In the category ‘my hunebed’ we invite people to write about their own personal thoughts about hunebeds and megalithic monuments. Here is a story of Peter van den Hoek.
Lunar Standstill & Eclipse Calendar from the Stone Age
Article Version: 13-12-2019
Peter van den Hoek
Mysteries have always fascinated me! Therefore, places like Carnac1 and Stonehenge² have such a great appeal to me. Here in the Neolithic (New Stone Age), thousands of years before our era, construction works were realized of many tons of weighing stones (Monoliths), who really defy our imagination!
With all our modern ingenuity, we really know very little about the mystery behind these structures. Archaeologists, astronomers and other scientists have been bowing to the riddle for centuries the ingenious Stonehenge, that in its current form presumably dates from ± 2500 BC. There are many theories launched and doubted, but there is still no consensus reached on this circle of stones.
On one thing, most researchers have now agreed! Stonehenge marks the Summer- and Winter Solstice. Both Sun positions mark the central axis, which part the construction work symmetric in two, see drawing 1. Thus, Stonehenge looks to represent a Sun temple where people currently celebrate the Solstice Festival every year, around the longest day In June.
I have personally always seen this as a very skinny answer to the most perfect stone circle from the Neolithic. According to my idea, there had to be more going on with this mysterious construction.
For more than ten years I have bitten my tooth in this mystery of the stones to finally come to the next conclusion: ‘ Stonehenge is a Moon Temple!’
No, don’t quit right now because I dare to knock down the established idea of a Sun temple, but judge this article on the clues I’m going to make for a Moon temple. Then a judgement can be made.
I also incorporated this article into a documentary that can be found on youtube² for those who find it a more pleasant way to gain knowledge about this.
The first indication for a Moon temple comes from the stone circle itself. It appears to consist of 30 stones, see drawing 1. But if you look closely, one stone seems to have only the half-diameter of the other stones. I have referred to this in the drawing as ‘Half Stone’.
Thus, the circle actually consists of 29.5 stones. Is there going to be a light burning? Indeed: This is precisely the cycle of the Moon from, for example, full to full, that with a genteel word we call the Synodic Moon Cycle.
The second indication for the Moon we find in the central Trilithon, see also drawing 1. This is a construction of two vertical standing stones with a horizontal capstone on top.
The left standing stone is shone by the Moon when it rises during the Major Lunar Standstill. The right stone is shone during the Minor Lunar Standstill. A second cycle of the Moon is caught in stone so!
I’m going to explain this a little bit further:
The Sun and Moon play a kind of cat- and mouse game with each other that repeats itself. One moment the Moon rises and sets with larger angles than the Sun, seen from the Equinox points east (90°) and west (270°). The other moment with smaller angles than the Sun, with an interval of 9 or 9,5 years. With the same interval they seem to catch each other. Sun and Moon then follow exactly the same orbit and rise and set at exactly the same points. During such an event, Sun and Moon both shine exactly through the center of the temple and then light up the two standing stones of the central Trilithon, but only for a part, see drawing 1. So, the Sun plays a role, as has already been suggested, but in my opinion very modest and in service of the Moon in this Lunar temple.
For more explanation about Sun- and Lunar Standstills, see the appendix to this article.
Capturing Sun and Moon positions in a stone construction is not something new from the time of Stonehenge. This technique has been used in Dolmens for over a thousand years. For example, the Dolmen ‘Mound of the Hostages’³ on the ‘Hill of Tara’ in Ireland even has a double alignment, just like with Stonehenge. At the back of the corridor of this Dolmen is a large stone that can imaginarily be divided into two halves. When the Sun rises during Samhain, which we know better as Halloween, at the beginning of the Celtic Winter and New Year, it shines exactly on the left half of this stone. The right half of this stone is shown by the rising Moon during the Minor Lunar Standstill.
The third indication to believe that Stonehenge is a Moon temple comes from the ‘Heel Stone’, see drawing 2. This stone is placed outside the earthen banks on the Avenue to the complex. From this point of view, exactly to the left of the stone circle, the Moon will set during the Major Lunar Standstill, while exactly to the right the Moon will set during the Minor Lunar Standstill.
