The Moon and Her Phases
The closest astronomical body to our Earth, our home, is the Moon. The Moon is the only known satellite of the Earth. At the end of the 1960’s we landed on the Moon and while it was “…one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind”, Mother Moon is a feminine energy in Astrology and traditionally has been for centuries. Throughout early culture, art and mythology the Sun was seen as the God/masculine energy life force and the Moon was seen as the Goddess/feminine energy life force, both equally important and both equally necessary.
Mother Moon is the matrix, the place from which other life grows, from the Latin root matr- or mater, meaning Mother. She is the connective web that runs through our inner selves. It is no mistake that the tides ebb and flow according to the Moon, she is the watery energy of our emotions and she tugs at us mightily. She speaks to us through our bodies, how we feel, how we truly are, deep inside. Through the course of human history, beings have had a special fascination with the Moon and kept their own rhythms in tune with her cycles. It wasn’t just the diurnal/nocturnal cycles that were attuned to either; the nocturnal phases, or cycles within the cycles, were noted and coordinated with as well. To this day, when we ignore our bodily cycles, we tend to feel “out of sync”, and yet our lunar awareness is rarely consulted.
So what do we need to do to remember the Moon and the powerful effects she has upon our Earth and within our Selves? What do we need to know to help us get back to our ancient, natural lunar rhythms? This is where remembering and honoring the phases of the Moon comes in…but first…
The Moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth about once every 27.3 days (sidereal period). Because the Earth is moving in its own orbit around the Sun at the same time, it takes slightly longer for the Moon to show its same phase to the Earth, about 29.5 days (synodic period); this accounts for the varying number of days in our months. Our months are units of time that correspond with the cyclic motion of the Moon. People have been counting days, months and years in relation to the Moon’s phases as early as Paleolithic times. In fact, the Moon’s orbital period is the basis of many calendars used to divide the year still.
Because the Moon rotates on its axis in about the same amount of time it takes to orbit the Earth (synchronous rotation) we always see nearly the same face of the Moon, the near side, otherwise known as “the Man in the Moon” side. While the face of the Moon does not change from our vantage point here on Earth, the percentage of its visible surface does and that is what we refer to as the Phases of the Moon; basically the Phases of the Moon are caused by the ever-changing angles of the Earth/Sun/Moon as the Moon orbits our Earth.
Although the lunation cycle is continuous, there are traditionally 8 recognized and distinct Moon phases: New Moon; Waxing Crescent Moon; First Quarter Moon; Waxing Gibbous Moon; Full Moon; Waning Gibbous or Disseminating Moon; Last or Third Quarter Moon; and Waning Crescent or Balsamic Moon. These phases are defined by how much of the Moon’s surface is illuminated, the geometric shape it makes, and the angular degrees between the Moon and Sun positions. For centuries farmers were in tune with and planted according to these lunar cycles, these phases. Let’s follow that example and see how it unfolds…
NEW MOON: 0°-45°
The New Moon occurs when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction, or directly aligned, with each other. At the time of the New Moon the surface is not visible. This is the time of the month when we are without moonlight; the Moon is “dark”. This phase represents the beginning of a new lunar cycle, a new emotional cycle. There is a terrific amount of untapped potential in this phase; the field is empty but pregnant with potential. What seeds do we want to plant, nurture and grow in the coming month? What wants to come forth? The spark of initiation is present here. “It’s time” to take action. The seed begins to stir and the compulsion is to start.
WAXING CRESCENT MOON: 45°-90°
The Crescent Moon appears as the Moon begins to grow and a tiny sliver emerges in the darkened night sky. The Crescent Moon time is a time of getting things going. There is work involved in making things happen, in helping them “take root”. This time of the Moon phase can be a bit of a struggle as the idea or “seed” has been planted but is vulnerable; bringing our idea into reality requires effort and care. The roots struggle to take hold and the stem struggles to break the surface of the ground and emerge. The impulse here is to go and initiate but there must be a willingness to keep going or nothing will manifest to completion.
