Saturday, December 04, 2004
“How difficult it is to speak of the moon and not lose one’s head, the witless moon. It must be her arse she shows us always.” 1
Recently, my 17 month old niece (no relation, though practically) Isabella, daughter of my good friends Jordan (see: Growing Nation) and Marlee Stempleman, has begun to form words and with them, their meanings. On a Thanksgiving road trip to Mexico, one of the only things to satiate the child (she absolutely hates car rides) was to point out the window at the hovering desert moon and say, “moon, Bella…look at the moon.” We all took turns doing this to quell, however briefly, her piercing screams.
Since then she has become obsessed with the moon, running frantically about saying, “moo..moo..moo..moo” whether it’s visible or not, as though she were its astounded discoverer, as she indeed was.
A few days ago she and I went for one of our many walks. As soon as we stepped outside she began, “moo…moo…moo” I gently corrected her saying “Well Bell, the moon is only visible at night, right now, it’s the sun that’s in the sky, we’ll look for the moon tonight.” We continued down the dirt path near the house, pointing out various cacti, birds and lizards, of which she cared little next to the moon. Returning home she began again “moo…moo” this time pointing to the sky. Sure enough, there it was, a waxing gibbous, pale faced and pondering, a mocking smirk on its face. I stood there squinting shamefully to the sky as she convulsed with excitement in my arms, pointing and announcing to the world, that she had in fact been right all along.
And so, in her honor I have decided to share in her obsession.
Tacitus, reported that nearly 2000 years ago, ancient German communities held their meetings at new or full moon. “The seasons most auspicious for beginning business.”
The New moon is celebrated from Ancud, Chile to Nuuk, Greenland.
One can imagine African Bushmen in a heaving dance, chanting praise to the symmetry of it all. Eskimos feasting and exchanging women, all with the moon spinning loftily above.
“Moonstruck”, “moonshine”, “lunacy” and "moonwalk", all meanings derived from the large reflective basaltic rock in the sky.
Its face etched out 3.9 billion years ago2 by the impacts of debris left over from the solar systems formation are recognized through human eyes, as the rolling sockets, bulbous nose, and open mouth of a man.
Serving as the primitive measurer of time, from the Babylonians to the Jews, the Christians to the Muslims, lunar calendars have (though frequently altered and sometimes abandoned over the ages) held to tradition. The Christian world has taken on the Julian, or Gregorian calendar, after Julius Caesar, Copernicus, and the ancient Egyptians.
Islam However continues to live strictly by the cycles of the moon as dictated by the Koran and the words of the prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims hold to the traditionally accepted utterance of Muhammad, “Do not fast until you see the new moon, and do not break the fast until you see it; but when it is hidden from you [by mist or cloud] give it its full measure.” So the beginning and the end of Ramadan are observed at different times in certain villages, if clouds or mist prevent the new moon from being seen. A hotly debated issue in Islam marking the modern revolts against tradition.
“The cycles of the moon had an uncanny correspondence with the menstrual cycle of woman, because a sidereal month, or the time required for the moon to return to the same position in the sky, was a little less than 28 days, and a pregnant woman could expect her child after ten of these moon-months.”3
In lore and literature, movies and comics, a full moon means werewolves and pagan rituals, human sacrifice and generalized insanity. Even now, if something seems off kilter, maybe the events of a day are unusual, or the moods of strangers seem flighty and strange, if there is a full moon in the sky you can be sure it will catch the blame of astrologers and non-believers alike.
As a teenager my friends and I would, though possibly on a subconscious level, celebrate (in our own angst ridden destructive ways) the moon. Drug induced wanderings over city streets, sprinting across pale glowing golf courses, perched smoking on headstones in vast cemeteries, all with the ever-present orb overhead. I recall stumbling drunkenly through a moonlit midwestern forest after learning of a friends deceit with a woman, howling and screaming at the glaring moon, that big therapist beyond the branches.
"And hail their queen, fair regent of the night." 4
1 Samuel Beckett: Molloy, pgs 256. 257
2 National Audubon Society: The Sun and the Moon
3 The Discoverers: Daniel J. Boorstin
4 Botanic Garden (pt. I, canto II, l. 90): Erasmus Darwin