Posts Tagged ‘solstice

09
Dec
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2004 solstice newsletter vol.XV #2

FOGS June 2004 SUMMER SOLSTICE NEWSLETTER XV-2

Dresden Codex gives Venus transits

Venus: until the end of Time

Much speculation surrounded the recent transit of Venus across the face of the sun: whether prehistoric Man was able to detect such an occurrence with no technology to help him. Reversed telescopes, bits of paper, special sunglasses were used as evidence of our advanced state of awareness of this 120-year happening, a six-hour crossing of the sun’s disc by Venus in retrograde motion.

Esoterically, Venus aligns with Isis, Aphrodite and lesser-known ancient love goddesses like Babylonian ’Athtar/Ishtar. Her crossing before the sun-throne was believed to enhance or magnify through her ‘lens’ blessings of love flooding on to the earth.

Without telescopic aid, classical astronomers were consummate calculators and the orbit and cycles of Venus were as familiar to them as those of the moon. But they had another advantage which we now appear to lack: an intuitive knowledge of cosmic influences, much of which has deteriorated into brief mythical allusion or into the much-maligned art of astrology.

By dismissing all but the rational, our society may be guilty of throwing the galactic baby out with the bathwater of the cosmos.

It is known, for instance, that transits of Venus affect the earth’s magnetic field by blocking electrically-charged particles of solar wind which can cause ‘anomalies’: between June 4-9, 2004, with the aid of a full moon, terrestrial tides were the lowest for 19 years.

Such celestial influences would not have gone unnoticed by our ancestors, as they are by us.

As a prelude to a transit, Venus’s disappearance from both evening and morning sky would also be seen as remarkable.

Dresden Codex of the Maya Long Count Calendar

Transits occur in pairs. Each is separated by a period of eight years as Venus passes, as it were, pillars of a gateway first retrograde and then direct; not to be repeated for at least a century. Transits of June 1761/ 1769 and December 1874/1882 are modern compared with those calibrated in the Mayan Long Count of cycles which have elapsed since their zero date of 3113 B.C.

The Mayas’ reputation as astronomers is unsurpassed: one of three hieroglyphic texts to survive Spanish book-burning is the so-called Dresden Codex containing precise astronomical calculation of Venus’s synodic period along with (solar) eclipse prediction tables of great accuracy. It is to the Maya we owe a debt of gratitude for a reminder – if we are paying attention – that in 8 years time, in June 2012, in their calendar, Venus returns through her gateway and marks the end of Time.
©2004-2009MCYoungblood

Standing Still

Solstice marks the apparent standstill of the sun twice annually. In June, 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 midwinter sunset reaches 223º, or SSW, a legendary point on the compass captured within the earliest recumbent stone circles (RSCs).

Motion of the moon, too, apparently wild and chaotic, nevertheless has a cycle. This was calculated by Meton in 432 BC, as 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 southern horizon, grazes it, and sets, all within an arc of just over 45º.

A non-event, you might think.

Yet at the latitude of the Arctic circle, the summer full moon does not appear at all. So it is notable that early (and indeed, largest) RSCs are often cupmarked, with special clustering appearing on a circle stone in the SSW arc where the lunar standstill could be witnessed.

At Balquhain in the Garioch the West flanker is heavily cupmarked. This is also true of the massive recumbents at Aberdeenshire’s Sunhoney, Cothiemuir and Rothiemay stone circles: all have cupmarks oriented SSW: at 232º, 230º, 200º and 226 degrees respectively.

At Cothiemuir, at Keig near Alford NJ617 198, in 2006 maximum summer full moon will seem to set right into the recumbent’s western edge.

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 North than any other in its 18.6-year cycle. It also sets farther North than at any other time: it is as if the full moon at this time is the dominant orb of the whole sky. Ancestral wonder would have been piqued to see this planetary body in almost full possession of the night, rising in the north, circling the celestial pole and setting again in the north.

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 exactly) and spending the longest time in the sky of any appearance in its metonic cycle. In astronomical circles (and it would have been so in prehistoric times) 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, near Inverurie in the Garioch at 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 to see it graze the horizon. Easter Aquhorthies is sited in such a way that its view of the south is marginal in any event. This brief appearance of the summer moon would have set prehistoric hearts aflutter.

