It’s a new moon day! The moon is snuggling up on the Sun-ny side of our Earthly home, preparing for another journey around us. I pay attention to this, not because I am a pagan, but because I am an artisan.
The word Pagan, which I was taught meant ‘the unbaptized’, actually comes to us with this etymological meaning: from Latin: countryman, villager, from pāgus village
The medievial Church took the word and redefined it to be indicative of non-christian: from Church Latin pāgānus civilian (hence, not a soldier of Christ)
I first learned about the true meaning of paganus from another wonderful nun in 2003: Sister Rosanne Giguere, CSJ. Rosie informed me that the true meaning of pagan, or paganus as she called it, simply meant ‘one from the village or the countryside’, or farmer.
The economy of the medieval countryside was made up of farms and cottage industries – and the farmers, artisans, and craftsmen timed their work around the cycles of the moon. As the moon waxed from new to full, they would start new enterprises, new cycles of projects – cast new bells, warp the looms for weaving, glean the wax from the hives for dipping candles.
As the moon waned from full to new, it was time to move into the finishing phase of these projects: polishing and tuning the bells, carding the wool, harvesting the grains, weaving off the cloth, dipping and drying the candles. Just as one wished to start any project with a new moon, one wished to finish a project in concert with the new moon The villagers used this astronomical means of organizing their work – it gave them 28-29 day cycles for planning their projects.
When the church redefined paganus, the practice of moon watching came to be symbolic of something non-christians did. In a broad sweep, many activities of the pagans became associated with being non-christian. There were approved activities, of course – the Church still needed bells for the towers, cloth for the vestments, and candles for the altar.
Today when I speak of the mystical properties of the moon or of paying attention to the phases of the moon, many people get wide-eyed and think I am talking witchcraft. I suppose I am. Many of the female, and male, paganus were burned at the stake for those esoteric practices of medieval project management.
It may surprise you to know that his pagan practice is alive and well in the good ol’ US of A. The Farmers’ Almanac has been around since 1818. It keeps track of the moon, the weather, and offers suggestions on when to do things based on the waxing and waning of the moon.
The new moon occurs at 12:42 PST or 8:42 UT on the 13th; and I’m ready to fire up the next round of projects. This new moon occurs in the of sign Sagittarius, which is an Earth sign and has a positive placement for Hope. Why do I know this? Rosie also taught me about Astrology.