Eclipse, Blood Moon and "Gasetoto"

photo: mstarz.com
Presently, the buzz and fervor is a cosmic one (as in "cosmos"); it's about the "blood moon" - an arrhythmic occurence of the regular lunar eclipse. Religious pundits and Biblical enthusiasts have already opined and speculated on the end-of-times significance of the "blood moon" phenomenon. Conversely, opponents have stepped forward to voice their counterclaims. For example here's the Christian Science Monitor on the "blood moon" theories.
First things first: There is no such thing as a blood moon. OK, now that we've got that out of the way, we can tell you what actually is happening overnight Monday, and why people are calling it a blood moon – a term that leaves astronomers scratching their heads. (Mark Sappenfield, Christian Science Monitor, April 13, 2014)
But what about this blood moon thing?
That, apparently, is the invention of two Christian pastors, Mark Blitz and John Hagee, who suggest that this particular tetrad [referring to the four consecutive lunar eclipses between now and April 2015] has religious significance.
As for "blood"?
That's just because the moon turns a coppery red during any full eclipse. During a full eclipse, the sunlight that hits the moon is passing though [sic] Earth's atmosphere at sunrise and sunset. So it sheds that red glow on the moon.

This "Monitor" writer apparently may have missed at least the Biblical references (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20 and Revelations 6:12) of the moon turning to blood before the "day of the Lord"  and other allusions too.

But I'm not as much interested in the above aspect of the "blood moon" debate as I am in the Samoan connection to the subject matter.  Hence this question:

Is the Samoan concept of "blood moon" original?

As I was growing up in Samoa, "eclipse" (as in "lunar eclipse" more than "solar eclipse" - more on the two eclipses later) has always been translated as "gasetoto" which literally means "blood tired" where "toto"=blood and "gase"=tired (or maybe "bloody tired" LOL!). And so "lunar eclipse" is "gasetoto o le masina" in Samoan. Another Samoan author described "gasetoto o le masina" as "the moon has died from hemorrhaging". The blood meaning and context is still key nonetheless.

Not too long ago Dearie and I were talking and I remember wondering and asking how the Samoans came up with the blood associated translation of "eclipse". Apparently, it has been around for years since the word "gasetoto" appears in George Pratt's first dictionary of the Samoan language of 1862, and therefore predates Mark Blitz and John Hagee. Moreover, "gasetoto" does not appear in the Samoan translation of the Bible either, and therefore is not imported like other similar linguistic derivations, evolutions and/or influences of the Good Book.

The fact that the Samoans have been historically influenced and affected by cosmic bodies in their travels and seafaring, as well as using the lunar cycles in their seasons and lives, it is not surprising that the "blood moon" concept may be something that they (Samoans) devised based - like others - on the color of the moon during the eclipse.

Interestingly, while "gasetoto" has been used to describe both lunar and solar eclipses, "gasetoto le masina" in Samoan chiefly oratory also refers, metaphorically, to the death of a chief as in the following funeral announcement for a chief in the village of Lalomanu:

Ua lagia Matautu-na-‘a'ai, e afio ai le Tuiatua Fa'anofonofo, Le tofa i le Matua o Fuataga, ‘aua ua gasetoto le masina, ae mafuli le La i le Faleoitu'au ma Alataua.
(One of the chiefs has been called to heaven from Matautu-na-a'ai, residence of the Tuiatua Fa'anofonofo, namely Patriarch Fuataga; hence the moon is eclipsed, and the sun has overturned in the abodes of Fale-o-itu'au and Alataua.)

"Toto/Koko" (Blood)
(The above variants have to do with the so-called "t" and "k" pronunciations in the Samoan language. Basically "t" represents a more "formal/proper/written" version of Samoan while "k" represents the vernacular/colloquial.)

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that "toto/koko" - for "blood" - is a loan/borrowed word from "cocoa" (English). Toto/koko therefore is not a native Samoan word. The native Samoan words for "blood" are "ele'ele" and/or "palapala" which are also words for "earth/mud/soil" indicating the inseparable link between man and earth in the Samoan primordial version of the Creation.

Cocoa will certainly have been introduced into the Samoan language during the first years of European contact (ca. 1700s) hence predating Pratt (ca. 1800's). The similarity in substance/form but especially color and appearance between cocoa and blood has created the new word for blood (koko/toto) in the Samoan language.

Case in point. Pratt has included in his dictionary (1862) "gasetoto" and this synonym .... (wait for it) .... "gase'ele'ele". Though the two words have been switched and interchanged through the years to mean both solar and lunar eclipses, gase'ele'ele has become scant if not non-existent today, while "gasetoto" has evolved and survived to apply to both eclipses. Note the following facts/entries in Pratt 1862 and in the 1878 revision:

1862 gasetoto - to be eclipsed (of the sun)
1862 gase'ele'ele - to be eclipsed (of the moon)
(Again, 'ele'ele is a native Samoan word for "blood")
1878 - gasetoto - to be eclipsed [Used chiefly of the sun] Na [ma]fua i le la na gasetoto.
 The sun has caused it to be eclipsed.

