“Reflection, intuition, emotion, sexuality and madness belong to the moon….”
Fellow lunatics—those who have (more than once) driven off the road or walked into a tree at first glimpse of moonrise, those who find reasons to use the word “gibbous” as often as possible, those who have lost all track of time or burst into tears while gazing at (and talking to) the moon, those who consider light pollution virtually sacrilegious and prefer to find their way by moonglow, those who feel moontide in their blood and moonphase in their bones, those who have a little werewolf inside who insists on howling, yipping or otherwise serenading full moons—this story is for you.
Long before electric lights pushed against the darkness of night with their unwavering yellow glare, the pale, silver-blue light of the moon must have been awesomely and incomprehensibly dazzling. Little wonder, then, that the ancients looked upon the moon and saw the face of a goddess (or, less commonly, the face of a god). The Greeks alone knew at least as many as eight moon deities—lunar goddesses or goddesses with lunar aspects—some of whom were derived from the earlier Minoan tradition. Ariadne was one of these. Known on Crete as Aridela (“utterly bright”), she was the moon at the center of the labyrinth.
Anyone who has walked the unicursal path of a labyrinth knows that labyrinth-walking is a contemplative practice, each step a meditation. The slow, spiralic labyrinth—coiling, doubling back, furling and unfurling—encourages deep thought and reflection. Hence its association with the moon, the most radiant reflective phenomenon we know. Although we often use the words interchangeably, a labyrinth is not a maze. When we lose our way in a labyrinth, we get lost psychologically, not physically, in its myriad twistings and turnings. We lose ourselves in quiet introspection. Whatever Minotaur we meet is the dangerous darkness within that we fear and attempt to contain.
Like all of Mommy Fortuna’s Creatures of Night, however, the Minotaur is not exactly what he seems to be. The mythical Minotaur’s true name was Asterion (“the Starry One”). He was both the darkness and the light shining out of that darkness. Twinkling starlight—which is to say sunlight—very close up is a churning inferno that consumes as surely as any monster (Icarus is another labyrinth story, after all). In contrast, moonlight is sunlight softened by reflection. Ariadne is Mistress of the Labyrinth, perhaps, because she knows how to handle the Starry One without getting burned, taming his fire with the moon’s cooling touch.
Psychologically speaking, direct sunlight is the brutal honesty of consciousness. Sunlight is linear and rational. Lunar consciousness, on the other hand, is indirect and mysterious. Reflection, intuition, emotion, sexuality and madness belong to the moon. As soror mystica (a female alchemist), the moon eternally changes fire (sunlight) into water (moonlight, dew and swelling tide), drawing us deep into the well of our hearts. Unlike the sun, which always reveals, the light of the moon may obscure. Thus lovers instinctively tryst in moonlight because it bathes them in silver, washing away flaws and enhancing beauty. A sprinkle of moondust is the world’s finest cosmetic because it helps inner loveliness shine more clearly.
The French call moonlight clair de lune, literally “clear (light) of the moon,” and the French word clair on its own (like our word “clear”) has associations with lucidity (of thought as well as substance), transparency and light. Thus moonlight is a light that brings clarity—in its own mystical, clairvoyant, smiling-Cheshire-Cat kind of way. Like women’s intuition. Similarly, the waxing and waning of the moon has long been associated with the feminine mysteries of menstruation (the dark moon) and pregnancy (the full), in part because women’s courses (like the tide) often coincide with the phases of the moon.
Some see a man in the moon. Some (like me) see a rabbit. Some see the crescent moon as a chalice, an effulgent cup, a symbol for the feminine principle. Some see a father god’s fingernail. Some see a golden egg in the gibbous moon. Some see a silver coin in the full. What we see in the mirror of the moon is a reflection of who we are. One of the moon’s most intoxicating and potent powers is her ability to reflect our true selves back to us. That is what we find in the labyrinth, and that is what we find alone on a moonlit trail. What do you see when you look at the moon?
Experience the Moon:
Moonlight hiking might just be the most celestial (as in heavenly) celebration of the moon available to us in present-day New Mexico, second only to night-hiking (or snowshoeing) in winter on a river of moonlight (also called snow). At least that is my biased hiker’s opinion, but hikers and non-hikers alike will find moon-gazing activities to suit a variety of tastes in the sidebar below.
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Don’t miss the penumbral lunar eclipse on Feb. 10. A penumbral eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the earth’s penumbra—the lighter, outer region of its shadow—causing the moon to darken but not disappear. The best time for viewing the eclipse in New Mexico will be at moonrise around 5:45 p.m., when the maximum area of the moon will be obscured, and the eclipse will end around 8 p.m.
