The Meaning of an Eclipsed Harvest Moon

I set my alarm for 2:45 GMT early this morning and got up into the darkness feeling a bit like a kid at Christmas – you know, excited and a bit sick because it was way too early. But it had to happen or I’d miss living the eclipse and see only pictures. So I got up and sat on the wall outside and my husband came to join me.

It was so worth it. At first, the moon was a fat crescent but was slowly nibbled to nothing by Ketu, the south node, over the following 20 minutes or so. By then it was a dull, dried-blood brown with a silvering border. The Milky Way stretched across at right angles to it and the Pleiades were so clear I could see them even as I looked at them directly. While I was busy taking all that in, my husband caught a shooting star crossing the moon. A few minutes later, I saw another leaving Orion and bleeding instantaneously across the sky as though someone had released a tourniquet.  It made it almost to the moon before burning up, so the moon never got its transfusion. There are not words to describe how it was to be under that sky.

After a while the wall got a bit cold so we started to walk. We left the small town where we live and came to full darkness and deep silence. There were no sounds of hunting owls, no scrabbling animals, no alarms set up by blackbirds and I wondered, as an astrologer should, what did it mean to be giving and receiving Darsana from the skies? What occurred to me was that they had nothing for me, besides their beauty. This was because our worlds were utterly separate last night – I was in the world of sleeping houses and extinguished lights while the celestial dome went about its own inscrutable sparkling business above.

An eclipse – particularly one on the south node – is traditionally a doom-laden symbol.  The south node, or Cauda Draconis (dragon’s tail) is a malefic of the nature of Saturn and therefore one expects to lose out if the eclipse falls at hard angles to some personal horoscopic chart point. Or, if one wants to hold on, one must be prepared to give way too. In nature, it can be a time of loss too. For instance, Sardines have periodical feeding patterns which co-evolved with the phases of the moon such that in the days around the full moon they are attracted off-shore where a “moon trap” (the serendipitous timing of the sunset and moonrise) allows them a few days of enhanced feeding.(1) But, when the moon is eclipsed, there is no moon trap and so no enhanced feeding either. But it can be a time of opportunity too as a study of bat behaviour during a lunar eclipse found.(2) With no light to hinder them, their hunting activity increased sharply during the syzygy.

Therefore, the lunar eclipse is doom for foragers needing light, and boom for those needing dark.

But despite that silence from the skies as they regarded me, still I do feel the lunar eclipse had something for me personally. I forage a great deal myself. But this August being so cool, the hedgerows have hardly given up at all, nothing has ripened. And this fully-eclipsed harvest moon would seem to echo what I have seen for myself – that there is a poor hedgerow harvest this year.

References:

1 Maciej Gliwicz, Z. 1986. “A Lunar Cycle in Zooplankton.” Ecology, 67: 883-897

2 Usman, K; J. Habersetzer; R. Subbaraj; G. Gopalkrishnaswami; and K. Paramanandam. 1980. “Behavior of Bats During a Lunar Eclipse.” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 7: 79-81.

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Open letter from astrologer to scientist: Pace, Richard? (or, to coin a hashtag, #mustwebeenemies?)

Where it all started…

You remember that furious polemic you wrote against astrology and had published in The Independent ten years ago? Well, I was one of your readers. And I’ll admit I found it a very difficult piece to stay with all the way through. This was not because your arguments were too profound for me but because they were, quite honestly, so terribly poor. I’m sorry to deliver such feedback but, in truth, it’s a horribly ill-informed piece, shockingly ad hominem, and designed by you, I should think, to persuade by sheer spitting-force.

 
But I read it then, as a still-green astrologer, and it rankled – it was bound to, it was a hatchet job. And afterwards it wouldn’t leave my mind. At first I was inclined to think that this was because it was such an atrocious piece and yet a serious scientist had got away with writing it and a serious newspaper had published it! Crazy! But it wasn’t that really. Instead, the article wormed its way into me, burrowed into my viscera using its scolex of insults, and it’s still there, existing as a kind of measure against which I constantly calibrate my astrology. So now my astrology gets away with nothing. I disallow special-pleading; I’ll have no epicycle-deferent systems – as beautiful as they might be – none of that. Instead of standing apart in brattish metaphysical isolation, my astrology must take its place in the rest of my (very pragmatic) worldview – and we’re happy together. In part I have you to thank for that.

