It's a time when members of the tribe can seize the annual chance to catch these incredibly adaptable and nutritious fish in abundance while the waters are low, ensuring the health and survival of the tribes people. They literally seek the valuable and life-sustaining gifts that the receding waters brings.
It's also an analogy for the times in our lives when the tide is out and everything at the bottom of the river is there for us to see - all the challenges we have ignored, pushed down, and not addressed in favour of keeping the status quo.
In terms of making peace with food and our bodies, it relates to hitting diet rock bottom, as Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch describe it in Intuitive Eating. For those who are suffering with a poor relationship with food and their bodies, this time is an opportunity to acknowledge that our ways of feeding ourselves, whilst functional, aren't working for us and may be harming us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Will you seize the chance to make change while the tide is low? Will you take the road less travelled, to finally catch yourself - and diet culture - out?
MOON WHEN Barramundi ENTER SHALLOW WATERS
Large-scale communal fishing takes place during this time. As the swamplands become rapidly shallower, barramundi are at their most vulnerable and are easiest to catch. Using basket traps in weirs and nets the Yolngu people make the most of the barramundi that wind up in the shallow swamplands where floodwaters are receding.
Similarly in the Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water) region in Kakadu National Park, as the floodplains drain into the rivers and creeks, namarnkorl (barramundi) can be more easily caught. They feast on small fish, tadpoles and crustaceans making them not only easy to catch but also fat and nutritious.
Although they thrive in the abundance of the rivers and creeks, barramundi live their life cycles in three different environments: marine (saltwater), estuary (brackish), and fresh water. This is just one example of their incredible adaptability; they are also hermaphroditic, spending the first few years of life as male, before becoming female after 5 or 6 years.
On the opposite side of the world, a spectacularly similar event occurs with salmon in North America in early autumn. This same lunar cycle is known as Moon When Dog Salmon Return to Earth in the traditional calendar of the Wsanec people.
This lunation marks the time when salmon who have matured and grown large out at sea, have travelled incredible distances to return to the inland freshwater streams (or "Earth") where they were born, to spawn. Like barramundi, salmon can adapt to these very different aquatic environments. Here in the shallow fresh waters, they are large, slow-moving, and easy to catch.
What lies beneath?
This evocative lunar cycle is an analogy for the times in our lives when the tide is out and everything at the bottom of the river is there for us to see - and with some work, we can reap the benefits of this insight.
What patterns and behaviours lurk quietly at the bottom of the river, and come to light no matter how many times we seemingly hide or remove them?
What aspects of ourselves do we find unacceptable, and turn to restrictive eating, emotional eating, and/or compulsive exercise as the blanket solution to making us feel better?
Autumn is the season when the tide is out and everything that you don't want to see on the muddy bottom of the bay is uncovered for all to see.
A concept that has stuck with me since I heard about it a few years ago has to do with PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) within the menstrual cycle. This is the "running out tide" of the menstrual cycle. Over the last few years I’ve learned to take my pre-menstrual hormonal fluctuations seriously, noticing all the detritus that gets swept along with them.
Christiane Northrup compares the pre-menstrual phase to both the turn of the seasons and the tide:
“The second half of the menstrual cycle and autumn are times when the tide is out and everything that you don’t want to see on the muddy bottom of the bay is uncovered for all to see. Women need to learn to pay attention to the information available to them at these times of the month and of the year. Think of this information as compost that you’ll be using to create new growth in your life once the light comes back.” (Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, pg 134.)
Hitting Diet Rock Bottom
Exposing the truth isn’t pretty, and it might increase our sense of vulnerability, but merely because we’re encountering a part of reality that we might prefer to avoid, coming face to face with the way our actions or circumstances might be inconsistent with our deepest desires and values.
