Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of July 21st-July 27th,  2000

Rhythms of Nature

Columns Archive

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   When we think of Mother Nature, we conjure images of the Moon. Although many older cultures considered the Moon to be male, such as Sin of the Babylonians, it was the Greeks who set the lunar mold on a feminine track, bestowing several different names and personalities on the Moon.

Diana,  the Roman Moon Goddess

Artemis on the hunt

   Artemis was the oldest of these lunar images. A virgin goddess of the hunt, she dominates the night sky, her curvaceous figure rising above the landscape, skirting the rolling forested hills, watching over the wild animals and plants in her realm. It has long been felt that there's an association between Moon phases and animal movement. Indeed, one of the oldest celestial recordings, of lunar phases carved on antler bone, may remember a tradition from 10,000 years ago.

   But Artemis was not the Greeks only name for the Moon. Her invocations responded to Cynthia, Selene, and Hecate as well. The Moon is, by its very nature, changeable. Women live in three distinct phases, as maiden (Waxing Moon), women and mothers (Full Moon) and crone (Waning Moon). Lunar light varies from none at the New Moon to the power and brilliance of the Full Moon, but eclipses disrupt even this rhythm. A lunar eclipse erases the luminance of the Moon just as it hits its peak, while a solar eclipse negates the brilliance of the Sun. The Moon's orbital path is also harder to determine, because of fluctuations caused by Earth's gravity.

   As we investigated last week, the Moon is the chief influence over the plants that grow in our gardens. Water Moons (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces) are considered to be best for planting crops of all kinds, while Earth Moons Taurus and Capricorn are next in line. The Air Moons (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius) are thought to be the most favorable for harvesting plants that you want to dry. Talk to your plants during this lunar placement. Because Venus rules over the Air Sign Libra, this is a good time to plant if you're after ornamentals which don't have to survive adverse conditions. Finally, Fire Signs are generally thought not to be good for planting, although some like to plant 'spice' foods such as scallions, peppers and onions during the mutable Fire Moon, Sagittarius. In general, Fire Moons are the best time to take out weeds or till your garden, as it is harder for new growth to take root.

   In addition to sign placement, the phases of the Moon should be considered when planting. During the week of the New Moon (from New Moon to First Quarter), it is best to plant annuals whose seeds are outside the plant. During the First Quarter Moon, annuals whose seeds are inside are favored. The week of the Full Moon, when the light of the Moon begins to wane, is best for root crops and biennials. Trees also fall into this category, as you want the strength of the system below ground to survive the winter, while thriving during the spring and summer. If you'd like to 'heighten' your planting to help increase either fruit or flower, planting right on the Full Moon can be very helpful.

   Finally, the week from the Third Quarter to the New Moon is not considered to be good for planting, but rather to turn your compost or garden, helping to decompose or feed the nutrients back into the soil. The lunar cycle is winding down, when Mother Nature calls the spirits back to their source.

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Diana, the Roman
Moon Goddess

   But look! Diana with her troop of girls
Came winding round the sides of Maenalus,
Showing the prizes of the chase.
She saw Callisto and called aloud; at first
the girl ran from her, fearing Jove Diana,
but when her dearest friends came near
she dropped behind them following their trail.
How hard it was not to show signs of guilt!
Diana,  and Her Divine Ensemble

Diana's Ensemble
Where Men Are Forbidden

The girl walked slowly with her eyes
to earth, not as she used to stride,
the first of girls close to the goddess.
Her flushed face and all she did not say
told what she felt-
And if Diana had not been a virgin
She would have seen ten hundred ways
the girl betrayed herself- in ways,
was said, the others knew too well.
Day passed and the horned moon
Grew to a glowing circle nine times over,
When an hour after the hunt,
Diana, languid with heat of sun,
strolled to a brook which poured
Clear waters over sand.
In that green shade,
the place delighted her;
as she stepped in she called her girls,
"Off with your clothes, my dears.
Since no one's here to see us,
we shall bathe."

*Ovid's Metamorphoses,
from the story of Jove and Callisto,
the Arcadian Nymph

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