 
Of course, it was easy to be offended by all the stuff about astrologers being fraudulent charlatans deserving of prosecution and adherents being stupid and brainless. But all that was merely smear-tactics and I knew it was best tuned-out. Well, truthfully, I was halfway motivated to respond immediately instead of stewing for a decade. For one thing, I was very tempted to point out a few corrupt scientists too and say how, given the ubiquity of power laws, there are bound to be a damn-sight-more of these than astrologers-gone-wrong! But, even as I rehearsed a devastating counterattack, I realised that the bluster was just you being you. And that, anyway, if one begins to argue the toss about who is worse – deluded astrologer or libellous scientist – then it all gets silly and very like the situation Mark Twain must have been warning against when he counselled against arguing with fools since onlookers may not be able to tell the difference!

 

 

Staking a claim for no-man’s land…
So instead I did something constructive with the article. I searched beneath all the abuse for something useful. And, sure enough, there, as clear as day, was the simplest of arguments and one which has been running for centuries. It belongs to that species of disagreement which includes The Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. This literary turf war broke out with the Enlightenment in France. And although it gave some appearance of being light-hearted, still, running beneath the playful eddies were deep channels cut by profoundly opposed objectives.

 
The problem was that Progress felt attacked by Authority and vice versa. Progress, represented by Unarguable Improvement, felt held back, undermined and checked by Authority – which was, in any case, losing its touch. Authority, meanwhile, had proved itself by putting in the years, gaining the experience…you know how it is.

Astrology on trial…
At any rate, what you seem to be is fighting in the rearguard against astrologers who have illegally returned to territory already conceded after the bright sword of Rationalism overcame Irrationalism’s dulled and rusted edge. To paraphrase, you said your battle is for truth against astrology which is a tissue of lies. And, in fairness to you, during its long, long exile from academia, astrology languished and stagnated in tradition and also picked-up a number of unfortunate parasitic cultural accretions. Furthermore, it has most definitely failed the truth-test set by the scientific method since experimentation has so far failed to show any sign of replicability. Thus, you are right, Richard: where once astrology formed the backbone of old-world science, it is now pseudoscience. Surely its only possible recourse is into the world of metaphysics where unfalsifiability is fine, even desirable…

 

 

…Well, actually, I for one don’t see why astrology should accept its banishment into metaphysics simply because it failed the scientific method’s test. I’d accept the retreat if I saw no other choice but I do. It’s the thing of letting our tools use us rather than the other way round because, essentially, the scientific method is a piece of apparatus. One only derives meaningful data from its appropriate use and, even when it’s used properly, it’s limited to detecting things within its remit and range. This means that plenty of unexpected stuff gets unavoidably missed and that there’s even more data beyond its scope that must remain invisible for now. Plus, modern science, whilst indeed being a search for knowledge, is nevertheless also a product of past and present cultural conditions and pressures. It is practiced by ordinary humans with blind spots and red lines like all other humans. Last for now, modern science is orthodoxical to a fault and accordingly upholds the Cartesian-split between physical and non-physical. That split is a will-o’-the-wisp and to observe it is to risk being lured into the mire but still we see and pay it attention.

 
But of course we see that split – just, like with the Emperor’s new clothes, our language points to it and our collective behaviour confirms it. But, then, we see all sorts of categories that aren’t there because modern life fragments our lives. Such fragmentation is an artefact of the way our societies have developed. But, despite that we have strictly defined areas of life which shouldn’t encroach on one another, nevertheless, lived experience is really flowing and multifaceted – as your own interest in religion shows. Existence simply isn’t neat like the scientific method.

