A Waxing Crescent Moon to Start a Lunar Month

Full Moons get the most attention when it comes to lunar phases. But the New Moon (or Dark Moon) is also important in some cultures, and the waxing and waning phases and the two Crescent Moons also have beliefs attached to them.

In Cornwall, if a boy was born during a waning Moon, they said that the next birth would be a girl and both would be blessed.

In the lore of the Moon, it was said that to see the crescent Moon over the right shoulder was considered lucky, but seeing it over the left shoulder was unlucky. Since tonight’s Moon phase is a Waxing Crescent, be sure to look over your right shoulder tonight.

A Waxing Crescent is the first phase after the New Moon. This is actually an optimal time to see the features of the moon’s surface. During this phase, the Moon can be seen in the western sky after the Sun goes below the horizon. Right now, the Moon is close to the sun in the sky and mostly dark except for the right edge which becomes brighter as the days pass. The next phase is the First Quarter when it is  50% illuminated.

moon phases

Muslims around the globe are observing the holy month of Ramadan, which begins for most on either around  April 12 or 13 in 2021 when it was a Waxing Crescent Moon phase. That is the phase that looks like a  )  while the Waning Crescent looks like a  .

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of their holy book, the Quran, to Muhammad according to Islamic belief.

Since the Islamic calendar adheres to the lunar calendar of 12 months rather than the Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar used in the Western part of the globe, every month starts as the new crescent moon emerges. It continues for 29 or 30 days. Each year, this makes Ramadan start 10 to 12 days earlier. Their 12-month lunar year has a total of 354 or 355 days or is 11 days shorter than the seasonal year on which the Gregorian calendar is based.

Moon Planting and Moon Sailing

Perpetual Moon phases planting calendar

April and May both have the Full Moon name of the Planting Moon in some regions. There are a number of beliefs about how plants will grow depending on when you plant. I wrote earlier about how planting by the New Moon will affect your crops. This month’s New Moon is tonight/tomorrow, so you might want to consider some planting.

A friend, knowing my interest in both the Moon phases and gardening, suggested that I get a Moon phases gardening calendar (like the one above). Moon gardening is based on the idea that as the lunar gravitational pull affects the tides, it also increases the moisture in the soil at the time of the New and Full Moons. That moisture affects germination and growth.

Gardeners who the Moon phases as a guide use it not only for planting but for cultivating, harvesting, and even weeding.  The Farmers’ Almanac is a follower of the gardening by the Moon philosophy. If you want to read more about this, you might pick up Biodynamic Gardening: Grow Healthy Plants and Amazing Produce with the Help of the Moon and Nature’s Cycles includes not only the lunar cycles but also composting, cycles of rest, keeping soil healthy soil, organically controlling pests and knowing when fruits are ripening.

One piece of planting lore is that grass crops should be sown at the Full Moon so that the hay will dry quickly.

Even some farmers today believe that crops sown near a Full Moon will be ready for harvest a month earlier than crops sown during a waxing Moon.

One verse is that “If the Moon shows a silver shield, be not afraid to reap your field.” I don’t know what a silver shield would look like, so…

Crossing the Moon line – good luck or bad luck?

If you are fishing or sailing this month, you should pay attention to this lore about the Moon.

In Wales, fishermen avoid the Moon Line when setting out to sea. That line is the one made by moonlight showing on the water. When setting out, crossing the Moon Line is considered to mean bad luck.

However, in other places, fisherman and sailors make a wish when crossing the Moon line.

Sailors once believed that if a large star or planet was seen close to the Moon, there was wild weather coming. They called this star a “Moon Dog.”

Reading Nature

After doing lots of reading and observation of nature in my life, I have determined that some of the signs we think we see in nature are deceptive, false, or what I categorize on this site as “lore.” Prime example: Thinking that some groundhog held in captivity and pulled out on a day in February means anything about the weather to come. Even the voluntary arrival of robins to your backyard doesn’t mean a lot. I’ve seen them sitting on my fence in a March snowstorm. They are more likely to working off nature signs in the place they were wintering. Though the American robin has been a harbinger of spring here when it arrives in March and starts nesting activities, I’ve read that many are here year-round. They have gotten the message about climate change.

cherry blossom

Japanese cherry blossoms, known as “Sakura,” reached a peak bloom in Kyoto, Japan this year on March 26. That is the earliest date in 1,209 years, based on data collected by Osaka University. This is the first time they’ve been this early since 812 AD.

