I have been trying to work on my relationship with The Moon.
For much of my life, I’ve passed oblivious of her phases. With ceilings and cuboid rooms robbing me of my divine connection with the sky, on reflection, I don’t seem to be able to conjure up a single adolescent memory of her. If the Moon existed for me as a child, it was as a cartoonesque caricature – a crooked-chinned crescent occasionally anthropomorphised on animations. It feels almost like sacrilege to admit this – that the very mother of my being should have gone unnoticed for so long.
Yet, she was still present in the macabre fertility of my imagination; in my childhood fear of witches; the horror of the spinning dreamcatcher outside my bedroom, which, far from being a reassuring apotropaic talisman, was more of a web in which my morbid imaginings could become entangled. If Hecate was working her magic, it was here she kept me ensorcelled.
In my teenage years, that is where the nightmare of The Moon really began to creep in; The Goddess host of camping parties, ruling over insomnia, madcap thoughts, of music that transcends time and space, echoing on into the night. She makes the midnight leaves rustle in summer; enlarges the secret caverns within your skull. But, even then, she still only existed as a thing on mystic peripheries; a secret director of my fate, enwrapped in seeded memories, tender, nascent.
One of my most potent and intimate memories of her is of an invasion. At 21, I was living in the top-floor room in a three-storey house in Leominster. The room was blessed with a slanting sky-light. It must’ve been facing South, because, whenever the Moon was full, at her zenith, she would creepingly stare directly through that window, as though it had been built for that very purpose; the walls illuminated by her opalescent light.
Had you been naked in there with me, you would have seen your flesh rendered divine – a sparkling shadow of marble or howlite – a moonstone, secreted in skin, dribbled out into pearls, uterine, life-giving, dreamy, terrifying as it was beautiful; a thing that crawls into your bones, deliquescing sanity into delicious madness.
Not only madness, but mischief. When I moved in with a girlfriend in Newport, a student house filled with eccentric artists, budding photographers, and at least one repentant east-end gangster, I quickly realized the women had synchronized their periods to align with the full Moon, and, when I saw the great goddess waxing, I enjoyed teasing them with a knowing wink. They did not mind. I’ve always been both effeminate and androgynous. I exist very naturally within a sisterhood.
But, over-time, this madness turned malign. Instead of revering her, I came to fear the Moon. I noticed how crises seemed to naturally cluster around her. If she’s a midwife, then she was also Lilith, Mother of Abortions – mystic mistress of plans derailed, of all that goes awry.
On one occasion, I had planned to make a joy-ride on an untenanted boat. I was trying to make a film – an abstruse, psychological horror about a voyeuristic film-maker who finds himself pursued by the camera-wielding denizens of a nocturnal otherworld – and had conceived a scene in which the protagonist takes a dreamy boat-ride down The Wye.
I walked along the Wye regularly, and for months had been aware of a boat tethered near a weir, that I had yet to see anyone use. Confidently assuming it was abandoned, and could easily be commandeered harmlessly for a few hours, I excitedly put together a ‘cast’ to join me, even picking up an oar en route.
But alas! For the first and only time, as we approached that section of the river, on the evening of a full moon, we found a fisherman untethering the boat, looking with great hostility on such an obvious band of maurauders as ourselves. We left in a state of immense disappointment, our quixotic hearts bleeding. The film was never made, left to fend for itself on whatever plane absurd ideas go to die.
The very next day, the debut gig of a band I was to join was cancelled, when the drummer decided to quit at the last minute several hours beforehand. The only benefit of this was that, as the dispute turned into a fistfight, I got to see my rhythm guitarist deploy his incredibly balletic martial arts moves. To this day, I still consider the swiftness and grace with which he was able to disarm his opponent a masterclass of elegance.
On another occasion, a year later, the full Moon coincided with a trip to London. I had developed acute asthma only the month before, and found the journey extremely nerve-wracking. My partner at the time – (a queer sort of a fish, but good-hearted in her own prickly way) – had decided to donate her eggs to an NHS fertility program, for which she was prepped for about a month with home-administered, hormone-injections.
I wanted to be strong for her. But, the whole time, I was in a vulnerable state, adapting ineptly to my new condition; constantly afraid of having an asthma attack, of feeling my airwaves constrict within me, seemingly cutting me off from the rest of my body. Crowds make me panicky at the best of the times; the endemic pollution didn’t help either. I was in an extremely sensitive state, and remember being moved to tears by the sight of a homeless woman weeping outside of a fast food eatery, while its overweight frequenters walked pasted, oblivious, indifferent.
