Last week on Sept. 28, Earth’s shadow blotted out the moon turning it blood-red. This was the last of four, successive, full “super moon” eclipses, the first of which was in April 2014. While most people saw the crimson moon as beautiful and appreciated it, to the paranoid and superstitious it was yet another sign of the end times.
The idea that the world would be closing up shop for good this past September spread virally, just as previous predictions of doomsday have. In 2012 the Mayan calendar restarted its cycle, in 2000 computers rolled over to the year 00, and despite rumors and panic the world went on.
People have been predicting cataclysms for all of time, and they are infrequently correct – one day the sun will engulf the inner planets; sources claim Hernan Cortez arrived and was welcomed by Montezuma the very year the Aztecs had predicted Quetzalcoatl, the feathered-serpent god of wind, would return from the east – such far off events scarcely bear mention in day to day life. Despite the inherent foolishness of conflating causality and coincidence, vectors of doomsday and other-worldy shenanigans attract the hopeless, the disgruntled and the plainly gullible alike.
Tetrads, four total eclipses in succession, have been a well-known and vaguely reliable phenomenon for as long as records indicate. Their regularity varies with a period of six centuries, as the moon’s orbital plane aligns with the earth and the sun. At the peak of this alignment, some centuries like the 21st will see 8 tetrads, others see none.
The moon has always been a fixture in the human psyche, its power and symbolism derived from its role as the earth’s night light and companion in its continual fall around the sun. As it has drawn away the oceans and winked at humans in its reliably predictable manner for as long as patterns have been noted, the moon has been woefully misinterpreted.
Many have and are taking advantage of astronomical phenomena along with peoples’ ignorance to turn a profit, it’s called astrology and has been performed in all cultures for all time. Certainly there’s little wrong with it as a pastime, allow a fool and their money to part, it’s good for the economy and provides entertainment. What’s scary is when earning one’s keep is not the primary interest of the astrologer.
References to signs from the heavens, the moon and the stars abound in holy books. Though all such prophecies are reliably vague, that doesn’t stop people from pointing to the sky and making claims. It’s shameful when they get time on national television to spout their misinformation.
Fox News ran a “Spirited Debate” segment several moons ahead of the first in the most recent tetrad. It featured the portly pastor John Hagee, making the claim that since tetrads occurring in the 20th century aligned with the reestablishment of Israel as a nation, and then the Six Day War, they were clearly messages from God. He continued to claim the tetrad which just completed was a sign that life is going to “change forever, it’s going to change dramatically, and it’s going to involve Israel, because it has involved Israel.”
Hagee and others like him are using peoples’ fear to profit, but what’s worse is that their social and political sway is dependent on their religious convictions. All three of the major monotheistic religions have hundreds of prophecies that to this day are unfulfilled. It’s frightening to consider that religious folk who take their holy text as infallible truth in its entirety hold personal convictions that depend on an ultimate end to humanity and the world as we know it.
With such a belief system there’s little desire to seek solutions to the world’s problems when one imagines their unavoidable apocalypse to be unfolding. Children have and are being raised to believe they will see the end of the world, told by their own family that there is no hope for their future outside the promises of long-dead men.
Resigning oneself out of fear of the end is not only sad, it’s dangerous. With brutal tales of war, famine and death the norm in prophecies of the end days, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the activities of humanity and those predictions, at just about any given moment in history. Just as previous predictions of the end have been wrong, it’s likely the earth will keep on spinning.