When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth - Revelation 6:12-14
We've only had a few doomsday events come and go in 2014 but a new one arrives April 15th. No, it isn't the IRS, though that is doomsday for American wallets.
Sure, to you and me a lunar eclipse is no big deal, but to a lot of other people we live in super-important times and so a lunar eclipse must become a "blood moon", which sounds sufficiently creepy enough to enjoy, assuming you get up early to see it. Blood moon doesn't send you to church? Well, it is also the beginning of a lunar tetrad – four lunar eclipses, each six months apart (1) - which means, well, not much, but any time a number gets thrown in there it feels prophetic.
I am not a superstitious guy but it can't hurt to buddy up to an old Catholic priest just the same. I say old because demons and such only seem to respond to Latin, at least if my deep movie lore is accurate, and Vatican II messed that all up. I think the Four Horsemen would just laugh at Episcopalians.(2)
Tetrads are actually not that big a deal to us. That happened in 2004, but I was curious how often they happened, wondering if maybe we are spoiled. Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd at EarthSky had the answer and the answer is they can be uncommon - though they will happen 8 times this century during the 1600s-1800s they didn't happen at all, so at times they have been really rare. (3)
They also had as good an answer as any for why this Blood Moon business has gotten so popular - like with most bits of pseudoscience gibberish we can blame the New York Times. Texas pastor and NYT bestseller John Hagee wrote a book using NASA data about when these occur and history to correlate lots of stuff to tetrads. In 1492 he says tetrads were causalated to throwing Jews out of Spain, then in 1948 he says tetrads were causalated to the Jews getting their state back. You get the idea, he is predicting something big, and it must involve Jews. He can make anything about Jews, it seems.
Shanghai Noon, starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson.
So, apocalypse, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, got it, but why the blood moon part again? It's unclear, other than that the guy wrote a book with that in the title and then a bunch of people started believing it, the same way people believed the Gluten Apocalypse and the Sugar Apocalypse and Trans Fats apocalypse and whatever else. In reality, all lunar eclipses look reddish. Here is one from 1982, for example, yet no one was foretelling any doom over it. At least I can't recall that they were, and I was living in a small town with 5 churches and no bars.
July 6, 1982. ©2003 by Fred Espenak, Mr. Eclipse
Why does it look that way? Blame global warming. Or at least our atmosphere. Because we are between the Sun and the Moon, it would just be in our shadow and a boring black if we had no atmosphere, but Gaea causes some light wavelengths to be filtered out. Green, for example, go bye-bye but red is the wavelength least affected. If you were looking at Earth from the Moon, Earth would have a reddish ring around it for the same reason, but because we are here looking at its face as the eclipse begins, it looks red.
People have obviously witnessed these plenty of times before, that is why they are parts of stories across the world. It isn't just Revelation that spatters the moon in blood, both Acts and Joel use the same terminology. The good news is that's only three books in the Bible. If it were four, to match the four eclipses in a tetrad, we might have reason to be concerned. Or not, it is just coincidence, but stringing together coincidences makes for a good narrative.
Hagee has been milking this for all it's worth, presumably to get some eyeballs for his Global Evangelism TV special, not coincidentally also on April 15th. I haven't been this worried since Harold Camping treated us to similar suspect logic and bad math.
Not everyone in America will be able to see this first one, given its inconvenient timing. Republicans will be busy doing their taxes so a million people can have free health care. But you can bet by that fourth one in 2015 they will be blaming Obamacare Apocalypse for something. Maybe I should write a book called the Barackalypse and get it into print, and then I could have a New York Times bestseller too.
(1) 6 lunar months, anyway, not our man-made months, though they are close. The next three will be October 8th of this year and then April 4th and September 28th next year. To “have them fall on these exact dates is something that has to be beyond coincidental,” he told the Daily Express. Because they each happen to be during 1 of about 150 religious days that occur each year.
(2) Or not, the Bible in popular use was translated under the direction of King James (VI of Scotland/I of England) and he was a Protestant.
(3) Like when the original Jimmy Stuart was translating that Bible.
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