Full Moon Williams Lake Hikes at Taos Ski Valley
Hike to spectacular Williams Lake by the light of the full moon during free monthly, guided full-moon hikes led by the Mayor of Taos Ski Valley. Hikes are approximately two miles each way starting at the Hiker Parking Lot on Twining Road near the Bavarian Lodge. Expect 1,000 feet of elevation gain starting at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Williams Lake hikes are typically scheduled from 7:30-9:30 p.m. on the night of the full moon during summer months. Visit SkiTaos.com/On-Mountain/Full-Moon-Hikes/ for more info.
Moonlight Hikes and Campfires at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort
Located an hour and a half north of Santa Fe and 30 minutes south of Taos, Sipapu offers free monthly guided moonlight hikes. Hikes begin on the back patio of the Lodge and climb to mid-mountain. Hot cocoa and a toasty campfire are provided to warm you up at the turnaround point. Upcoming hikes are scheduled for Feb. 11 and March 7 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Visit the Events Calendar at SipapuNM.com for more info.
Nightwalks, Moonlight Walks and Night Sky Fiesta at Bandelier National Monument
Silent guided nightwalks at Bandelier are intended to help visitors step back in time. These one-hour evening programs are typically offered for free at Bandelier on Friday nights in July and August. Those who cannot refrain from talking or whispering are encouraged to please participate in a different program. Reservations (and silence) are required.
Enjoy a more moon-centric experience during one of the monument’s free monthly moonlight walks. Guided by Night Sky Rangers, these two to three-hour moonlight walks are typically offered on the Saturday night nearest the full moon every month from April through October. Walks start at 8 p.m. Reservations are required and limited to 30 participants.
For the truly moonstruck among us (those who need more than a single night to satisfy their moonlust), plan to visit Bandelier’s annual Night Sky Fiesta—three days and nights dedicated to celebrating the monument’s beautiful night skies! The fiesta grows a little every year and typically features special programs, guest speakers, solar viewing, kids activities, and giant telescopes. The date has not yet been decided for this year’s fiesta, so keep an eye on their website until more details are posted. Visit in person or call 505.672.3861 to make reservations. Visit NPS.gov/Band/PlanYourVisit/InterpProg.htm for more info.
Full Moon Runs with Albuquerque’s Heart & Sole Sports
Dust off your running shoes and hit the road with a herd of fellow moon-children at one of Heart & Sole’s monthly full moon runs. During the January run, 120 runners helped kick off the event’s fifth year. Runners meet at Kit Carson Park. Check-in at 6:30 p.m. and start running at 7:30 p.m. Glow sticks and raffle prizes provided. Visit HeartAndSoleSports.net/Content/8-Full-Moon-Run for more info.
Sunset Hot Air Balloon Rides with Albuquerque’s Rainbow Ryders
Although these are not technically full-moon rides (hint, hint Rainbow Ryders), with a bit of planning you can schedule your sunset hot-air balloon ride to coincide with a rising full moon. Available November through March, sunset rides depart in late-afternoon and last 3.5 hours. A celebratory toast and post-flight refreshments are included. Visit RainbowRyders.com for more info.
Full Moon Hikes, Rides and Concerts at White Sands National Monument
Willing to trek farther afield? White Sands offers ranger-guided full moon hikes once a month (on the night before the full moon) from May through October. Hike the dunes with a ranger and learn about the wildlife in this unique ecosystem. Pre-registration is required, and tour check-in at the Dune Life Nature Trail begins 30 minutes before each program starts. The next full moon hike is scheduled for May 9 from 7:45-8:45 p.m.
Alternatively, unguided full-moon bike rides along Dunes Drive are allowed twice a year. Rides in 2017 are scheduled for April 8 and Oct. 6, from 8-11 p.m. Pre-registration as well as certain mandatory safety equipment is required.
Full Moon Nights are another option for those who are looking for a less physically demanding experience. These events feature live music, ranger programs, guest presenters and artists. Full Moon Nights are offered monthly on the night of the full moon from May through October in the amphitheater. The next Full Moon Night is scheduled for May 10 at 8 p.m. Visit NPS.gov/WhSa/PlanYourVisit/Ranger-Programs.htm for more info.
International Observe the Moon Night
Last of all, join the Bandelier Night Sky Rangers (or just go outside wherever you happen to be and howl at the moon) for International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 28. Visit ObserveTheMoonNight.org/ and NPS.gov/Band/PlanYourVisit/InterpProg.htm for more info.
Story by Emily Ruch. Photos by Geraint Smith