The fourth indication to believe Stonehenge is a Moon temple is the next. On the inner circle-shaped mound around the stone circle are two Barrows attached; The ‘ North Barrow ‘ and ‘ South Barrow ‘, see drawing 2. When you look from the North Barrow along the stone circle towards the southeast, where a small stone (Station Stone) is placed, then exactly at this point the Moon will rise during the Major Lunar Standstill. If you look the other way, from the South Barrow along the stone circle to the Station Stone in the northwest, then this is the point where the Moon will set during the Major Lunar Standstill.
The purpose or function of the other four Trilithons leads to the fifth indication for a Moon temple. If you draw lines from the center of the stone circle through the heart of each of the five Trilithons, then corners are formed of 60°, see drawing 3. When you mark the line through the central Trilithon as imaginary North Line (0°), so not the actual north, then the lines of the other four Trilithons form a cross that indicates the four positions in which the Moon rises and sets during the Minor Lunar Standstill.
Rotating clockwise the Moon rise at the point of 120° and set later at the point of 240°, when the Moon makes her shortest orbit. Two weeks later the Moon rise at 60° and set at 300°, when the Moon makes her longest orbit. The next time this cycle repeats itself is on 13 and 26 March 2034.
Stonehenge thus also forms a kind of model in which the astronomical principle of the Minor Lunar Standstill is explained. Isn’t it all wonderful? Especially when you realize this is done in simple angles in a multiple of 60° (Hexagram or Star of David). Only at the Latitude (51° 52°) on which Stonehenge is built this is possible. In the Breton Carnac (France) the corners are different. Would this also have been a reason to build Stonehenge at this location?
The sixth indication towards a Moon temple follows from the three circles with holes around the stone circle. I believe that these three circles together form a Lunar Standstill calendar. This of course requires further explanation:
The inner two circles exist of 29 holes, which are called the Z-Holes and 30 holes, which are called the Y-Holes, see drawing 4. Added are both circles exactly two complete (Synodic = 29.5 day) Moon cycles from for example full to full. The outer circle consists of 56 holes and carry the name of her discoverer Aubrey-Holes. Now when we multiply these two Lunar cycles with this number 56, we will come out on a total of 112 Synodic Moon cycles. This is exactly the number of cycles, for the shortest period, between two consecutive Lunar Standstills.
Converted is this 112 x 29.5 = 3304 days : 356.25 (days in Solar year) = 9 years. Now some ‘Lunatics’ will notice: ‘ This is not true, because the cycle between two Lunar Standstills lasts 9.3 years, so about three to four months longer!’ Yes, this is right at all when you base it on the average, but the practice does not adhere to that. I will try to explain this:
Because Lunar Standstills always take place in spring or autumn (march or september) the shortest possible period between two Standstills is exactly 9 years. This time period has been recorded in the holes of Stonehenge!
Usually, a period of 9 years is followed by a period of 9.5 years, because this average (9.25) is closest to 9.3 years. But even these numbers are not quite the same, so that sometimes anyway a period of 9.5 years is being followed again by a period of 9.5 years.
Yes, Moon cycles aren’t so easy to catch and I think that is also the reason why people as Peter Newham, Gerald Hawkins, Fred Hoyle, and Hiroshi Hayashi saw a link between the holes and the different cycles of the Moon and Sun, but could not completely convincingly solved it.
