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Year-End Review (2009) of Lunar Cycles

With Some Remarks on Naked-Eye Observation

As noted for the Visvamata shift that ended on November 16, close observation of the local sky plays a key role in determining which devata will come on shift each month. The full round of correlations of the Shakti Cluster to the constellations of the ecliptic generates a routine pattern, repeated each year, but they are odd and irregular variations in this pattern. The thirteen constellations correlate to the Shakti Cluster as follows:

January - February: GOATFISH* = Mahakali
February - March: MANITOU = Matangi
March - April: FISHES = Nairatmya
April - May: RAM* = Chinnamasta
May - June: BULL = Bhuvaneshvari, with Tara, the Selector
June - July: TWINS = Bagalarita
July - August : CRAB* :: Vajrayogini
August - September: LION = Bhairavi, with Dhumavati
September - October: VIRGIN = Shodashi (two successive shifts)
November: SCALES* = Visvamata (rare)
November - December: SCORPION** = Kamala
December - January: SNAKETAMER** = Parnashavari
January - February: ARCHER = Kurukulla

If the pattern were perfectly regular, the same sequence of overseeing devatas would repeat itself annually. But this is not so, for the lunar cycle is fluidic and the real-sky constellations are irregular in extent. Let's consider some of these variations.

Most years, there are two successive new moons in the VIRGIN, but not always. The earliest sunset crescent in the VIRGIN can occur on the 17th of September. But if it does not occur until later, say, around mid-October, the following new moon with fall in the SCALES. The shift sequence will then be Shodashi, one time only, followed by Visvamata. Then again, there can in rare cases be two Sodashi shifts followed by Visvamata, as occured this year. Usually, though, the two successive Shodashi shifts will entail a skip-over of Visvamata, with either Kamala or Parnashavari coming next.

Unlike the astrological signs which are even starless sectors of the ecliptic path, 30 degrees in extent, the real-sky constellations are widely divergent in form and extent. The Virgin spreads for 45 degrees along the ecliptic, one-eighth of the entire circle. Next in the sequence comes the Scales, spanning a mere 20 degrees, less than 44 hours of moon transit time. The next constellation, the Scorpion, is massive, but most of its bulk, the torso and tail, drops steeply below the ecliptic rim. The sun is actually in the Scorpion for only 13 days each year, equating to 13 degrees of extent on the ecliptic. Then it slides into the Snaketamer, a gigantic figure looming above the Scorpion. It takes about 18-20 days to transit this star pattern, depending on how you determine the boundaries. Each of these intervals—20 days for the Scales, 13 days for the Scorpion, and 20-22 days for the Snaketamer—presents special conditions for observing the sunset crescent. Hence there can be considerable variation in the shifts around this time of year.

If Kamala (SCORPION) comes on shift, unambiguously indicated by a sunset crescent observed in the upper part of the Scorpion, Parnashavari (SNAKETAMER) will be skipped and the next shift will fall to Kurukulla (ARCHER). This rule is invariable: Parnashavari cannot succeed Kamala but must preclude her.

Due to the sinuous course of the moon, causing it to snake above and below the median line of the ecliptic, a sunset crescent can appear in the lower body of the Scorpion, even though it would fall, technically, within the ecliptic extent of the Snaketamer. This year on November 18, when the sunset crescent glided through the Scorpion (November 19), it was relatively high, up in the knees of the Snaketamer. From where I am in Andalucia, I did not observe the crescent until thursday the 19th when it was in the Archer.

So, 2009 has presented an unusual sequence: the two shifts of Shodashi (VIRGIN), followed by Visvamata (SCALES), followed by neither Kamala (SCORPION) nor Parnashavari (SNAKETAMER) , but Kurukulla (ARCHER)! For Kurukulla to come on shift at the end of November is extraordinary, nearly a month in advance of her usual pattern.

Theoretically, each of the four diminutive constellations (marked by *) presents a situation where the new moon might skip it entirely. The new moons occur about 30 degrees apart. If a constellation is less than 30 in extent, the indicted shift will be skipped. For instance, with Kamala (SCORPION) the timing is extremely unpredictable, because that constellation only occupies 13 degrees on the ecliptic, due to the position of the massive torso of the Scorpion well below the boundary line where the moon and the planets circulate. The sunset crescent is only visible in the Scorpion for one day each year, if that. For the next constellation, the Snaketamer, correlated to Parnashavari, the situation is equally tenuous. It occupies only twenty degrees on the ecliptic, about as much as one of the diminutive constellations (*). I have indicted the Scorpion and the Snaketamer by ** to signal their anomalous role in the lunar cycles.

So, the extent of the constellations affected the sequence of shifts. To make matters more complicated still, the velocity of the moon varies considerably through each month. As it approached its perigee, point closest to the earth, it moves more rapidly. Near its apogess, fartherst from the earth, it is slower. These variations effect viewing conditions...




Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.