Posts Tagged ‘metonic cycle

29
Feb
12

Friends of Grampian Stones Candlemas newsletter 2005 Vol.XVI-1

February 2005: Candlemas Vol. XVI-1
Celebrating Life
Our readers will forgive us if we take time in this issue, time out from our personal and prehistoric preoccupations, to pay respect and show our admiration for a fellow stone-lover, nay, fellow earth-lover, and supporter of our cause — to raise awareness to our unique environment — the ancient landscape of NE Scotland.

It is with sadness that we say farewell to Ann Tweedy Savage, stones-supporter, tree-planter, philanthropist and naturalist who died prematurely in a fall in January 2005. For over 30 years, she contributed both personally and financially to restoring the natural environment, community and fen shui (‘sense of place’) of Bennachie, on whose northeastern shoulder she lived, and where (Harthill) she is now buried. In addition to her support of many local projects and enterprises, she chose to give generously to FOGS through the Brownington Foundation, and for those past annual donations — sometimes when we were in most need — we will always be grateful to her. We know of at least one other archaeological charity, the Scottish Episcopal Palaces Project at Fetternear, which also benefited from her generosity.

President of Friends of Grampian Stones, David R Paton, with friend and benefactrix Ann Tweedy

Her lively interest in her surroundings and enthusiasm for restoring the landscape she so loved will not long be forgotten. One place closest to her heart was Bennachie, a lone mountain sentinel in an otherwise flat, fertile plain. One of its honorary Baillies, she refused to give up when commercial interests threatened (and still threaten) to invade this mountain wilderness. She saw Bennachie, as do many of us, as an ancient, sacred place, and, at night, almost the last bastion of darkness (and therefore wildness) in what has become a sea of light in the Garioch. It was her wish that this wild habitat should not be threatened; should be allowed to return to its natural state. She felt its trees, heather and scrub should be supported to maintain their own unique environment, species of plants and animals, until the human race becomes wise enough to give it the respect it deserves.

There are qualities our friend embodied — amid joy and laughter — which allowed her to accomplish so much in a short life: if some of us were to emulate, we might similarly achieve great things: they are — in no particular order: generosity and the avoidance of waste, love-of-life, perseverance and determination.
Thank you, Ann, you are sorely missed.
©2005-2012MCYoungblood

Standing Still
Solstice marks the apparent standstill of the sun twice annually. After disappearing into the shortest night, a sight that Northeast FOGS from our elevated latitude can claim a special privilege, sunsets wend their way southward along the horizon. Six months later sunset reaches 223º, SSW — a legendary point on the compass captured within the earliest recumbent stone circles.

Motion of the moon too, apparently wild, nevertheless has a cycle, calculated by Meton (432BC), returning to the same place once in 18.6 years, or after 235 lunations. Major lunar standstill occurs on that occasion when the full moon closest to midsummer only barely rises above the S horizon, grazes it and sets, all within an arc of just over 45º.

A non-event, you might think; yet at the Arctic circle, the summer full moon does not appear at all.

So it is notable that early (largest) RSCs are often cupmarked, clustering on a stone in the SSW arc where the lunar standstill could be witnessed: Balquhain’s W flanker & the recumbents of Sunhoney, Cothiemuir and Rothiemay have cupmarks oriented SSW: 232, 230, 200 & 226 degrees respectively. At Cothiemuir, NJ617 198, in 2006 maximum summer full moon will seem to set right into the recumbent’s western edge.

Full moonrise closest to winter solstice, from the stone circle at Kirkton of Bourtie. Midwinter standstill moon acts like a 'midnight sun', barely setting in 24 hours.

