Lagniappe – Scaring Away Shadows

Lagniappe means “a little something extra”. Here’s a little lagniappe since I already posted my weekly article earlier today.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, and last night the City went big in its celebrations. After weeks of hearing fireworks go off in bits and spurts, there were numerous and constant booms from just before sundown to around midnight. This was heard from all directions – from the mountains to the ocean.

This is unusual. In years past, communities that make up LA County would hold their own big fireworks displays to people gathered in parks, Starlight Bowls, marinas, town squares. They’d start around 9pm and be done by 10pm. We’d hear some before and after, but generally, the big stuff was concentrated in that hour.

Earlier, I joked on Twitter that people were celebrating the end of the Capricorn / Cancer eclipse cycle. Last night was also a Lunar Eclipse, the last eclipse that hits the signs of Capricorn and Cancer for a while.

Then I recalled a Norse myth of Solar eclipses. For them a Wolf is in constant pursuit of the Sun, and a solar eclipse is when a Wolf catches and devours the Sun. Customarily people go outside make lots of noise – yelling, banging pots and pans during the eclipse to get the Wolf to spit the Sun out and return it to the sky.

Admittedly, my recollection of the Norse myth is a bit sketchy. There seems to be similar accounts in Chinese, Inca, and Choctaw myths, with creatures eating the sun and noisemaking being required to get the creature to spit the Sun out. There are similar practices for Lunar Eclipses, including one quite modern – In an article in 2014 the director of the Griffith Observatory was said to have planned leading the the crowd of observers around the lawn with noisemakers to scare off whatever was eating the moon (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/4/140413-total-lunar-eclipse-myths-space-culture-science/#close)

So maybe, that’s what was going on last night. Yes, it was the fireworks for the 4th of July. But maybe it was also the City making noise and explosions to scare off the creature that was eating the Moon. A huge ritual to scare away the shadows that have recently plagued everyone, and restore order to the sky.

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