As a release from the scientific and mathematical aspects of this unit, students can also explore some folk and mythological interpretations of lunar eclipses and of the moon. The remainder of this unit will be devoted to certain folk interpretations with the desire that students read outside sources and ultimately write their own folk interpretation of a lunar eclipse. I have included three tales of eclipses, others may be found in the bibliography.
Students should be given the opportunity to discuss various folklore interpretations. For example, Pythagoras believed eclipses were not only caused by the passage of the moon through the earth’s shadow, but “also occasionally by the shadow of the antichthon,” the antichthon being a counterearth, a tenth planet that was always invisible to us because “it is between us and the central fire and always keeps pace with the earth”.
(figure available in print form)
The Egyptians believed the moon was representative of a boat across the sky. The moon’s sequence was depicted by the fable in which the moon had enemies. A sow attacks the moon on the fifteenth day of each month, after a fortnights agony and increasing pallor, the moon dies and is born again. Sometimes the sow manages to swallow it altogether for a short time, causing a lunar eclipse. Finally, Columbus used the eclipse of the moon when he was deserted by mutinous followers. While in Jamaica, the natives refused to deliver food to the Spaniards. Columbus knew that the February 29 eclipse was approaching and told the native chiefs that God was angry with them and would punish them with calamities. A sign of his anger would be the obliteration of the moon as it crossed the sky. Cleverly, Chris told the Jamaicans he would intercede on their behalf if they delivered the goods. Enter Moon. In a similar fashion, students will have an assignment to write a folk tale, written through the eyes of an ancient Indian, to explain the occurrence of a lunar eclipse.
This portion of the unit will allow students to daydream and imagine life in other cultures. I believe it will balance the math and science parts and insure the fact that students will receive a complete picture of the moon and its eclipse activities.
The unit has an adequate blend of mathematics and science. It will give each student an opportunity to view mathematics as a method of problem solving. Hopefully it will enable students to have a broader view of mathematics and its applications to science.