Category Archives: ‘At the still point’: awaiting the Aries New Moon…

Waiting – in Moondark – for the Aries New Moon

From the depths of antiquity right through until the general advent of electric light in the early part of the twentieth century, humans have been powerfully influenced by the 29.5 day cycle of the Sun and Moon.

Lunar Wisdom
Lunar Wisdom

The power of the Sun/Moon cycle

They hunted in daylight, made long journeys by the light offered by the Moon as it moved to full illumination of the night sky 14-15 days into the cycle. They timed their most powerful magical/religious rituals to coincide with the Full Moon. Ancient peoples gradually came to understand, as the age of agriculture took root and developed, that the time to plant their crops was when the Moon was waxing in the early part of the 29.5 day cycle, and in the Spring, or waxing, part of the year.

Out of those practical observations of the heavenly bodies, so fundamental to survival in humanity’s early days, came the realisation so beautifully put in the Bible:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (i)

The planetary cycles, from the tiny 29.5 day Sun/Moon cycle to that powerful regulator of human affairs, the 20 year Jupiter/Saturn cycle, were recognised in antiquity as weaving all life including that of human beings into an observable rhythm which brought a context of order, structure, and some comforting predictability to the patterns of life on Earth.

But whether the cycle is huge, like the Neptune/Pluto 500 year one which was not known in antiquity, or small, like the monthly Sun/Moon one, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

All cycles’ 12th House phase

Moondark describes the end of any cycle – the 12th House phase – whether we are contemplating the monthly Sun/Moon one or the epoch-defining Neptune/Pluto cycle. It is the time of withdrawal and dissolution of energy – think of wintertime, the stripped trees, the cold, barren earth – a time of dark power in which the old order dies at a number of different levels, so that fertile energy can emerge from the womb of the night: indeed, a time of “dying back in preparation for the new.” Thus, every year, the time from the New Moon in Pisces to the New Moon in Aries can be seen as the 12th House phase, the Moondark time, of the entire zodiacal year.

Moondark has fascinated me for a long time. I may first have encountered the concept in my twenties, through the agency of Marion Bradley’s magnificent novel “The Mists of Avalon”, set in the time of druidical Britain in the era when Christianity was sweeping through the Roman Empire and the Old Religion of the Druids was being violently challenged as a result.

The legendary King Arthur, disregarding the advice of his Druid priests, married Guinevere in a Christian ceremony – at Moondark, the very end of the Sun/Moon monthly cycle.Since Arthur was a king, getting the symbolism of his marriage right was much more important than it would be for us ordinary mortals! “Woe, woe, no good will come of this!” was the view taken by the Druids. They were right. The marriage was childless; moreover, Guinevere spent much of it in love with Lancelot, one of the knights of King Arthur’s fabled Round Table.

Each year’s Moondark

We tend to think of the annual 20th March equinox, the day that the Sun enters the sign of Aries, as the symbolic beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. But you could argue that the true beginning of spring is when a New Moon takes place in the sign of Aries. In 2022, that celestial event occurs tomorrow on 1st April, both Sun and Moon meeting at 11.5 degrees of Aries, the fiery first sign of the zodiac. The degree of their meeting varies from year to year: in 2021, it was 22.5 degrees Aries; in 2020, 4 degrees Aries; in 2019 15 degrees Aries; in 2018, 26 degrees Aries.

I find it illuminating and helpful to think of each year in those terms. Thus – as we wait for the fresh energy upsurge of the Aries New Moon tomorrow, we are symbolically waiting in Moondark. This year’s Moondark has been especially potent; it has run from the 12 degrees Pisces New Moon on the 2nd March 2022, making a conjunction with Jupiter at 16 degrees Pisces which is already approaching its powerful conjunction with Neptune, due on 12 April 2022 at 24 degrees Pisces. Much is already being written and discussed across the Web regarding the implications of this planetary duo.(ii)

Events of a collective and personal nature have been powerful, dark and traumatic this Moondark: the Pisces New Moon’s conjunction with Jupiter, as that planet approaches conjunction with Neptune, has certainly brought Ukraine experiences of symbolic crucifixion (iii) via the sweep of war at Russia’s instigation, and its attendant suffering as millions flee their homeland in search of whatever kind of safety can be found. Along with a world-wide Pisces/Neptune response of compassionate desire to help, manifesting in donations of clothing and other supplies, and money pouring in to various charities, there is a general mood of disgust, shock, world-weariness and exhaustion.

