20 December 2010

20 December - O Clavis David; St. Thomas Eve; Moon Eclipse; Bachelor Tax

Astronomy: Tonight (actually tomorrow morning) is a total eclipse of the Moon, which will be fully visible from North America (also South America, the islands of the Pacific, Greenland, northwestern Europe and northwestern Africa).  Tomorrow evening, it will be visible in Northeast Asia, the Philippines, eastern Indonesia, eastern Australia and New Zealand.

For watchers on the East Coast, the Moon enters penumbra at 1:33 am EST and exits at 5:01 am EST.  The totality phase starts at 2:41 am EST and ends at 3:53 am EST.  Yep, for a little over an hour, the moon disappears.

According to EarthSky, this is the northernmost total lunar eclipse for several centuries, and won't be seen again this far north on the sky's dome until this day in 2485.

See their page here for start and end times in the U. S. and in Universal Time.
The antiphon today is O Clavis David (O Key of David), our plea to be liberated from the prison of our sins.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.  

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, 
that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, 
come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, 
and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death. 

Tomorrow being the feast of Saint Thomas, today is celebrated as Saint Thomas Eve.

And for tonight, there are two love charms:

To see a vision of your loved one, peel a large red onion, and stick nine pins into it.  Then say:

"Good Saint Thomas, do me right
Send me my true love this night,
In his clothes and his array,
Which he weareth every day."

Then place the onion under your pillow.  You should dream of your true love.  [If your mom wants to know who has been getting into her sewing basket, or what happened to the onion that was slated for tonight's hamburgers, tell her they were used in a Good Cause]  Good luck.

An older charm says to "take an onion, pare it, and lay it in a clean handkerchief under your pillow [make it a sweet onion, if you want to sleep].  Put on a clean smock [or in our day, a nightgown], and as you lie down, lay your arms abroad, and say these words:

"Good Saint Thomas, do me right
And bring to me my love this night,
That I may view him in the face,
And in my arms may him embrace."

Then lying on thy back with thy arms abroad, go to sleep as soon as possible, and in your first sleep, you shall dream of him who is to be your husband, and he will come and offer to kiss you."  [And that better be all he offers, at least until you get to the altar!  Of course, if he finds out that you sleep with onions under your pillow, you might not get that far.]
Even more helpful to the cause of getting a husband was Missouri's Bachelor Tax, which was enacted on this day in 1820, and levied $1 per year on all unmarried white males between the ages of twenty-one and fifty. 

"Men far outnumbered women in early Missouri, and the legislators apparently enacted this legislation in the belief that it would encourage marriage, the family, and social stability and also would ensure that the footloose single male populace would contribute its share to the general welfare."
William E. Foley, The Genesis of Missouri: from Wilderness Outpost to Statehood, p. 287.

Not paying the tax could result in jail-time; I can just picture the carefree bachelor trying to decide which ball-and-chain would be preferable.