Also note this entry from the Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary on the words in question including the baseword "gase"
Samoan — gase, palsied, lifeless; to be lifeless; (b.) to be languid; (c.) to wane, as the moon; (d.) to die; fa'a-gase, to sit quiet and silent; (b.) to hide behind anything; (c.) to feign sickness; fa'a-gasegase, an epidemic; gasegase, to be ill (of a chief). Cf. gasemoe, to die; gasetoto, to be eclipsed; gase'ele'ele, to be eclipsed.
Again, today, although gasetoto is used for both eclipses, it is used for the lunar more than the solar eclipse which is a stark reversal of the 1800's, according to Pratt.


Meeting Mickey and Minnie

So from St. George and straightway, same evening, to Tane’s (youngest grandchild) first birthday party with a Mickey - and Minney - theme.  And since I was deprived of most people’s childhood dream of going to Disneyland and meeting the duo (I was far removed in location and busy with faipopo (collecting/harvesting coconuts) and faialala (gathering firewood)  instead .. and with real infamous mice/rats of course) I thought I would seize the opportunity, as it presented itself,  to hobnob with the famous fake mice ..... LOL!


By George, it was nice ...

...and beautiful. No, not Prince George, not Boy George. But better.... St. George - a city in Utah about a four-hour drive south from Salt Lake City.

... extra-terrestrially beautiful St. George
St. George is beautiful and resembles an extraterrestrial place. Its landforms and red topography remind you of another planet like Mars or Venus. It has red cliffs, red rocks, red soil. Alien and Western (cowboy) movies have been filmed there for years. And it’s where Dearie and I spent three days last week. We drove down Thursday morning. It was a beautiful Spring day; and on the way, we enjoyed the sights of the sprawling grazing fields and cattle with the snow-capped mountains as backdrop, while the dissipated mist filtered the rainbow hues of the morning sun. The air was fresh and clean. It was revitalizing and life-giving.
St. George Temple (foreground)
We were invited to a temple sealing of a family our missionary son - “the Elder” - helped teach and baptize last year on the East Coast.

If the Bible is right about a person who builds his house upon a rock (as opposed to sand), then St. Georgians are very wise people. In fact as we drove through some neighborhoods, that was the impression we got - that all houses were built on solid rock. Rock is omnipresent there. Hahaa.

But despite St. George’s seemingly barren, rocky and desolate identity, it still has the sights and feel of pastoral and rustic small town America. It’s our kind of place! The weather was in the upper sixties and was just right for us. We’ve passed through the city many times before on our way to California, Las Vegas and Arizona, but we never stopped to really appreciate the area and what it offers. So during this visit, we stayed and got to drive around, go shopping, eating and dining and just relaaaaaxed.

...building houses upon the rocks in St. George
Friday afternoon, we strolled through a shopping plaza and spotted a place that sells fried shrimp, BBQ spare ribs, rice, veges and mac salad. Dearie waited outside in the open food court complete with tables and umbrellas while I went in to get our food. The Chinese cashier asked for payment and I reached into one of my pockets, felt a card, pulled it out without checking and handed it to her. She studied the card and kept looking up at me then finally asked, politely: “Vat gaind of kard ees dees?” holding it up for me to see. “Oops, sorry that’s our hotel key!” I said, handing her the visa card. I said to Dearie afterwards that I should have told the cashier to charge our hotel for the food, as long as she was given the hotel key card... LOL!

St. George offers much more than relaxation and dining. It’s also a mecca for 4-wheeling, skydiving, cliff-hanging and other thrill-seeking adventures. But we’re the easy and safe fun kinda people, not the high risk-taker type ...hahaaa...koe ua makukua fo’i (plus we’re old too). We’re like that not only because of the culture in which we were raised where high physical risk-takers are considered malo vale ma aikaevale (foolhardy and airheaded), but also because of the gospel culture where this counsel by one of our Church leaders rings true, wise and timely:
...all of us can find enjoyment in a wide range of wholesome, entertaining, and engaging activities. But we diminish the importance of our bodies and jeopardize our physical well-being by going to unusual and dangerous extremes searching for an ever greater and more exhilarating adrenaline “rush.” We may rationalize that surely nothing is wrong with such seemingly innocent exploits and adventures. However, putting at risk the very instrument God has given us to receive the learning experiences of mortality - merely to pursue a thrill or some supposed fun, to bolster ego, or to gain acceptance - truly minimizes the importance of our physical bodies. ~ Elder David A. Bednar
... in St. George - after the sealing
It was certainly nice and beautiful in St. George.