 
This is why I agree with you when you dispute that atheism leaves behind a gaping god-shaped gap.(1) And, just as we can’t get god to fill in where there are holes in our lives and knowledge, so we can’t have astrology as metaphysics. It’s either everywhere or nowhere.

 

 

What would an astrology-shaped gap look like?…
Well, it just so happens that astrology is everywhere and its universality is what comes of the earth having a starry sky, a sun which heats and defines day from night, and a satellite moon which shows phases and a gravitational pull. In fact, if astrology is the search and receipt of meaning from the skies, then astrology has been with earthly inhabitants since we first broke the surface of the broiling primordial soup, got out, drip-dripped across some primeval beach, and began to forage and network.(2)

 
Maybe it was the super-radiant sun of the time that first called life out with a simple, on-off morse-code – day-night, day-night – accompanied by a rhythmic roll of seasons as the earth twisted on its axis. But now language between the earth and the skies is infinitely complex. Animals, insects and plants might be diurnal or nocturnal or they might cathemeral – which is to say that their activity depends on the interplay of the moon phases with the seasons. They might be crepuscular and active during twilight hours. Plants might be vernalized and reliant on a cold snap to germinate. They might be long-day or short-day and so rely on increasing or decreasing hours of darkness. They might obey lunar or tidal rhythms…It goes on but it is all about the relationship between the earth and the skies, the earth and particular celestial objects, and the bidirectional flow of information between those, and what all this connecting means for individual lives and relationships on earth.

 
Thus the constellations are very, very far from being insignificant. The array of animals relying on the information they offer is huge. It’s well known that migrating geese constantly calibrate their positions against celestial markers and recalibrate as their journeys extend across hemispheres. But dung beetles navigate via the Milky Way too. In fact, such examples proliferate. In truth, the astrology of the foraging organism is incredibly sophisticated and, moreover, our cultural astrology apparently retains its influence. For instance, diurnal-feeding waders will stop feeding with a solar eclipse and return to their roosts, bees will leave pollen for their hives and grasshoppers will pause motionless on stems for the eclipse duration.(3) Thus, a solar eclipse carries a sense of malefic cosmic disorder for diurnal foragers and traditional astrologers alike.

 
So astrology exists because the earth rotates within the celestial dome and legions of organisms on earth observe the wheeling heavens in different ways and from different perspectives. This makes it essentially relational and, as such, the celestial objects are two things to us: first, they exist as apparently eternal unchanging objects; second, our conditional, multidimensional circumstances reflect onto them and back again in a kind of cosmic mutual transference. This makes astrology also fundamentally contextual – which means that, actually, the planets do go retrograde. And, besides, it means that astrology is possibly all things to all beings – although not in an arbitrary way because the nature of the context and relationship constrains meaning.

 
But our relationship with the skies is as complicated as any other. And, just like those relationships where it’s hard to see what binds the apparently incompatible, it can be difficult to know why we and the skies still hang out. But, the thing is, life exists in the coupling of our rhythms with the sky so astrology is not just out there but in here too, beating with my pulse. It is layered all the way through us, behaviourally, neurologically and endocrinologically. No matter that we humans might want our freedom, still we can’t disentangle and live without reference to the sky. Our bodies function according to the environmental cues we receive as the sun rises, or when it leaves Virgo for Libra and so on. Receipt of such information sends impulses right down through the suprachiasmatic nuclei of our hypothalamuses and on until, eventually, astrology is oscillating in our cells with the ebb and flow of our hormones. Of course it goes beyond into the submicroscopic too; it must do because fields of influence only fall out of range, they never end. It is inside and out, endogenous and exogenous and, like any trait, we use it because it’s there and, as we use it, so it develops.