All those reactions are typical Pisces/Neptune responses from all of us world-wide who have been through years of acute political upheaval and turmoil, increasing awareness of the climate emergency we now face – then two years of a pandemic, not yet over, which has upended our whole way of life.

All that most of us wish is peace. We are now having to find ways of being creative, constructive and hopeful in a world in turmoil and transition from an old materialist world order clearly long past its sell-by date…

The uses of Moondark

Moondark is at its best a contemplative time: a time to take stock both collectively and personally. We live in an increasingly frenetic 24/7 society where ‘time out’ is increasingly hard to find, and is not supported by the culture as a whole. Those of us who wish and need to retreat regularly to preserve our balance and well-being tend to be regarded as odd by mainstream society.

But humans have always benefited from times of quiet contemplation, in whatever way suits them best: listening to music, doing yoga/meditation, praying to whatever Higher Power sustains them, making or contemplating art, walking in Nature –especially by the sea, that great universal symbol of dissolution and emergence.

Even half an hour a day of retreat time on a regular basis is nourishing for the spirit. In ancient times, women used to retreat together monthly during menstruation time which was seen as a period of potency, and hidden power – a liminal time to link through dreams and ritual to worlds unseen.

It would be good if individually we could get into the habit of using the time from the Pisces New Moon each year to find some retreat space in whatever way suited us: to take stock of the year that was coming to an end, ponder our successes and our failures, and set some realistic intentions to pursue for the zodiacal year ahead. In a time of unprecedented turmoil, taking retreat time to work out how to cope best with the world we now inhabit, seems more important than ever…

Have you been taking stock ? I certainly have…and your thoughts on what has emerged for you, would be most welcome as we emerge from Moondark and begin a new zodiacal year.

Endnotes:

i) {Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 King James Version (KJV)}

ii)Astrology University features a helpful teaching by Steven Forrest on this topic: https://www.astrologyuniversity.com/shop/search-by-astrologer/steven-forrest/jupiter-neptune-2022/?stamped_r_id=66928356

iii) the six-week Christian season of Lent, with its Piscean themes of prayer, reaching out to the Divine, compassion, renunciation and sacrifice, runs this year from the day of the Pisces New Moon on 2nd March, right through to 14th April, just before the first Full Moon of the new astrological year

Lunar Wisdom
Lunar Wisdom

1300 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2022
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

‘At the still point’: awaiting the Aries New Moon…

We tend to think of the annual 20th March equinox, the day the Sun enters Aries, as the symbolic beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. But you could argue that its true beginning takes place with the New Moon in Aries: this year, that does not happen until the 24th March 2020, when the Sun and Moon meet at 4 degrees 12 minutes of Aries.

Image of Moondark

Moondark

You could further argue that the period from the Pisces New Moon, this year having fallen just three days ago on 23rd February at 4 degrees 29 minutes of Pisces, represents the Moondark, or balsamic period, or end phase of the whole astrological year – which began with the 15 degrees  17 minutes Aries New Moon on the 5th of April 2019.

Today thus finds us at the new crescent phase beginning the whole zodiacal year’s Moondark. It also finds us on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar, a six week period of contemplation leading to Easter Sunday which falls each year close to the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.

So – how does that profound, doubly symbolic invitation to withdraw and reflect on the year that’s gone, sit with you?

For a very long time, I have been happy and grateful to draw spiritual inspiration from writers of all religious and spiritual traditions – or none. What I seek is grounded wisdom and perspective, wherever it comes from, to guide my life. I also love the comforting, ancient power of ritual. One of my personal Ash Wednesday rituals is to read to myself sections of T S Eliot’s great poem sequence Ash Wednesday. Here is the quote which on this Ash Wednesday has most moved me,:

‘…this is the time of tension between dying and birth/ The place of solitude where three dreams cross…’ (i)

I am in a deeply withdrawn, sensitive, pensive state in this year’s Moondark just beginning, feeling very open to our collective vulnerability and suffering as fragile creatures on a tiny planet.

