Major Lunar Standstill

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09-09 Saturday to 09-13-06 Wednesday, is the Major Lunar Standstill.  This is the time once every 18.6 years where the Moon’s path in the sky is at it’s southernmost and northernmost extremes.  As a result, at high latitudes, the moon appears to move in just two weeks from high in the sky to low on the horizon. There is an entire Class of Scottish stone rings designed to observe it.  They’re called Recumbant Stone Rings. The Callanish stones, at latitude 58.12 north, are famous for picking up the lunar standstills at their most southerly positions against the hills on the horizon.  The last Major Lunar Standstill was in early 1988.  What were you doing then?  It is the time of the old generation passing and a new one rising.

Lunar standstills are in a sense the polar opposites to solar and lunar eclipses. During a lunar standstill the Moon has to be roughly at right angles to the Moon’s Nodes, as opposed to being on or near these Nodes at times of eclipse. Also the Moon’s Nodes have to be in the signs of Aries or Libra, or Virgo or Pisces: the signs near the equinoctial points. The Moon’s North Node is in Aries or Pisces during the major lunar standstill season and in Libra or Virgo during the minor lunar standstill season.

Historical Notes

Caesar tells us that the Druids went through 20 years of training. Though this may have more accurately been 19 years as the Druids may have used a 19 year lunar cycle calendar (the Meton cycle).

“The historian Diodorus of Sicily wrote in 50 BC that from a circular temple on the island of Hyperborean, the moon appeared to be close to the Earth and that the gods visited the island every 19 years.”
The Lure of the Heavens — a history of astrology by Donald Papon

Sites which mark the Lunar Standstill

(1) STONEHENGE, located at a latitude of 51° in England, is a 5,000 year old solar and lunar calendar and observatory. The stone locations and sightlines indicate summer solstice sunrise, winter solstice sunset, southernmost moonrise, and northernmost moonset. At the latitude of Stonehenge, the angle between the winter solstice sunset and southernmost moonrise directions is exactly 90°.

(2) CALLANISH, SCOTLAND is located at a latitude of 58°, west of the northern part of of the UK on the Isle of Lewis. Also a 5,000 year old solar and lunar calendar and observatory, stone alignments indicate the northern moonrise and the summer solstice sunrise. The full Moon near summer solstice, which must always be opposite the Sun, is very low in the sky (like the winter Sun). At major standstill, the full Moon near summer solstice reaches only 3.5° above the horizon from Callanish and is viewed through the stones.

(3) CHACO CANYON, NEW MEXICO is a 1,000 year old solar and lunar calendar, located high (400′) atop Fajada Butte, inaccessible except by ropes. This site was discovered in 1977 by Anna Sofaer. At noon on the solstices and equinoxes, a dagger of light (called the ‘Sun Dagger’) pierces a spiral petroglyph carved into the rock face of the cliff. The same spiral petroglyph has been shown to also mark the major and minor standstills of the Moon. The Sun Dagger is accepted by archaeoastronomers worldwide as the best example of a culture keeping track of the Sun and also the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon.

(4) THE U.MASS. SUNWHEEL is an 8 year old stone circle — a solar and lunar calendar and observatory located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The stone circle contains 14 stones 8′-10′ tall, marking the cardinal directions, the directions along the horizon to the rising and setting Sun at the solstices and equinoxes, and the directions to the rising and setting Moon at major lunar standstill.

(info above from http://www.umass.edu/sunwheel/pages/moonteaching.html. There are pictures of the sites on that page)

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