the Moon by John Townley
. . . the moon
There may be only one thing that geologists, oceanographers,
weathermen, sailors, fishermen, firemen, policemen, astrologers, poets,
doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists all agree upon.
above the rolling sea swells
to a deeper need
within each creature that must feed upon the tide
and then fulfilled
what greater hill to climb
up the next wave of need
then to recede into decline
till all comes back again
when will it find an end
to constant repetition so ingrained that
thought cannot avoid its dictates
lest the madness of abandon fly
into the face of what the eye can but observe
the vestiges of what absorbs and still surrounds
the letters that we use to comprehend
what we would like to be an end
to up and down and right and left
forward and backward till there's
no place left to go
except to roll with what we once already knew
the tolling of the tide
the very structure of the heart
the floating vessel that returns to meet its bride
only to the very ones to whom it's not denied
until they meet . . .
thing: the power of the Moon.
This power is not theoretical, metaphorical, or mystical in nature. It
is a physical power that lifts whole continents at a time, raises
oceans, stirs the winds-and from all that every other effect is
translated into the realms of life experience. It rocks the cradle,
rocks the boat, rocks the beat, it even rocks the rocks. Short of the
life-giving Sun, there is no greater force on earth that humankind and
all other life must bow to.
How does the Moon do it? Simple: she is big and she is there.In concert
with the Sun, the Moon daily pulls and stretches every part of the
Earth, and we all stretch with it. Moon overhead-we're pulled up and
lighter on our feet. Moon below-we're heavier and sinking into the
ground. It's like having alternate weights and skyhooks on our belts,
twice a day. No wonder we sometimes act strangely.
And The Moon
How strangely do we act? Take a look, first, at the words of the
venerable British journal New Scientist concerning current research
into the Full Moon effect, if there indeed is one:1 "Over the past 20
years, researchers looking for lunar rhythms among people have found
them all over the place. Calls to crisis centres, absenteeism, heart
attacks and mental hospital admissions have all been linked to phases
of the Moon. Rape, robbery, assault, theft, domestic violence, suicide
attempts, poisonings, drunkenness and disorderly conduct also appear to
become more prevalent in the two or three days around a full Moon. A
study in 1995 by psychologists at Georgia State University in Atlanta
found that people ate more food but drank less alcohol when the Moon
was full. In another study from 1998, a trio of Italian mathematicians
looked at the timing of births. They reported 'significant clustering'
of deliveries in the first or second day after the full Moon. The
effect was particularly strong in mothers who had already had at least
one child, or who gave birth to twins or triplets.
"What's more, survey after survey has revealed an entrenched belief
among healthcare workers-the people who mop up after madness
descends-in the power of the Moon. In the U.S., four out of five
mental-health professionals and two-thirds of emergency doctors believe
that human behaviour is influenced by the Moon.
"The latest piece of evidence suggests that the lunar cycle even
influences our use of technology. Last year, researchers at British
Telecom noticed a 29-day cycle of peaks and troughs in network traffic.
'Just out of curiosity,' says Stewart Davies of British Telecom, 'we
matched the cycle against the phases of the Moon.' The cycles
coincided. In the seven days before a full Moon, people spent more time
talking on the phone or surfing the Internet than at other times of the
It is true that dozens of investigations claim to have found lunar
cycles to be associated with fertility patterns, menstrual cycles,
weather patterns, plant growth, economic variations, crimes, and fires,
as well as mental illness, surgical bleeding crises, plus lots more.
But, as many skeptics are quick to point out, despite many surveys,
definitive evidence has yet to arrive. Similar surveys often contradict
each other, some have questionable methodologies, and all lack the
silver bullet that science so succinctly must supply: a physical chain
of effects. That is to say, the Moon may have these widely attributed
influences, but just how does she do it?
The most popular theory is "biological tides," which supposes that
humans and animals, being mostly water, respond in the same way that
the oceans do. But that theory just doesn't hold water. The effect of
the Moon's gravity upon any individual is almost immeasurably small.
"The acceleration due to walking would create gravitational effects of
far greater magnitude than those caused by the Moon and Sun combined,"
says Daniel Myers of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental
Medicine in a scathing attack on this idea in The Journal of Emergency
Medicine. After decades of dispute over the matter, it might appear
that true lunar effects can never be detected by this sort of
one-on-one laboratory method.
