The moon is exactly full on Monday afternoon, August 7. The weekend evenings are a great time to see the nearly full moon and maybe take a lunar selfie with sunset color. The best moonset mornings are Monday through Wednesday. The full moon in Aquarius is most round on Monday evening, but rises after nightfall. As always, consider local weather conditions.
Flying fish! The August full moon is known as the “sturgeon moon,” since late summer often favors freshwater fishing in the northern U.S. Although endangered today, active sturgeon leapt from lakes and rivers into the air. Next month’s full moon is the harvest moon and considered autumnal, although it comes before the equinox. This full moon feels like the last of summer.
We’re in eclipse season. The full moon brings a partial lunar eclipse that can be seen across much of the world, but not the U.S. The U.S. gets a spectacular show with the total solar eclipse that travels diagonally across the continental states with the new moon on August 21. Visible as a partial solar eclipse across most of North and Central America, you may want to make plans to see it, perhaps in the zone of totality, working around weather conditions. This may be the best total solar eclipse of your lifetime. Remember to protect your eyes, if you’ll gaze directly at the sun.
The full moon coincides with a cross-quarter day, which marks the midpoint between a solstice and an equinox. The halfway point between summer and autumn is known as Lammas. An early harvest festival, Lammas comes when farmers may be most busy, and shoppers find bountiful fresh, seasonal produce at local markets.
The cross-quarter day corresponds with the Dog Days of summer, located on the opposite side of the calendar from Groundhogs Day. While the exact morning is location and weather dependent, and obstructions on the horizon affect visibility, for most in the U.S., Sirius, the “dog star,” can first be seen before the sun during August 6-11.
If you’re up during the wee hours, find the large winter constellation Orion. The hunter rises on his side, clearing the horizon by 4 am. The three stars of Orion’s belt point downward to Sirius. The heliacal rising of Sirius was significant for the ancient Egyptians. With sunrise currently at close to 6:30 am, look for the sky’s brightest star in the predawn skies, twinkling low in the southeast.
Sirius’s heliacal rising takes place when it’s hot for the Northern Hemisphere, which is why we associate the Dog Days with sizzling temperatures. Despite the heat, with winter constellations visible before dawn and with the Dog Days at the seasonal midpoint, there is a whiff of fall in the air.
Lammas and the Dog Days signal the waning of summer. Sunset arrives about 20 minutes earlier than at its latest a month ago, following the summer equinox. We’re losing nearly 2 minutes of daylight per day, which increases to a loss of over 2 minutes by Labor Day. Back-to-school preparations begin. Foliage starts to turn a bit more golden, a bit less green. Mums and apples come into season. Does early August prompt you to feel wistful?
Solar pairings: Not only Sirius, but Mars has been hidden by the sun’s glare. The red planet reached its biannual solar conjunction on July 27. Mercury reached its greatest distance from the sun in the evening sky a few days later. On August 12, Mercury stations retrograde, moving toward the sun for the fourth of six solar conjunctions in 2017 on August 27. Jupiter still shines in the southwest sky during the early evening, but is moving toward its annual solar conjunction in late October. Visible in the southern sky during the early evening, Saturn doesn’t conjunct the sun until late December.
Astrological Influences + Considerations
Some of the astrological influences were mentioned above: the full moon and eclipses, the conjunction of the sun with Mars, and Mercury turning retrograde in about a week. With the sun in Leo, the full moon in Aquarius opposes solar-powered Mars. Let’s break this down.
1) The influence of eclipses can last for months. This lunar eclipse is followed by a solar eclipse that likely marks significant churn for the U.S. You need only think about the unsettled, divided or oppositional national politics to see how the stage is set. While the solar eclipse will overshadow the lunar, it’s still a potent influence.
