NEWARK

MODERN MOONRISE CELEBRATIONS

Hively and Horn’s discoveries about the Octagon’s alignments were first published in the 1980s. Brad Lepper and Jeff Gill were soon calculating when the 18.6-year cycle would bring the moonrise back to its perfect axial position. Historian Gill explains:

We were looking at getting to be the first people in 1500 years to go and watch something happen in a place and in a way that it was originally intended to do…. And so there we stood, on the central alignment, and looking along where those walls said to us, whispered across the centuries: “There it will happen.” And when it did, it was just one of the most memorable moments of my life…. And, you know, that’s the kind of stuff that you get involved in archaeology to do, which is to just reach across the centuries and have that human contact.

Now that the moonrise alignments have been re-discovered here, there have been increasing numbers of celebrations. A group of Native Americans came for the 2005 maximum moonrise, and went out into the Octagon. Dick Shiels recalls:

We got to the site and there was this mist: you couldn’t see the walls of the earthworks, let alone the moon. But we had brought a Lakota spiritual leader from South Dakota, who led us in. We had brought Native singers from around the state who led us in. We walked into the center of the octagon. The Native leader sang and prayed, we stood there in the mist unable to see anything at all for about a half an hour, and as we walked back I saw 50-year-old college professors with tears running down their faces. It was a tremendously moving experience. Those of us who have been planning these things have learned a great deal, we’ve learned to appreciate how fully these sites are Native sites, and so we have included more Native speakers, and more of a Native perspective…

Tim Black’s time-lapse photograph of the moon rising above the Avenue, between the Observatory Circle and Octagon.

Newark

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