So let us try a larger, more environmental approach. Suppose you are
standing on the deck of a ship. As the full Moon rises, you may be
impressed by her beauty, but not by her brawn-she is not, in fact,
pulling your body up at all. Yet, you are steadily rising. That's
because the tide is rising, and, as they say, a rising tide floats all
boats, including yours. Is the Moon affecting you? You bet it is-but by
proxy, through the environment all around you. And it's not just you.
Millions of creature all around you-from birds, fish, crabs, and
shellfish to the tiniest microbes-are undergoing a rhythmic sea change,
feeding hungrily, scurrying about making the most of the redistributed
surroundings that keep them alive. This is hardly a peaceful and scenic
time-it's the beating heart of life's energy exchange surrounding you
while you quietly rise ever higher. No small event.
But does the Moon really affect you? That may depend on where (and
perhaps who) you are. Specifics, in life, are everything-even for the
ocean, which is why it took hundreds of years for scientists to
actually admit that the Moon causes the tides. (Galileo, for instance,
said that belief was a matter of the occult-but then he also had some
serious issues with the Church.) That's because if the Moon causes the
tides, the tide logically ought to rise equally at every place as the
Moon passes over-but it doesn't. It rises at different rates and
different times of day (even at places just a few miles apart) all over
the world, usually twice a day, but sometimes only once, and sometimes
not at all. Very irregular, very unscientific.
Despite all this, we know the Moon causes the tides. How did we figure
it out? It wasn't theoretical scientists who did it, but hands-on
maritime explorers, oceanographers, and cartographers who put it all
together by taking the environment into account. It's a complicated
business, but in brief:
As the tidal bulge produced by the combined pull of Moon and Sun rolls
around the world, it encounters obstacles: bays, channels, islands,
reefs, deep and shallow water. It takes real time for the huge amount
of water to pass through and around these. So, for instance, if you
live on one side of a narrow channel it may take hours for the water to
get through, so you can have a high tide happening on one side and the
other side won't see it for hours. In the meantime, the channel is
frantic with roaring currents trying to get through. If you want to get
technical about it, it's just Boyle's Law, simple fluid dynamics.
The result is, when you have serious topography getting in the way, you
get giant devouring whirlpools like those off Scotland, Norway, and New
Brunswick. And in the process, the timing of actual high tides is
totally skewed from what might otherwise be expected.
And there's more. In a giant bathtub like the Atlantic or Pacific
Ocean, you get bounceback. As the rolling tidal bulge swells up against
one continent, it is reflected and sends back an echo that rolls back
all the way to the other side of the ocean. Depending upon the
shoreline, there may be several reflections that can combine with the
next rollaround and make for huge tides of forty feet or more (as in
the Bay of Fundy in Canada). At other times, the reflections may meet
up in the middle and cancel each other out entirely, creating mid-ocean
areas called tidal nodes where there are only miniscule tides or no
tides at all.
It's no wonder, then, that it took so long to directly link the rise
and fall of local tides to the Moon. If we had been limited to theory
and statistical surveys alone, we never would have figured it out.
How much more difficult is it, then, to find that same lunar link as it
affects life itself? In a word, very-unless and until we take a wider,
yet at the same time more local, view of the phenomenon.
Suppose we do-what should we look for? Where should we look?
The answer, probably, is just to look around us at our immediate
surroundings.What are we tied into (like that ship) that is affected by
the Moon and thus affects us? The sea with all its life cycles is one
example, but there are more. The same rolling, bulging effect that
happens on the sea also happens on land-geological tides raise the very
bedrock under us on a regular basis, stressing the ground we walk on,
triggering earthquakes, and causing piezoelectric effects that may
account for earthlight occurrences (one form of alleged UFO).
Similarly, there are atmospheric tides that gently raise and lower the
barometric pressure daily and have been linked to thunderstorm activity
and general rain patterns. The earth's magnetosphere also rolls with
the lunar punches, varying the magnetic index, the solar wind, the
cosmic ray index, and more. The fact is we live in a matrix of
environmental variation affected by the Moon both on a daily and a
monthly basis. We're surrounded, all-encompassed.
