Valdosta Pagans


Archaeoastronomy is a term that refers to the study of how people in the past understood astronomical phenomena and interpreted those phenomena through cultural artifacts (typically the construction of megalithic religious sites). The field of ethnoastronomy is closely tied to field of archaeoastronomy. Ethnoastronomy is the study of how people primarily from non-Western societies interpret astronomical phenomena through their cultural worldview.

Most the cultures that are the focus of archaeoastronomy or ethnoastronomy studies would fall under the Pagan umbrella. Those cultures view/ed natural phenomena including astronomical phenomena as being related to the divine and the spirits. Various astronomical phenomena have been seen as religious significant by Pagan cultures. The rising and setting positions of the sun, moon, and planets are often the main phenomena kept track of, though some stars are also occasionally tracked as well.

The primary phenomenon studied within the field is the concept of alignment. That is when an object, building, or anything else on earth appears to be along an imaginary line between an observer and an astronomical object typically on the horizon.

There are many man-made sites with documented astronomical alignments including:

+Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland
+Chaco Canyon Pueblo site in NM, USA
+Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England
+Temple of Kukulcan, Yucatan, Mexico
+Many sites from the Mississippian culture from throughout the South Eastern, USA
+"Manhattan Henge" is a modern but accidental example

Azimuth is the term for the measurement between the imaginary line (vector) of an observer’s direct forward view and true north. It is measured in degrees. In this system north is 0º, east is 90º, south is 180º, and west is 270º. The graphic below illustrates the azimuth degrees of the cardinal and other directions.

The planets and Earth’s moon have a relatively long orbital and declination cycles. For example, the moon takes 19 years for it to be back in the exact same orbital declination and lunar phase. Tracking and constructing structures for lunar alignments has and does occur in some culture, but is not as common as the tracking and constructing of structure for solar alignments.

When it comes to solar phenomena and alignments, the primary ones are the sunrise and sunsets for the December Solstice, March Equinox, June Solstice, and September Equinox. Various Pagan holidays occur in different traditions around those times. Those holidays often mark the border of seasonal changes. Because of that, solar alignments are also a way of keeping track of what time of the year it is. Equinoxes are when the Earth’s equatorial plane passes through the Sun’s equatorial plane. Equinoxes occur around 20 March and then again around 22 September. During the Solstices Earth’s equatorial plane is at its great declination to the Sun’s equatorial plane. They occur around 21 June and 21 December.

The longitude of a particular location has no effect upon the azimuth degree for sunrises and sunsets. Longitude will only affect the timing of those events. Because of that one only needs to find the azimuth degree for a particular latitude. For places below the Arctic circle and above the Antarctic circle, Equinox sunrises alignments will always be found at the azimuth 90º (or east), and Equinox sunsets will always be found at the azimuth 270º (or west). The azimuth for the sunsets and sunrises for the solstices vary widely by latitude. One can easily find the azimuth of sunrise and sunset for most locations through the website under the column sunrise/set. Alignments for sunrises and sunsets can be calculated using the free program Google Earth. To do so, one goes to a location and then clicks on the ruler tool. The ruler tool in addition to measuring distance also measures the heading of the line one creates. In this instance, heading and azimuth degree will be synonymous. Using this method one can discover that the sunset on the Equinoxes to an observer standing where the end of Baytree Road in Valdosta, GA meets the campus of Valdosta State University is nearly perfectly aligned with the course of Baytree Road.

Baytree Road Map
Baytree Sunset
The above photo is from the location described during the March Equinox of 2015.

Below is a table with various locations and the azimuth degrees for major solar events for those locations. Locations are arranged north to south. The cities listed are ones near major lines of latitude to help aid in the approximation of azimuth degrees for places between those lines of latitude.

Latitude Location December Solstice Sunrise December Solstice Sunset March Equinox Sunrise March Equinox Sunset June Solstice Sunrise June Solstice Sunset September Solstice Sunrise September Solstice Sunset
90º00N North Pole No sunrise No sunset
79º59N Eureka, Canada No sunrise 86º 275º No sunset 86º 275º
70º05N Vadso, Norway No sunrise 90º 270º No sunset 90º 270º
66º33N Arctic Circle 116º 186º 90º 270º No sunset 90º 270º
65º01N Oulu, Finland 156º 204º 90º 270º 13º 347º 90º 270º
60º10N Helsinki, Finland 141º 219º 90º 270º 34º 236º 90º 270º
55º01N Novosibirsk, Russia 132º 228º 90º 270º 44º 316º 90º 270º
50º00N Kharkiv, Ukraine 127º 233º 90º 270º 51º 309º 90º 270º
45º04N Turin, Italy 123º 237º 90º 270º 55º 305º 90º 270º
40º01N Boulder, USA 120º 240º 90º 270º 58º 302º 90º 270º
35º02N Chattanooga, USA 118º 242º 90º 270º 60º 300º 90º 270º
30º50N Valdosta, USA 117º 243º 90º 270º 62º 298º 90º 270º
30º03N Cairo, Egypt 117º 243º 90º 270º 62º 298º 90º 270º
25º02N Taipei, Taiwan 116º 244º 90º 270º 64º 296º 90º 270º
23º26N Tropic of Cancer 115º 245º 90º 270º 64º 296º 90º 270º
20º01N Santiago, Cuba 115º 245º 90º 270º 65º 295º 90º 270º
15º11N Saipan 114º 246º 90º 270º 65º 295º 90º 270º
10º01N Alajuela, Costa Rica 114º 246º 90º 270º 66º 296º 90º 270º
00º02N Macapa, Brazil 113º 247º 90º 270º 67º 293º 90º 270º
10º11S Palmas, Brazil 114º 246º 90º 270º 66º 294º 90º 270º
15º25S Lusaka, Zambia 115º 245º 90º 270º 66º 294º 90º 270º
20º10S Port Louis, Mauritius 115º 245º 90º 270º 65º 295º 90º 270º
23º26S Tropic of Capricorn 116º 244º 90º 270º 65º 295º 90º 270º
25º04S Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands 116º 244º 90º 270º 64º 296º 90º 270º
30º02S Porto Alegre, Brazil 118º 242º 90º 270º 63º 297º 90º 270º
35º18S Canberra, Australia 120º 240º 90º 270º 62º 298º 90º 270º
39º49S Valdivia, Chile 122º 238º 90º 270º 60º 300º 90º 270º
90º00S South Pole No sunset No sunrise

The graphic below shows the range in sunrise and sunset azimuth variation an observer would see from the VSU end of Baytree Road. The red area on the right shows the sunrise azimuth flux between the Equinoxes and the June Solstice. The red area on the left shows the sunset azimuth flux between the Equinoxes and the June Solstice. The blue area on the right shows the sunrise azimuth flux between the Equinoxes and the December Solstice. The blue area on the left shows the sunset azimuth flux between the Equinoxes and the December Solstice.
Range in azimuth

Winter Solstice at Newgrange Chaco Canyon Markers Stonehenge Temple of Kukulkan Mound 72 at Cahokia Manhattan Henge