A Cold Moon on Christmas?

A full-moon on Christmas is called a “Cold Moon”, which seems to be a rather off-putting name. Is a Cold Moon a good thing or a bad thing? It ought to be good, shouldn’t it? To call it “Cold” doesn’t make the heart leap, for sure. But there are good “vibes” especially around Yuletide astronomical events, no? The Three Magi were led to the manger in the Nativity by astrological signs, so that had to be good. Well, we not only have a full-moon on Christmas this year, we also had a full-moon on Christmas Eve. That ought to count for doubly good!

Or does it? I can’t remember, but I should. I was just reading a book that came out from Harvard Press earlier this month, Magus: The Art of Magic from Faustus to Agrippa, and this detail was mentioned somewhere in the mix. I looked but haven’t found it, but the book recounts that some medieval wise-man did present a divination on what it meant to have a full-moon on Christmas Eve.  I shudder to think that it was not a happy omen! Let’s hope I’m wrong.

The medieval folks were enraptured over everything astronomical, and also astrological. Proper interpretation of the stars were a means to ascertain the divine will, as exampled by the Three Magi at the Nativity. Astronomy and Astrology — the former science foretold the movements in the heavens, the later spelled out what they meant. Roger Bacon is celebrated these days for his contributions in optics and the advancement for what he called scientia experimentalis, the beginnings of a more empirical scientific methodology. Yet the majority of his efforts fell under what we’d call astrology today. He even urged that cause with alarm under the suspicion that the Saracens possessed astrological advantage — yes, the first great international Space Race happened in the Middle Ages. Roger wasn’t alone. Most medieval scholars had many things to say about the heavens. I wish I could find the one I saw who commented on the Christmas Eve full-moon! 

We now know that a Cold Moon ought to come around every 19 years or so, with adjustments thanks to the leap-year-ish irregularities. Well, the medievals and the ancients knew these timetables, too. Yet they, unlike us, were not shorn of the mystic and the wondrous in their lives. The Moon was more than just a giant, cold rock in dull orbit; the Moon meant a lot of things and it engaged us on Earth in many ways. It might yet still, if events in my life offer proof. 

Recently doctors found a 10-centimeter growth inside my wife. I prayed for her, scared to hear these things. But just before Christmas weekend they went in to remove the growth and it was not there. Is this a miracle, or is this just another cautionary tale about the current state of our medicine? Take it as you wish. I find it easier to believe in medical incompetence these days than it is to believe in either medical competence or in miracles. I’m chalking it down as the Cold Moon Miracle of 2023, for which I’m thankful. And I hope the Cold Moon is a good omen for you all!

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