Having been born in Moondark in the very last hours of the monthly Sun/Moon cycle, I am very aware of the need periodically to retreat, contemplate, take stock – a fundamental aspect of human experience which is being squeezed out by the 24/7 freneticism of contemporary living, to the increasing detriment of our collective mental and physical wellbeing.

Will this new year soon arising bring more brutality towards the vulnerable and the innocent, orchestrated by those currently in power whose humanity has in many cases become increasingly debased? Or will it signify a new generation arising, whose values are not rooted in accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of our Mother planet, ready to challenge the structures of  old order?

Thankfully, we are seeing strong evidence of the latter option arising already, as the new Saturn/Pluto cycle slowly begins and we move towards a new Jupiter/Saturn cycle at 0 degrees Aquarius, beginning at the winter solstice 2020. We need radical change, and we are going to have it over the next few years, one way or another…

The Big Why?

In contemplative moments such as this, poised in the stillness of a whole year’s Moondark, being temperamentally inclined to brood on questions most sensible folk prefer to avoid much of the time, I tend to return to The Big Why, and its attendant questions: Why are we here at all? What does it all mean? What am I to do with my small life?

It would appear from numerous surveys one tends to come across both in print and social media, that despite conventional religions losing ground, most people are just as inclined as they have ever been toward some sort of faith, some belief that despite its painful, turbulent dimensions life has meaning.

In times of suffering and turbulence, one of the great offerings of astrological knowledge, despite its being a double-edged gift with just as much capacity to scare us as to offer enlightenment, is a pointing through its symbols to something both collectively and personally meaningful going on. Looking through an astrological lens reveals patterns, not randomness.

Astrology is not a religion or a belief system – but it offers a clear lens through which to look out at the vastness of Mystery in which we exist, inviting us toward some form of belief that there is a bigger picture of  which we are all part, however small.

Personally, I have found that lens to have been a vitally important tool on my own journey toward a deep faith that we are all part of the One; even the dreadful things in life which afflict us both collectively and individually are woven into a tapestry of meaning, at some level which we are too ill-equipped to comprehend.

I find it supportive and comforting to centre myself in that faith when times are tough for the world – as they certainly are right now – and for those to whom I am personally connected with bonds of friendship and of love.

And for myself. My dear Aquarian husband Ian died peacefully on 13th January, having been felled with shocking suddenness by a cerebral haemorrhage on 12th January 2020: the very day of the ending of the most recent Saturn/Pluto cycle in Libra under which we were married in 1982, and the beginning of this new one now taking shape. Apart from the shock and grief of his dying, I am awestruck by the fated power for us of that brutal timing.

For those of you who have been wondering why I have not posted here since 10th January, that is the explanation.

The uses of Moondark

Moondark at its best is a contemplative time: time to take stock both collectively and personally.

Humans have always benefited from times of quiet contemplation, in whatever way suits them best: listening to music, doing yoga/meditation, praying to whatever Higher Power sustains them, making or contemplating art, walking in Nature –especially by the sea, that great universal symbol of dissolution and emergence.

Even half an hour a day of retreat time on a regular basis is nourishing for the spirit. In ancient times, women used to retreat together monthly during menstruation time which was seen as a period of potency, and hidden power – a liminal time to link through dreams and ritual to worlds unseen.

It would be good if individually we could get into the habit of using the time from the Pisces New Moon each year to find some retreat space in whatever way suited us: to take stock of the year that was coming to an end, ponder our successes and our failures, our joys and our sorrows,  and set some realistic intentions to pursue for the zodiacal year ahead.

Will you be taking stock? I certainly shall…

Endnotes

i)  from ‘The Complete Poems and Plays of T S Eliot’, Faber and Faber Ltd 1969, p 98

Image of Moondark

1,150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2020

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see About Page