I believe that the holes themselves were originally used as count holes for successive Lunar Standstills. Because there has never been convincing evidence that the holes have been filled with poles or standing stones this is very possible. Loose stones were enough available so they could be used as counters. I see it as follows:
The day after a Major- or Minor Lunar Standstill, a stone is laid in the hole Z1 and Aubrey-Hole 1. The following day only Z1 is moved to Z2, counterclockwise. Then Z3, Z4, Z5, and so on. From Z29 a hop is made to hole Y1. At the same time, the stone from Aubrey-Hole 1 is placed in hole 2. Every time the stone from the inner circles is placed in hole Y1 or Z1, the stone from the Aubrey-Holes also moves up one hole. This way is counted until Aubrey-Hole 56 is reached. When this stone is placed back in hole 1 one extra stone is added to indicate that the second and final round has entered. When both stones from the Aubrey-Holes reach 56, after nine years, round 112 through the inner circles is in turn. At the end of this round, when the stone from the inner circles reaches Y30 a new Lunar Standstill appear around the first and last quarter In march or september, with associated Sun and Lunar Eclipses at New- and Full Moon. The next time we will have to wait another half year, as already explained. But that’s easy to oversee by counting back six holes, for instance, in the first round with this system.
I dare to go one step further! It is clear that the builders of Stonehenge were familiar with the cycles of the Moon to the smallest detail. Would they have been aware of the various Saros-cycles? In that case they could predict any Sun or Moon Eclipse with the Y-Z and Aubrey-Holes. Of course, this also asks for further explanation:
The Saros-cycle describes the regularity in which Sun and Moon Eclipses repeat themselves. This period includes exactly 223 Synodic Months or 223 x 29.5 = 6585 days = 18 years and 11 days. On december 26 this year (2019) there is a Sun Eclipse that has received the Saros number 132. The last time Saros-132 provoke a Sun Eclipse was 18 years back at december 14 2001. The next time Saros-132 provoke a Sun Eclipse is over 18 years on januari 15 2038. Is it a bit clear so? There could be counted as follows:
The day after a Sun Eclipse (New Moon) a stone is placed in the holes Z1 and Aubrey-Hole 2, because 223 cycles is four rounds minus one hole, see drawing 4. The next day, only Z1 is moved to Z2, counterclockwise. Then follows Z3, Z4, Z5 until Z29 is reached. The next day it is again New Moon and the stone of hole Z29 is placed in hole Y1. At the same time the stone from hole 2 of the Aubrey-Holes is moved to hole 3. Now the stone in the Y-Holes is moved one hole every day, counter-clockwise, until Y30 is reached. The next day it is again New Moon and the stone of hole Y30 is placed again in hole Z1. At the same time the stone from hole 3 of the Aubrey-Holes is laid in hole 4. Every New Moon is counted, counter-clockwise, until Aubrey-Hole 56 is reached. During the next New Moon, one stone extra, so 2 stones are placed in Aubrey-Hole 1, indicating that round 2 is entered. Each round through the Aubrey-Holes, one extra stone is placed in hole 1, until the last round with 4 stones is entered. On the day that the 4 stones with New Moon are placed in hole 56 of the Aubrey-holes, the last round of 223 Synodic Months is in turn. At the end of this round, on the day when the stone from the inner circles reaches Z29, another Sun Eclipse from the same Saros cycle follows.
In this way all 40 Saros-cycles can be counted in principle, who are active at the same time. I say in principle because not every Eclipse can be seen actually from Stonehenge. It is, of course, possible that Saros-cycles cross each other on their way to their endpoint, as there are 4 rounds to be walked. In this case, the different cycles can be easily separated by adding a different type of stone for the new cycle.
The holes can also be used to predict all Moon Eclipses, but fortunately that does not make the principle any different. I chose the Sun Eclipses because I find them most dramatic. The Moon is then for a moment the Ruler over the Mighty Sun!
Because the shortest possible time between two Lunar Standstills is exactly 9 years and the regularity of Saros-cycles the double, namely 18 years, I can well imagine that one insight has resulted from the other. I see this as follows:
In the first place, the 56 Aubrey-Holes and later the Y- and Z-holes could be used to measure the time between two Lunar Standstills with corresponding Sun and Moon Eclipses. By repeating this, it was automatically discovered that every Sun and Moon Eclipse rehearses every 18 years. So naturally the knowledge of the different Saros-cycles could be born.
