The Waning Moon In The Night Sky

 In Neolithic, Pagan Belief, The moon

A dubious benefit of a failing prostate is that I get up for a pee at least once in the night. I always look out and at 4.10 am on the 30 June I saw a tiny crescent moon. I took this photo but excuse the fact that the light was increasing and so the picture is poor. Then it struck me that the waning moon is so different to the waxing. Why had that never occurred to me before?

Rise and fall

The waning moon is illuminated on its left side, looking south from the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the opposite, of course, when waxing. The waxing moon, illuminated on its right side, rises from the north, exactly opposite to when its waning. When it’s half illuminated then it’s called a gibbous moon, whether waxing or waning. Both waxing and waning moons start low in the sky and can be difficult to see because the display is close to sunrise or sunset. At 4.10am I was also conscious of how the world was waking up. Pigeons were cooing and the gulls out on the beach were making so much noise. It’s amazing what we humans miss as we snuggle under the duvet. At least the full moon over Mudeford can be seen at a sensible hour, just before The Haven calls time. Some years you can observe thirteen full moons from that location.

The Neolithic view

The Neolithic tribe in my forthcoming book would have been intrigued by the moon. The waxing and waning is unlike anything the sun does. The constantly changing shape of the moon must also have been puzzling. All this would have been observed by them because I believe they sleep banked. This meant sleeping more in winter and less in summer. They would be up early to make use of all that sunlight. They would see the waning crescent moon falling towards the rising sun. As the sun rose and obliterated the crescent moon, it was the meeting of the twin sisters. This drama was the Game of Thrones of their day and likely to have been part of their ritual at Stonehenge.

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puffins on remote Lundy Island