Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/351

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333
ECLIPSE MYTHS.

gongs and bells and the regularly appointed prayers. Travellers of a century or two ago relate curious details of such combined belief in the dragon and the almanac, culminating in an ingenious argument to account for the accuracy of the Europeans' predictions. These clever people, the Siamese said, know the monster's mealtimes, and can tell how hungry he will be, that is, how large an eclipse will be required to satisfy him.[1]

In Europe popular mythology kept up ideas, either of a fight of sun or moon with celestial enemies, or of the moon's fainting or sickness; and especially remnants of such archaic belief are manifested in the tumultuous clamour raised in defence or encouragement of the afflicted luminary. The Romans flung firebrands into the air, and blew trumpets, and clanged brazen pots and pans, 'laboranti succurrere lunae.' Tacitus, relating the story of the soldiers' mutiny against Tiberius, tells how their plan was frustrated by the moon suddenly languishing in a clear sky (luna claro repente coelo visa languescere): in vain by clang of brass and blast of trumpet they strove to drive away the darkness, for clouds came up and covered all, and the plotters saw, lamenting, that the gods turned away from their crime.[2] In the period of the conversion of Europe, Christian teachers began to attack the pagan superstition, and to urge that men should no longer clamour and cry 'vince luna!' to aid the moon in her sore danger; and at last there came a time when the picture of the sun or moon in the dragon's mouth became a mere old-fashioned symbol to represent eclipses in the calendar, and the saying, 'Dieu garde la lune des loups' passed into a mocking proverb against fear of remote danger. Yet the ceremonial charivari is mentioned in our own country in the seventeenth century:

  1. Klemm, 'C. G.' vol. vi. p. 449; Doolittle, 'Chinese,' vol. i. p. 308; Turpin, Richard, and Borri in Pinkerton, vol. iv. pp. 579, 725, 815; Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 109, vol. iii. p. 242. See Eisenmenger, 'Entdecktes Judenthum,' vol. i. p. 398 (Talmudic myth).
  2. Plutarch. de Facie in Orbe Lunae; Juvenal, Sat. vi. 441; Plin. ii. 9; Tacit. Annal. i. 28.