FIRST QUARTER MOON: 90°-135°
This is where the real growth starts! The seed has sprouted and begins to shoot out and move forth, the roots are freshly anchored. There is much action occurring in this phase and much forward movement. This is a time of continuing to establish the idea but there is also progress, the beginnings of manifestation. The plant has emerged but is still young and tender. The First Quarter Moon hangs in the sky with half of its visible surface illuminated; it is square, or at a 90°angle, to the Sun. There are challenges that lie ahead, struggles to overcome, but a new plant has sprung!
WAXING GIBBOUS: 135°-180°
The Waxing Gibbous phase of the Moon is still a growing phase and there is definitely a presence established, but the action is not as urgent as it was before. The growth is not yet finished, but the plant is established and holding its own in an outstretched way. This is the phase of the Moon just before full. There is an anticipation of the fullness that is coming as well as a beholding of the time that is here. There is satisfaction in this Moon phase, accomplishment of having brought an idea to life despite it not quite yet being fully formed. This time can also feel incomplete.
FULL MOON: 180°-225°
The paradox of the Full Moon is that as soon as it becomes full the moment passes and the waning phase begins. All the build up to the Full Moon culminates in a single moment of time, but OH what a beautiful moment it is to behold! Who could imagine a lunar cycle without the FULL-ness of the Moon? This moment exists to remind us to create, to put forth effort into an idea, to allow it to take hold, to develop it and to help it grow into its full beauty, simply to bask in its glory. However, all good things come to an end and creation is no exception; so the cycle begins its decline and continues upon its path, pausing in its brief, beautiful moment and declaring, “I am here; I have arrived”! The Sun is directly opposite the Moon at this time and the Earth lovingly sandwiched between her Celestial Mother and Father.
WANING GIBBOUS: 225°-270°
The Disseminating Moon marks the time of descent back toward a new cycle again. It is a time of giving back all that has been gathered from the waxing phases. There is a return of fruit from the seed planted; a sharing of what has been created, partaking in the reward of invested efforts. We take the seeds from the fruit we have manifested and carefully save them for the future while taking delight in and enjoying the flesh of the fruit we have just nurtured and grown. The idea we have planted brings wisdom and reward; we understand the struggle to get something started, help it take root and carefully create the environment for it to grow. We know the risks and the rewards. We can use the wisdom gleaned to repeat the process, to improve upon what we can and to teach others how.
LAST QUARTER: 270°-315°
In this phase the Waning Moon is square the Sun. It is a time of struggle and obstacles to overcome much like the first quarter Moon, however this struggle is about surrender and release. The decay portion of the cycle is happening. This is a time to grasp what has occurred, reflect, make meaning and let go. There are questions of consciousness that surface; attempts are made to understand all that has passed, before the final surrender is at hand. It is the beginning of the end. Our plant withers, the seeds fall to the ground, the remnants begin to die and return back into the field of potentiality from which they sprang.
WANING CRESCENT: 315°-360°
The Balsamic phase of the Moon is a very still and quiet time. It is a holding and waiting period until the time is right for the cycle to begin again. While it may seem as if nothing is happening but death and decay, there is so much happening beneath the surface. We reflect deeply here, there is a profound stillness that runs under ground, waiting until the time is just right to move forward and start, to begin anew. Until then, we sit and wait. There is nothing to do and no place to go…we simply BE in this moment trusting that life will continue its magnificent cyclic dance. Finally what has come before passes and it is time to begin once more. Much like the Full Moon the Balsamic Moon is a moment in time between phases, a Divine paradox where the end is the beginning of the next and the beginning the end of the prior, an AND/BOTH moment ripe with mysterious potential. What new seed wants to be planted? What wants to manifest from out of the darkness this next New Moon?
And so it is…having come full circle, balance is restored and the cycle begins again.
In remembering the value and teachings of our Moon Mother we re-connect with our inner Selves, our feelings, our wants, our mystery, and our natural cycles. We bring balance and harmony back to an outward driven life that focuses on taking action “out there” and forgets to cherish the strength and wisdom of honoring subtle action “in here”. In looking to our Moon Mother we re-member who we are and in wholeness we become more comfortable with our own unique place in the Cosmos, sandwiched lovingly between our Celestial parents, honoring BOTH our Father AND our Mother, trusting both are equally necessary and important.
“For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…”