As I write this, it is 5 deg F (-15 deg C) on the sunny morning of January 1st 2018, in the New York metro area. This new-year’s day will end with the Moon visible in full grandeur tonight at 9:15 pm (all New York time). The Earth is almost at the closest point to the Sun, in its elliptical orbit today at exactly 12:34 am, January 3rd 2018. The Moon will be at its closest in its orbit to the Earth today at exactly 4:48 pm, January 1st, 2018. Between the two will we get the Super Moon effect making for the Wolf Moon.
In my tradition of Jyotisha, and also more so especially in the Tamil tradition, the Full Moon that arises in ArdrA nakshatra celebrates the arising of the NatarAjA, the Dancing ShivA. (If you are not familiar with my Jyotisha tradition, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakshatra for a beginner’s orientation)
The significance of celebrating the Full Moon in ArdrA in Jyotisha is independent of calendars imposed and followed in the mundane world (for e.g., the European Gregorian calendar in use since 1582).
According to Jyotisha:
- When the Sun begins transiting from midnight of December 21st (at 6:40 degrees in Gemini – the Sun transits opposite in Sagittarius at the same degree), it begins its apparent ‘movement’ North from the tropic of Capricorn.
- When the ArdrA nakshatra is seen in the sky, we know the northward turn of the Sun has begun.
- Since the ArdrA nakshatra spans Gemini from 6:40 degrees to 20 degrees, the Sun lights up ArdrA from December 22nd to January 4th.
- The Full Moon that occurs during its transit in these degrees between December 22nd and January 4th is celebrated for the nritya of NatarAjA, the Dance of Shiva.
From a narrow modernist science perspective (not given to metaphorical contemplation) one may imagine the nritya of NatarAjA, the Dance of Shiva as NataRajA, as the movement of the entire range of energies that manifest the cosmos. Within the tradition, we see and experience the Dance of NatarAjA as manifesting creation, protection, destruction, release and embodiment.
The dance posture of NatarAjA is the focus of meditation on this Full Moon, with left leg lifted and suppressing ignorant ever transient tendencies (“this is mine”, “I did this” which in the globalized westernized culture and science these tendencies are bundled into the word ‘ego’) that arise in the embodiment under his right feet. The right hand of NatarAjA is in the posture of Abhaya Hasta, blessing meditators with protection in their meditation. The accomplished meditator visualizes the entire dance of the cosmos in the stillness of this posture.
In Tamil Nadu, this entire period is celebrated with exuberance of song and dance. Here is a link to just one small sliver of the spirit that exudes in the Tamil country during this season.