 

 

Even so, astrology is so yesterday…
Naturally, astrology has apparently the most to offer foraging organisms which we aren’t any longer. Now, it is, arguably, evolutionary baggage since the coupling of cosmic rhythms with our own creates arrhythmia and illness when it’s ignored in favour of modern 24/7/365 living. This makes it inconvenient and vestigial in a way – which is what you Moderns have been saying for a long time! – Except that, through the processes of exaptation and co-evolution, our astrology adapted with us in tandem with the rise of our civilisations and began to function symbolically through our religion, our politics, our economics and our popular culture. It was through these associations that it became a metaphysical thing because our culture is built on anti-materialist dualism. Additionally, its relational nature and association with foraging meant that it highlighted analogous cultural structures and thereby gained jurisdiction over decision-making, forecasting, relating of all types and so on.

 

 

But, in the end, if it’s all the same, #mustwebeenemies?…
So, Richard, where are we? Well, you’re right, but so are astrologers. Astrology is inconvenient vestigial pseudoscience. But, equally, we humans evolved to pay it attention so it remains an undeniable biological truth. Of course, there are a very few out there who exploit this ‘truth’ and make big bucks out of it but I guess that’s free market economies for you! Still, turf wars notwithstanding, neither forager’s astrology nor cultural astrology are enemies of truth, whatever that might be. They just display a certain degree of enduring fitness – and fitness, not truth, is the powerhouse of evolution and life. But, if it helps, I wanted to say what astrology is to me, although I can’t say what others feel about it. I feel it as the rhythm set up by the earth’s spin as it dances with me, you, all other organisms past, present and future, and its myriad glowing, sparkling, humming neighbours. This seems to me the very definition of biophilia.(4)

References:

1 Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. Transworld Publishers, London. p. 388

2 Campion, Nicholas. 2008. The Dawn of Astrology: A Cultural History of Western Astrology, the Ancient and Classical Worlds. Hambledon Continuum, London. p. 1

3  MacCarone, Alan D. 1997. “Directions of Foraging Flights by Wading Birds during an Annular Eclipse.” Colonial Waterbirds, 20: p. 537-539
Wheeler, William Morton; Clinton V. MacCoy; Ludlow Griscom; Glover M. Allen; and Harold J. Coolidge Jr. 1935. “Observations on the Behavior of Animals during the Total Solar Eclipse of August 31, 1932.” Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 70: p. 33-70

4 Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. Transworld Publishers, London. p. 404

Rewilded divination and why we need it

It is absolutely fair to wonder why we need to rewild divination. Whether it’s divine inspiration or ridiculous superstition, whether you’re for it or against, it would seem a subject not open to evolution: it is what it is, right? So let me explain why it’s not only necessary to rewild divination but also why the effort is urgently overdue.

 
Let me begin by saying that a rewilded divination would be one which has no particular use for abstract symbols – you could have astrological charts, tarot cards, runes, whatever, if you wanted but these would no longer stand alone. This is because abstract symbols arose with civilisation and that is where they have their natural home. As cultural products, they speak its language and repeat its stories thereby entraining us to them. In contrast, a rewilded divinatory system offers our culture a critique. Through contrast, it shows another way. Most especially, it is necessarily visceral, participatory and observational. Let me show you why all this matters by, first, comparing two epochs running alongside each other, sometimes parallel, sometimes disagreeing and deviating madly. They are the astrological Age of Aquarius and the geological Anthropocene.

 

 

Has the Age of Aquarius dawned? 

First, the Age of Aquarius is the fabled age when, as it says in the song by 5th Dimension, “the moon is in the Seventh House/And Jupiter aligns with Mars/Then peace will guide the planets/And love will steer the stars/This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…”

 

 

It is one of the twelve astrological ages (because there are twelve zodiacal signs in western astrology) through which the world cycles. These ages are an astrological expression for an astronomical phenomenon. In other words, each age is a Platonic month lasting something in the region of 2150 years and is a twelfth of the Platonic or Great Year which lasts a full 26,000 years while the earth rotates gyroscopically through one spin on its axis. Then the cycle repeats. As the earth’s axis tilts through the spin, our view of the starry backdrop reverses through the constellations so that the fixed stars as a whole gradually shift their position in relation to the annually determined locations of the sun. Thus, if we are in the Age of Aquarius, when it comes to the vernal equinox and the sun enters Aries, Aquarian stars form the backdrop.

