December’s Long Cold Night Moon

Happy December Full Moon!

Welcome to Issue 12 of Volume V of Earth, Moon and Stars!

In this issue:

MOON NAMES

Long Cold Night Full Moon
     As we’ve noted in past issues, many cultures in both hemispheres kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon, appropriate for the month in which it occurred and keyed – naturally enough – to the goings-on in their natural environment . . . the weather, the plants, the animals.

    Neopagans in the Northern Hemisphere call December’s full moon the Long Night Moon, since this full moon occurs close to the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year. While the moon can be full up to two weeks prior to the solstice, this year the two events are only five days apart. (See “SOLSTICE” feature below .) 

    Other cultures have/had their own traditions. The Celts called this full moon the Cold Moon, also for obvious reasons.  However bitter cold it might be, standing out under her pale light, she still inspires artistic creativity.

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MOON ART

Farewell Cyndi Lavin

   This month we bid farewell to Cyndi Lavin, whose handiwork has graced our page each moon for the past 2+ years. The beautiful beaded embroidery you see below is one of twelve Moon designs that Cyndi created for her Bead Journal Project (a part of her Beading Arts Facebook page) where you can see all twelve. Cyndi also has her own websites Mixed Media Artist and Beading Arts, rich with examples of and information on beads, jewelry, and other art mediums. Thank you, Cyndi!!

December Cold Moon [Cyndi Lavin]

December Cold Moon [Cyndi Lavin]

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SEASONAL CALENDAR

December’s full moon:       Tuesday December 17 09:29 UT (4:29 am ET, 1:29 am PT)
December Solstice:              Saturday December 21 17:11 UT (12:11 pm ET, 9:11 am PT)
January’s new moon:          Wednesday January 1  11:14 UT  (6:14 am, ET, 3:14 am PT)
January’s full moon:           Thursday January 16  04:53 UT
.                                                Wednesday January 15 (11:53 pm ET, 8:53 pm PT)
                                                                                                                 [Ref: Moon Phases]

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STARWATCH

New Series on the Astronomy of the Zodiac to Begin in the New Year

     Beginning next month, in each 2014 issue we will explore one of the constellations that inhabit the zodiac. We will look into both the folklore of the constellation for that month and also the basic astronomy behind it. You won’t have to understand anything technical to enjoy it, but I will introduce some basic astronomy for the folks who are interested, which will add a dimension to your stargazing that you will hopefully find interesting and enjoyable. Taken a bite at a time, it’s fairly digestible. In preparation for this, we began introducing a little basic astronomy in the October and November issues; you may want to review these if you missed them. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get so excited you’ll go out and get your own telescope!

ASTRONOMY BASICS

The Ecliptic

     In October we talked about the difference between constellations and asterisms. Last month we introduced the Celestial Sphere and how we use it to talk about locating stars in the sky. This month we will tag onto this visualization by introducing another basic concept – an imaginary plane called the ecliptic. If you go outside to where you can see the eastern or western horizon, along with a row of landmarks, like a skyline in a city or trees or hills in the countryside, and you note where the sun rises or sets each day, or even just once a month, you will notice that the spot where it rises/sets appears to move to the right or left along the horizon. 

     Remember last month we noted that because the stars are so far away from us, they all appear to be fixed in space, as if there was a giant colander overhead, letting little points of light through its holes. So for all of our intents and purposes, the stars don’t move. (They only appear to rise and set, just like the sun and moon, because the planet we are standing on is spinning like a top.)

     The sun appears to move against this backdrop of fixed stars, because, in addition to spinning like a top, the Earth is revolving around the Sun. The ecliptic is the plane of our orbit around the Sun.

Ecliptic (Cornell)

Ecliptic (Cornell)

      If you were able to see the stars while the sun was up, you would see that the sun appears to move through the field of stars in the background. This apparent path of the sun on the celestial sphere is another way of describing the ecliptic, because it is produced by our orbiting around the Sun. (This article at Earthsky presents an entertaining analogy, imagining our motion through space as if we were riding a giant carousel. Worth the read.)

     The word “ecliptic” derives from the fact that all eclipses (of the sun or the moon) occur on this plane. This has to be so, because by definition the sun is always somewhere on the ecliptic, and the Moon has to be in line with the Sun and the Earth for an eclipse to occur. Since the plane of the Moon’s orbit is slightly tilted with respect to the Earth’s orbit (and thus the ecliptic), eclipses can occur only when these two orbits intersect. 

     Repeating one of the diagrams from last month, you can see how the plane of the ecliptic is tilted with respect to the plane of the celestial equator. If the Earth’s axis was not tilted – that is, was perpendicular to our plane of orbit around the Sun – then the ecliptic and the celestial equator would coincide (and, of course, we wouldn’t have changing seasons). As it is, they intersect at only two points: the two equinoxes. 

Celestial Sphere

Celestial Sphere (Encyclopedia of Science)

    The vernal equinox (the point where the sun crosses the celestial equator in a northward direction in its annual apparent circuit around the ecliptic) is used as the “zero longitude” point for measuring right ascension to locate positions of stars. (This is analogous to the way we measure longitude on Earth, taking the zero longitude line as the imaginary line that runs through Greenwich, England.)

