In any given month, the rising moon swings between two extremes on the eastern horizon, similar to the oscillation of the rising sun during the year. When the moon reaches its maximum northern or southern declination, it has a “standstill” similar to the sun at summer and winter solstices. The standstills could be said to be the moon’s equivalence to the Solar Solstices. [for details on lunar standstills, refer to Native American Skies: Lunar Standstills]
Twice a year, a day comes along where the length of daylight equals the length of darkness. Today we call that day the “equinox”. We recognize the vernal equinox as the first day of spring and the autumnal equinox as the first day of fall. These two days have always been important indicators for man since even ancient times.
Before Europeans came to America, Native Americans did not have bankers, insurance agents, or real estate agents so where did they get their calendars? How did they know when spring or fall arrived? They had someone more important to them than our bankers or agents are to us, they had astronomers.
When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.
— David Hume
The Power of the Astronomer
Today, astronomy is just one of the sciences and most people are, at best, fascinated by the night sky and the advancing sun and moon. But throughout ancient times, the astronomer was critical to agricultural societies. Someone had to watch the sunrises and sunsets, or the changing star patterns, or the moon cycles to determine the seasons for planting and harvesting.