 

 

There’s no consensus on whether we’ve reached the Aquarian Age and calculated start-dates range from 1447CE to somewhere as late as 3597CE. But the idea is that each age describes the nature of the major themes in the development of human culture, society and politics (note well that the axis of the world turns on the evolution of our civilisation!). Therefore, the expectation is that, in the Aquarian Age, Aquarian themes begin to dominate the bigger picture as we transition into it. These, according to new age exponents, involve the expansion of human consciousness as humanity takes control of the Earth and our own destiny in the process of becoming the true sons of man. Traditional astrologers tend to take a more negative view because Aquarius is ruled by those malefics old and new, Saturn and Uranus. But, either way, Aquarius’ qualities are airy, human and masculine, diurnal, semi-barren, hot, moist and sanguine, fixed and rational. Without new age spin, it would clearly be foolish to prophesy that life in the Aquarian will coincide with humanity’s apotheosis. It would be far safer to predict that we will become increasingly preoccupied with ourselves.

 

 

OK, what about the Anthropocene?

…And geologists proposing the geological epoch, the Anthropocene, would agree in spirit with the pessimistic view of the Aquarian. The Anthropocene begins when human activities started to have such a significant global impact on Earth’s ecosystems that these begin to show up in various geological records, and this focus on us and our activities makes it like its astrological counterpart. But, in contrast, it is absolutely agreed that we are already in the thick of it although it’s not agreed when we got here.

 

 

For instance, some make the argument that it began with the mass extinctions of the mega-fauna and the advent of agriculture something like 10,000 years ago. Some suggest the Industrial Revolution. Still others propose the 1950s and the accompanying Great Acceleration. But the important dissimilarity between the Aquarian Age and the Anthropocene is that while, with the former, the tendency is to predict good things for humanity’s future, it is only possible to feel negative about what the Anthropocene says for our forward-planning. It must also be said that the optimism that awaits the Aquarian goes well beyond new age and human potential wishful thinking. It is found in all our dominant institutions – religion, politics, education, the economic markets, medicine, so on and so on. This is because it comes right down to the way we each view ourselves. In other words, confidence in humanity’s ability to prevail against the odds is a cultural foundation stone.

 

 

Is it true that we’re the son of man?

So who’s getting it wrong? Are the signs of climactic and cultural distress false? Or is there something wrong with the myth of exceptionality that we’ve been telling ourselves?

 

 

Well, in the words of Ishmael:

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will act as the lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.

 

…More than that, Ishmael! The story allows us to step blithely over the body of our bleeding foe, as we do, and it allows us to play out the Tragedy of the Commons on our way to our own evolutionary suicide.

 

Our story of exceptionality began to take shape with the advent of agriculture somewhere in the region of 10,000 years ago. The Dinka people of the Sudan have a story about the disobedience of the first woman, Abuk, who planting two extra millet seeds instead of the one that God allowed. He left in disgust and subsequently we have taken on the burden of producing our own living. In that effort, over the millennia, our control over our lives has increased exponentially and this has, understandably, had an inflationary effect on our collective psyche. For one thing, it has allowed the idea of hierarchy to take a hold – life flows from the top down, from heaven to earth, mind to matter, king to subject, land-owner to worker, master to slave, man to woman, rich to poor, civilised to wild.
And this is a big problem because, while many humans over the ages may have done very well out of this view of earthly-organisation, countless more have not. This is not to mention the ecological damage it has done. And this is all because it is a model that grossly contravenes natural conversational etiquette and is a cultural misinterpretation of natural dominating forces which might govern in some respects but are subordinate in others.

