Camped beneath a full moon by a remote coastline, I am alone again with the wind, the sound of the ocean, and a celestial mystery that reminds me that we are all children beneath the stars. I pitched my swag not long after dark, excited to be so alone out here, dive gear ready so that I can immerse myself as soon as possible after dawn in the roiling waters of our ancient birthplace, the ocean. I fell asleep early, exhausted by recent movements, as the full moon rose above the scrubby coastal trees of this place.
Then I awoke, a few hours later, dazed and confused by the moon, which was now only half visible. It took ages to refocus my mind around this mystery – the line down the middle of our lunar orb was distinct. This was no demarcation of heavy cloud cover, and neither was it a tree branch in the way. I kept watching, maybe only half awake, maybe having slipped into a sweet, harmless madness, or a liminal psychic cave of timeless mystery, or a crack in some sorcery set by the universe to capture those foolhardy enough to give themselves over to soul. My mind raced – what is happening? How can I fall asleep under a full moon and wake up mere hours later under a half a disc? Has time slipped, am I lost in its deep pools?
Then I noticed it slowly grow, towards three quarters full, waxing again now as if it were pregnant, bloating as it rolled around the sky, becoming full again before my very eyes.
A blood moon lunar eclipse. How could I not have known this was coming? How is this not front-page news? (I know, if I took more notice of media, I would have known this was coming yesterday too!) But if I lived in a traditional society, where we watched the natural world for its clues and signals every day, I would have known this was coming in a different way. It would have had more meaning. We might have been afraid of the lunar eclipse, as many cultures were, when the moon gets eaten by the night.
The ancient Mesopotamians, with whom I have an affinity since studying them in my full-time research days, would install a fake king for the night, in case the deadly juju of the eclipse infected the real regent with disease or death. For the Sumerians, the moon was a God, a masculine power in the night sky, as opposed to the Lady Luna we imagine drawing us into romance, mystery and the cycles of life. Nanna the Moon God was the bull of the night sky, the stars a herd of cows, all observed closely as they revolved around our planetary home. The Mesopotamians became renowned for the mathematical precision of their star gazing, another reason I loved them. Such patience, record keeping and meaning making under the celestial constellations. We don’t share this love or take this time anymore; we have created our own light in the night, artificial, reliable and easy (even though it is costing us the earth; but that’s another story).
Nowadays, it is up to us to wake up, to notice the world around us, to become aware of the cycles of life and death in ten thousand animate, intimate, real ways. I’m glad I didn’t know the eclipse was coming to swallow the full moon at night. The surprise was such a jolt, it gave me the opportunity to awaken anew to this mystery, to be confused by the cosmos all over again. In my scrambling for reality and understanding, I rediscovered a primal need, as the world as I knew it fell away beneath me, or rather above. Wherever we look for certainty, we’d better be ready for anything, it reminded me.
Reassured, I got up and performed my salute to the moon, a regular ritual I like to do when I am under her pearly light. Tonight, I notice how her silver glows upon my hands and arms as I reach for the sky, as if I am imbued and glow with the power of deep connection to the cosmos. Safely full and unobscured again now, I can write my story in her light, unafflicted by the wyrdness of my lunar fascination, rebalanced by my salute to the sacred mysteries, by the circle of ancestors who deign to allow me to speak as a guest at their table.
She is behaving herself again, crossing the night sky towards the horizon, and I feel I have been given back my sanity, my faith in the rightness of things. Having lost it for a while there, I am brought back to life in the exact moment of the everpresent here and now, as ritual always does for me.
Perhaps, like me, you will join the rounds, hopefully waking up to the great mystery of consciousness coursing through our veins, hopefully breathing in and out with gratitude for this one wild opportunity at self-aware primate life in a body on earth, hopefully waking up …
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