Tag Archives: Moon

Szentiván-éj in the Nicolet Forest

Monday marked the longest day of the year in Chicago, and this year it is especially gorgeous with the full moon occurring alongside it. Last time we had such an astronomical occurrence was 70 years ago, literally a once in a lifetime event.

And I spent it recuperating and baking.

berries

Wild strawberries for the Strawberry Moon

You see, elaborate rituals are not my forte, and the past weekend was my actual celebration outdoors with observing the dance of the Sun and Moon in the sky, even if those days were not precisely the solstice. I had a wonderful last-minute opportunity to join friends from grad school at the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest of Northern Wisconsin for a bird survey, a 30-year-old event that occurred every June. This year it happened to occur right by the solstice instead of early June, and I adapted my planned celebration to take advantage of the trip (I’m an ecologist by trade but birding is more of a hobby).

IMG_2567

The question is, are we the dorks or are the birds?

Saturday I woke at 3am to the serene quiet of a forest under a bright, nearly full moon (the sliver that was left to go was indiscernible). We were a group of roughly 30 people staying in small, lodge-like headquarters in a nature center and not a single sound of human civilization could be heard beyond ourselves. We quietly and quickly got ready and ate breakfast, embarking on a 45 minute trip to our designated sites scattered around the Eagle River-Florence forest sections. We had roughly 100 sq miles to ourselves for both days.

IMG_2356

Around 4:30 am we reached our first site, my favorite one, and immediately a wave of peace washed over me. I had not been well lately, poor sleeping patterns and all, and the night before was no exception. But all of a sudden I felt the healthiest I had been in a while, and nothing was bothering me. My head was clear and my body was pain-free. The bog was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, and pictures could not do it justice. The other sites were the same way, each one filling me with awe at their beauty and unique energies that you just can’t get at a local park or a backyard.

IMG_2108

The bog on “Grandma’s Lake”

We started the bird call survey (otherwise known as point counts) before the sun rose, so we were able to watch her rise and spread her warmth to the land as we worked. The bird calls increased in strength and frequency during those early hours, as if to also celebrate her return. The sky was clear and the temperatures were perfect for my cold-loving self.

IMG_2532

I basked in her warmth as the morning went on, but soon the birds died down and I too felt exhaustion come over me as she rose high in the sky for her noon debut. The survey was complete for the day and I went inside the lodge for a much-needed nap. I woke again at 5:30pm and joined the others for dinner and a bit of socializing. I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen for a couple of years and met new folks with a similar love for nature and nerd jokes. It was nice to be among a group that I could relax and participate in conversations with.

IMG_2208

Iris versicolor (Northern Blue Flag)

At about 8:30pm we gathered in a conference room to exchange our experiences for the day and discuss the results of almost 30 years of survey work, available for free by the US Forest Service. During the presentation of the data I was reminded of why I do this work, and why it is necessary. We are dependent upon the land for our lives, not just our livelihoods, and for the past several hundred years we have done nothing but exploit and poison it. The landwihts have been ignored and downright disrespected, their homes destroyed and taken over by us. My work as an ecologist and as a heathen is to help restore right relationships between humans, the land, and the wihts, to recover what I can of what was lost.

IMG_2416

During the meeting it was shown that bird populations had improved for most birds over those 30 years, likely due to more sensitive logging practices implemented a few years beforehand that left more habitat alone to provide maturing trees for the species that required them. It suggests that a balance between the industry and the forest was able to occur, a balance which is sorely needed in most other places. I too was in need of balance, and what better time to start restoring it than during the solstice?

IMG_2341

After the meeting I went down to the river dock to watch the sun set and contemplate the weekend’s many gifts. A fire burned nearby, a light breeze wafting the spicy scent of burning wood by me. Dragonflies hummed over the water and the calls of the birds we surveyed earlier were dying down again as they settled in for the night. Soon I could see a full moon rise over the tree tops, illuminating the forest below it with her dim light. I knew I wasn’t going to fall asleep in time before Sunday’s 3am start so I just stayed awake and experienced the night. A raccoon joined me, scouring the center field for insects and worms to munch on.

IMG_2330

Where the conference magic happens

The fieldwork on Sunday was just as fantastic to experience as Saturday despite my lack of sleep, and went by much quicker too as the sites were closer to each other. Csodaszarvas carried the sun beautifully through the sky and I gave brief praise to Her and Napkirály. Then it was time to end the survey for the year and drive back home.

IMG_2153

Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

Due to the large amount of physical strain and sleep debt I had to spend the actual solstice recovering from the weekend and avoiding most work. I’m not able to quickly bounce back from a trip like that anymore, and part of restoring balance to oneself is allowing time for rest. I am grateful that I am able to rest without losing pay or other negative consequences. All I had to do was clean the kitchen to bake apple muffins, the closest I’m going to get to making a bonfire and throwing apples into it.

