Many moons ago, I worked in video games in France. It was a steep learning curve. “Watch out for her,” I was warned about one of my colleagues, “elle est complètement lunatique!”. It took me a while to realise that the word lunatique in French doesn’t, as in English, refer to someone who’s a couple of baguettes short of a pique-nique, but rather, someone who’s mood is ever-changing. The colleague in question could be simperingly sweet one day and a fire-breathing dragon the next. I learnt to give her a wide berth.
The origin of the word is linked to lune, the moon, and implies that the behaviour is dependent on the waxing and waning cycles, constantly changing. I committed the word to memory, but didn’t give it much more thought until a good few years later when Monsieur R mentioned something about his grandfather always consulting the lunar calendar before having his hair cut. At first I thought this was a joke. Then lo and behold, within a week, 3 more people made references to “checking the moon” before they did something.
And so this is how I discovered the calendrier lunaire, the biodynamic guide to when to do everything. Planting a tree? Having an operation? Making jam? There is a good and a not-so-good and downright bad moment to do everything you can possibly think of, depending on the cycles of the moon and this guide lays it all out in intricate detail, every year. We all know about the influence of the moon when it comes to tides, but the moon also has an effect on the sap in plants, meaning that there’s a better time to plant and take cuttings. Similarly when picking fruit, there’s a moment in the moon’s cycle when the flavours will be more pronounced and so better for preserving. And the same, apparently, goes for us.
I tried to find out whether this was all common knowledge and the more I asked around, the more confirmation I had. One day I was looking at Mumsnet and noticed this little symbol. Even my sister-in-law in Colombia told me that the lunar calendar is the way of knowing when to do things. You can insist on having your hair cut when you think it needs it, but the hairdresser really does know best and he knows by checking out the moon. Have it cut at another time and it will grow back faster, so you're wasting your money. Amazing.
It all fits in to a bigger picture, one that I got glimpses of in France, like bits of a jigsaw. Puce’s teacher at maternelle saying they’d plant the seeds when the moon was rising; a physiotherapist I had to consult telling me about the géobiologue that helped her clear the aura of her consultation rooms; the gîte owner explaining how he found springs on his property using a pendule. I even got the opportunity to learn to find underground water using a couple of old coathangers, and a number of ancient tricks using a ring threaded on a length of cotton thread…All the bits of the jigsaw fit together to create a link between the earth and the people on it. Being let into some of the secrets, knowing that the links are still there, helped me to understand a lot of other things about French peoples’ relationship with the land, and the produce that goes into or comes out of it.
Sitting here in Scotland, on a dreich afternoon, writing about the influence of lunar cycles and rings dangling on bits of cotton makes me sound a bit crazy; but maybe it’s not so bad to be a bit of a lunatic after all.