The next day, the operation went quickly. I remember the horror of seeing my partner wheeled back in afterwards, still knocked-out from the anaesthetic, oxygen mask on, heart-rate fluctuating wildly on her echocardiogram in post-operative distress.
Some people find the sound of heartbeats soothing. I do not. Anything that reminds me of my heartbeat makes me nervous – that ticking timebomb in my chest that will one day detonate, blasting me out of this reality.
We were rushed out of the hospital in undignified haste, and, due to some contractual oversight, my partner was given only a small fraction of the money we were promised – barely enough to cover our travel expenses.
Our journey back from King’s Cross was ill-omened from the start. Compared to the reasonably comfortable journey we’d had on the way down, the train was clogged with bodies. We were unable to find the seats reserved for us, or, indeed, any seats all. My partner became very angry and panicky, convinced she was having a post-surgical haemorrhage; for which she blamed me for my inability to assert myself in this scenario, bronchi spasming in my chest.
By the time we got back to Newport, we had a blazing row in the darkened station, in which I felt like I’d lost my mind. And I still remember the full Moon beating down on us, occulting serenity, her pearly embers inflaming everything with feverish unreason.
Events like this made me superstitious. Instead of being a time of mystery, maternity, and magic, I came to see the Full Moon as a time of danger – a time of the month to write-off the calendar – in which disasters, emergencies, catastrophes, were to be anticipated as a matter of course. Very often, I would deliberately avoid travelling or making significant plans around this time. And, when it could not be helped, I would contemplate her approaching fullness with dread.
You can easily see how, given such apprehensions, legends have built-up of this time as being one of transformation; where god-fearing men turn into werewolves; where the bestial, mad side of us we usually keep repressed, buttoned-down, well-hidden, comes screaming out into the light of night.
People try and hide their secrets in the dark. But The Full Moon lets us know nothing stays secret forever.
The full Moon shines just as brightly as noon, but in a completely different way. Hers is not the meridian of sunshine, where even the most northerly of places can come to seem as halcyon, as tropical, as an equatorial zone. Instead, she initiates mad carnivals of the unconscious; reminds us we are not just men, but animalistic dreams of the shamanic imperative.
If this is the time when tides fluctuate, when uterine linings slough-off to start anew, it is also a great purge of the mind – when the dark underbelly gives birth – when our brains and hearts vomit out all the perverse, overwrought feelings and thoughts, we usually reserve for nightmares.
As my knowledge of astrology deepened, I realized I was to blame for the souring of my connection with The Moon – that I had not been nurturing my half of the relationship. If we have a bad connection with the Moon, it’s because we have a bad connection with ourselves; because we deny the divine right of the unconscious mind to express itself. Because we are over-civilized depressives, abjuring the embrace of our own chthonic wildness.
Instead of misperceiving her as a malevolent demon, I reminded myself she is the First Mother, the object of countless aeons of sacrifice and worship – in many countries she far outweighed the Sun God in both reverence and splendour – The White Goddess of whom Robert Graves speaks.
Whatever I revere in either my imagination or my dreams, I owe to her. Without her, there would be no moods, emotions, fantasies, illusions; no surrealism, silliness, no sensuality, or divine nonsense – indeed, no colour or expression. Only the aching Apollonian tedium of what is obviously apparent.
I realized the times in which I had most benefited from these phases, were when, instead of resisting the Moon’s invitation to madness, I had gratefully yielded, accepted, ecstatically welcomed the temporary suspension of sanity.
When my notepads had exploded in a frenzy of prophetic nonsense; when, instead of hiding indoors to diminish her influence, I ran out, frothing and raving, into the meadows of the night, hearing the bestial roar of the wild, phantom animals lurking in every hedgerow, faery splinters emanating from grass stalks, the smell of moon-blossoms, spinning in corybantic circles until the whole world is attacked by vertigo, leaping simply for the joy of leaping, screaming simply for the joy of screaming, allowing my heartbeat to ramp up to tachycardia, then howling all the fear away.
If The Sun embodies what we can see, feel, and perceive, then The Moon is the mystery of everything we can’t. She is what we feel strongly, overwhelmingly, yet can neither fully articulate or grasp.
The Ultimate Muse, keeping us searching for a mysterious transcendent perfection we know can never master. If the sun empowers us with the majesty of egoistic accomplishments, then Selene teaches us surrender to time-cycles, cosmic forces, far greater than ourselves. She does not mature us, but turns us back into children, and that is the greatest maturity of all.
One cannot know the unconscious without knowing fear.
And fear is the beauty of The Moon.