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By Robert Michael Place

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In China, traditionally an eclipse of the moon is thought of as a dragon eating the moon, another bad omen. To scare away the dragon, people would come out of their houses and make noise by banging pots and other things. Some of the most important events in history have been marked by signs in the sky. In 312 ce the Roman emperor Constantine Omens 51 (r. 306-337) had to fight an important battle at Milvian Bridge, outside of Rome. Before the battle he saw an omen in the shape of a cross above the sun in the sky and realized it was an omen from Christ that assured his victory.

These objects were called planets, which is based on the Greek word for wanderer, planetes. Although the planets seem to wander, they do stay on a path in the sky. This path is called the ecliptic by astronomers, and the circle of 12 constellations that this path cuts through is called the zodiac, a term derived from the Greek word zoidiakos, meaning a circle of animal figures. Without a telescope only seven heavenly objects considered planets by the ancients are visible from Earth. They are the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

In one story, a squire tells of a magic mirror that can be used to see anywhere in the kingdom, sort of like the witch’s cauldron in the story of Oz. In The Faerie Queene, an Arthurian legend written by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), the wizard Merlin uses his magic to create a magic mirror with the same power. It seems that these magic mirrors are often associated with magicians, but the occult author Emile Grillot de Givry (1874-1929) tells us that the queen of France, Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), had a mirror in which she could see everything that was happening in France.

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