Eclipses occur in cycles, separated by approximately six months. This lunar eclipse is paired with another in late January 2018 that touches the same points. Cross-quarter days fall in the middle of fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius). In August, that means 15 degrees Leo for the sun and Aquarius for the full moon, plus the moon opposes Mars, which is near the sun. In January, it’s reversed: Aquarius sun with Leo full moon a few days before Groundhogs Day. Instead of Mars, Venus will be near the sun.
Mars brought discord to July. That aggressive influence continues along with the bravery and willpower of Mars – and Leo and Aquarius are not the signs of shrinking violets. Channel the Mars energy so that it doesn’t consume you. Practice vigorous yoga, do cardio, play competitive sports or be an enthusiastic sports fan, or chill out with mellow yoga and meditation. If you need to scream and pound your fists, then do so. But express the “violence” in harmless ways, which includes counting to ten before saying hurtful words you can’t take back.
2) We’re in the “shadow zone” of retrograde Mercury. Normally quick Mercury is uncomfortably close to a standstill through next week and most of the following week. From August 12 through Labor Day, Mercury moves retrograde, traveling from 11 Virgo back to 28 Leo before straightening out. Note that 28 Leo is the sensitized degree of the new moon and solar eclipse (it’s also conjunct the natal ascendant and Mars of Donald Trump).
Be prepared: Back up your files, service your car, and make sure your electric to electronic gizmos are operational. Don’t suffer the inconvenience of dead batteries, frayed electrical cords, and dropped, unprotected devices. Update your documentation. Complete outstanding schoolwork, file legal documents, and submit funding requests. Perhaps schedule a health check-up, given the Virgoean influence.
Mercury’s retrograde cycles favor interiority. With summer winding down, check in with yourself. Are you where you intended to be as we enter the last third of the year? For insights, jot down what’s on your mind during the full moon, while Mercury hovers close to 10-11 Virgo. Mercury revisits those points on September 18-19. Plan to compare notes then with where you’re at now.
3) It’s a dynamic time, definitely not boring. But you got this. Along with the oppositional and eclipse tensions, the influence of feisty Mars, and Mercury acting up as well as unpredictable Uranus, which turned retrograde on August 3, there are some easier, smoother synergies. The airy moon and Jupiter are happy, and Jupiter also is favored by the fiery sun and Mars. When benevolent Jupiter is happy, we’re happy.
Although Mercury opposes Neptune – a strong opposition, since both planets are in signs they rule, emphasizing reason and facts versus intuition and feelings, and easily causing miscommunication – both planets make soft angles to sweet Venus in Cancer. Intense Pluto does its last square dance with Jupiter that’s been on-again, off-again since last fall. Saturn and Pluto make several weak positive angles. There is elemental and geometric balance to manage the pushes and tugs.
Particularly with the coming solar eclipse across the U.S., the overall influence is perhaps more politically stressful than stressful at the personal level. However, the political is likely to become the personal, if it isn’t already (e.g., concerns about healthcare, gender, race and sexuality, immigration, affirmative action, ecology, party allegiance).
The skies reflect the political fault lines. Eclipses, which involve the moon’s complementary nodes, and full moons are super oppositions. Factor in stubborn fixed signs, Mars that doesn’t shy from disagreement, retrograde, wayward Mercury and Uranus, and the Mercury-Neptune standoff, and what you see politically is more of what the U.S. will get. The solar eclipse likely will encourage bringing some matters to a head before Labor Day.
Up and Down Dog Days of Summer
Perhaps only Savasana, corpse pose, is as iconic for contemporary yoga as downward facing dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana. In down dog, the inverted body mirrors V-shaped boat pose, Navasana. Within the sun salutation sequence, down dog is preceded and linked by breath with upward facing dog, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.
The dogs of yoga well match the sultry Dog Days of summer, when we’re keenly aware of solar heat. Fitness-loving Mars is emerging from its once-every-two-years conjunction with the sun. Their pairing is in Leo, ruled by the sun and a fire sign, which is the natural element of Mars.
