"The Moon was created for the counting of days." – Hebrew Midrash
"I'm standing on the moon, with nothing left to do, with a lonely view of heaven, but I'd rather be with you." - UnknownIt’s been a year of moons.
I started this series exactly one year ago, with two versions of the April Moon. This was, in fact, the series that launched PaganKos. The April diaries were originally queued to a different Pagan group - one that apparently shut down the moment I hit “publish”. Far as I know, they’re still sitting there, in eternal queue. So, to get them out there (and get them out there in time for the full moon), I created my own group, PaganKos – and while the group itself is a work in progress, I think the series turned out pretty well.
But everything waxes and wanes, including diaries. So with a few parting words and some rare exceptions, this Year of Moons is past.
But yours may be just starting.
Read on . . .
"The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon." - Jean IngelowEvery culture on earth has looked up at the moon, and every culture on earth has found a place for it in their mythologies, their songs, their stories. To Hindus, the moon was the storehouse of Soma, the elixir of immortality which only the gods can drink – and which waxed and waned as its supplies grew and dwindled. The Chinese thought it was the home of the tree of Immortality. The Inuit, the Japanese, the Mamaiurans of the Amazon jungle and others saw the moon and sun as siblings, chasing each other across the sky.
To the Fon people of modern day Benin in Africa, the moon is Mawu, supreme mother-goddess who lives in the West, while to the Sumerians, it was the god Sin. The Aztecs saw the goddess Coyolxauhqui; the Mayans , the goddess Ix Chel, the “Rainbow Lady”. For the Egyptians – and many others – the moon was a symbol of renewal and resurrection.
“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to.” - Carl SandburgAnd around the world, the dark marks of the moon’s face have been a sort of global Rorschach test, into which everyone reads . . . someone. Many, especially in the West, see a man in the moon. Some cultures – such as the native Hawaiians, saw a woman. In much of the East – and among some peoples of the Americas – the face of the moon shows a hare, another symbol of renewal.
These figures always spark stories and legends of their own. Maori myth says Rona, daughter of the sea god Tangaroa, was pulled up to the moon after insulting it. Hindu and Aztec tales show a hare elevated to the moon after a noble sacrifice. Inuit myth sees the man in the moon as the keeper of souls, both animal and human. For the Malaysians, the moon’s face shows an old hunchbacked man, making a fishing line to catch the world, a rat which gnaws the line, and a cat which chases the rat. This equilibrium preserves the world, which will end if the old man ever finishes the line.
"I've been on a calendar, but never on time." - Marilyn MonroeAnd in cultures across the globe, the moon was the metronome of the world. The Algonquin, the Chinese, the Hebrews and the Celts, among others, used lunar calendars to count off their own progress through the year – the Cherokee Planting Moon, the Singing Moon of the Celts, the Harvest Moon of several European peoples – or to mark the changes they saw in their world – the Chinese Budding Moon, the Dakota Moon When All Things Ripen, New Guinea’s Rain and Wind Moon.
Some cultures incorporated the moon into more intricate calendars, often hitching it to solar or other cycles. These usually included various types of “resets” to keep the cycle aligned with the solar year. Both the Hindu and Hebrew calendars are examples of this, but others are found throughout antiquity.
"Time is the one thing that is given to everyone in equal measure." - SenecaWhat I've laid out for you this past year is one particular lunar calendar - my own coven's. At least, it was our calendar last year. That's the beauty of the moon - much like the dark shapes on its face, it can be whatever suits us best. The moon is, after all, a changeling.
Pagans honor the cycles of the moon as reminders of a natural rhythm, to which we strive to remain connected. In doing so, we're not bound to some rigid lunar calendar of an ancient people. We're free to use what they've left us, or to tailor it as we need. A moon should tell stories, teach lessons, inspire ideas . . . and the form it has to take from one year to the next in order to do that properly can change.
"Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." - Henry David ThoreauSo if you intend to mark out your year by the moons, it is infinitely more important that it be meaningful for you than that it be a faithful recreation of someone else's calendar. If the name of a moon doesn't speak to you - doesn't tell a story about the world, about the seasons, about your connections to them . . . then it's just a name. You might as well lay out a calendar calling the moons names like "Chuck", "Desmond" and "Sheamus".
That can make a very different calendar for you than for me, and it should. How the world paints the seasons can be radically different from place to place. Many traditional calendars put the Strawberry Moon in Summer, but here in Florida, strawberry season is February (a locally-grown produce delivery here actually had the earliest ones in January). Your lunar calendar should be an exigesis of the world you live in, because nothing else will ever truly speak to you.
Even the ones we think of as traditional are transitory. The world changes - it warms and cools in natural (and now unnatural) cycles. Places and peoples transform, and the moon transforms with them, reflecting whatever happens in the world below.
"Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other." - Sojourner TruthThe moon is our mirror. We all look at it, and we all see something different reflected back. That's why, despite the dizzying range of cultures and beliefs that look up at it, moon-gazing is ultimately personal, unique. Your moon is not mine, nor mine yours.
Yet we both look up together. Every moon you see is, at that moment, being sung to by wolves in British Columbia, danced under on a lonely beach by the young, adored by Pagans in their circles and groves. It is bathing the child afraid of the dark, and the old man fast asleep.
The moon connects us - to each other, to everything, to ourselves.
And while the regular diaries may end, more may pop up here and there - the moon is an endless book, and new stories fall out of it all the time. In the meantime, look and see what the moon tells you.
I'll be looking with you.