Image Credit: Pixabay / Lolame.

The “Blood Moon,” Columbus and his “Pact With God”

Columbus "managed to make a pact with God" and save himself and his crew from a terrible faith as they became stranded on an Island.


Thousands of years ago, ancient cultures looked at the stars for several reasons. Sometimes we gazed upon the stars, searching for our place in the cosmos, while at the same time, we hoped that the stars would help us understand our origin and meaning in life. However, while stargazing and early astronomy are deeply embedded within our civilization, in addition to being connected to the origin of our civilization, stars were used as tools.

Navigation by stars

When there were no Google Maps or applications to guide us in the immensity of the night, the ancient navigators were oriented by the stars. They explored and ventured out into the dark without screens or cables, only looking at the night sky, hoping that the universe would guide them to their destination. Curiously, Cristopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonist who achieved four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, knew astronomy in the “palm of his hand.”

A “pact” with God; the Blood Moon and Columbus

However, he also happens to be a man that “managed to make a pact with God” and save himself and his crew from a terrible faith as they became stranded on an Island. In the 1502 voyage across the Atlantic, Cristopher Columbus’ crew comprised four ships. However, after being eaten by worms and affected by different weather conditions, the ships would become unstable and start leaking.

Eventually, later that year, Columbus and his crew set foot on what is today known as Jamaica, with only two ships remaining. However, since the ships were in such bad condition, they could not leave until help arrived. There, they met the Arawak Indians.

Depicted here is a drawing from an 1879 edition of L'Astronomie, showing Christopher Columbus foretelling the lunar eclipse to the native Arawak. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain
A drawing from an 1879 edition of L’Astronomie, showing Christopher Columbus foretelling the lunar eclipse to the native Arawak. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

Help from the Natives

The natives decided to help Columbus and his men, as the Arawak Indians were impressed with the European explorers’ large ships and strange appearance. The natives of Jamaica gave Columbus and his men food and supplies as they waited for rescue. A year passed, and around June 1503, the Arawak Indians became tired of Columbus and his men and refused to help them any further. This was terrible news for Columbus. But the Italian explorer had one last card up his sleeve.

A total lunar eclipse

Columbus was an excellent explorer. To navigate around the globe, he used astronomical charts and almanacs that would entail positions of the moon and lunar eclipses. Interestingly, Columbus had a copy of an almanac that described a total lunar eclipse that would take place in March of 1504. He saw this eclipse as an opportunity to convince the natives to help them again. A few days before the eclipse, Columbus spoke to the Arawak Indians, saying his God was angry at them since they refused to help him and his crew.

A trick up the sleeve

He explained to the Arawak that his God would ‘make the moon go dark’ until they decided to help them once again. This terrified the Arawak Indians, and after giving it a quick thought, they decided it was best not to “provoke” the God of the white explorers, promising to help Columbus again as long as he ‘spoke to his God’ and have him return the normal appearance of the Moon. Just before the eclipse was to end, Columbus spoke to the Arawak, saying that his God was pleased once again and the moon would return to its original state.


The Blood Moon eclipse and Columbus’ trick

Soon after, the astronomical event ended, and the moon returned to its usual appearance in the night sky. Columbus’ trick had worked better than he could ever have imagined it. Once again, the Arawak would supply him and his crew with food and supplies until relief arrived.

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Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

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