We're also surrounded by less "natural" forces that tend to magnify
lunar effects or minimize them. When, for instance, we live in crowded
conditions, the slightest variation of mood level tends to spread
infectiously within the social context. This can run the gamut from a
general increase in crankiness due to being around irritated and/or
irritating people to actual mass hysteria when things get really out of
control. Emotions are contagious and tend to compound themselves in
groups. If you live in close quarters, chances are many of your natural
environmental inputs, however slight, will get magnified and blown out
of proportion. If you live out in the woods or anywhere expansive,
however, you're on your own. You may have troubles or you may have
joys, but they won't be amplified by the troubles or joys of others all
We are surrounded by larger macro systems (the atmosphere, the ground,
the oceans) that downshift lunar rhythms into our own middle-sized
human world, which then may or may not amplify their effects. But we
are also surrounded by a world of micro systems that appear to be
affected by lunar rhythms as well. Experiments with various metal
salts, colloidal silver, and other denizens of the atomic world have
shown lunar rhythms, as have various patterns of bacterial behavior.
The Moon seems to be catching us from below as well as above, from
inside as well as from outside. She suffuses the very structure of our
lives. Whether or not we admit to responding directly to lunar rhythms
ourselves, everything else that surrounds us and even makes up our
chemistry is feeling the effects-and no doubt is affecting us in the
process. When everything is moving together in a matrix, so are we.
Like it or not, understand it or not, admit it or not, we are carried
along willy-nilly, or on a bad day, helter-skelter.
So, meet the Moon. She's everywhere, within you and without you.We
dance to her rhythms, sometimes knowing it, sometimes not without
knowing it, sometimes denying it, but more increasingly these days,
accepting it. How much the Moon affects you specifically, however, is a
matter of speculation. There may be ways to escape some of her
effects-especially magnification by ill-chosen surroundings-or ways to
cancel or balance them out by being aware of their rhythms and taking
measures to ride the waves instead of fighting them.
It may be more than just riding "the" waves, the environmental waves
that you share with all that is around you, such as daily high and low
tides, and monthly full and new Moons (when the tides run highest). It
may be equally about riding "your" waves, the personal rhythms you have
gotten used to over a lifetime. At the moment you were born, you
climbed on board a general set of rhythms at a very specific point-a
point in the daily and monthly lunar rhythms and a point in the yearly
solar rhythm. If you wereborn at the full Moon, then that's the start
of your monthly wave, your familiar starting point from which you step
off anew each month. That's your most familiar stage of solunar
tension, and it feels like home, a time to wind things up and start
anew. Celestially, that's when the Moon's monthly cycle repeats the
same angular relationship to the Sun it had at your birth, your own
special phase of the monthly tide cycle. It happens once every 291.2
That's one wave. A second wave happens every day, when the diurnal
swelling or receding tidal forces return to the part of their cycle
where they were the instant you were born, your own special phase of
the daily tide cycle.
A third wave is when the Moon returns to the place in the sky
background where it was the instant you were born, once every 271.2
days. In astrological parlance, that's your Lunar Return, and a chart
done for that instant each month has long been believed to encapsulate
the coming month, marking a starting place that characterizes the next
Three Tell A Different Story
The first wave, the return of your Sun-Moon angle, marks the time of
month when the overall tension of the daily tides is similar to what
you were born with. Some time that day you will also experience (as you
do daily) the second wave, which is the phase of the daily tide.
Together, they make that day feel especially familiar, and you may feel
particularly more connected to your situation, because of its innate
familiarity. A monthly chart can be done for the first, and a daily
chart for the second, both of which should reveal useful information
about your monthly or daily outlook. Strange to say, astrologers have
barely looked at the first, and at the second not at all. They are
areas that beg more investigation, as they are likely crucial elements
that bring the physical presence of the Moon and planets to ground in a
truly causal chain of events.
Lunar Return: What It Is, What It
The third wave, the Lunar Return, is a long-entrenched astrological
tool and is based on a slightly less physical way of looking at the
Moon. The transit of the Moon through the houses of your natal chart is
said to put particular emphasis on each house and on each natal planet
it touches.When it hits your Ascendant, for instance, it makes you
physically more noticeable (since the Ascendant represents your
physical presence).When it hits your Sun, it boosts your ego energy,
and so on with the rest of the houses and planets. And when it hits
your Moon, you experience an emotional rebirthing that presages the
next 271.2 days of events that will determine your monthly emotional
cycle. This is the Lunar Return, which is what this book is all about.