12308688_10207201066738311_8545585398696066031_n

yes, they were delicious

I am enjoying my newfound adherence to the holidays, and I’m finally starting to understand how important they can be in structuring one’s life and bringing us closer to the land. Next year I can watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan, which I had originally planned to do today, and then watch it set to complete the day. Maybe make an actual fire from the bones of my enemies and throw some apples into it. Now the real question is, Macintosh or Red Delicious?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Festivals Rituals Holidays

Hold Anya

Lady of the Moon

8fe4d8a53b6f6fac72d499681adcb989

Possible Symbols: Moon, night, ocean tides, calendar, menstrual blood, agriculture

Colors: Blue, black, silver, gray, red (in relation to menstrual cycles)

The only information that I have of this being in an Old Magyar context is the name. Hold means moon, Anya means lady. Even then, it’s questionable whether this is just a name (like how contemporary English speakers say “Man in the Moon” while just considering the moon a rock in space), or if this was an actual deity with a personality and a story.

Contemporary Hungarian culture has more beliefs and ideas fleshing out the moon, but the modern agrarian society is rather different than the primarily steppe riding society of 1000 years ago (and who knows what the Hungarians were before that, the scholars who devoted their entire career to this still haven’t figured it out since there’s several theories at the moment). Therefore the values and social needs are different, and we see that many folk beliefs center on the moon cycle being a calender that was most often used to time crop and herding practices. Interestingly enough, “hold” also referred to an area of land (whether it was a unit of land measurement, or was a parcel of land, I cannot tell). There’s also folk beliefs that recognize the cyclical nature of the moon being similar to menstrual cycles, like many other societies have.

Folktales that describe the world tree upon which the taltos climb show the sun and moon being cosmological entities residing in the upper branches of the tree, with no personalities or sense of being attributed to them. There are several depictions of the Sun riding around (i.e. Napkirály in a chariot or on a horse), or being driven around (i.e. a Hungarian Christmas ballad with the Sun being in Csodaszarvas’s antlers) in folktales, but none for the moon that I’ve found thus far.

There’s several possibilities that we can take away from this. For one, maybe the moon just wasn’t an important entity in the deep past, but became important more once the Hungarians became an agrarian society (Other agrarian societies have also used the moon cycles as a calendar for crop activities; in Hungary it is the new moon that marks a new month, in some Germanic cultures it is similar with the first visible waxing crescent marking the new month). The other is that I simply haven’t found the information yet, or that the information is lost to time. Either way, considering Hold Anya as a distinct deity rather than a force of nature is, as far as I can currently tell, not historically attested and is therefore UPG.

My personal view is that Hold Anya could be a deity, but an impersonal one. To be honest the only “deity” attribute I regard her with is to list her as a moon deity (in terms of gendering the moon, while I feel that it’s mostly unnecessary I also feel that the moon shifts between male and female, story-wise). Otherwise my perspective is more along the line of modern Hungarian folk culture. I refer to the literal moon that is seen in the sky, and consider it a force of nature that creates a useful calender and affects the earth’s waters. The Germanic perspective that I also include in my “religion” is similar, where Manu (in this case, a male name) is impersonal and doesn’t have a whole lot to him other than existing and being listed as a deity. I usually just call the moon “Moon” and don’t engage in devotional rituals or create dedicated holy days. The Moon is just there, always watching and always with us.

 Images that remind me of them:

When the moon kisses the ocean by beautymothernature.tumblr.com

by holidaylettings.com

by Pui-Mun Law at shadowscapes.com

Tsukiyomi in Moonlight by Edji

~~~

Artwork: Selene by kaelycea.deviantart.com

 

Sources

Hold by Akadémiai Kiadó (1982). Magyar néprajzi lexikon. http://mek.oszk.hu/02100/02115/html/2-1344.html (paste link into google translate)

Moon Goddess (*KUNKE > KUL >HOD/HOLD) by Fred Hamori (2002).  Sumerian and Finn-Ugor god names compared to Sumerian. http://users.cwnet.com/millenia/FUgods.htm

4 Comments

Filed under Sagas Legends Folklore

Non-binary Mysteries: 2-Solar and Lunar Symbolism

Prompt 2 of the non-binary mysteries roundtable involves Solar and Lunar Symbolism. Which is an incredible coincidence because I was just thinking about my own (probably strange) understanding of the Sun and Moon the other day, and how to write about it in the series of god posts that I’m creating to elaborate on my pantheon (you can find the first one here, that style is what I’m planning to write about each god/wiht with).

Some of the original prompts are not shown here due to not applying in my particular case.

