We know the Sun. We see it rise each morning, or trust that it is there behind clouds. The cycle of the year and our schedules are driven by the global adherence to the sun-guided Gregorian calendar. The sun’s daily trips and annual flow are easily followed.
To meet the moon requires a different kind of attention. Because its 28 day cycle does not line up to months constructed for a solar year, the moon cycles wander the calendar, moving from crescent to full and then disappearing. Is it gone or just hidden behind clouds? There is a mystery to the movements of the moon in our solar world.
Despite the extra work required, following the moon opens the ways for gifts that spring from the moon’s mystery: intuition, creativity, and threads that weave between the worlds to connect us with the Divine, the dead, and the realm of spirit.
The wisdom of the moon is eternal return, of life and death lived in circles, not straight lines. Joanna Powell Colbert, creator of the Gaian and Herbcrafter Tarots, writes of the wisdom of the Moon as “constant, faithful changes”and tells us how the moon “reminds us that one stage of life always succeeds another, and that times of darkness are always followed by renewal.”
From the Herbcrafter Tarot
The dark moon always opens up to the full. The full moon makes way for the dark.
The dark and full phases of the moon are the depths and heights of each cycle. Their concentration of dark and light respectively invite us to special practices and rituals to attune to their energy.
You may find yourself being drawn to one phase of the moon more strongly, or feel a pull toward particular ritual observance. Follow these inner urgings and experiment led by your lunar connection. I offer my way here as an example, as a starting point from which to find your own way to journey.
Dark Phase Work
The dark phase work happens in the 3 – 4 days around the exact moment of the new moon’s arrival.
In the days right before the moon is made new, it returns to the place in the sky where it began its moonthly journey. The energy gathered through the whole of the lunation now flows away into moonless nights. As the moon releases light and takes us into the dark, we also are invited to release that which we no longer need, that which we want healed, that which did not come to fruition, that which is completed. Practices to support this release include:
- Reflecting back on the events, memories, emotions, achievements, and disappointments since the last new moon. What we find to be beneficial can be celebrated. What fell short of the mark is to be released so we don’t carry its burden into the next moonth.
- Engaging in a ritual (simple or elaborate) to enact your release. For example, we can write down what you want to release on slips of paper, and then – safely! – burn them. The ash can then be buried in earth, lifted into the air to be blown with the breeze, or placed upon waters to flow away.
Once our release is made, we can travel with a light heart into the moments when the moon is made new. For a new moon hour or even a whole day or night, we might do nothing but rest in the potential and possibility of renewal. Out of this moment of pure potential we are invited to make wishes about what can emerge from this moon cycle.
The influence of a new moon lasts through the moonth. I think of this as the energy of the new moon moment putting a stamp on the whole moonth. We can attune to this initiating energy in various ways. The most basic approach is to quiet ourselves and open up to a connection to the lunar energy coming through our emotions and senses. They might register as vibration felt somewhere in our bodies. Or we might perceive a message coming from an inner voice. We are receiving subtle communication from the moon in its very first light so no need to expect immediate clarity.
As the energy increases with the moon’s growth, we seek to understand what can develop out of the initiating energies. The days after the new moon are a good time for divination to find ways to align with, rather than work against, the greater tides of energy. Once we’ve found intuitive insight, we make a plan with steps and dates identified for welcoming opportunities, grappling with obstacles, and working toward our goals. By the time the moon is at first quarter full, we’ve woven together the intuitive and practical for clarity and purpose about this moontly journey.
Full Phase Work
The light phase work happens in the 3 – 4 days around the exact moment of the moon’s peak fullness.
In the days right before the moon is full, we are invited to reach toward making our wishes and plans a reality. It’s not the end of the cycle so we are not necessarily working toward completion. But we want to push toward bringing something significant out of our work. With increasing light shed on our efforts, we may realize that we need to make adjustments, change course, or deepen our commitment.
When the full moon moment arrives, we are invited to open to a revelation about how the lunar energies as well as our plans are unfolding. Taking a moment to pause, reflect, and divine around the full moon varies our energy and creates the opening for revelation.
To encourage our lunar revelation:
- Take out any record of your divinations or reflections from the new moon and look at them in a new light. How does your understanding shift now that time has passed and light has shifted?
- Moon bathe by sitting or lying under a window or outside on the ground. Let go of your thoughts and soak in the light.
Out of this revelation, we are issued an invitation to return a gift to the world in the final weeks of the lunar cycle. Release something of yourself to share that you gained from this lunar cycle around the time of the last quarter moon. Then prepare to return to dark moon nurture.
Eclipses that happen around the moons give that moon what is said to be a stronger energy. The influence of these moons lasts for 6 months, rippling out until the next eclipse season. They are a disruption of the normal relationship of sun and moon so invite us to be different, too. Sacred arts weaver and author Briana Sausy says they are good for breaking patterns. Observing the eclipse time period helps us to see the connections between the seed planting at one moon and the longer term growth that is possible. Working with an eclipse new moon, you can make a 6 month plan or dedication and check back in on them when the corresponding eclipse occurs.
Another Layer: Alignment to the Great Than with Tarot and Astrology
Our personal journey is contained within a larger pattern. Astrology uses the alignment of celestial bodies to the earth as an inspiration for glimpsing and making meaning of this pattern.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, out of which influential Tarots decks emerged at the turn of the 20th century, mapped the Tarot on the astrological progression of the year so that each moment corresponds to 3 cards offering different aspects of guidance:
- A Major Arcana card that corresponds to one of the 12 astrological signs. This card represents the greater wisdom or overarching lesson we can experience during the moonth. We revisit these lessons each year to deepen our experience of them. Their wisdom is infinite so can not be mastered, but with each turning through the year our souls are shaped. I call this the Soul Path card.
- A numbered minor that corresponds to a decan of the year. Our 365/6 day year is divided into 36 decans in an astrological wheel. This card’s guidance is two-fold, alerting us to both the passage and practice through which we can most beneficially move along our Soul Path. As a passage card, its meaning and images can give us insight into potentially important happenings in the moonth to come. As a practice card, it can inspire us to engage in particular spiritual or personal practices to best move through the passage and stay on the Soul Path.
- A Court / person card. These cards that flow from the beginners to learners to experts through the elements of fire, water, air, and earth show us the posture to take while traveling the path. Having to shape shift between these different identities can help to be flexible and walk with new eyes on paths we’ve traveled before.
I use this three-card constellation to gain insight into the potential and energy of the moonth that flows from the moment of the new moon’s arrival. These cards can also guide us in finding the questions to ask that will help us journey with increased alignment with the larger pattern. For example, a new moon on August 18th places us on the Soul Path of Strength moving through the Seven of Pentacles mandate to be courageous with the slow but steady commitment of the Knight of Pentacles. They call us to questions such as:
- How can I be in relationship with the wild part(s) of myself?
- In what area of my life do I need to be courageous?
- What personal/spiritual/earth-honoring practices will sustain me through challenges?
We can then use these questions suggested by the larger pattern to pull personal Tarot or oracle cards to show us how we can best work with the pattern of the moonth while walking our unique soul paths.