Also in a major standstill year, the full moon closest to midwinter performs an incredible feat, swinging higher in the sky from a rising point farther N than any other in its 18.6-year cycle and setting farther N than at any other time: the full moon seen at Aberdeen/Moray latitude, 57º30′, behaves almost like the lunar equivalent of a ‘midnight sun’, rising and setting in the North, (at 27ºNNE and 333ºNNW to be precise)and spending the longest time in the sky of any appearance in its metonic cycle. In astronomical circles (and prehistoric ones) excitement is already building towards the major lunar standstill which peaks in 2006, when full summer moonrise and set reach their farthest possible southern limit and briefest appearance: at Easter Aquhorthies, NJ733 208, the full summer moon will rise at 151ºSSE and set at 208ºSSW, and, while there are no cupmarks at this RSC to show its ‘maximum’, it should be spectacular.

Equally, in the run-up to this maximum, the full winter moon can be seen from as early as November 2005 to show a huge ‘wobble’, rising and setting farther North than at any other time, swinging highest and longest in the winter night sky.
©2005MCN

A Few Hints on Standstill
FOGS inspired by lunar antics may be daunted by the profusion of information on the Web at sites such as http://www.iol.ie run by Victor Reijs who is encouraging world-wide moon-watching and gives azimuth, declination and degree at several sites with breathtaking accuracy.

So it is with gratitude that we give FOGS stalwart Trevor Allcott’s advice:
‘I think Victor is trying to measure astronomical variables to an eye-watering degree… However, if you simply extend your arm fully in front of you, with the thumb upright, the width of your thumbnail is approximately one degree. The fourth decimal place is 1/10,000. See Hawkins: Stonehenge Decoded, 1965.
©FOGS occasional newsletter updates

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Spring Equinox 1999 newsletter ‘X’-2

Spring Newsletter 1999 – Vernal Equinox Volume X number 2 (vol.X no 1 was Samhain 98 q.v.)

Picts, Kings, Saints, Chronicles

Pictish carved stone in Inverurie 'Castleyards' old kirkyard

Crescent and V-rod, sun-disk and serpent carved Pictish stone

A pictish one-day conference arranged in honour of Dr Marjorie O. Anderson on the occasion of her 90th birthday was held in the Quad lower college hall at the University of St Andrews on February 13th 1999. A collaboration by the School of History, Early Medieval Research Group, Scottish Studies Institute and Committee for Dark-Age Studies, its focus and its speakers ensured its success. It was fully booked. While Dr Anderson was unable to hear presentations because of illness, she would have marvelled at the excitement and energy generated in both lecture hall and lunchroom by speakers and delegates all pressing to share new developments in this emergent discipline. Drs Simon Taylor and Dauvit Broun unveiled new discoveries in placename survival and the St Andrews foundation legend (versions A and B); Profs. Richard Sharpe and Máire Herbert gave both insular and Irish slants on the political structure of Dál Riata; Isabel Henderson unveiled her theory on specific sculpture schools of the Picts; while both Prof. David Dumville and Dr David Howlett, of Universities of Cambridge and Oxford respectively, kept delegates on tenterhooks with their expositions on the Chronicle of Kings of Alba and on the sacred numerology of its 12thC verse equivalent, the anonymous De Situ Albanie.  Prof. Archie Duncan pulled the audience into the present millennium with his fine elucidation of the Melrose and Holyrood Pictish Chronicles, followed by an immaculate summation and tribute to Mrs Anderson by Prof.Geoffrey Barrow of the University of Edinburgh. He concluded, along with the authors of ‘1066 and All That’ that [the conference, sources and] chronicles were ‘a damn good thing.’  He (along with us) awaits somewhat impatiently the publication of ‘all these riches’.  Members who would like to be advised either of further conferences or publications produced by Dr Barbara Crawford’s Committee for Dark-Age Studies or of details of membership in Dr Simon Taylor’s Scottish Placename Society can write to St Andrews Scottish Studies Institute, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL. Details of Scottish Placename Society’s webpage are given here.                                             ©1999MCY

FOGS Membership feedback. . .