~~~

 Who are the sun/moon deities that make most sense to you? Are they even from your tradition?

The concepts that make the most sense to me is the Female Sun/Male Moon concept, along with no gender associations at all. However, that’s for the actual celestial objects, the literal Sun and Moon. The sun’s part in photosynthesis and being essentially a source of life energy, along with being the center of the solar system and source of Earth (well, kinda, it’s a lot more complicated in actual astronomical theory but hopefully you get what I mean), gives the Sun more of a motherly feel in my mind. I sometimes consider her more specifically like a Grandmother, since she “gave birth” to the Earth and the Earth “gave birth” to everything else, including us. But, in general, the Sun feels female. Hence, I keep to the Germanic side of things and call her Sunna.

The moon feels male. The reason for this will probably not make sense to some, or even be offensive, but it is what it is for my particular situation. My family is mostly female, and has always been centered around the women, particularly the mothers. The women run the house, keep things in order, and are the primary authority on things (i.e. “go ask your mother” was what the fathers usually said). The men are more external (all the women are biological relatives, while only a few of the men are) and more transient. Likewise, the moon is also more external and aloof, drifting in and out of different phases and exerting an indirect effect on existing life rather than directly producing it (I’m aware that this isn’t the most scientific of generalizations, but I’m not intending it to be such in the first place). Therefore the moon is Mano.

While Sunna and Mano are Germanic gods and therefore are a part of my tradition, my imagination was heavily influenced by a friend’s stories of their gods, namely the solar goddess Karijiana and the lunar god D’miezak’r.  They’re both an excellent writer and artist, so for several years I would read and see beautiful stories and depictions of those two and it’s stuck in my mind to this day, even if some of the stories and attributes aren’t relatable to my tradition. But their stories were my first introduction to the concept of a female Sun and male Moon in a time when all I ever heard were people worshiping a female Moon and male Sun. Reading about Karijiana and D’miezak’r made something click for me and from then on I became more comfortable with the idea of understanding the Sun and Moon as deities.

Now to make matters a bit more confusing. I also have a male Solar deity and a female Lunar deity in my pantheon that are associated with the sun and moon, but it’s not certain if they’re literally the sun and moon. Napkirály and Hold Anya are (as far as I can tell) the Magyar versions of sun and moon deities. Yet, when trying to research how they were historically understood, I could only find snippets that were mostly focused on Napkirály and none of those snippets depicted him as being the literal sun. Hold Anya was worse, as I only had her name. Presumably she was not the literal moon as well, because other snippets suggested that the Sun and Moon were regarded as gender-neutral balls floating high in the sky in old Hungarian sources. I’m hoping to find more, but for now most of my understanding of the two deities are UPG. Basically, Napkirály and Hold Anya are cultural associations to what the sun and moon are observed doing, where Napkirály will fly over the Earth, keeping an eye on everything that’s happening and Hold Anya being associated with the tides and menstrual cycles.

To be quite honest though, cultural stories aside, for the most part these deity names are just names and the Sun and Moon are essentially celestial bodies/forces of nature to me, rather than humanistic gods with personalities and stories. They are impersonal beings that create cycles by which humans make calendars and the natural world changes. They influence all of life as we know it, and will be here practically forever (relative to human lifespans).

What bugs you most about the way solar/lunar symbology is constructed or described?

I really do not like patriarchal male sun gods and the associations with order and authority. Just rankles me for some reason (but then again that’s probably due to my irrational dislike for Greek and Roman mythology that was brought upon by my schools and by Neopaganism).

I can’t think of strong issues with any lunar symbology, though I do find the Maiden/Mother/Crone association with Waxing/Full/Waning to be a little tiresome and completely useless for me, due to the whole uterus=woman implications there. At least the earth being a mother makes sense since there’s literal growth and birth going on, but the moon? Nah. Being associated with menstruation is one thing, but having all stages of female life being centered solely on the uterus is another thing entirely. Bringing the moon into it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Do you have sun/moon UPG that integrates your identity?

Kind of, but not intentionally. Like I mentioned before, I usually hold the literal Sun and Moon as being female and male, respectively. However, while the Sun feels very firmly female and I’m highly uncomfortable with seeing her as male, the Moon I find feels both male and female, shifting back and forth like the phases. This was something that I felt before understanding my own gender identity, so it’s probably just a coincidence. However, I always had a fondness for the Moon and the common associations, such as silver and nighttime. So maybe it’s not a coincidence after all.

2 Comments

Filed under Sagas Legends Folklore