Tag Archives: Moondark

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I am in a deeply withdrawn, sensitive, pensive state in this year’s Moondark just beginning, feeling very open to our collective vulnerability and suffering as fragile creatures on a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

New Moon on the Winter Solstice

 “The rising of the Sun on the Winter Solstice, out of the darkest day of the year, echoes the birth of the light from the dark void on the first day of creation.”

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice 2014 carries a layer of enigma: it occurs at 23.04 on 21st December 2014, just before the New Moon at 0 degrees 06 minutes of Capricorn on 22nd December at 01.37. (UK time)

This year’s Solstice thus takes place at the very end of  Moondark, the hidden 2-3 day period each month when the fragile, waning crescent Moon dies into the darkness from which the next New Moon is born.

Moondark in ancient times was a time of retreat, of reflection. People avoided travel at those times since there was no light to guide their footsteps, making the nighttime world even more dangerous than usual.

This seems to be appropriate to the atmosphere world-wide as a particularly grim year comes to an end amid a welter of extremist violence, with especial reference to the ‘massacre of the innocents’ which took place in Peshawar, Pakistan only this week.

Perhaps this Moondark New Moon in the solemn sign of Capricorn symbolises a world-wide invitation to contemplation and retreat as the year turns: to reflect on where we are as a human community, and how we can find ways, somehow, to live more peacefully with one another regardless of race, culture or creed…

In the meantime, we humans in the Northern Hemisphere, beset by darkness and cold, need light and celebration to lift our spirits, no matter how much bleak world affairs or the pains of everyday life hold us down. At last year’s Winter Solstice, I published a wonderful poem by Susan Cooper which depicts the history and expression of this need with vivid beauty. Many of my readers have requested me to publish it again this year.

Enjoy the Solstice!

THE SHORTEST DAY BY SUSAN COOPER

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

******

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Susan Cooper 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Chilling out with Moondark ( ‘what’s that?!’)

Chill out time....

Chill out time….

As I sit writing this, tucked away quietly in our Quiet Room with some soothing Japanese incense burning, it is approaching the end of Moondark. ‘What on earth is that?’ I hear you say.

Moondark is the last three days of the 29.5 day Sun/Moon cycle. At Moondark, the  Moon disappears. Full Moon is the high energy point of the cycle, fourteen days after the New Moon. A few month’s notetaking is sufficient to realise that life is more pressured and charged up at that time. Moondark is the low energy point. It is a time for rest and retreat, not a time to initiate new projects or demand great feats of one’s vitality.

“When I retire, I’m going to burn forty years of work diaries and run my life by the phases of the Moon!”

Yes, I said that, in a period of extreme work stress about twenty years ago. Friends laughed; but now in the post-career phase of my life, I’m working at just that. I find it comforting, helpful and useful to tune into the Moon’s cycle as far as possible in plotting the ebb and flow of my energies these days.

My long 2001-8 retreat  taught me that regular and adequate periods of rest are essential. The bill for rest deprivation cannot be evaded by anyone.We cannot abandon technology which has brought our world community so many advantages, but can – if we choose – begin slowly to step aside from the destructive 24/7 ism which it fosters. People need to stop going to the supermarket at midnight and sending emails at 3 am if they want to have a proper life!

I find now that up to an hour’s retreat time daily, and careful planning to avoid taking on anything very demanding at Moondark, (not always possible!) has provided a rhythm of alternating activity and rest which is stabilising and supportive of well-being. But it is important to be patient, realistic and gradual in any attempts to introduce lifestyle changes. It would be silly to suggest otherwise.

I hardly think the bosses of the land would take kindly to staff’s announcing that all work from now on was going to be run by the phases of the Moon!

You don’t need special tables to work out when Moondark is. Most diaries indicate by a small black circle next to the day and date, when the New Moon falls.

For example, you will find this year (2014)  that  Monday 25 August indicates the day of the New Moon. I am writing this in the last couple of hours of Moondark. Wednesday 24 September is the next New Moon, and so on … Thus Moondark this month is 23,24 and part of 25 August. Next month, it is 21, 22 & 23 September.

It is easy, as I do at the start of a new year and a new diary, to go through the year putting a red line through the days when Moondark falls.

A pattern of  daily rest and retreat time, and observing Moondark as much as I can each month, has given me a sound support structure from which I have now returned to a reconnected life. Observing Moondark is a regular reminder, also, that we belong to Mother Nature.

New Moon

The New Moon in Virgo – in the UK time zone – begins at 15.14 today.Virgo is an earth sign, its energies strongly service oriented, practical, and good at managing detail. It is also extremely hard working, and analytical.So – the Virgo new moon would be an ideal time to start that blitz on your admin system which you’ve been putting off all year, or for putting special effort into re-organising and cleaning up the garden.

I’ve noticed that people with a strong emphasis on Virgo in their horoscopes or birth charts seem to be very fond of stationery shops, and of acquiring stationery. So, why not use this new moon to acquire next year’s diary, go through it and mark off Moondark each month? Or set your smartphone to send you a reminder of when Moondark begins?

Why don’t you try working with this lunar rhythm for a while, trying to chill out and wind down a little at  Moondark ? Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page