Thursday, 12 March 2009
“Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil”
John Milton (1608-1674)
I’m always slightly amazed when I come across astrologers who never seem to look up at the sky. And while I’m by no means the most dedicated of star-watchers, given a clear night and the right time of year, I can usually pick out Taurus (follow the three bright stars of Orion’s belt and you’ll find it halfway between that and the Pleiades), and the curving shape of Scorpio apparently spiking poor old Sagittarius on the bum, or Virgo with Spica – her brightly shining ear of wheat and the lucky star (which for some reason always makes me think of Margaret Thatcher – certainly not everyone's lucky star, that one). The most obvious thing in the sky at any time of year (unless, of course, it's cloudy) is, of course, the moon, which waxes milky full before gently waning to a thin sliver each month as it glides swiftly along the ecliptic, brightening or darkening the sky. The phase and sign of the moon is something traditional astrologers would constantly have been acutely aware of – it seems a shame that, to many astrologers nowadays it’s just another glyph, albeit perhaps a slightly more important one, on a horoscope chart. OK, let's just forget the precession of the equinoxes for a moment (which means Aries is really Pisces and Aquarius can sometimes even be Taurus. Really, it's not something you need to worry about unless you're into biodynamic gardening, and then you just need a different book...)
I’m lucky, admittedly, in that we have very little light pollution here, and our village nestles in a wide, shallow basin which offers an excellent vantage point for star viewing. Even so, the fabulous full moon in Virgo on Tuesday night was clearly visible all over the UK – in fact I got a text from a (non-astrology) friend right across the other side of the country in Tunbridge Wells at about 7pm saying just that: Fabulous moon! I was in the car when my mobile buzzed, trying to track down where I’d left H’s copy of The Guardian which I’d picked up at lunchtime from the shop en route to do about seventeen errands and had left it somewhere along the way (sadly, an all-too regular occurrence...) I parked up alongside the allotments, and there it was – the most beautiful, bright, bright moon hanging low and glowing softly over the sprouts and Bernard's now burgeoning asparagus bed. While I was gazing up at it, another villager passed by, commenting, “What an amazing moon!”.
I knew it must be in Virgo (the full moon is always directly opposite the sun, currently in Pisces), and later that evening I checked my ephemeris – 20 degrees of Virgo – almost slap bang on my Ascendent. Given the moon passes through every degree of the zodiac, every year, there’s always going to be a date somewhere around the 11th of March where it crosses the horizon of my own natal chart, but for the moon to be exactly full at this point is something which happens, on average (given a conservative one-degree orb), just once every 180 years. Not even a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people.
“Hmmm,” I thought. “I bet I get some publicity for the allotments book over the next couple of days…”
The symbolism isn’t remotely obscure or difficult: the bright full moon illuminates the point of the zodiac over which it passes; the moon in full is at its most powerful. Basically, if you’re trying to do something you don’t want anyone to find out about, don’t do it under a full moon – likewise, don’t attempt your next attention-grabbing publicity campaign (or indeed anything you’re going to need recognition for) under a new moon. The energy filters through the sign the moon is in - Virgo: Demeter, Ceres, earth goddess, allotments... It couldn't be more perfect. I always think one striking example of the exposing rays of the moon in full is that early paparazzi shot of Lady Diana Spencer snapped at the kindergarten where she was working with the light shining clean through what she obviously didn’t realise was a diaphanous skirt. That shot sums up for me the effects of the full moon (which, given the nature of pic and the fact that it was probably shot in mid-Spring, was almost certainly in Scorpio!)
In short, if I’d planned the launch of my allotments book to coincide with this March’s full moon, I couldn’t have picked a better moment (In point of fact the idea hadn’t occurred to me). Completely unexpectedly, the story was picked up not only by The Sun, but The Daily Telegraph, The Express, The Metro (although, be warned - I look as though I'm hanging on to the allotment sign for dear life in fear of being suddenly abducted by vegetable-crazed aliens) and I was asked to do down-the-line interviews with BBC Radio Sheffield, Radio Berkshire and Radio Five Live. I’ve also got Cotswold Life coming to shoot the Gardeners’ Question Time recording on Monday for their society pages (Society pages? Me?). I think it may be time to go out shopping for that diaphanous dress…