Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Lughnasa Moon

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
He climbed for it,
And eventually he achieved it --
It was clay.

Now this is the strange part:
When the man went to the earth
And looked again,
Lo, there was the ball of gold.
Now this is the strange part:
It was a ball of gold.
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold.

~ Stephen Crane ~

The Full Thunder Moon ~ now if only it would rain!
"Thou art indeed just, Lord . . . what we plead is just. . . . send our roots rain."
from Gerard Manley Hopkins

August 1st is the cross-quarter holiday halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox, called Lughnasa (from the ancient Irish god Lugh) or Lammas Day (from the Anglo-Saxon term hlaf [meaning loaf] - mas. It is the first harvest festival of the year -- the cutting of the first corn, the first wheat, the "first fruits," a rather bittersweet celebration during this particular summer of relentless drought. One ancient custom was to celebrate Lughnasa not necessarily on the 1st of August, but on the evening of the nearest full moon. This year we are in luck, with the two nicely coinciding.

Even more good luck is on the way in 28 / 29 days when the moon will once again be full. August 2012 is one of those unique months that both opens and closes with a full moon. The second full moon in a given month is often called a Blue Moon . Thus, "once in a blue moon" refers to the timeliness of that rare second full moon, every two and a half years or so -- I guess not really all that rare! A better expression of rarity might be the one I often hear from my British mother - in - law: "once every Preston Guild," an historic meeting that takes place in Preston, England, once every twenty years. And if the Preston Guild occurs while the moon is full . . . well, that's bound to signify something!

I'm usually not so wild about power lines, but in this picture, I think they serve as a great punctum, the punctum being French critic Roland Barthes' intriguing term for that touching or disconcerting detail which pierces through the still life, the object, or the studium. Rather than the usual sequence of subject first, object second, for Barthes, the "second element which will disturb the studium I shall therefore call punctum; for punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole – and also a cast of the dice. A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)" (Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, 27). My conclusion is that the utilitarianism of the power lines (as punctum / subject) enhances the poignancy of the moon (as studium / object).

P.S. See also
"Pilobolus, Punctum, Yellow Squash"
"The Handwriting on the Wall"
"This Little World, This England"
"Pear as Punctum"


  1. Love all of this info. Including the Crane poem. A ball of gold right here waiting. Who knew?