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Growing by the Moon

Sometimes I sit outside, look up at the trees and wonder what they’re whispering about as the breeze blows through their leaves, making them chatter and dance. What ancient gossip streams in on the trade winds that traverse the continents? Whatever it is, they keep it far above our human heads, like the old gods they are.

While the earth keeps her true hand close, there are hints and nudges everywhere. One of these nudges that you may already know I’m slightly obsessed with is the connection between the moon and the garden. Every single culture from the Maoris to the Celts timed their garden tasks (and most other tasks) to its cycles.

Norwegian folktale

But why? I’ve been experimenting with incorporating the moon into the garden myself and have seen its effects, but I wanted to go deeper and find what drove this inseparable connection between ancient peoples, the stars anIf you try and look up anything about moon gardening they’ll give you some brief vague information about how to do it, but no real background. This is a practice that has been performed for thousands of years, many people’s grandparents still use these methods. There had to be more.

So I had to start at the beginning, with the birth of the moon. It became very clear quite quickly how this connection formed. While we can’t say with absolute certainty how the moon formed, the most widely accepted version is the giant-impact theory. This theory states that moon was formed during a collision between earth and another planet about the size of Mars. The moon is of the earth and the earth is of the moon. Bone of bone, salt of salt, soil of soil.

I love the quote by Susan Orlean in the book The Orchid Thief:

If you had really loved something, wouldn't a little bit of it always linger?

With the risk of romanticizing a bit, I feel there must be some intangible connection that lingers between moon and earth. We know about the very obvious effects on the ocean tides of course, but it goes deeper than that.

Cosmic tides & Earth tides.

While scientists have studied ocean tides for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the late 50’s and 60’s that they were able to confirm that there are tides within the soil as well. That’s right, the land actually bulges and depresses subtly with the movements of the moon.

What is even more fascinating is that these earth tides are unhindered by any land masses on the surface such as buildings or even mountains. It occurs at such a scale that the rigidity of the rock that it shifts is irrelevant. Much like the ocean tides, these earth tides are observed to be at their greatest on the new and full moons. Also like the moon, these land tides move in semi-diurnal (or every 12 hours) as well, like a great beast breathing in and out each day.

These land tides displace the surface of the earth by just 12 inches daily, and while this may not seem like much to the average person, volcanologists and geologists hold them in high regard. This is because land tides have been shown to contribute to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Just a mere 12 inch displacement is enough to cause continental disruptions. But ancient peoples already knew all of these things of course.

from a lunar almanach by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

We also have to take into account that there is water within the land as well; the water table as we call it. One can imagine then how this could be important when planning planting and harvesting in the garden. Many studied folk will naturally thumb their noses at such things, but if a movement the size of my forearm influences earthquakes, and scientists take hundreds of years to catch up with indigenous wisdom, perhaps they shouldn’t count it out so quickly!

That brings us to an even more recent discovery. A 40 year study that began in 1977 and ended in 2015 studying cosmic tides was just recently published. We are finally learning to measure more of the intangible forces that our ancestors knew so well.

These invisible tides are created by the plasmasphere, a region of magnetized plasma that follows the geomagnetic field lines upward from earth to the atmosphere during daylight and then collapses again at night, much like ocean and earth tides. These cosmic tides also coincide with the moon’s phases, rising and falling as it waxes and wanes.

So what effect do these cosmic tides actually have? The study states that these cosmic tides have a global effect on rainfall, another important factor in our gardening tasks. The study however is left open ended, suggesting these cosmic tides could have far reaching effects that we have yet to determine.

Everything is shifting and ever-transforming

Now we can see that even science has reinforced the ancestral belief that the earth is alive and communicating with the moon. The oceans, the land, the cosmic energy above it all ebbs and flows to the pull of the moon and stars. Everything is shifting and ever-transforming!

Simply sit outside and look around. Even on a day with no breeze the plants sway slightly, leaves quiver quietly. They just move at a different pace than us. Nothing is stationary; not the soil or trees or mountains. Knowing that everything below, above and around us is constantly being moved by cosmic forces gives a greater sense of why the ancestors thought it so important to time their own movements to these rhythms.

Even if these tasks seem menial and the effects imperceptible, what greater shifts might occur if we follow them?

Growing by the moon was a means of survival for ancient peoples. And in these constantly changing times of our modern age, we may want to take notice of their efforts once again.

Whether you get your knowledge from scientific studies or the chatter of the trees, it is becoming more clear that there is something to be said about not just looking down at the soil while we cultivate, but also looking up at the sky. We are not just above, we are also below. Realizing this may just help us find our own place within it all.

Centuries before all of these studies, Shakespeare once wrote:

There is a tide in the affairs of men.

Because it isn’t just the environment around us that ebbs and flows, it is within us as well. The body longs to flow with these rhythms as well. Often it is these small intentional tasks that make all the difference!

{ MamaSeed's earth medicines are tended from seed following the moon calendar. } Stay curious & love, Jaya

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