 

 

The thing is, hierarchies tend to dampen voices from the lower levels while amplifying those from higher levels  But, actually, a healthy environment requires bidirectional flow between all things, a fact well understood by our foraging ancestors and those few hunter/gatherer societies that remain. They understood and understand that the environment, including heaven and earth, is conversational and they knew and know that everyone must make an appropriate contribution to the conversation, be they animal, vegetable or mineral, man, woman or child. Meanwhile, our culture has made a habit of shutting up and dismissing dissenting voices. These are seen as having little to contribute and so it becomes true because, the more we homogenize difference and the more we kill and cull wild flauna and flora, the more monotone our environment becomes. Eventually, the idea of conversation with it becomes utterly absurd…And here we are, where we have turned away from the wild things in and around us and are talking to metaphysical symbols, such as a distant god, who addresses our spirit, not our materiality.

 

 

So hierarchy is one big problem with our story. Another is that we reckon on having immortal souls which are exempt from death. The issue with this is twofold. First it allows us to imagine ourselves singular points of focus when we are not. In fact, even as individuals, we are each whole universes – our bodies are self-regulating systems, holons we might call them, providing the context for trillions of autonomous cells, some of which are us, most of which are not, but which, through their organisation, give rise to our cohesive sense of self. In other words, the individuality that so defines our culture is another myth. Taking me as an example, I have agency and some control over my constituent parts but, although I seem to transcend these, I don’t rule them – I need to cooperate with them and vice versa. So I am a self-organising system, living amongst trillions of other such systems like you, and I am held within and subordinated to countless other larger systems. I could, if I liked, call these macrocosmic systems the gods; I could call the one almost immediately above – the earth – Gaia. I’ll do that from now on. But, just as I require my subordinate parts, so these ‘gods’ require me – in part, they take their life from me and, in return, I need them. All these systems – inside, outside, smaller than us, greater than us – require each other. In other words, we are anything but singular points of focus.

 

 

 

Second, our story of immortality means we have quite literally made a religion of ignoring and suppressing our earthiness since way back before Plato. “We are a plant not of an earthly but of a heavenly growth…” he says in his Timaeus. He also asserts that our kindred are not to be found here on earth but in heaven. This is in direct disagreement with the way hunter/gatherer societies feel towards their surroundings. To them these are formed entirely of kin – animal, vegetable and mineral: it is all family. It is true that there is usually no hope for redemption and eternal life in such societies. But that’s a problem only for those who invest in such ideas and they come, in any case, with the cost that we must ignore the signals arising from our physicality, and from the material world around us. This is because our myth of immortality requires that these signals are fallacious and the source of faithlessness and despair. So we have kept the faith and believed hard in god, or some self-similar secular symbol… until, again, we are here, in a place where the environment is a dead thing or, at least, not as alive as we are or it’s a dangerous thing dragging us down.

 

 

We don’t talk anymore…

So here we are…our culture is crumbling under the weight of enormous inequality, our relationship with the environment is broken down and none of us are talking anymore because we’ve argued our way out of all inconvenient systems. And now we ought to be worried at last because, despite what we’ve been telling ourselves for millennia, we are waking up to the fact that we are actually embedded in Gaia’s system. So the issue now is, what to do, and how to do an impossible thing – which is, according to our myth, remain human and prevail against the odds.
Well, the plain fact is that we can’t. That’s what the natural signs say and, if we read the sign Aquarius in conjunction with those and with a more jaundiced eye, that says it too. Well, to add a little naunce, what these really seem to say between them is that, although the individual will struggle, our species ought actually to survive the next 2000 years – albeit by a margin. But the survivors will be those sufficiently privileged to live in high up places away from encroaching waters. These will be ideologues who will hold onto their ideologies because their ivory towers will protect them. The masses will lose their livings and suffer the way they have always suffered.

 

 

Rewilding as relationship counselling

So what then? Well, it depends: if we don’t care about our personal and collective health, then we can just carry on as we are – it’s all the same, we’re going to die anyway. But, if we do care and suffering matters even when the disease is terminal, then we need to change some things – starting with our story, because this gets in the way of even limited health.

