I can see why the moon was blamed for sending people mad. It wasn't its gravitational force, its mesmeric light; the reason the moon sends people mad is that it travels this way and that, making zig-zag pattens in the imagined sky of the mind as we try to visualise where it is going and what it is doing.
Carvings at Newgrange and Bryn Celli Dhu, the wavy-lines and spirals mirror the way the moon travels between invisible poles in the sky, in increasingly widening and then contracting spirals.
From the point of view of an observer looking up at the inky blue lapis lazuli vaults of heaven all splattered with stars, from January the moon rises progressively more southerly until June, after June it edges back towards the east. But most of the time there is a dull grey blanket of damp!
This is England after all!
Think of those small post holes found in the north-east section of Stonehenge, where the procession route enters (or exits?) the monument between the banks and ditches.
Stonehenge circa 3000 BC.
The post holes it has been conjectured, were made when people tried to work out exactly where the midwinter solstice full moon appeared in the sky each year.
Several probably went mad.
The shoal of little holes at the entrance are reduced to four main holes beyond the circle.
If someone was trying to work out exactly where to look for the moon each winter solstice, they would soon find that the moon rises in the same place, in the same month, once every eighteen years. The moon has a maximum and minimum position left and right, but the only thing that would give me any confidence about guessing the accuracy of the moon poles/ post holes theory would be to go to Stonehenge and observe the moon myself.I wouldn't know where the post holes were though, and nor could I see myself doing it for eighteen years.
The last full moon at a winter solstice was 2010 and the next will be: 2018 according to my newly acquired and hard won knowledge or lunacy and my planetarium app' but I have a feeling that the only people who are seriously vexed by the moon's eighteen year cycle are those who want Stonehenge to be perfectly accurate, rather than impressively accurate!
Stonehenge is impressively accurate after all...
At about 18:30, on December the 21st 2010 the moon rose in the north east and this image shows that the moon travels eastwards through the night.
The other break in the ditch at Stonehenge phase II is south. There are more post holes within the circle, but not at the break in the ditch.
This is where the midsummer full moon rises:
The midsummer sun rises in the north east.
And the midwinter sun sets in the south west, so Stonehenge midwinter solstice begins with the moon rising behind you as you walk the processional route towards the stones, and ends with the sun sinking into the stone circle as you leave- or was it done the other way around?
Did people walk towards the sun as it rose rose slowly out of the rings of Stonehenge and leave as the sun sank down in the south west? Walking the processional route with the cold, quartz-like moon rising before them as they walked down to the river?
Regardless, I shall never know!
It is March now and the equinox approaches. My theory is that the equinox is marked by the sun and moon together in the sky at sun set or sun rise. Today and tomorrow and probably Wednesday the full moon is, according to the planetarium, in the sky as the sun is setting.
Tomorrow would be better, but right now the sun is shining and there are not so many clouds, so I shall go and walk along a road close to where I live that is both on a hill and more or less east/west to see if I can see the moon and sun opposite to each other.
Of course (I'm saying this as if I always knew it....!) the moon is always opposite to the sun when it is full- that is why it is full.
It is the time the moon is in the sky that makes all the difference...
Yesterday: the sun was setting, but the moon was a little too high and I didn't think about the positions properly. Nevertheless the sun and moon were both in the sky, I was just a little late.
If you live close to Halesowen and wish to try out my lunacy the place to be to see the equinox moon and sun (this year the moon is 'early' that's why Easter is earlier this year too) and you know where this is...
come and stand on the grass in the right of this picture at 16:35 today (6th March 2012) or 17:35 tomorrow. You may see what I mean about the sun and moon.