The moon has begun to make its appearance over these last few nights and it will fatten over the coming week. This year its fullness falls very near to Samhain; Halloween, the end of the celtic year. In this cyclic perspective of time the new year starts at the beginning of winter and is analogous to pregnancy. The life recedes into the earth and grows silently, latent, until the birth of spring.
I have to admit that I love watching the moon and its phases, and I love the cycle of the celtic year. For a long time this appreciation of this beauty has been tainted with guilt. The Christian faith, specifically the culture of Christian faith in Northern Ireland, does not sit well with the appreciation of celtic festivals. This is so very strange, especially as the Christian festivals are such obvious mismarrages of the celtic ones. The winter solstice of Christmas and the festival of easter. Even the word ‘easter’ has its roots in Ēostre the pagan goddess. This uncomfortable connection even explains the illogical movement of easter, the first Sunday after the full moon after the spring equinox. Then there is the bizarre cultural acceptance of the myths of the tooth fairy and santa claus (santa is a very scary one in my opinion. The connection between the flying reindeer, the red and white suit, going up the chimney and the hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom is just too disturbing).
As time has moved on I have slowly begun to become more confident with my own sense of celtic Christianity. What appeals to me, resonates with me, is connecting with the spiritual side of nature. Watching the moon, and the stars. Standing in remote mountain valleys and watching the rivers and wind. Feeling the pulse and rhythm of the seasons and seeing the beauty in creation. And when I say creation I need to be clear. Often my students ask me if I believe in God. And when I reply that I do, they nearly always frown a little before saying, “but you’re a scientist?” And at this point I sigh, hang my head, pause, then scream “WHY?” and begin to cry. It seems such an uncomfortable remnant of history that science and religion are two separate choices. In my mind one is all about the ‘how’ of it all and the other is about the ‘why’. Mythos and logos don’t sit well with each other until you give in and use a little faith, which logos doesn’t like, but ah well.
the hiding moon last night
So I don’t buy into ghosts and witches, or santa and the tooth fairy. I do buy into our ancient northern culture of gatherings and the festival of festival times; the drawing together of family and friends. I buy into the majesty and deep time of nature and its creation, cycles of star death and birth and the star dust that we are knitted from. I buy into the beauty of the long summer days and the comfort of the long winter nights. I buy into all this with my own soul and I seem to get paid back with interest.