Still, I keep reading and observing, particularly in my own Paradelle area and in my own backyard microclimate.

New Jersey has more cherry trees than Washington D.C.  Branch Brook Park in Belleville and Newark has more than 2,700 Japanese cherry blossom trees. The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival this year is from April 3 – 18. They are in bloom this weekend and set to peak in the next week or so. But that doesn’t mean we still won’t have a frost night in the next two weeks.

A few years ago, I read The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs. The book’s cover subtitle tells you the breadth of the subject of reading nature signs: “Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals―and Other Forgotten Skills.”

I have tried to use all those skills. Okay, I haven’t had the need to find water. I can use tree roots to know the sun’s direction which tells me which way is east/west and therefore north/south. Of course, you also need to know where you are and where you want to go for that to be useful. I used to teach classes in using a map and compass and one exercise was to take people into the woods and then say “Take out your compass. Okay, which way do we go to get back?” Most students couldn’t answer. At night, some people can navigate by the stars.

You can tell something about the current and near-future weather by observing insects since many of them can sense atmospheric pressure differences. Honey bees stay in the hive when they sense a storm.  coming. Insects use tiny hair-like receptors on their cuticle to sense pressure changes.

I have read that flies bite before it rains because the barometric pressure drop makes them get food before the storm. An old weather lore rhyme is “When hungry bites the thirsty flea, rain and clouds you sure shall see.” Ladybugs seem to swarm in warm, nice weather. Red and black ants sometimes build up their mounds for extra protection or to cover the mounds’ holes when bad weather is coming. I have written earlier about crickets telling us the temperature. 

Similar to insects, birds fly high in clear weather and come closer to the ground with a storm coming, possibly because the pressure is causing them pain at higher altitudes. Old adages include: “Hawks flying high means a clear sky. When they fly low, prepare for a blow.” and “Geese fly higher in fair weather than in foul.” I have also heard that when seagulls fly inland, you should expect a storm, but I have seen them inland on nice, sunny days, so…

 

On the Path

April 8 is the day Buddhists celebrate the birthday of Buddha. Gautama Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilavastu in India in the sixth-century B.C.E.

Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra).jpg
Seated Buddha; circa 475; Sarnath Museum (India). This figure, his hands in the dharmachakra mudra gesture of teaching, refers to the Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath, where the figure was found. CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

I first encountered his story when in Siddhartha. a novel by Herman Hesse. (In the novel, the Buddha is referred to as “Gotama.”) Though it is a novel and not a religious tract, it put me on a path to learn about this man who is revered as the founder of Buddhism and his teachings.

He is worshipped by most Buddhist schools as the Enlightened One because he transcended Karma and escaped the cycle of birth and rebirth.

He taught for around 45 years and built a large following of both monastics and laypeople.

What I learned through Hesse’s novel was that the Prince was raised in luxury with no view of suffering. He married. He fathered a son. It was a normal life for a Prince in India at the time.

When he was 29 he decided he wanted to see the world outside the palace walls. In some short trips outside the palace, he encountered suffering for the first time. It shocked him to see people starving, ill, or crippled. It also amazed him that people often seemed to be calm in the midst of all their pain and sickness.

He left his palace life, wife, and child and for six years he traveled the country. He studied meditation. He lived the life of an ascetic with severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence.

At age 35, he outlined the basic tenets of Buddhism. He wrote that the Four Noble Truths are: the nature of life is suffering; suffering is caused by human cravings and desire; there is relief from suffering in the state of Nirvana; and Nirvana is attainable by following an eightfold path to self-improvement. But a philosophy or a religion cannot be reduced to a few paragraphs or even to one book.

Dharmachakra.jpg
The eight-spoke Dharma wheel symbolizes the Noble Eightfold Path  (Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

The word Siddhartha is from Sanskrit siddha (achieved) + artha (what was searched for) and is translated as “he who has found the meaning of existence” or “he who has attained his goals.”

It was several centuries after his death that he came to be known by the title Buddha, which means “Awakened or Enlightened One” His teachings were compiled by the Buddhist community in the Suttas. They contain his discourses and the rules and procedures that govern the Buddhist monastic community (sangha).

I recommend Hesse’s novel to people not because it will turn you toward Buddhism but because following Gotama’s path with him may bring you some insights. It won’t bring you enlightenment.