Your Lunar Return chart for any given month is easy enough to
determine-most astrological computer programs will calculate it at the
click of a mouse, once you have entered your natal birth data. But then
it's up to you to interpret it and unlock its potential for the coming
month. To do that, you need to understand its unique astrological
The Lunar Return is a unique astrological beast, an ephemeral
combination of a stand-alone horoscope, an electional chart (you can
change it by choosing your location), and a set of transits. Ideally,
it needs to be looked at in its own right, in relation to the natal
chart, in relation to its own transits, and in relationship to transits
to the natal chart. Its duration is too short to make its progressions
meaningful, but its transits serve as if they were progressions.
Unlike the Solar Return, which encapsulates your inner position in
relation to the world for the next year, the Lunar Return deals with
the reflective, reactive, emotional part of your nature and thus
relates more to the way you respond to events than to how you may
generate them. The best use for a Lunar Return chart is in unraveling
and maximizing the opportunities that events present, rather than
building a game plan for future structure-building. It is tactical in
nature, not strategic.
The challenge in interpreting the Lunar Return is not to plumb its
depths for a vast network of details-its life is too short to get
bogged down in that-but rather to extract the relevant events and
eliminate the blinding chaff, to see through the smoke and dust to the
immediate terrain and its possibilities. It's kind of a monthly
birthday, and the arrangement of planets it displays reflects the
patterns of your coming month. Each month, this "re-birth-day" works
out its potential for you and then is renewed once again 271.2 days
later with a new set of surprises and opportunities.
Does It Work?
Like your natal chart, or any other kind of horoscope, a Lunar Return
is a chart of a beginning-in this case, the monthly beginning of the
lunar cycle that started at your birth, which is the cycle of your
response to your environment, including your emotions, feelings,
interactivity, social well-being, and generally how creatively you
react to the challenges and opportunities of life. A Lunar Return works
on the principle that when you begin something-anything-everything that
flows from it is bound up in the initial conditions under which it
started. The beginning is your foundation, and you build and rest upon
it until you are finished. A Lunar Return is the astrological depiction
of the new beginning you make each month and what results from it until
the next cycle begins.
Begun Is Half Done
"The beginning is half of everything," said the ancient Greeks, and so
your monthly beginning is something to be taken seriously and honored,
if you want your lunar month to have a special start. Attempt to give
yourself some time and space, no matter how small, to rest and meditate
in the few hours surrounding the time of your Lunar Return each month.
Take that time to think about what lies ahead, plan your strategies,
and gather your resources so you can make the best and most of what's
offered. Look over the aspects in your Lunar Return chart as well as
the days and times ahead where they individually kick in. Once you've
got a clear, calm picture of the challenges and openings to come, you
can rise to seize the day, one moment at a time, and make the most of
the month from beginning to end.
The planetary positions in a Lunar Return are locked in at the moment
the Moon returns to its natal place. Where these positions fall in
relation to the local horizon, and thus the areas of your life in which
they work, is entirely dependent upon where you are at the time. Thus,
if you see that your Lunar Return is going to develop a picture you'd
like to rearrange, that can be accomplished by placing yourself at the
right spot on the globe to fine-tune the event. Many astrologers travel
widely in order to adjust both Solar and Lunar Returns-we have done so
repeatedly over the last thirty-five years with great success, so it is
recommended when necessary. Moving about extensively every month is not
easy for everyone, but being aware that it affects the Lunar Return is
a plus if you normally travel on business and have some say as to where
you can go.
Of The Puzzle
The Lunar Return is a large piece of the astrological picture of what
happens with your life every month, but it is not the only one. Lunar
transits, new and full Moons, and other factors also weigh in, so they
have been included in this book so you can have as complete a picture
as possible of what you have to work with. Try to remember, however,
that factors whose timing is as short as a monthly cycle are more like
the minute or second hands on your life's clock face. Don't forget to
stand back every now and then and refresh yourself with a look at the
big picture of where you are and where you're going, which are
described by long-term transit and progression cycles. Then you can get
back down to the day-to-day nitty-gritty that your Lunar Return offers,
so every moment is enjoyed and utilized to its best advantage.
With that in mind, read on, cast your next Lunar Return chart, and
launch yourself into the coming month with the wind at your back and
the planets racing by your side
1. Gail Vines, "Blame It on the Moonlight,"New Scientist 170, no. 2296
(June 23, 2001): 36.
Lunar Returns, by John
Townley, published by Llewellyn