WHITECROSS Equinox

ABERDEEN member Dr Theodore Allan remarks on  the Hill of Whitecross one mile south of Chapel of Garioch at NJ 717 225, visible from the recumbent circle of Balquhain but not from Easter Aquhorthies. His interest is apt at this time of year, as it is a marker hill for sunset on the Feast Day of  Bride (Candlemas, and incidentally at its opposite season, Martinmas). However its derivation as the Hill of the White Cross or Crossing may stem from its sacred point of the moon’s crossing or setting – as seen from Balquhain – at the end of summer, the pagan White season, and the point where the full moon sets once in 19 years at its minor standstill. This should be a hill to watch in the summer of 2014 at the next standstill! The physical crossing of the hill must also have had significance to Bronze Age and Pictish descendants, as anyone who has walked the Netherton of Balquhain road can testify.  Leaving behind in the east the Bronze Age burial cairn on Dilly Hill, NJ 751 224, and walking due west, not only does the outline of the Hill of Whitecross draw the eye but for a mile and a half the traveller’s visiion is filled with the sacred shape of the Mother mountain Bennachie. At Burnside of Balquhain, NJ 730 225, where the road turns sharply north, the walker can clearly see how the old road used to rise directly west to Whitecross, itself topped by a cairn. An added delight for placename enthusiasts is the name of this miniscule valley created by the burn which springs on Whitecross’ lower slopes, flows past Burnside and Mains of Balquhain, turning to join the Urie at Drimmies (which Pictophiles will know has its own symbol stone:  it is the Strathnaterick, valley of the serpent of ancient wisdom. This lonely stretch of road, now mostly used by farm traffic, is an inspiration to walk on a spring evening. Thanks to Dr Allan for his observations.

BLUE MOON

TWO OF our regulars communicate on the phenomenon of this year’s blue moons, first in January and now in March; Griselda Macgregor in Inverurie and Trevor Alcott in Crimond are both interested in lunar activity, although from slightly different angles: Ms Macgregor requests the reason for the use of the term ‘Blue Moon’, i.e. for two full moons in the month, while Mr. Alcott likes to extrapolate grander figures of moons in the Metonic cycle.  We might cover both in a limited way.  First, we find  no-one in any context outside Scotland, and perhaps even outside the  bounds of Aberdeenshire, using the term ‘blue moon’ to mean two full moons in the month [in 1999, January 2: 0250; 31:1607, accompanied by a visible penumbal lunar eclipse at 1619; March 2: 0659; 31: 2249 – all times GMT]. The fact that February this year had no full moon at all is purely a figment of modern man’s calculations, as our forefathers when they spoke of the moon, meant the month, and vice versa.  The arbitrary nature of the ‘phenomenon’ can  be seen, particulary in the second March date, to occur only from Europe west, and not for instance, in Australia, where the second full moon falls within April. While not answering the question, we open the door to any contributions from members who have NE knowledge of folkloric or traditional useage.

LUNAR STANDSTILLS

We have touched on standstill moons before, as the time once every  18.61 years that the moon is seen at its most erratic in the night sky, behaving as if with a ‘wobble’. We receive several calls a year requesting more detail for stone-watchers with astronomical leanings – the latest from a member in Edinburgh who prefers anonymity.

Trevor Alcott puts it simply:

‘Correction for our latitude (57ºN approx) is, according to Reed’s Nautical Almanac, seven minutes. The rule is, when declination is north, subtract from moonrise time and add to moonset time. Reverse applies if declination is south. Our biggest problem is one with which mariners do not have to cope, i.e. the height and distance of the horizon relative to the observer, but I promise, you don’t want to know!  The easiest way is to observe a few full moons, note the times, and correct from the nautical times for that particular observation point.’ 

Sensible man.  So, for those early birds preparing for their next maximum and minimum moonset and moonrise, when the moon’s motion relative to other months  is distinctly wobbly,  may we suggest marking your diary now: 

Next major standstill at the full moon nearest to winter solstice occurs in 2005, when the full moon will rise in midwinter at the most northerly point it ever rises.

Next minor standstill, or full moon nearest to summer solstice, happens in 2014.

If we are spared, we may try for a gathering for wobble watchers at a stone circle to compare notes.
©MCY 1999-2009




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