THE SUNDAY SNAP
A medieval blood moon and the End of Days
In the early hours of tomorrow morning (around 4.30am UK time), a lunar eclipse will turn the moon red. People call this phenomenon a blood moon, for obvious reasons. If you can drag yourself out of bed and the clouds break, it’ll be a pretty neat thing to see. If you prefer looking at your phone to engaging with actuality, and your bed to your feet, Nasa are livestreaming the whole thing on YouTube.
The last major eclipse I can recall watching was back in December 2019. That one was a solar eclipse. I was on the beach in India; it was breakfast time but the sky went as dark as dusk. All the monkeys in the trees started screaming. A dog went mad and started savaging an older lady. I chased it off with a stick. I felt a little mad myself.
But I see I have wandered from my point.
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Eclipses have always interested people. In the Middle Ages they could be read as portents of God’s will, and they tended to feature in stories about the End of Days. The image above is taken from a manuscript known as the Cambrai Apocalypse, which was made around 900AD. It’s a real masterpiece of Carolingian illumination, with 46 images showing the shit going down as life on earth comes to an end.
The scene depicted here is that described in the Book of Revelation:
And when I saw the Lamb open the sixth seal, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black like sackcloth of goat hair, and the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs dropping from a tree shaken by a great wind.
Say what you like about St John of Patmos, the guy knew how to bring the drama. And the illustrator has, I think, captured the full horror of the scene.
Fingers crossed tonight’s eclipse will not herald the End of Days, and I’ll be posting on History, Etc this week. If so, we’ll have a post about the history of nostalgia tomorrow, a subscriber-only thread on Wednesday, maybe something else just for subscribers on Thursday, and the podcast on Friday.
Have a great night and I’ll speak to you soon.