Reviewed by Dr Nicholas Campion
Anthony Aveni, In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic and Mystery of Solar Eclipses, (Yale and London: Yale University Press: 2017)
Anthony Aveni is a distinguished member of both the Departments of Physics and Astronomy, and Sociology and Anthropology at Colgate University, a combination which reflects his eclectic interests and ability to place our fascination with the sky in wider contexts. His latest book focuses on eclipses from about as broad a perspective as manageable in a work aimed at a general market, but still with appeal to specialists. Each chapter is both a part of the book and a self-contained exploration of eclipses in one period or culture.
Aveni's anthropological background comes through strongly in his account of cultural astronomy on. p. 249 which, he says,
'has more to do with what people believe about celestial happenings than the happenings themselves. Rather than simply labelling their beliefs religious, astrological, superstitious, or non-scientific, taking their perspective seriously allows us to hold up a mirror to nature, and to see our faces in that mirror set against a background of other faces, and the minds behind them, minds that construct worldviews and meanings other than our own that make sense to them'.
Like all Aveni's work his latest book is erudite, beautifully written and enlightening.
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