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Red Willow Spirit: In the Shadow of a Blue Moon

Blue Moon 2 Resized

Yesterday ended in the icy light of a moon not quite full; today was born in a conflagration of cloud and fire.

Whether tomorrow’s rise of the full Bear Moon, as my people call it, will be visible to us here at Red Willow remains to be seen. Today the horizon is veiled, the sky much like a dancer who conceals his face with a mask, leaving only the crown of his long blue locks exposed. In this part of Turtle Island, there are dancers who dress just so, masks in place and rattles at the ready.

Our only rattles here today are the wind and the chattering of the crows.

The mask, though, sits firmly in place around the place where earth meets sky, blue-gray lenticular clouds topped with fluffy white, a sky more fit for a monsoon than for January’s end.

The celestial performance slated for tomorrow represents a convergence of unusually powerful phenomena. Blue moon, blood moon, supermoon, eclipse: Any one would be an event worth marking — worth respecting — but together, they hold enough power, one feels, to reverse the tides and shake the earth from its orbit.

This will not be the first, but it will be the first for us, the only. It has been one hundred and fifty-two years since the last such convergence, a time of war and rumors of wars, a time of grief and loss and the peculiar kind of pain that is extermination’s handmaiden. And now, we who are of ways that respect the spirits of the skies, that honor their power with quiet in the face of their display, we wonder what time tomorrow’s events portend.

Quarter Moon Resized

In this place, we are accustomed to elemental skies and the spirits who preside therefrom. As rare as second moons per calendar month may be, they are not unknown to our generations, nor are the passages of moon and earth and sun that throw whole worlds into shadow.

There is the shadow cast by the sun upon the land, the shadow of the moon’s own dark side. We watch, in the gathering dusk, as the moon is put through her paces, as she shows us her phases and faces, shy, bold, or in between. We bear witness to her growth, and to her aging; after all, she lives each life, whole and entire, in the space of a single month.

Half Moon Resized

Her early hours are so unassuming as to be invisible, no reflected light to call her own nor power to catch and hold it. But she grows stronger by the day, inching her way out into the cosmos where others can see: first a sliver, then a crescent, then the horns of the ancient stories. At the quarter point, she shows one half of her face, a young woman whose self is not yet fully formed.

In the skies of this place, her features show more clearly than elsewhere, and perhaps her intentions, too. It is a clear sky, clear air, none of the obfuscating fog of lands more heavily settled, heavily trafficked, just a transparent veil of atmosphere between her face and ours, and it tells us things about her we might otherwise never know.

Perhaps it tells her more of us, as well.

Three-Quarter Moon Resized

In recent days, she has moved from profile to semi-profile, showing the whole left side of her face and much of the right; she is old enough, confident enough to begin to show her self to the universe. Tomorrow night, her sense of poise will reach its apex, or perhaps it is only her bravery. Either way, she will unveil her whole self to the cosmos, standing tall and strong in the cold winter night.

Unlike her other incarnations, though, she has more to undergo than a mere willingness to reveal the fullness of her light. It feels almost as though this version of Grandmother Moon has been assigned ordeals, rites of passage in her own passage through the skies. She must appear out of her usual time, sliding in under January’s wire even as she foregoes February whole and entire. She must come closer to this earth whose inhabitants have showed such discourtesy to her in recent years, stoning her as thoroughly as any earthly counterpart who ever ran afoul of its patriarchy. She must wrap herself in red, that color of women, the color of blood. And then she must stand in the shadow of this world for a time, allow it to cover her in darkness, blot out her light and render her invisible again even as she lives and breathes at her peak.



From the perspective of Earth, another female spirit so wronged and maligned, Moon appears the essence of womanhood, whose task has been mostly to endure and to transcend.

Blue Moon 1 Resized

Early tomorrow morning, Grandmother Moon will begin her walk through the valley of the shadow at a time when our part of the Earth that casts her into darkness sleeps. For many of our peoples, this is good: Such shadows are a time to be indoors, quiet and reflective; to allow more powerful spirits to do as they will without drawing their attentions unduly. In the indigo hours, those just before the dawn, she is expected to don her red robes for her journey near our own world. Not until nightfall will it be the blue moon ascendant, the near white orb glowing icy white in a night-blue sky.

For one day, before our Grandmother passes into elderhood and begins her slow turning away from Earth once again, thence to be born anew as the Snowcrust Moon, the first of her name for the season we call spring, she will show us her full self. Tomorrow, we will live for one day in the shadow of a blue moon, and in her light, as well.

~ Aji










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