Actually, Hesse deliberately tries to through you off the path. No spoilers here his fictional Siddhartha disrespects Gotama but achieves enlightenment because he does not worship Gotama like a god. I find that people who know of the novel but haven’t read it think it is a historical novel about the origins of the Buddha. It is not.

Much of Hesse’s writing is West meets East. He was a Western man changed by the mysticism of Eastern thought, and it became a guiding force in his books. In 1946, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Glass Bead Game.

Uncle Wiggily and J.D. Salinger

 

Uncle Wiggily is not an Easter bunny. He is a gentlemanly old rabbit who always wears a suit and a silk top hat. 

The character was created by Howard R. Garis. I just discovered this year that Uncle Wiggily has some roots in my home state of New Jersey and even in my birthplace of Newark.
 
Garis was a reporter for the Newark Evening News and he wrote hundreds of children’s books, many of them as a ghostwriter. He published his first Uncle Wiggily story in a newspaper in 1910, and it was so popular that he ended up publishing an Uncle Wiggily story six days a week for more than 30 years. By the time he retired, he had written more than 10,000 stories about the rabbit. 
 
According to Garis’ obituary in the Chicago Tribune, it was a walk in the woods in Verona, New Jersey that inspired him to write about the rabbit. I now live in the town next to Verona. The Uncle Wiggily connection is very strong with me.
 
I don’t really remember the stories, though in my childhood the Newark Evening News was dropped on our front porch every night and I did read the comics, so it’s likely I read some of those stories. I was a big fan of rabbits and we had them as pets.
 
I do remember playing an Uncle Wiggily game. I found the original game selling online for $100. I guess I should have kept my childhood game – and kept it in good shape.  They do sell today a much more reasonable version of the game.
 

Uncle Wiggily Longears – his full name – appeared in the paper every day (except Sundays) from 1910 to 1962 and Garis published 79 books in his lifetime illustrated by a variety of artists. 
 
I left Uncle Wiggily behind when I got a bit older, but he popped up again in my early teen years.
 
Eloise and Walt are characters that appear in the short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” which is one of the stories in J.D. Salinger‘s collection Nine Stories which I read many times. In that story, Eloise recalls a time when she and Walt were running to catch a bus and she sprained her ankle. Walt says, referring to her ankle, “Poor Uncle Wiggily.”
 
I guess Jerry Salinger read some of those stories. Uncle Wiggily is lame from rheumatism and uses a candy-striped walking stick.
 
The 1949 film My Foolish Heart was based on this story and is still the only authorized adaptation of Salinger’s writings into a film. The film’s plot bears little resemblance to the original story – which might be why Salinger never allowed his fiction to be used again.
 
The story is about how Eloise is trying to come to terms with her life with her husband Lew when her true love was Walt (a member of Salinger’s favorite family, the Glass family) who died during his service in the army.
 
Poor Uncle Wiggily. 

Crossposted at One-Page Schoolhouse

Eostre and a Spring Hare

19dd6-mandy_walden-lunar_hare
A Lunar Hare by Mandy Walden

Today is Easter Sunday, the Christian holy day whose date is based on the cycles of the moon. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full Moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox.

I have written before about the word “Easter” which has its origin in earlier pagan traditions that worshiped Eostre, the goddess of springtime. It was a seasonal celebration of the return of the sun after winter.

The non-sectarian Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs.

A rabbit that lays eggs?  The mythological origin seems to date back the sacred animal of the goddess Ostara who was a German goddess of Springtime. She may have been an invention of Jacob Grimm who was one of the Grimm Brothers of the fairy tales) but also a folklorist. In 1835, he published a book of German Mythology. He thought that Ostara might have been the German version of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Springtime called Eostre from whom we get the name Easter.

The pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons celebrated Eostre’s feast day on the Vernal Equinox in March. Eostre’s symbolic animal was the spring hare (rabbit) and this association with eggs and hares was co-opted into the Christian holiday of Easter in order to make Easter more easily accepted in converting the pagans to Christianity.

Coloring and painting eggs are things the ancient Persians did for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. There are images on the walls of Persepolis showing people carrying eggs for Nowrooz to the king.

At the Jewish Passover Seder, a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water symbolizes the Passover sacrifice offered at the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

An Easter basket from nature – robin nest