Awareness of the external sun can help bring awareness to the internal solar fire. Sun salutations are essential to sweaty hot and power yoga. Align with the solar power. Practice outdoors at noon, when the sun is highest; or before sunrise, perhaps to glimpse the heliacal rising of the dog star Sirius; or at sunset, timed with the full moonrise this weekend.
There are many guides to practicing up dog and down dog, such as those linked here from Yoga Journal. Most yoga classes, books, and apps provide instruction. There always seems to be something new to learn or focus on: whether it’s pressing down with the finger mounds and heels in down dog, or deepening the backbend by pushing the shoulders back and down in up dog, or a zillion other ways to fine tune your dogs.
As with so many other poses, press down to lift up. Yoke earth with the heavens, flowing with the breath, spirit, and aspiration. Including inner and outer fire with perspiration, even the basic yoga of the dogs draws on the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water.
But try not to think of the dogs as basic poses, as “resting poses” as down dog is often described. Down dog should feel active, taking effort to hold yet also ease. The pose reverses how most of us normally move. In daily off-mat life, most of us don’t raise our tush in the air and lengthen down the hamstrings and back, through the shoulders, and down to the fingers. Down dog helps offset the other 23+ hours of the day, a good chunk of which may be spent sedentary or upright.
Don’t slight up dog either, treating it as a “transition pose” that doesn’t deserve much time or consideration. Maybe hold up dog a beat or two longer than expected. Enjoy the delicious stretch through the front body, opening the heart, lungs, chest, and throat, while widening across the back. Feel strong on the tops of your feet and palms of your hands, holding the pose with a relaxed yet firm tush.
Both dogs direct attention to the top of the head, down through the spine and into the hands and feet. The dogs improve circulation, which aids rejuvenation, immunity, and digestion. Down dog is an accessible inversion with the heart raised higher than the head. The dogs can be modified for all levels, and can be practiced with challenging variations. As they do for cats and dogs who naturally stretch into the poses, up and down dog develop strength and flexibility for yogis.
Feel your fire and use your breath to flow through the ups and downs of the dogs. That’s a useful metaphor for doing the same off the mat, applying yoga to life’s ups and downs. Down on all fours, get frisky and wag your tail. Maybe you’ll feel like howling at the full moon this weekend. Or maybe a treat for good behavior will feel right. Nice yogi!
On Wonderful Moon
For a longer, more detailed version of this post, see next week’s Moonday. For the next Wonderful Moon that posts in approximately two weeks, the second new moon in Leo will be discussed. It coincides with the Great American total solar eclipse that travels across the continental U.S. on August 21.
Wonderful Moon is published before the new and full moons. The focus is on viewing and experiencing the moon with lore, advice, and yoga-oriented body awareness that meshes with the phase, season, and astrological influences. See also my Moon Memes, published on Instagram for the moon phase.
Photography: “Moonstruck” (Aug. 5, 2016) is by noted lunar and landscape photographer Greg Diesel Walck, from his Facebook album Top Shots. The photo was taken this time last year with turbulent skies that only happen in the U.S. during the Dog Days of summer. The dramatic photo shows the waxing crescent moon with Jupiter and lightning that illuminates the evening sky. Mythologically Jupiter corresponds with Zeus, who threw thunderbolts. This August too, Jupiter is visible after nightfall. And Mars contributes to astrological stormy skies, felt personally and affecting politics. The moon in “Moonstruck” resembles a partial lunar eclipse.
Probably Diesel Walck’s most popular photo, he said: “My new #1 image was viewed by over 100k during the first 24 hours. It’s a composition I’ve always dreamed about.” Earlier he said: “I’ve taken over 30,000 pictures of the moon. Tonight I had a chance to get chills again like it was the first time . . . here in Moyock, North Carolina. . . . . Worth the 50 mosquito bites!” “Moonstruck” was selected by Space.com as #2 of the 100 Best Space Photos of 2016.