In summary, 56 can be seen as the Moon’s number! It is very important to know that the 56 Aubrey-Holes originate from the first construction phase of Stonehenge around 3000 BC. Out of this I think it can be concluded that Stonehenge has always served as a Lunar Temple from its earliest beginning.
The seventh indication finally follows from the Blue-stones that have been used to complete the temple, see drawing 5. These stones own their name to the blue glow they get when they become wet or are freshly mined. Within the circle of large Sarsen-Stones is a circle of smaller bluestones to be found. Presumably there were originally 56 stones, referring to the Lunar Standstills and Saros cycles, as discussed before, or 59 stones which in turn coincides with two (Synodic) Lunar cycles; so, from full to full.
Within the horseshoe form of the enormous Trilithons of sarsen stones, a smaller horseshoe form of blue stones is to be found. Originally there were 19 stones, which coincides with the longest possible period between two Major-or Minor Lunar Standstills.
Six strong indications to believe that Stonehenge is a Moon temple against one for the Sun in the service of the Moon seems convincing enough to choose for the Moon. Also show these indications very nicely how ingenious the mystery of Stonehenge actually is. To such an answer I was looking!
But why did the builders make a temple for the Moon? About this I have a suggestion:
The Sun belongs to the day, life, light and growth. The Moon to the night, death, darkness and dying. This is in my opinion the reason why Stonehenge is built; To honor the died! A last worship was held here for the deceased, before being buried in one of the hundreds of burial mounds or ‘Barrows’ around Stonehenge.
Peter van den Hoek
Nieuwstraat 22 D
3811 JZ Amersfoort
Appendix: Sun and Lunar Standstills Stonehenge
In This appendix I will go into more detail on the principle of Sun and Lunar Standstills as they occur on the latitude (51°11 ‘) on which Stonehenge is built.
I start with the Sun because its movements are easier to fathom than the movements of the Moon. On the longest day of the year (21-6) the Sun rises above the horizon in the morning, seen from Stonehenge, on compass course 50° In the northeast, see drawing. The Sun then rotates clockwise to its highest point in the south and afterwards sets at the point 310° in the northwest. The Sun then makes its longest orbit along the sky. Half a year later, on the shortest day of the year (21-12) the Sun rises above the horizon at 130° in the southeast and sets at the point 230° in the southwest. Now the Sun makes its shortest orbit along the sky. We call these two events Standstills or Solstices.
The four different positions in which the Sun rises and sets form a cross. Where the Sun rises in the summer, it sets on the other side (180° further) in winter. Where the Sun rises in the winter he sets on the other side in the summer.
The Moon actually does the same with its longest and shortest orbit, but then in two weeks time instead of half a year and makes thus also a cross. Yet there is something special about the Moon. Because her altitude is 5° different from that of the Sun, she sometimes rises above the Sun and another time under the Sun. This also changes the angles of rise and set on the horizon.
During a Major Lunar Standstill she makes a cross with an average of 10° larger corners than the Sun, seen from the east (90°) and west (270°) or the Equinox points. During her longest orbit (Maximum) she rises at 40° and sets at 320°, see drawing. During her shortest orbit (Minimum), two weeks earlier or later, she rises at 140° and sets at 220°.
At a Minor Lunar Standstill she makes a cross with an average of 10° smaller angles than the Sun, seen from the east and west. During her longest orbit (Maximum) she rises at 60° and sets at 300°. During her shortest orbit (Minimum) she rises at 120° and sets at 240°. With North 0° and South 180° included the Minor Lunar Standstill forms a precise Hexagram (Hexagon of mutually 60°) that only appears on this latitude (51°52°). In Addition, the larger and smaller angles of 10° average, in which the Moon rises and sets, relative to the Sun, are both ⅙ part of this 60°. This perfect ratio can only be found on the latitude of Stonehenge and not in French Brittany, for example. This could also be an important motivation been to build such a Moon temple right at this location!
Halfway through a Major and Minor Lunar standstill, the Moon follow exactly the same path as the Sun. Then she makes the same cross in two weeks time as the Sun in half a year which means she is rising and setting under exact the same angles.