherein the former is the outer part of the shadow where sunlight is not completely blocked and its shadow only dims the moon slightly while the latter is the actual shadow created by the Earth and that is where a total lunar eclipse occurs.

Unfortunately I failed to watch the spectacle for I was on the second day of my killer three -day, 12- hour shift, working in the busy ER but I could tell from the way people who were flocking to the hospital in droves that the moon is full out there and doing her thing.

I remember when I was a kid when a lunar eclipse is a much awaited and most watched event in the night sky by folks back home where the whole caboodle would camp out in the dark just to watch the phenomenal show.

My playmates and I would even use some empty soda bottles whose bottoms were full of soot from the burning candle specifically set up on the roadside so that we could see the eclipse “clearly.”

Then there was another way where some folks would bring out their huge “palangganas” (water basins used for laundry) and filled them out with water and watched the moon's reflection as it darkened and glow on its water.

Also, Pregnant women were told not to look into the eclipse lest their off- springs will have some sort of eye - defects at birth while some children who were born during the eclipse will always be given the benefit of the doubt in his/ her tantrums/ shortcomings because he/ she was born during a dark period- “pag- pasensyahan mo na yan si ano kasi ipinanganak yan eklipse.” LOL

Whatever explanations behind those things as told by some village elders to us children now escapes me. Nevertheless, the thought of it nowadays would easily elicit a chuckle for the good old days.

Anyway, eclipse like the full moon is always related to folklores and superstitious beliefs since time immemorial--

Many people hundreds of years ago associate it with destruction and the end of the world until science enlightened us and proved them wrong.

The ancient Indians believed that a serpent devours the moon when it is eclipsed and so does the Chinese. In India, people would stay indoors and avoid the “bad” rays being emitted by the darkened moon that would cause bad luck to anybody who would venture outside in the course of the eclipse.

It was believed that by consulting his almanac while moored in Jamaica, Christopher Columbus, the explorer under ther service of Spain who was credited of “discovering” the New World knowing that there would be a lunar eclipse blackmailed the natives into cooperating with him otherwise he would ask God to removed the moon from the sky.

The natives did not believe him at first but when the moon disappeared into the night sky they became terrified and granted the Italian explorer’s wish right there and then and lo, and behold the moon did reappear afterwards, thanks but no thanks to Columbus’ ability to talk with the Almighty.

Another one is for a pregnant woman not to touch her belly while an eclipse is -on- going or else her baby will have a very prominent “balat sa katawan” (birthmark).

So, you now know who to blame for all your birthmarks in all the right and not- so right places, people.

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