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Volume 14, Issue 30 ~ August 3 - August 9, 2006

Sky Watch

by J. Alex Knoll

Summer’s Turning Point

Whether by August’s Hot-As-Hades Moon or Lammas Day, summer’s halfway through

The moon waxes in a lazy summer arc low in the south this week with summer’s zodiacal constellations: Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius. Come Wednesday, the full moon rises in the southeast as the sun sets in the northwest at 8:11pm. August’s full moon is called the Black Cherry Moon, the Corn Moon, the Wheat Moon and the Barley Moon. As the heat of summer beats down on us in unrelenting fury, we might call this the Hot-As-Hades Moon.

Take heart, however, as we have passed the midpoint of summer, which falls both August 1 and August 3. Two midpoints? Just as the names imply, August’s full moon marks the commencement of the harvest and the approach of fall. At the same time, however, we have over the ages tracked earth’s orbit around the sun with such precision as to mark the key points with solstices, equinoxes and even cross-quarter days, which fall midway between.

August 1 is the solar midpoint of summer, the third of the four cross-quarter days, Lammas. Lammas Day commemorates the apostle Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. Later, in feudal Europe, Lammas was the Wheat Mass, marking the first loaves of bread baked from the year’s first harvest. The peasants — tenant farmers all — paid tribute to their two lords: the first, their Lord God, with a loaf of bread; the second, and equally important in their rigid social structure, their land-lord, with the “gift” of a large share of the harvest’s wheat.

Pre-dating Lammas, the Gaels and Celts of Europe called the day Lughnasa — Lugh being a pagan sun god — Lunasa and Lunasdal. They celebrated with huge bonfires, singing, dancing, eating and drinking.

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