11th May 2021

Our ancestors’ lives were entwined with the land and its seasons. For this they needed an accurate knowledge of the sun and moon, the timing of the solstices, equinoxes, cross-quarter days, full moons, new moons and eclipses. And their stone monuments were precisely aligned to give this. The annual position of the sun is regular and easy to align with. But the moon’s arc around the earth varies from month to month. (That is why we get supermoons that look bigger than usual when the moon is nearer the earth, such as our next full moon on May 26th.) The arc is slightly tilted and so the moon varies in position over a period of 18.6 years. It also has a slight wobble with a cycle of 173.3 days or half an eclipse year. Amazingly many of the stone monuments in Britain were built to calculate these such as the Aubrey holes at Stonehenge which mark the cycle of the arc. Knowledge of the moon’s wobble, known and measured by the Neolithic people in Britain, was then lost until observed in the 16th century. The moon measurements obtained were engraved on markers of stone, bone or antler from 30,000 years ago and possibly as long ago as 300,000 years.

Living in tune with the moon, sun and seasons meant that our ancestors saw their own lives, and time, as cyclical whereas we tend to view them as linear. This has lead to us expecting and wanting a steady progression of growth, and viewing anything that deviates from this negatively. We struggle with what we might call dark times whereas the dark, the time of the moon, was recognised as a generative time of insight, healing and transformation that was particularly important. We do not view aging well but for our ancestors the older generation were the wise elders. This is particularly apparent with women after their childbearing years who were called crones. The word derives from the word for crown and she was the wisdom keeper and healer, guiding others through hardships and transitions. Now crone means an ugly, withered old woman. And we see death as an enemy to be fought rather than something to be honoured as part of the natural cycle of life.

Much of the harm we have done to nature has been because we have not understood or respected its cycles. This is the time for us to find wisdom in the old ways and learn to honour the cycles of the earth for their sake and for our own.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3.1-8