4/15/14

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.
(Ibid.)
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.
(Ibid.) 

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.


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