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.
©2000-2009MCY

ALMAGEST: Astronomical Clock

Antikythera or Almagest Astronomical Clock

When Romanized Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy wrote his mathematical compilation of the heavens in Alexandria in AD150 from a geocentric perspective, it was the Great Compilation. Seven hundred years later when it was translated into Arabic c.AD827, it became ‘the Greatest’ – Al-Majisti. It remained so until Copernicus in 1543 challenged our attitude to geocentricity, although we earthlings still look heavenward with earth-bound eyes.

FOGS' George Burnett-Stuart's Almagest

The Almagest astronomical clock, invented and lovingly reproduced by FOGS astronomer George Burnett-Stuart is perhaps the ultimate time-piece for those who love to watch the solar system from earth (is there another way?)

For devoted planet-watchers or to find current moon and planet phases, Almagest in clock mode gives a 3-D view of those orbs as seen presently on earth.In reference mode its hand-crafted brass gears can show planetary positions against a background of stars (the horizon plate) at any time or place between 1000BC and AD5000. For photographs and more detail on this British crafted timepiece, see his website.

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 that run by Victor Reijs who is encouraging world-wide moon-watching. His website is lovingly maintained and gives azimuth, declination and degree at several stone circle 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, but simply, if you 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 Gerald Hawkins 1965 Stonehenge Decoded, John Edwin Wood 1978 Sun, Moon and Standing Stones, Knight/Lomax 1999 Uriel’s Machine’. FOGS’ website features Knight/Lomax who built such a machine based on instructions in the Bible’s Book of Enoch.

Editor’s note, 2009: after the death of Gerald Hawkins in 2003, it is sad to see National Geographic’s manipulation of his ideas into a full-length two-hour video called ‘Stonehenge Decoded’, narrated by Donald Sutherland. It is hoped that the Hawkins family is adequately compensated for the use, not only of his title but his original idea.

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03
Dec
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2003 winter solstice news vol.XV #1

FOGS MIDWinter Newsletter’ December 2003/ January 2004: Volume XV-1

Sine umbra nihil

Well-wishing for a new year is what we do in the Northeast when the calendar points to January. It was always so. Or was it?

In Gregorian, we count this 2004. It is already 5764 Jewish time. In a month (February 2004) it will be the Chinese year of the Monkey; on February 22 Islam moves into 1425. For Sikhs, new year (536) comes just before vernal equinox when Hindus (2061) and Persians (1383) celebrate, just as we used to before the Julian calendar adjusted new year from March to January.

Ethiopia still runs on the Julian calendar, which served most of the western world until 1752 or thereabouts, depending on one’s allegiance. Russia was slow to make the change, but that is no surprise to the Clavie Crew of Burghead (Moray) or to the fireball-swingers of Stonehaven, Kincardineshire. They still run on Julian time.

burning clave on flaming fire altar in Burghead's Pictish fortress

Burning clavie atop flaming 'Doorie' (fire altar) at Burghead; running on Julian calendar time

In Burghead, lighting the eternal fire and carrying it round the town reenacts the celebration of the return of new light after the longest night – the dark of our title, without which we have ‘nothing’. To the Clavie King and torch-bearers of Burghead, this is Aul’ ’Eel, pre-Christian Yule or winter solstice. Yule becomes interchangeable with Christmas south of the border but Scotland has held to its pagan festival of Hogmanay, itself a testimony to and turning point in that Roman calendar.

On Hogmanay night Steenhivers have a street party to end all street parties. Whereas Burghead (annually January 11) only spills combustible materials over the shoulders of Clavie-bearers, Stonehaven delights in spinning fire in clumps into the unwary crowd.

When Scotland changed calendars in 1752, there was much misunderstanding in the country districts – the loss of 11 days seen as having robbed them of important events. At that time, clavie-burning and local celebrations to mark the return of the light after midwinter were commonplace in all the northern and northeastern ports. Now only two remain holding to tradition from an earlier time, Burghead most precisely still counting its lost 11 days.

Fire for the clavie is ritually kindled from a peat ember – no match is used. Clavie king and crew dispense flaming brands from burning tar-barrel as tokens of abundance to important burghers, publican included! They circle the town sunwise and the final free-for-all happens after the clavie has been fixed to its fire-altar, the doorie, on a rib of the old Pictish ramparted stronghold, and left to die. Julian indeed.

