“One moon lights a thousand forevers.” Meng Chiao

It’s not easy learning language is it?

I remember once my then five-year-old daughter listening to me talk to another parent about when school was due to break up for the summer holidays. When we got into the car, Anna burst into tears.

“What’s wrong, baby?” I asked her.

“I don’t want school to be all broken up,” she wailed.  “I like my school.”

I thought I’d got to an age where – at least with words – my stock in trade after all, there was not too much I didn’t understand, but a few days ago I finally discovered the meaning to something which has been mystifying me for years.

As an amateur follower of astrology I’d often noticed the phrase: the moon void of course. For years I’d wondered why all the astrologers said ‘of course’ – completely misreading and misunderstanding the phrase to mean: the moon void, of course. I thought it was odd that they should all say this – did the moon being void mean something so blindingly obvious that we should all automatically understand it?

It wasn’t until I was talking to an astrologer friend of mine who mentioned to me on the phone that the moon was void of course, that a small glimmer of comprehension dawned.  I dashed to the computer and let google work its magic – and there it was!  The period of time when the moon is between signs it is considered to be ‘void of course’! Of course!  And hello, what a blinking idiot did I feel?

So what happens astrologically when the moon is void of course?

Basically it’s a time of quiet limbo – it doesn’t last long, usually a maximum of a few hours until the moon transits into the next sign.

It takes 27.5 days for the moon to orbit the earth, and as it does it interacts or makes aspects to various planets. The VOC (how professional does that sound) is like a nap-time for the moon before it starts on its path into the next sign. We can tend to feel a little out of sorts with a VOC moon, and astrologers recommend not initiating any major projects at those times.

It’s more about the three R’s – Reflection, Rest and Recuperation.

Living in the country I’ve become much more aware of the moon’s cycles than I ever used to be – even it it’s only to make sure there are batteries in the torch for the nights when the moon is new. I’ve noticed for instance, that often on a full moon the weather is good and that there is very little wind – why that is I have no idea, but perhaps its nature’s way of counter-balancing the alleged ‘loony’ aspects of the full moon!

Symbolically speaking in many cultures the moon is literally the dark to the sun’s light – the sun is symbolic of the fraternal (yang) aspect, and the moon to the maternal or yin influence. (Although contrary to our Western appropriations there are many other cultures that see the moon as a masculine force.)

The moon produces no light of her own, instead she relies upon the sun to reflect her image to us, which no doubt unconsciously colours our feeling about her as the softer, more passive, more underlying influence than the sun.

It’s impossible to imagine our world without the moon.

There’s the almost unimaginableto science of it – it has no atmosphere, so there is no wind or weather of any description; because there is no weather the footprints left by the Apollo astronauts will be visible for at least ten million years.  There’s the magic and mayhem of werewolves and ‘lunacy’ attached to the full moon, and there’s the creativity and romance of it – where would our romantic poets, or musician, or singers, or even romance itself be without it?

“I am tired, beloved, of chafing my heart against the want of you; of squeezing it into little ink drops, and posting it.  And I scald alone, here, under the fire of the great moon.”  So wrote the wonderful American poet Amy Lowell, whose brother, incidentally, was the astronomer Percival Lowell.

Where would we be without the moon – in the dark, permanently void – of course.

Quote of the week

 “When the Moon is void of course it’s a soulful phase where the energy and excitement of life distills on an inner level. This is the perfect time to allow for serenity, and the cool, beautiful insights that rise from a state of total ease. As Rumi said, ‘When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.’” Astrologer and author Kim Falconer

More midweek meditations under wellbeing on http://thehoopla.com.au/ 
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Wattle days are here again

And I love the great land where the Waratah grows. 
And the Wattle-bough blooms on the hill.” Henry Lawson

Photo by Candida Baker

So the Olympics have come to a close, and those of us who’ve been sleep deprived for the past few weeks can eschew the sofa for our beds at last.

It was just before our Australian contingent began to leave for London in their droves, that I noticed the wattle – the green and yellow bloom which is the inspiration for our athletes’ outfits – was starting to bud.  It seemed a happy synchronicity.

I love it when the wattle flowers begin to appear in their cheerful, sweet-smelling profusion; for me the wattle heralds the beginning of the end of winter.

The green and the gold… the uniform of our London 2012 Olympic team.