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SEASONINGS

December Solstice

   Going outside again (as we suggested above), note when the rising sun reaches its southernmost point on the horizon. We call this the December Solstice, or the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This is when the sun halts its southward progression and, for just an instant, “stands still” before beginning moving northward again. (From Latin, sol = “sun” and -stice from sistere “to make stand”. Thus you can translate solstice as “sun standing still”.)

   In the Northern Hemisphere this is the day with the shortest amount of daylight. The Winter Solstice is sometimes hailed as the “return of the light”. On this day all places above the Arctic Circle experience “polar night“, during which the sun remains below the horizon all day. The length of polar night is longer the closer to the North Pole you are. At the North Pole the polar night lasts for six months; you don’t see the sun until the Spring Equinox.

     In the Southern Hemisphere the December Solstice is the Summer Solstice and is the day with the longest amount of daylight. On this one day at the Antarctic Circle, the sun does not set at all; instead it traces a complete circle in the sky as the day progresses, just grazing the horizon at midnight. The NOAA diagram below illustrates how the sun appears in the sky on the June Solstice from a vantage point anywhere on the Arctic Circle. Just replace “Arctic” with “Antarctic” and you have the same experience at the Antarctic Circle on the December Solstice.

Sun’s path on the solstice (NASA)

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MOON POETRY

The Winter Moon

It’s the sweet sultry taste of winter on my lips,
the shadow of the pale moonlight on my eyes,
and behind the thin drapes of midnight clouds,
amidst the stars shining bright and clear,
smiles the radiance of the winter moon.
If I had seen heaven,
I would admit I had seen it,
hiding shyly behind the curtains of the night,
the winter moon at zenith, smiles down at me.
It’s this breeze blowing gently,
mixing the scent of the winter with the moon,
and I stay awake,
my heart filled to the brim with love,
appreciating the splendour of the winter moon!

~Amatulla Mohammadi

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MOON ART

Robin Samiljan

     This beautiful watercolor is by Chicago artist Robin Samiljan from her  collection “A Year of Moons“. Prints are available for purchase at Fine Art America

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FOLKLORE

The Celtic Tree Calendar

     The Celtic Tree Calendar consists of thirteen lunar divisions. Rather than follow the actual waxing and waning of the moon, most contemporary Pagans use fixed dates for each “month” so as to stay in sync with the (solar) Gregorian calendar. The modern tree calendar is based on a concept that letters in the ancient Celtic Ogham alphabet corresponded to various trees.

     The Elder is the tree that is honored this month (November 24 to December 23). The Elder Moon was called Ruish by the Celts (pronounced roo-esh). The month of Elder is a time of beginnings and endings, births and deaths, and rejuvenations. It is a good time for workings related to creativity and renewal. (The above was excerpted from the about.com article “Celtic Tree Months.”) 

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ASTROLOGY

Molly HallMood of Taurus
Here’s a brief excerpt from Molly Hall’s Transiting Moon in Taurus article this month at about.com:

     We’re in the whirl of Gemini-Sagittarius energies, and the kaleidoscope comes to mind.  Life is always changing, depending on the angle of perception.  We see things in a different light, as more becomes known, from our own curious seeking. It’s crazy-making to take in life’s data and impressions and continue to stack it as random and meaningless.  But at this lunar peak, it’s the quest to find the golden thread of meaning that will be your guiding light on the way.

Framing the Moon

Framing the Moon (Gloria Oliver)

     (For the complete read, see Molly’s article Full Moon in Gemini and also visit her front page for more astrology.)

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Japa Kaur ~ Kundalini Yoga Horoscope: December 16-22

   Japa Kaur from Spirit Voyage is our latest astrologer. Note that since the Moon makes a complete transit through the zodiac each month (as opposed to the year that the Sun takes), it moves to a new “house” every 2 1/2 days. This article covers the week beginning with this full moon.

     With the Moon in bustling Gemini, and the Sun almost directly opposite in forward-minded, truth-telling Sagittarius, there is no holding back. People are likely to think before they speak, so get ready for some outlandish, hyperbolic news on the wire. Emotions are running high as the Full Moon approaches, and as usual, you are able to see more sides of the issue than were visible before. Do your best to keep your tongue in check because it is likely that you could say too much (or not enough) at the wrong time.

(For Japa Kaur’s complete article, see Kundalini Yoga Horoscope: December 16-22)

Full moon in Gemini (Sherry Fae)

Full moon in Gemini (Sherry Fae)

   Until the full moon in January, here’s wishing you and yours a month of seeking meaning and judicious truth-telling!

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  If you especially like (or dislike) something you see here, or would like to see something in particular covered in a future issue, or you have something interesting about the Earth, Moon, or Stars you would like to share, please leave a comment. I’m always interested in how folks who stop by here are moved/influenced/affected.

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INTENTION FOR THIS EARTH, MOON AND STARS BLOG

The Earth, Moon and Stars blog is published once each Full Moon with (hopefully interesting) facts and lore about our moon and other sky phenomena. My wish is that you will have fun learning a bit more about our one and only natural satellite and how all of us — people, animals, plants, water, even rocks — are affected and connected by her.

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COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER

Unless otherwise noted, this blog claims no credit for any images appearing on it. Copyrighted images remain the property of their respective owners; attribution is provided when known. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish for it to appear here, please leave a comment with your email address and a link to the image in question and it will be promptly removed. Your comment will not be published.

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About aquarianman

Aquarian interested in anything to do with the Earth, our Moon, and anything flying around out there in space.
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