Volume 14, Issue 15 ~ April 13 - April 19, 2006

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Sky Watch

by J. Alex Knoll

The Rhythm of the Heavens

The ancient rebirth of spring and Easter

Thursday’s full moon rises in the southeast at 8pm, a little more than an hour after sunset. Note the point on the horizon at which the moon appears: in the coming months up to solstice, the moon rises progressively farther to the south; compare this to December, when the moon rose due east and set due west.

And it’s not just the moon that’s rising and falling like a vibrating string. To illustrate, imagine clipping the sky map to the right each week of the year and stapling them into a flip book. As you thumbed the pages into motion, you would see the moon, the planets and the zodiacal constellations rise and fall over the course of the year. In fact, all the fixed constellations — those that remain visible year-round — would follow the same motion, rising to a northward peak and sinking southward year after year.

The rhythm is, in truth, the rise and fall of the celestial backdrop as a result of earth’s own movements, in this case its elliptical orbit around the sun.

April’s full moon, often the first after spring equinox, is symbolic of rebirth: the Flower Moon; the Pink Moon, for the landscape’s tint from early clover and phlox; the Milk Moon; the Sprouting Grass Moon and the Full Fish Moon, as shad, then other fish, return upstream to spawn; and the Egg Moon.

The egg, perhaps the strongest symbol of rebirth, is prominent in our modern celebration of Easter, but its origins are far older. In Celtic myth, birds were revered for their egg-laying ability, and to bring this power to earth, Oestra, the goddess of spring, transformed a bird into a hare. Once a year, she ruled, the hare could lay eggs as it had as a bird, and so today the Easter Bunny brings eggs to this deep-rooted celebration.

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