There are plenty of awesome pictures of last night’s combination super moon and lunar eclipse on Facebook, websites, and news programs. We had a beautiful view of it here in Bamako. It was a cloudless night and we watched it reach full eclipse at 2:43am. In Mali, another dynamic is added to a lunar eclipse. Local superstition has it that it is the result of a cat (which are believed to carry evil spirits) swallows the moon. Kids run around banging on pots and pans, pounding on their neighbors doors, and yelling and screaming for the cat to let go of the moon. We experienced this for the first time during a full lunar eclipse in 2007. Unfortunately, we didn’t know what was going on. We thought there was a protest or riot going on and we hid in our house hoping things would blow over. We didn’t find out until the next day that it was just people harmlessly acting out their local folklore.
This year we were prepared for the brouhaha, but it never came. Because of the late hour of the eclipse, most Malians weren’t aware it was happening and the kids were all fast asleep in bed. So the cat quietly swallowed the moon and coughed it back up like a hairball without anyone noticing.