Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar eclipse

AOG, Madrid

Today there was a full lunar eclipse happening out in space.

According to the BBC, it is the first time since 1638 that a lunar eclipse has fallen on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Also the longest night. 

Link here to the story. There's even a video of it.  

I remember reading that ancient societies used to celebrate the solstices with great religious festivals. 

It is one of those things which I think we should still do, but we don't. I don't mean the religious aspect of it.

I don't think the sky is falling or that it presages some future calamity (though the Universe could prove me wrong!), nor do I think it is some sort of divine "happening". 

It is just a natural phenomenon which we were treated to today on the planet. One of the many things I often take no notice of. It has always been like this. My modern life has always taken place in an urban setting, with artificial light to ensure civility after dark, and running water and canned food. 

My contact with nature's forces has been minute, unless the force in question was of inhuman magnitude. Like an earthquake, or a comet, or a flooding etc.

I remember seeing the  Hale-Bopp comet back in 1997. What a spectacle that was. I recall seeing it at night and thinking that this great light was hurdling towards this planet at a great speed. 

Although a natural phenomenon, I remember thinking that it looked ominous enough to make me feel scared. It certainly looked alien. It took forever to disappear from the sky and it was with us for a very long time. 

So my point is this. In my life, all solstices have just come and gone. 

When I lived in London, since from mid-October onwards it gets dark at  around 4:30 PM, the shortest day of the year was an odd thing to witness or care about since all days were short and it was always dark. 

As for the Summer solstice, it was always greeted with the annual "See the druids at Stonehenge" piece on the news which no one took seriously. 

Unfortunately, the solstices have lost all meaning in our culture. They come and go and we, unless we are druids, don't take much notice. 
Here in Spain, the night of San Juan (St. John) is known as the longest day of the year, and the shortest night. Bonfires are held and you are meant to jump over them to have your wishes granted. I did this in 2008 with some friends and, like today's solstice, it was raining profusely. 

Of course, until two years ago, I didn't much care for St. John's night or for the Winter Solstice. 
But today I did. And I hope that in future I will take notice. 

A solstice doesn't really mean anything (no, I don't know why everything has to mean something, I'm Hermeneuticed out), but it is nice to mark the passage of time on the planet. 

To note that we have gone once around the Sun and that the weather will change. That we are a part of nature, even when we don't notice.

No comments: