The Lunar Rhythm: The Power of Symbolism
Spirits: All early calendars were lunar, and have now been replaced by a solar calendar. This is highly symbolic. The fact is that the human race in its infancy was matriarchal – the female principle always precedes the male. When the human race invented agriculture and began to stabilize waking consciousness, it also passed its baton to the males. Heretofore the males hadn’t done much of the work of keeping society glued together. What little “thinking” was being done was being done by the women. The culture – in the sense of religion, science, technology, crafts, literature, etc. – was in the hands of the women, who handed it all over to the men at the time agriculture was invented.
The calendar was originally invented by the women who made it lunar because it was precisely the ebb and flow of lunar rhythms that they were trying to track. You only need a solar calendar when you’re doing agriculture because the work you do revolves around the seasons. And although hunting and gathering were also seasonal (depending on what game and plants were available in what season), this wasn’t so much a part of primitive peoples’ existence. They were vaguely aware of the yearly cycle, but didn’t think in those terms much because they had no need to plan much of anything.
So why have a calendar at all, you might ask, much less a lunar one? The reason for this is because in those days, when women still ran the show, the human race was tuned in to certain vibrations, or laws of nature, which ebbed and flowed with the lunar cycle, just as agriculture revolves around the yearly cycle. That is, there are certain wavelengths of knowledge, or techniques for accomplishing things such as healing, music-making, hunting, fishing, gathering, weaving, love-making, etc. which oscillate on a lunar rhythm. Humankind has almost completely lost all of this knowledge; it survives in schemes of planting, etc. by the moon. All of these schemes are valid even if they apparently contradict, such as Europeans planting on a waxing moon near full, and Mayans planting just past new moon. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that the moon’s phase be taken into account consistently, to hook onto the body of memory that exists “out there”.
Indeed, to live one’s life according to the moon, using the rules in any astrological rule book (good times to set eggs, make jellies, cut hair, prune trees, etc. etc.) would put one in touch with some of the profoundest rhythms underlying human existence. This is why the Hasidic Jews find so much joy in what seems to most people a sterile, repetitive existence. They are tuning into that feminine rhythm of joy in repetition, in dancing to the beat of the cosmos. The reason why the Hasids find the sabbath so joyous isn’t because they get a respite from their labors, but because they tune in to the lunar rhythm of the universe. The Hasids use a lunar calendar, as do the Moslems, and that is why they are so vigorous (which their effete, solar-calendar critics see as “fanatical”).
The lunar calendar developed at different times and in different places. Depending upon the sophistication of the particular society, it may only have consisted of a 28 or 29 day calendar (i.e. 29 day names) repeated endlessly; or it may have been tied to the solar calendar with intercalary days. It began to be noticed that certain feelings or intents repeated (or better said, could be made to repeat) at certain predictable intervals according to the moon’s phase; or in other words, that you could know what to do at a given time by observing the moon’s phase in the sky, rather than just feel what to do directly using your own intuition. You could use the moon’s phase as a shorthand record or mnemonic device for the feeling or intent. It isn’t really an inductive process – it isn’t that they observed that seeds planted on the waxing moon outperformed seeds planted on the waning moon; rather, they identified the intent of “successful plants” with the waxing moon; they glued that feeling (of wishing their seeds the best of success) to that thought form (planting on the waxing moon), just as Americans glue feelings of loyalty, gratitude, and patriotism to the thought form of the flag. What makes planting by the moon “come true” is the fastening of the intent to the power of the lunar rhythm, and it doesn’t matter how this is done – you could as easily determine to plant on the waning moon, as the Mayans do. What is important is the intent, the symbolic act. It doesn’t even matter if the plants die, or if a rainstorm washes out all the seeds the day after they’re planted. That has nothing to do with it. The goal of planting by the moon – and of all acting by the moon – is joy, not maximum production.
So the lunar calendar is primordial – it existed in hunting times in differing degrees of sophistication. It was the invention of agriculture which brought about the solar calendar. This symbolic act made humankind a “waking” or thinking species, which acted on mind and reason rather than on intuition and feeling. The trouble is that in switching calendars (modes of operating) the male civilization also lost a lot of the sheer joy which undergirded the female civilization which preceded it. It was a very joyous thing, which the males had to repress in order to stay awake and working all day long. And it is most definitely and literally tied to the lunar calendar. So, if one wants to get back to feeling as joyous as ancient people did, as light and in tune with one’s environment as primordial humans were, then one must quit using the solar calendar and start using a lunar calendar (not that there aren’t other ways of doing this; but switching calendars is one way).
Just start by using a lunar calendar, whether Jewish or Moslem or Chinese or whatever. Observe a seven day weekly cycle of activity with a 28 day month. The week as a unit of measure is a survival from this early Goddess religion calendar. Seven and Four are the two basic lunar numbers. Do the same things on the same days each week. Plan monthly activities by lunar phase. Schedule activities for e.g. the “second Tuesday” each month. You’ll see a real difference in your feelings about yourself and the world, in particular your sense of belonging to the universe – your sense that the universe is nourishing and sustaining you – if you plan your activities around the moon’s phase and sign. Women should plan their lives around their menstrual cycle and ritualize the time of menstruation (as the Hasids do). This is just a way of making a feeling or intuitive connection with a different channel of energy – a line of memory which is prior to the present “waking” line of memory – a truly joyous way of living your life.
Humankind has been putting most of its energy for the past ten thousand years into developing mind (Mercury principle) at the expense of intuition (lunar principle). It has been developing reason at the expense of joy. And one way of getting back to the original feeling of joy is to tune into the moon once again. How precisely one does this is irrelevant, so long as one is putting energy into the project and is serious in one’s efforts to live life by the lunar rhythm. The idea is to go wherever there is joy, and to do whatever is joyous. We’re not trying to recapture the feeling of the last few thousand years of hunting just prior to the invention of agriculture, because that period was a bummer. We are not going back to a primeval state of humanity just because it was a primeval state of humanity; but because there was joy there. By living your life according to the moon, you’ll automatically recapture a lot of this joy in your everyday life. You can make what to other people would seem a sterile, boring routine into a fulfilling life of joy, just by tying all your activities to the moon.
All repetition is a manifestation of the principle of memory, symbolized by the moon. When one uses repetition in prayer, or incantations, or advertising, one is calling upon the power of memory to accomplish something in the world “out there”. Symbolism is a way of tuning into a feeling, of grabbing onto a certain intent. Memory is at the basis of all this – i.e., it provides us with a way of making something which happened once happen again. For example, what the cargo cultists in Melanesia were doing was perfectly valid and correct. It’s the Europeans with their idiotic rationalism who believe that speaking into radios will call airplanes to bring them cargo. The natives (correctly) know that the radio is but a symbol, a way of tuning in to the desire to call forth cargo.
Bob: It works a lot better than the Melanesians talking into a cardboard box.
Spirits: Does it? Hasn’t modern civilization arrived in Melanesia? They called for it with their cargo cults.
Bob: So did a lot of other third world cultures without a cargo cult.
Spirits: Look, you’re being difficult. And getting off the point.
Bob: What’s the point?
Spirits: That as Marc Edmund Jones said, symbolism is more powerful than reality. It is more powerful because it is closer to the truth, and the truth is that what you call “reality” is only a symbol. So to call for cargo with a cardboard box is actually a more powerful and effective means of doing it than using a radio.
The only reason the radio seems to work better is because you can get other Europeans to validate it. The radio, for example, wouldn’t work to bring cargo for Melanesians any better than the cardboard box would. The radio only serves to bring cargo when Europeans call for it. It has less to do with the radio than with the agreement made between Europeans. They agree that when a radio call for cargo comes in from another European, they’ll send it. But not if a Melanesian calls in.
Bob: What difference does it make how the cargo got there, as long as it got there? If
the cargo came at the European’s request, that was the universe coming through, right?
Spirits: Right, but it had nothing to do with the radio. You might as well use a cardboard box.
Bob: No, because a European can’t get cargo using a cardboard box – only a radio.
Spirits: He could if he believed he could – just part of the agreement made between Europeans is that they’ll only receive telepathic messages which come in the guise of radio messages (through that thought form). But Melanesians aren’t held back by that restriction, so they can send and receive messages through a cardboard box.
Bob: But those messages aren’t fulfilled by the universe.
Spirits: Yes they are, I tell you; you just don’t know what they’re asking for with their cardboard boxes. I assure you, they are getting what they ask for. Why else would they continue doing it? Do you think they’re stupid? The logic of magic – of tuning in to the fundamental rhythms of the universe – is very different from the logic of everyday life.
What magicians are out for is power. That’s what they’re getting with all their weird incantations and rituals. That doesn’t mean worldly power. A magician doesn’t really want anything that the “real” world offers, since he or she knows it’s all phony. What magicians want is power, which is obtained by putting as much feeling, energy, and importance behind something which is purely abstract and symbolical, as most people put behind their quest for money, or glory in the world, or love from the opposite sex.
The power of symbolism doesn’t depend upon the particular symbolism being used. Consider the power of the moon. To time the affairs of your life according to the moon is to hook yourself into the lunar rhythm. Whether you plant on the waxing or waning moon; or whether you go by tropical or sidereal signs, is of no importance. It doesn’t matter which system you use, as long as you use one system consistently. This is what makes the rationalist astrologers tear their hair out: they cannot reconcile these “blatant contradictions” – that two competing systems could both be correct. This is because they are only looking at appearances.
Similarly, the attempts to show statistically that plants sown at different times respond in such-and-such a fashion, are doomed to failure. You don’t plant by the moon to grow a bigger, or heavier, or even more nutritious (in the sense of what you’d find by analyzing the ash) plant. You plant by the moon to grow a more joyous plant. Gardens that are planted by the moon are more joyous, more vigorous, more alive than gardens which aren’t planted by the moon; and that vigor is communicated to the people who eat those plants. You don’t even have to garden organically: it isn’t the chemicals which make supermarket produce unfit to eat; it’s the disrespect with which those plants were treated (though the farmer who is respectful of his plants is very circumspect in the kind and amount of chemicals he uses). To treat a plant with respect means to consider what it would like. It likes little nitrogen now and then, for example, which all farmers know. But they don’t all know that it would also like to be planted with a consciousness of the rhythms of the moon. The farmer, by observing the rhythms of the moon, communicates a certain joy to his plants which they give back to him when he eats them. He hooks his plants up to a feeling (intent) of joy, even if he’s only doing the thing mechanically. Agriculture is an intrinsically joyous occupation, which is why attunement to the lunar rhythm has survived there longer than elsewhere in your culture. Practically all farmers farm for the love of it, and are attuned to the lunar rhythm of joy even if they’re not consciously planting by the moon, and the rest of you are living off that love.
Bob: Did ancient people hunt by the moon?
Spirits: Not in the sense in which you’d think. Ancient people were just attuned to the moon, period. They didn’t need ephemerides to tell them when to do things: they could just feel it. For example, a hunter could just sense that tonight would be a good night to fish, or to hunt a particular type of game, or to visit other people and sing, or to just lay around. Modern people haven’t completely lost this facility to sense what they really feel like doing at any moment, but they tend to cut themselves off from this sense with their schedules and busyness and “important” things which take precedence in their minds over their feelings. You moderns are too far away from your true feelings to be able to follow them now. You’re more comfortable getting information out of books than through your own feelings. That’s okay – that works too.
All life on earth is attuned to the lunar rhythm, and the extent to which people are or aren’t in tune with this rhythm is the extent to which they are or aren’t in tune with the world around them. For example, the easiest way to head off the impending environmental crisis would be to get everyone in the world to switch back from a solar to a lunar calendar.
Bob: What does the moon have to do with it?
Spirits: The moon doesn’t have one single, solitary thing to do with it whatsoever. There are no “rays” or discernible causality involved. The physical moon is just a symbol for this rhythm, just as the sun is a symbol for spirit. But both of these symbols are primordial – i.e. they meant what they mean long before there were humans on the earth.
The moon symbolizes one aspect of the Spirit, namely memory – repetition. Repetition, or rhythm, is eternality. It’s just one aspect of the Spirit. One can consider that the Spirit is made of light fibers, in which case one is considering its solar aspect; or one can consider that it is made up of vibrations or sounds, and that is its rhythmic or lunar aspect. The lunar aspect is the joyous aspect – indeed, joy is rhythm, and rhythm is joy.
There are certain activities which are intrinsically lunar: travel, sickness, prayer, lunacy – anything which means a vacation from, or a pause in, the workaday (routine) world is intrinsically a lunar activity. These activities especially should be regulated by the moon. New projects and travel should commence on a new, waxing moon, during a lunar planetary hour. Sickness should be treated by the moon – from the decumbiture, if known, and if not just by observing which treatments should be carried out under which phases and signs of the moon (which you can learn from books on medical astrology). Sickness is indeed the only respite that some people allow themselves from the driving urgency of everyday life -– the only way they allow themselves to tune in to the lunar rhythm. But there are more joyous ways of doing it than that; and in fact if it isn’t being done joyously, then there’s no point in doing it at all.
The way to tune in to the joyous lunar rhythm in your astrology is to add lunar elements to your charts, even if you continue to use a solar-based horoscope. The Hindus do this with their twenty-seven lunar mansions, but you western astrologers can do it any way you like, e.g. with Ronald Davison’s Draconic Zodiac, William Butler Yeats’ Great Wheel, lunar mansions, nodes, critical degrees, or the Part of Fortune. It doesn’t even matter how you compute these things – whether you use tropical or sidereal lunar mansions, or which of the various possible formulas you use to compute the Part of Fortune. All systems are valid as long as you do things the same way consistently. What you are trying to do is to use the lunar technique to hook up to an intent; and I assure you, that intent will bring you joy.
Bob Makransky’s Astrology Corner © 2001