 

 

First off, we must accept and embrace our profound materiality. Secondly, we must return as so many prodigal offspring to Gaia’s system. At present, as we continue to buck this, we are a blockage in the bidirectional flow of information between all things. This defines us as a state of disease or, in global terms, pathogenic agents which have pushed our host to the point of collapse. In societal terms, the blockage lies in the fact of huge inequality which threatens our social stability. In individual terms, without bidirectional information flow between us and our own subsidiary parts, we become increasingly prone to sickness and mental distress. This is where divination in its purest form can help us and to understand it we have to observe the behaviour of all foraging individuals, human or animal, who live out their lives in untamed environments whilst sustained by wild food resources.

 

 

We are all astrologers at heart (and in the hypothalamus…)

All of these rely on a bidirectional flow of information but, crucially, they are not merely observing the flow but are part of the conversation. For instance, the Australian Kamilaroi and Euahlayi people watch for the annual appearance of the celestial running emu. It appears just after sunset in April and May as the Milky Way stretched at its fullest extent across southern skies. It appearance coincides with the behaviour of earthly laying female emus who are chasing their males about at this time in what is mating season. Therefore the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi know they can search out emu eggs. Through June and July the skies shift and now the celestial emu takes the form of a male sitting on a nest which means the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi expect to find eggs on nests. Thus, as the signs evolve and coincide, so the people change their strategies in accord.

 

But, if astrology is the practice of taking meaning from the skies, countless animals, insects and plants are astrologers too. For instance, indigo buntings use Betelgeuse as a navigational star. They have it behind them as they fly south in the autumn and ahead as they return in the spring. Then there is the joint-pine (Ephedra Gnetales) and the insects that pollinate it. These navigate using the reflection of July’s Thunder Moon in the shrub’s pollination drops which are sweet and highly nutritious and available at that full moon. Pollination happens as the insects feed and, so though co-evolution and mutualistic ecological behaviour, plant and insect have reason to rely on each other and the moon. The conversation runs as a triangle between plants and animals and the skies, and as a back and forward thing between plants and animals. The conversation is as nuanced as the ecology is diverse, talking about when to germinate, when to grow, when to protect against over-cropping, when to let down defences, when to flower, what to eat, what to avoid and so on. And this conversation is in colour and vibration and sweet scent and foul odour and honeyed bribes and so on…

 

And this pure-form divination is even in us modern urbanised humans although we might deny it. Our solar- and lunar-related rhythms include circadian rhythms which are endogenous oscillations over 24 hours. We will menstruate in time to the lunar cycle if phases of the moon are not obscured by artificial light. We have gene oscillations which are often photoperiodic which means they are related to the relative lengths of lightness and darkness. Last, we have seasonality. These life-rhythms do function without the entrainment to the sun and the moon. Indeed, we can be entrained to different light sources – like LED light from computer screens – but from that arises a kind of arrhythmia which leads eventually to the lifestyle diseases of the modern world – cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome and so on. So, not only do we have the interior apparatus for pure-form, rewilded divination, we also need to pay it attention for the good of our own health, and the health of the environment. Holistic health is rewilded divination. It is observing our interior environments by having an eye to the outside natural world and vice versa.

 

 

In conclusion…

So that’s it, but in a nutshell, for reasons which we don’t fully understand, our ancestors mostly abandoned foraging and, with it, pure-form divination many thousands of years ago when we entered the mooted Anthropocene and took to agriculture wholesale. Around this time, the inflationary process of excess food production began to result in the unlikely twins, increasing wealth and increasing poverty. As we abandoned nature for culture, pure-form divination for politics, religion and turf wars, we lost touch with our material side and even began to disdain it with the result that we have often lost our health collectively and individually, then and now. Certain things we can’t undo. We can’t undo the damage we have wrought on the climate, and it’s hard to see how the huge wrongs of social and ecological inequality can ever be put right. But we can ameliorate a great deal by re-establishing a reflexive relationship with our interior and exterior environments in order to hear again what the interior has to say about the exterior and vice versa. This is rewilded divination and why we need it.