In terms of food and body issues, this might resemble the point where we hit diet rock bottom, as Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch describe it in Intuitive Eating. It is an opportunity to acknowledge that our ways of feeding ourselves, whilst functional, aren't working for us and may actually be harming us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
We might be on the diet cycle, and we've just broken the diet and we're feeling shitty about ourselves. We might have a diagnosable eating disorder and after months, years or decades, we have come to the point where we are ready to accept that truth and seek some help. We may have disordered eating patterns, such as being a restrictive eater, under-eater, over-eater, or binge eater.
Whatever it is, the moment we hit rock bottom is the moment we are finally ready to face the reality that this is no longer working for us.
Whether its strict clean eating or excluding certain food groups for "health" reasons (and hoping to lose or control weight), or flat out dieting like old school Weight Watchers (and hoping to lose or control weight). Make no mistake: if there's any element of wanting to lose or control your weight, it's dieting.
Whether you've been on the diet roller coaster for a week or for decades, this low tide is the time we can no longer avoid the truth that the diet has backfired.
The juice cleanse has culminated in a binge on raw cake or donuts. The Whole30 has ended and we get to eat pasta again - but we can't stop. We stop going to Weight Watchers because for the fourth week in a row, our weight has gone up and we feel shame.
Choosing a different path
But this is a golden moment.
This - right here - is an opportunity to face our demons, and finally choose to end dieting, if we are ready. A chance to start healing our relationship with our bodies and end the obsession with food.
But only if we seize the chance while the tide is low and we can catch ourselves - and diet culture - out.
Like the barramundi - when the tide is out, when we hit diet rock bottom... we are most vulnerable to again being caught in the traps and nets of diet culture.
But we are also highly adaptable, capable of renewing ourselves over and over, of adapting to new ways, environments.
We are even capable of switching from male to female archetypes; switching from (mis)directed action, competition, and forcefulness (represented by the masculine archetype), to deep listening, sensitivity to our needs, and seeking and receiving help to change ways (female).
But it's going to take courage, persistence, and patience.
If we fight - instead of taking the arguably easier route of starting another diet - we can escape the clutches of diet culture.
If we are observant, we can notice when the tide is going out, and we are about to hit or are hitting diet rock bottom.
We can take stock of all the times we were caught at our most vulnerable stage by dieting.
We can adapt and change our path.
Similarly we can flip this analogy from the perspective of the fish to that of the fisher. As the indigenous tribes person, we rely on the Shallow Water Moon time to see what's on the bottom of the swamp so we can catch the fish we need to survive... and thrive.
We need to do the work of trapping, netting, hunting. We need to be highly vigilant and willing to do the work. If we turn the other way and don't bother looking for and catching fish, the fish escape our reach. The chance to escape the diet cycle is lost, and before long we find ourselves swept up again in the rip of another diet.
We are eternally hungry for true sustenance and deeper meaning than diet culture can give us. When we decide to choose a different way, there are a number of starting points as options. This new path could involve:
- journalling about your thoughts and feelings
- talking to a trusted friend
- self-research via books, websites
- finding healthier ways to manage uncomfortable feelings
- seeing your doctor
- getting one-on-one professional help from a dietitian, psychologist, counsellor etc
- seeking group support
Will you seize the chance while the tide is low? Will you take the road less travelled, to finally end the battle with food and your body... and finally catch diet culture out?
It is my sincere hope dear reader, that you do.
For the next step on your intuitive eating journey to freedom from diets, stay tuned for my next moon cycle post coming in late April - 'Blood Moon' - Slaying the Diet Mentality.
9 ways to honour 'Shallow Water Moon'
- make fermented foods, jams and preserves for winter
- restock your herbal medicine cabinet
- clean out any essential oils, flower remedies etc that have lost their energy
- completely clean out your fridge
- think of how best to make your home secure and snug and warm for the coming introspection of winter
- cook autumn meals like soups, stews, any slow cooked foods with root vegetables
- go fishing and weave intention and gratitude into the process - fish represent the cycle of life, death, and rebirth
- face any hard truths you've been running from
- end dieting, and seek support in any form that you need to do so. You are worth it.