Yggdrasil:the world tree

Every culture, beginning with the Polynesians, had its ‘world tree’, a great being of life and knowledge which connected through its forever-turning axis the heavens, earth and the nether realms.

It is to Norse myth that we owe a debt for transmitting the name Yggdrasil: an ash, at whose three roots were sacred fountains ‘of wondrous virtue’, and in whose branches sit an eagle (international symbol of visionary power), a squirrel (symbolic of activity and preparedness), and four stags (innocence and return to wilderness).

In our original state of grace the world and the heavens, time and space, were one, held in hologram by this great turning spindle, but then chaos intervened.

In Scandinavia, this great gyroscope or ‘mill’ was thrown into the deep, now forever grinding sand and stones, creating whirlpools and hurricanes. Greek Kronos/Chronos the Titan, child of heaven and earth – Ouranos and Gaia – after emasculating his father and throwing the great pole into the sea, became father of the gods. Romans separated the two into Saturn and Time, but the original dual concept was intentional.

It was left to subsequent generations who believed their ancestors to have been gods, to try to make sense of a universe spinning progressively out of kilter, a fact seen in the Greek ‘royal science’ of astronomy in the steady precession of the equinoxes: a cosmic mill forever churning stars which no longer return to their ‘right time’. The tree had been uprooted by giants and only heroes with like powers might replicate the act.

In Finland and India, it is called a mill from Sampo, Sanskrit skambha, in England it is an oak or mythic Excalibur extracted only by a ‘true’ prince.

In Northeast Scotland until at least 1945, sacred wells were still complemented by the presence of an ash, though uprooting it appears not to be part of the legend until the coming of bulldozers in modern development. That aside, if the discovery of ‘Seahenge’ in 2003 off the East Anglian coast connects us to our ancestors at all, it is through the ritual of a massive oak, carefully-placed upside-down, huge roots exposed to the heavens, within a sacred precinct of guardian tree-stumps at a place where earth and ocean meet.

Might we not be seeing some vestige of that ancient rite conceived by man to right his Universe and return it to that golden age (Virgil’s Saturnia regna) before the fall, when time was eternal and heaven-and-earth were one?
©MCY2004-2009

Winter Wonders

Several years occur when midwinter full moon does not completely tie in with solstitial sunset: 2003 was one of those years*. Full moonrise nevertheless was an impressive sight at two recumbent stone circles on either side of the Garioch plain: at Easter Aquhorthies (NJ733 208) and the Barra RSC (older country name for Bourtie, NJ801 249) where FOGS stalwarts braved the winter’s first storm to witness a lunar prelude to the darkest days. On December 8th, nearly two weeks before the shortest day, the full moon rose, regular as a cosmic clock, at the moment of sunset over the whitened slope of Crocker hill (compare our solar eclipse point in June n/l XIV-2). It is the same point for each circle, as both appear to be aligned on this double axis of solstitial summer sun and winter moon.
*at 2009 archive transcribing; full moon rose at same point on December 2nd

While the sunset is obscured at Aquhorthies by the lie of the land, it has full view of rising moon. In contrast at Barra, sunset is fully visible over Mount Keen (at latitude 57ºN this is 223º), but moonrise takes another five minutes to materialize on the Crocker (at 43º or NNE).

There may be another link between the two RSCs which time forgot. From the Easter Aquhorthies recumbent an alignment towards Barra and moonrise leads the eye directly over the huge red-jasper sentinel at the modern ‘entrance’. It is not a large leap in imagination to connect its fiery red with a dyiing sun.

What has not previously been noted is the presence of pink quartz in a NNE vector-like scatter in the two fields leading from the Barra circle upslope to the ‘moonrise’ rock (the ‘Bellman’, also sunrise rock in our previously noted summer newsletter) at 600 ft/185m, Barra has substantial quantities of white quartz stones ringing it radially in all other directions, but the NNE scatter is decidedly more pink: a synchronicity perhaps unnoticed by many of us, but not without apparent significance to the circle-builders.

©2003-2009 MCYoungblood

Sacred Journey
Lawrence Main, peripatetic extraordinaire, is making a sacred journey throughout Britain. He plans to spend three nights on Bennachie in Aberdeenshire as part of his communion with the earth, thanking the Mither for her part in holding a vision of what this ancient stronghold and Pictish kingdom meant to its people. We do not publish his dates, for privacy, but wish him well on his pilgrimage.

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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