Lunar Eclipse and the Night that Followed

I’m not sure of how many of you reading this noticed the lunar eclipse the night before yesterday, but seeing it from the African Bush was quite a sight, not only because of what was happening in the sky, but because of the people’s behavior below it; namely the superstitious nature I witnessed. In Hassiniya, Lunar eclipse is something like qamar maguba. However, despite how cool and exciting it is for us Americans and westerners, a sight to marvel and awe, in Islamic culture, it is bad news. It means Allah is mad at the people down below. Alright, here’s the part that gets me. I realize that I live in a village with no running water and the occasional solar panel, if that, but they all have the blingest cell phones, and most of these villagers have family in the capital, so it’s crazy to hear them tell us how bad it is that the moon is eclipsing, because obviously it’s not that hard to pass on the fact that the earth is casting a shadow on the moon when this happens. Or maybe it is. I mean, they do have a lot of misconceptions of health issues. They sat around in groups together, chanting, and praying for the whole duration. There was even some songs and jerry can drumming. It was all very cool, but odd at the same time since I just wanted to stare up at the beauty of the sky and stars, and was being told not to, because 7it was bad. Anyway, it is something I will never forget, and will miss about village life.

The next night was even better. My brother HamadVal had about 10 of his friends from all over Mauritania staying with him, so they decided to throw a party. A HUGE party. At least 200 people. Everyone from M’Balal who was at least 4 and younger than 55 was there. It was the craziest thing I’ve seen in this country so far. Check the pictures for visuals. Anyway, like I’ve said multiple times, my town does not have electricity or running water. It is very very rural. Some people live under tents on the sandy dunes. However, for that night, all young and old came in their finest clothes, makeup, and jewelry. They set up what seemed like a boxing ring area for the people to dance in. All others gathered around. They imported a generator to power the huge 4 speakers that blasted the DJ’s electric piano playing and his cd mixing, and really big spot lights. There was even a videographer capturing the whole event. The highlight of the night for me was when they randomly played Shakira’s “hips don’t lie” and we Nassarani(what they call us white folk-means Christian) all got in the center and danced to music we actually knew how to move to. Everyone cheered us, and as we stepped out of the lime light, so many people said to be “you are such a good dancer, you are so cute and pretty, you are so zayna (Hassaniya for multiple meanings–but all in all means good). They slaughtered three goats for Bonava (meat, potatos, onions, and bread). There were dates and butter and milk and fanta, which mixed together tastes like an orange julius. Wierd, I know, but so delicious. The party finally wound down at a little after 2am, which is incredibly late for my village, and my family, since I’m usually tucked into bed (or rather camped out in my mosquito net) no later than 10pm. Moctar and I stuck it out the whole time, because it was just such a crazy random awesome experience which will probably always be one of my fondest memories in this country.

The End.

I would like to cite Pablo’s Canon camera for the pictures from this event, since I was stupid enough to play around with formating my camera after this event, and deleted all my pictures.

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2 Responses to “Lunar Eclipse and the Night that Followed”

  1. P. Harper Dillon Says:

    Wow!!
    Did you ask anyone why the eclipse means Allah is mad? Is that something from the Koran or “Sayings of the Prophet” (the other important Islamic text, forgot the Arabic name) or is it a localized belief.
    I once had a similar experience while doing my dissertation field work in Atun Guallay. I was napping at midday when I heard a woman running down the street saying in a loud voice “Inti Wañuy” which means “the sun is dying” in Quechua. I opened my eyes and everything seemed to be bathed in a blue light. Going outside I saw that indeed a solar eclipse was happening. So I went up to the plaza where a group of men I knew had congregated. I sat with them and we talked. I tried to explain the entire idea about the moon passing in front of the sun, drawing diagrams on the ground with a stick. It didn’t make sense to them. Even though they also used various kinds of technologies (no cell phones in those days) that are based on western technology that goes back to Copernicus’ revolution, their ontological grounding (cosmovision) doesn’t square with the heliocentric model.

    We might think something is quite obvious, but really what we take as obvious is built during the process of socialization. REASON is not transcendent and the Western cosmologies likewise not absolute, rather a partial slice of an unlimited number of possible worldviews, each of which encodes its own logic and rationality.

    A suggestion: abandon the word “superstition”, all people have reasons for believing what they believe, it’s not “ignorance”.

    Well, that’s an anthropological perspective on it.

    Sounds like your really starting to get into it. I bet there’ll be a lot more memorable experiences!!

    Dr. Dad

  2. P. Harper Dillon Says:

    One other thought to illustrate.

    Both Mayan and ancient Andean astronomers were able to predict eclipses, the Mayans had the most accurate calendar ever devised, so were the ancient Sumerians whose astro(nomy/nology) was passed along to the Egyptians and Greeks independently had this ability. All of these ancients were able to do this without the heliocentric model (or telescopes).

    Using the Ptolemaic geocentric model, Tycho Brahe was much more accurate at predicting the positions of planets (more complicated than predicting eclipses) than those working with Copernicus’ geocentric model for 100 years after Copernicus published his “revolutionary work” — (Kepler fixed that problem).

    Mayan and Andean astronomers associated the movements celestial bodies with different deities. Now modern physics and cosmology recognize that matter exhibits certain types of behavior that looks like particles communicating with each other beyond the 4 dimensions of space-time.

    I think it depends a lot on a civilization’s use of the experience of celestial phenomena. Keep an open mind in both directions 🙂 The wheel goes around and around.

    Dr. Dad

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