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Lunar Returns Paperback – October 8, 2003
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About the Author
In 1973 John Townley introduced the composite chart technique in his book The Composite Chart. Since then he has pioneered various techniques for astrological cycle analysis. He is also the author of Planets in Love, has been the president of the Astrologers’ Guild of America, was the editor of The Astrological Review, and is a contributor to professional and popular astrological periodicals. John is also a well-known media journalist, elected member of the American Society of Authors and Journalists, historian, preservationist, performer, and record producer.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Anatomy of the Lunar Return
Meet the Moon
. . . the moon
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 . . .
There may be only one thing that geologists, oceanographers, weathermen, sailors, fishermen, firemen, policemen, astrologers, poets, doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists all agree upon.
One 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.
science 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 month."
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.
an environmental approach
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.
it's about tides
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?
all around us
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 around you.
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.
riding your waves
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 were
born 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 days.
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 four weeks.
all 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.
the lunar return: what it is, what it does
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 nature.
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. Unique, indeed.
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.
how 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.
well 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.
changing the picture
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 finetune 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.
pieces 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.
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