There’s a full moon comping up.
We live in a remarkable universe. The solar system we inhabit sits on the outer spiral arm of the Milk Way galaxy, and the sun is an even-tempered star. We are on a planet that is within the ‘goldilocks zone’, that is, not too close to the sun to bake, and not too far away to freeze and make known life impossible. Ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others of old could only look up and gaze in wonder.
And yet the wisdom they possessed can teach us so much.
The planet tilts throughout the year, just enough to distribute temperature and ensure seasons; and we have a moon that, in astronomical terms, is very large compared to the planet (and because of that, some call it a companion planet, or a binary planetary system), and which harmonises with the Earth and ensures tides and weather systems. A wonderful stellar symbiosis.
It’s that moon, or rather the impending full moon on 24 October 2018 that we look at.
We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?’ Unknown
The next full moon is on 24 October, and is known by some as the Hunter’s moon, or the Blood moon. To many Celts, Druids and others, myself included, it is known as the Harvest moon. It rises above the horizon (from a UK viewpoint) at about 6.20pm in the east on that evening, and climbs to its highest point at about midnight (and will be south-south-east by then).
This awesome Harvest moon will appear on the cusp of the constellation of Aries the Ram, and close to it (but maybe too small to be seen unless you’re using a telescope) is the planet Uranus which is about nineteen astronomical units away from us – one astronomical unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun – so it is nineteen times further away from us that we are from the Sun. Amazing.
‘The white light of the moon is infinitely gentle with the dark. It insists on no awakening or disturbance of colour except for the occasional illumination of the breaking wave…the rhythm of the tides…the red rhythm of the blood’. John O’Donohue
There is an ancient story about Arianrhod (pronounced ah-ree-ahn-rhohd), which is Welsh for ‘silver wheel’ or ‘silver disc’ and Arianrhod was, to those ancient Welsh tribes, a goddess, the personification of the moon.
One of many stories about Arianrhod, and perhaps not a noble one, forms part of the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Welsh myths, some dating as far back as the Iron Age.
This story tells of the goddess Arianrhod, daughter of a goddess, and niece to the Math the King of Gwynedd. She is forced to step over a magician’s rod to prove her virginity, and as she does so, she immediately gives birth to two sons; one called Dylan, the other who is eventually named Lleu.
Arianrhod is enraged at the humiliating virginity test that she had to endure and directs the anger she has for the men-folk towards one of her sons.
She places three curses over Lleu during his life: He shall have no name except the one she gives him. He shall bear no weapons except ones she gives him. He shall have no wife of the race that is now on the earth.
Her brother cleverly manages to trick her each time, dispelling all of her curses placed upon Lleu. Arianrhod then retreats to her castle Caer Arianrhod, and was later drowned when the sea reclaimed the land.
The sunken ruins of the island on which she is said to have lived, Caer Arianrhod, can be found off the coast of Dinas Dinelle, in North Wales. On a low spring tide this ancient relic can sometimes be viewed from the shore.
Many of you will know that I am an amateur astronomer, and so the moon especially is dear to me. But, I think I’m also a romantic and like to look beyond ‘the veil’, and about a year ago I wrote the following poem about Arianrhod.
Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.
And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.
So, this full moon my suggestion is for us to pause and gaze in awe at the moon, to revel in the thought that without it life on Earth would be very different and the planet might not have been inhabitable, and to ponder upon the One Who Flung Stars Into Space and give thanks. For me, as is my custom I will do the aforementioned, and ‘toast’ the moon and show gratitude to the One Behind It All with a sip (or three) of some really nice wine (and maybe pour some out as a libation).
Those ancient Celts, Christians, Druids, Pagans and others can teach us so much, and perhaps at this full moon we can pause and appreciate nature in its fullness, and be connected to those that have gone before us. Wisdom.
[The moon and star facts and header photo above are cited/used only because of my astronomical interest, a sky-map to locate the moon and planets relative to the constellations and using astronomical, scientific symbolism.]