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DateOriginal Topic
21st August 2005Day of the Dead Moon
By Dawn
Can someone explain for me the phrase ‘the day of the dead moon’? I know it refers to 22 January 1879 and seems having something to do with the partial solar eclipse of that day. I first came across the phrase while pondering the purchase of David Rattray’s tapes but the conversion to NZ dollars made the purchase unaffordable, I’m afraid. Reading Zulu Victory it states that in spite of it being ‘the day of the dead moon’, Ntshingwayo decided to launch his attack on the camp. The only way I can know that the moon could be considered dead, when it should have been full, if is it was eclipsed by earth during the night. However, unless Ntshingwayo had a good Victorian almanac, he could not have known there was going to an eclipse and would he have understood the concept of moons, planets and sun? Also if it was a partial eclipse during the day, surely it would have been a partial eclipse during the night. Or maybe the lunar eclipse was the previous night. Sorry, I’m not an astrologist and I’m a woman to boot, so it is all beyond me.
Then again, it could refer to something completely different.
I tried a thread search but all I got was a repeat of the phrase.
21st August 2005Paul Cubbin
Dawb, my understanding is that the 23rd was the day planned for the attack as it was the first day of the new moon. Thus, the 22nd would have been the last day of the old moon, 'the day of the dead moon', and as such was deemed inauspicious for an attack. The fact that the Zulu army was discovered on the 22nd meant that the attack went ahead a day early and it really wasn't a planned decision. The partial eclipse of the sun that day was purely coincidental.
21st August 2005Arthur Trent
Also in a country without calendars the very recognisable dead moon, and phases leading to it, would have been a clear synchronisation for those elements of the zulu forces still moving into position - at Isandlwana, and elsewhere. The inauspicious nature of the Dead Monn and it's general social impact was clearly not insurmountable, and tactical opportunity was evidently recognised as a more important factor - viz the attack at Nyezane the same day, which should have been more successful in the wrong footed circumstances of Pearson's Column.
21st August 2005Dawn
Obviously this is something in Zulu custom I didn't hear about while I was living in SA. Doesn't mean I disagree and I'm sure David Rattray researched it thoroughly. Although I would have thought the moon getting smaller would indicate it dying and then being reborn again as it got bigger. Just a woman's logic. Zulus must think differently.
21st August 2005Dawn
Wait, I have just made a fool of myself? Did I read full moon instead of new moon? Was it a new moon that night (22nd) when I'm thinking of full moon? I told you I was no astrologist! Now I'm just being a woman. I'll go now.
21st August 2005David Alan Gardner
No you didn't make a fool of yourself-but the fact there was an eclipse was just coincidental with the "dead moon"
22nd August 2005Keith Smith

A quick look at the Natal Almanac for 1879 shows that the 22nd was the night of the new moon.
22nd August 2005Dawn
You have a Natal almanac for 1879? Thanks for putting me right. I was having a very blonde moment there. Thanks goodness they don't happen too often.
22nd August 2005dawn
That should be 'thank goodness'
I think I'll give up!