5.3.2. The evilness of eclipses

5.3.2. The evilness of eclipses

Eclipses are overwhelming phenomena, and it is no wonder that they were an integral part of many ancient cultures, being considered markers of disasters or even the end of the world. The (Romanized) Greek word ékleipsis – the root of the word “eclipse” – means “to cease existence,” “to disappear.” Eclipses, especially the solar ones, significantly altered the course of history. In ancient China eclipses were signs that revealed the emperor’s fate; their prediction was of crucial importance for the welfare of the state. The Chinese explained the phenomenon through the fact that a mythical dragon begins to devour the Sun or the Moon. In reaction, they beat drums or made noise during eclipses in order to scare and chase away the dragon.492 The Babylonians and the Egyptians noticed the movements of the Sun, the Moon and the planets and recorded on clay tablets the important celestial events.493 The Greek Herodotus relates about how the battle between the Lydians and the Medes was stopped by a solar eclipse on May 28, 585 BC, predicted in advance by the philosopher Thales of Miletus.494 The Romans however took advantage of the eclipses to win battles.495 The solar eclipse occurred on January 27, 632, coincided with the death of Ibrahim, Muhammad’s younger son. Yet, the Prophet stated that eclipses are not ominous signs, but cosmic spectacles that show Allah’s might and power.496

Eclipses had a special place in European astrology, mostly due to the psychological impact they have upon population. The rotation of the eighth sphere and the planetary conjunctions and cycles require thorough calculations and trained eyes. Instead, solar and lunar eclipses are visible to everyone, as an extraordinary divine spectacle through which God reminds mortals that their fate is in his hands. Eclipses have always been seen as bad omens. The set of solar and lunar eclipses between 807 and 810 were related to the death of Charlemagne in 814, while the solar eclipse of 840 had a devastating effect on the psyche of his successor Louis.497

The deprivation of light and the spectacular installation of darkness in the natural middle of the day represented a symbolic message through which the earthly order of things heads toward a dramatic point. The medieval people put great emphasis on the relationship between eclipses, especially solar ones, and the coming of the Antichrist. For those who still believed that the Son of Perdition would be a man and not a system, a solar eclipse represented a possible eschatological landmark. According to the gospels, when Jesus Christ was born the night sky was pierced by a powerful light, currently called the “Star of Bethlehem.” This celestial event can easily be interpreted as a symbol for the light that came into the spiritual darkness, or Jesus who came to free us from sin and remake the relation between God and man. On the contrary, because the Antichrist would pretend that he is God and he would mimic the earthly work of Jesus, his coming would also have to be marked by an equally spectacular event, but with an opposite meaning. So, the birth of the Antichrist might be marked by a solar eclipse, a symbol of the spiritual darkness that would befall the world. Besides, even the crucifixion of Jesus was marked by darkness in the middle of the day, a phenomenon that can be explained through the occurrence of a solar eclipse: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45).498

In the prognostication of the flood of the year 1524, the Dominican Sebastian Constantinus of Taormina spoke about a solar eclipse with the center of darkness in Rome which was going to bring unimaginable disasters. By placing the center of darkness in Rome, Constantinus in fact made a subtle parallel between the event of Christ’s birth and the appearance of the Antichrist. While the star indicated the Savior’s appearance in Bethlehem, the eclipse of 1524 marked the place of the appearance of the Son of Perdition, which was Rome as the host of the Papacy.

Pierre Turrel explored a number of eclipses that were about to take place between 1485 and 1539, and George Tannstetter …


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