The combination of a bout of nationalistic fervor coupled with the landscape’s physical representation of that fervor set me thinking – how did Australia choose wattle as its national emblem and why?

I remembered how moved I was when the-then Governor General Sir William Deane, picked sprigs of wattle from the gardens of Government house to toss into Switzerland’s Saxeten River gorge to commemorate the 14 Australians who had died there in the 1999 canyoning expedition that went so horribly wrong.

“It is still winter at home,” he said during the ceremony. “But the golden wattles are coming into bloom. Just as these young men and women were in the flower of their youth. And when we are back in Australia we will remember how the flowers and perfume and the pollen of their, and our, homeland was carried down the river where they died to Lake Brienz in this beautiful country on the far side of the world. May they all rest with God.”

The push to make the wattle our national flower emblem was started by Victorian ornithologist Archibald Campbell who founded the Victorian Wattle Club in 1899.

A few years later he delivered a lecture entitled Wattle Time; or Yellow-haired September,putting forward the case for the wattle to be Australia’s National Flower.

By 1912 we had our first truly national Wattle day, and in the same year it was first introduced into Australia’s coat of arms by Royal Warrant.

Wattle, however, didn’t have a completely smooth run on its way to the top – there was another, and some might say, more splendid, more unusual, more perhaps uniquely Australian flower that many wanted to adopt as the floral emblem – the waratah.  Botanist and musuem curator R.T Baker wrote: “The expression, ‘the land of the Waratah’, applies to Australia and no other; it is Australia’s very own. In the Wattle, Australia has not a monopoly like the Waratah, for Africa has over one hundred native wattles, and it also occurs in American, East and West Indies and the Islands….”

But the wattle got a head start when South Africa looked as if it might commandeer the wattle for its own patriotic purposes, which was enough to send Australia into a flurry of wattle support, although even so, as late as 1913, both waratah and wattle flowers were used as decoration on the three golden trowels used to lay the foundation stone for the commencement column in the soon-to-be national capital of Canberra.

In the end of course, the wattle won, adorning our medals of honour, our stamps, our tea-towels and anything else we could think of along the way.

It even has its own personal day of celebration – while the waratah had to settle for being anointed the floral emblem for New South Wales.

Which is probably a good thing, because it’s hard to imagine sprigs of waratah being attached to lapels, or brims of hats, or gracing small spring bouquets. Hard too, to imagine these days anything other than the green and gold as a clarion call for nationalism. And curiously, of course, the Olympics are always held sometime between July and the beginning of September – exactly the time the wattle begins to bloom.

Wattle did you say?

National Wattle Day is the first day of spring – September 1. The day was originally conceived as a day to demonstrate patriotism for Australia by wearing a sprig of wattle, but over the years it’s come to be a day in which we celebrate our natural environment.

Acacia you didn’t hear me…

Wattles are Australia’s largest genus of flowering plants – of the 1380 species of Acacia in the world, Australia has close to a 1000, ranging from creepers to tall forest trees.  Australia without wattle is unimaginable – we would be left with a much drier, less colourful continent.

The symbolism of yellow

Was it something as simple as the bright yellow colour that attracted the attention of our early settlers? Yellow is the colour of the sun, which is associated with our third chakra, the solar plexus – the house of our courage and will power. Its positive attributes are joy and delight, sunshine, happiness and summer, but negatively it can mean illness, or cowardice – as in yellow-bellied. Perhaps it’s why yellow was chosen as the mediator between red and green – somewhere between danger and safe.

Quote of the week

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” Iris Murdoch

All that glitters is not gold…

Colin Firth and Judi Dench. Shakespeare in Love. 1998. Homepage photograph, Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth 1 in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

I’ve been thinking about gold, and the meaning of it quite a bit over the past week or so since the Olympics took over our lives.

For me, whenever I think of gold, I think of being 18 and scoring a job with the Oxford Playhouse Company in a season that included Edward Woodward, Leo McKern, and the wonderful Judi Dench.

During The Merchant of Venice I was elevated from floor sweeper and dogsbody to be the gold casket bearer while Bassanio gave his casket speech.

I was dressed in a fetching golden Elizabethan costume.

Every night, I would listen to Bassanio while every night he dismissed me:  Therefore, thou gaudy gold, hard food for Midas, I will none of thee…

Read my article at The Hoopla.