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Picturing the Moon

av Adele Änggård

For a child growing up during the second-world-war in the 1940’s, the material surroundings could abruptly disappeared, as bombs exploded. An emotional contradictory manifestation was a heavenly body beyond the clouds. A lunar circle that altered its shapes was in transit across the sky’. Brightest at night, yet it was persistent enough to also be visible during the day. This was the moon. Families in the 1940’s could talk of having a “honey-moon”, a lunar united ideal, which came after a wedding. The phrase “don’t moon” was connected to adults telling children not to lunar gaze in silent wonderment. A time when grown-ups happily explained how the astronomical bodies were interrelated and that included clarifying the moon’s monthly variations. Our nocturnal lunar heritage impacted human consciousness – and not only ours. Wolves, as another mammal are recorded as howling at the moon. Insects’ attraction to celestial nocturnal light is an inbred process dating far back in time, an academic study called ‘Phototaxis’ as paleoentomology, is long before our species learnt to light the darkness with a flame. Geoffrey Chaucer claimed that “time and tide wait for no man”. His reference is to lunar’s gravitational drag on high and low tides – and one wonders how much else the moon deflected?
A change took place in lunar attitudes after the 20th July 1969, when the unimaginable was rendered a reality as Neil Armstrong took the first step onto the moon. The fine powdered lunar surface supported his weight, which was not a quicksand of dust as feared possible. Material brought back to earth contained no lethal outer-space germs either. Attitudes changed for many, since no longer unreachable that first step for mankind had rendered the moon a biodegradable entity that scientific laboratories could analyse. A radical paradigm had taken place. Today’s sixty-five year old people will remember a lunar world, before the 1969 changes. It is a step that should not be forgotten, as it holds a reality of what the moon still means for us in the present. There are long-term mental aspects that are particular, to how the moon is related to human-beings, as people, that lies in the marrow of their bones. Lunar concepts are thousands of years old. In the ancient Greek language the word mën means month and mënë means moon as just one of several Old European connections (N. Vanarot). The lunar monthly trajectory across the sky was complex to calculate, yet seen as infinitely important to understand.

An answer to the lunar phases takes time to tease out. The diagram gives a modern clarification that is taken from Wikipedia.

A solar eclipse occurs in the daytime at new moon, when the moon is between Earth and the Sun, and when Earth passes between the sun and moon.

A Second astronomical lunar view: considered from several angles

Being married in Sweden was to discover, working out astronomy’s lunar phases, was not always regarded as being of value. To solve a crossword puzzle, as a mental activity, is not the same as considering the balance between day and night or the sun-earth-moon. Astronomical relationships were foreign to my new Swedish family. Understanding the diagram above was of little interest. An archipelago stretches out from Stockholm, where boats and fishing as an alternative pleasure were more relevant. For me, fishing satisfaction was not a lunar replacement.
Then I met a moon conscious Naud, which threw open a window that related me back in time to deeper lunar questions. This was naturally attractive. We had many discussions as Naud had personal experiences from Nigeria, which put the moon into yet a further set of interesting nuances. Barbra Walker’s book (1983) talked of Upper Egypt as being called Khemennu, “land of the Moon” and the Gnostic sect of Naassians with the concept that “the moon was the eternal Great Mother”. Some decade later produced one of several negative oscillation in such internet phrases as “Don’t moon”. A power competition proceeds between solar and lunar celestial domination. To embrace the one meant leaving out the other and vice versa. Attitudes seemed to have moved to two extremes, with a vacuum in between. Why is the meaning attached to words so enormously important? - Because when the subjective view is altered the attitude towards the object itself can change, and this was what had happened to the moon.
An academic field that makes the oscillations best understood are found within archaeology, where there are considerations from the past, that relate to present lunar assessments and insights by committed researchers like Alexander Marshack.

A Couple of archaeological lunar researcher’s contributions

The anthropologist Alexander Marshack interpreted a bone plaque, containing a sequence of circular engraved dots, as representing phases of the moon’s cycle. The plaque was found at the Blanchard Rockshelter (south-west France) and illustrates the waxing and waning of the lunar orbit over a monthly period. Barry Cunliffe (1994:71) dates the piece of bone to 34,000 – 32,000 BCE. The plaque was displayed at the British Museum in 2013 and in Jill Cook’s exhibition program, which I had kindly been able to study prior to visiting the exhibition (J. Cook 2013:112).

The rows of dots picked-out beneath the plaque are explanative enough of a lunar cycle during an approximate month, to be fairly convincing for the viewer (B. Cunliffe 1994:71). There is a second polished artifact similar in shape, on a bit of antler that comes from Lartet Rockshelter in France. Interestingly the second find has carefully formed rows of dots in several lines, provoking thoughts of a calendar connection. To date this ivory flake has not yet been closely analysed, to have dates definitely confirmed.

Software moon alignment on the boat shaped monument of Ales Stenar

Today, there are highly qualified lunar research-analysts investigating ancient monuments, previously considered as only having a solar connection. The sun’s alignment of the 58 megalith stones, known as “Ales Stenar” on the highland above Kåseberga, east of Ystad, is one such monument. The flat top of a hill is renowned for having a three hundred and sixty degrees circular view of the horizon. In August of 2016 an article by Amelia Carolina Sparavigna in Philica was published, under the heading “Astronomical Alignments of Ales Stenar along Sunset and Moonset directions”. In a well researched paper, she reveals the present boat shaped 58 megaliths lie on top of an earlier edifice, which was circular. Hungary claims similar circular lunar edifices, in their Budapest Archaeological Museum. The earlier construction could in all probability have been equally solar and lunar associated. Sparavigna clarifies why finds in the later megaliths can also have been more lunar related than generally believed today. The reason she gives is that apart from the solar calculations, software has been created for daylight use, for outdoor photography, and solar energy applications. This second software material includes Moon alignments, which were photographed in several varying lunar intervals. Until Sparavigna work was published in Philica, what she wrote of “the Photographer’s Ephemeris” information on moonrise and moonset azimuths were not made public. This was although ‘The Photographer’s Ephemeris’ was clarified in a series of illustrations, giving the exact angle of the lunar alignments. The retention of hidden lunar information was a method to slant interest away the moon. What could not be altered however was the repetitive permanency of mother-earth’s own lunar planet’s rotations. The Moon’s stability was fast becoming out of synch with the power of the ‘internet’. Researchers like Alexander Marshack, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna are vital in giving us an historical view which balances the celestial present. Barry Cunliffe and Jill Cook each with informative illustrations help to bridge the gap to a time, when the lunar system was bound to understanding a monthly come lunar time as unilateral, that compounded years together and sealed the information for coming generations.