The Lunation Cycle
The Moon is an excellent starting point in learning the astrology of timing because it provides us with directly noticeable situations and atmospheres which we can experience and use as living evidence and material: it is an initiator into the secrets of time because it moves fast. It trains our sensitivities and clues us into some of the isnesses to which a living astrology alludes.
In this chapter, astrological terms (such as the stages of the cycle of aspects) will be introduced to familiarise you with them, but they will be explained in chapter eight. Partially, this chapter is an introduction to the pattern and flow of a time-cycle.
The Moon’s own motion around the zodiac is one thing, and its phases are another. The first concerns the Moon’s motion through the signs of the zodiac, conjuring different shades of influence and tone, while the second concerns its motions in relation to Sun and Earth (the lunation or synodic cycle), an energy-cycle.
Lunar zodiacal cycles
It is well worth keeping track of Moon’s zodiacal motion it passes through a sign in 50-odd hours – for you will soon come to recognise a spectrum of lunar flavours. Take note particularly of the times when the Moon changes sign, for a distinct change of atmosphere can take place, literally within one half-hour. A change of sign is called an ingress. You don’t have to wait long for successive sign-changes, either.
When the Moon is in Libra it feels fine to relate easygoingly with others and to enjoy following along with the general drift of what everyone is up to, but when the Moon moves into Scorpio it is time to face up to imperatives that need facing, to get to grips with raw facts and persevere. Moon in Sagittarius brings out the fun and gregariousness in us and extends our horizons, while Moon in Capricorn asks us to get on with our commitments and responsibilities, focusing on practicalities and on making things really work.
So on it goes: if you observe lunar movements through the signs for a few lunar cycles, you will quite quickly start getting the feel of it and how to respond to it.
The lunar zodiacal cycle lasts on average 27 days and 12 hours. Because the Moon swings closer to and further from Earth (the extremes of this movement are called apogee, further, and perigee, nearer) during its cycle, it sometimes moves marginally faster, sometimes slower, through the zodiac signs. For this reason, the fullmoon can sometimes look larger, sometimes smaller, as well.
Moon plays a key part in affecting our daily-life responses to things as they arise – our moods, frames of mind, underlying urges and the collective atmospheres around us. A sign-change of the Moon infects us with sub-swells, standpoints, humours (states), modes and vagaries of being which can pass quickly (in hours or a day). Yet, at the time we experience them, they feel total and pervasive, as if we always had them and always will.
These are subjective feelings which are often unclear and non-specific, but they particularly affect our basic feelings of alrightness or discomfort with life, on a momentary yet deep-seated basis. If you examine yourself consciously over the course of a day, you will find that your moods and approaches to life change several times between waking and going to sleep, and these ‘humours’ can immensely affect our way of dealing with life – at times crucially.
Note, however, that the Moon does not directly steer these moods: our feelings of okayness or agitation, centredness or scattering are our own, and they are very much affected by our conditioning patterns, particularly before and during birth and in the first year of life. The Moon is associated with our subjective feeling-responses to otherwise impartial and essentially neutral atmospheres. In other words, it might be raining or shining, yet our responses to these can vary over time, and vary between different people. There are psycho-emotional decisions involved too – the decision to make a big deal of something or to let it be as it is.
A Moon in Gemini might well create a buzzy, active-minded or dualistic nuance, but what we do with this is our creation: we can choose to go with the energy of the time, or to be hoodwinked by it to respond mechanically to life situations without insight or awareness of what we are creating. We can use it to solve or create 'problems' – and, as Gemini is quick to point out, this has a lot to do with mental attitude, which itself is emotionally-based. Are we fully and awarely present in the driver’s seat of the human vehicle we’re driving?
The greatest steps each and all of us take in life and in the carving of our life-story are invariably focused in periods of minutes and hours – even if they concern longer-term issues. Tuning into lunar motions and changes can therefore help us grasp the deeper, more overall significance of the short moments which make up the total play of life. It can help us understand the quality of consciousness we perhaps need to develop in order to move into a more harmonious and uncomplicated involvement with life and the here-and-now.
The Moon’s phases (its synodic or lunation cycle) are not its business alone: they derive from the interrelation of Moon, Sun and Earth, and are independent of the sign the Moon is in at any moment. Sun provides the light which Moon changingly shines, and its position relative to Sun and Earth dictates the phase Moon shows us. Viewed from our fixed viewing-platform, Earth, the Moon and Sun behave similarly to the minute and hour hands of a clock, both in motion though at different speeds. In this sense, energy-wise, Moon mediates between Sun and Earth, filling in the details of the Earth-Sun energy-relationship.
Sun brings us the seasons of the year, but Moon times and qualifies them. Just as the minute hand of a clock gives a precise reading of the time – and catching the 2.35 bus requires an accurate time-reading – so Moon gives precise timing to the seasonal changes on Earth. In general, Sun brings springtime, though you'll notice that the precise time the leaves and flowers come out, or the migrating birds arrive, will be timed to the phases of the Moon. The small details and intricacies of life add together to make the whole of life, and the buying of a book, the starting of a journey or the occurrence of an earthquake take place in minutes, not hours or days: yet these small incidents can have bigger effects stretching across time, and they form the junction- and nexus-points of life’s ongoing path.
Astrologically, Sun symbolises our essential being-nature, the selfness that we are, and its mode of expression as a creative, proactive force. Earth symbolises the body we live in, and its experience-gathering senses, the vehicles through which the worldly experiences of incarnate life are had, and through which the objective situationality of our circumstances are encountered. Lunar energy interposes its states and moods between these two, affecting the way that selfhood interacts with, interprets and responds to world situations as they arise, here and now. Just as the sun in the sky can be obscured by clouds (immensely changing our earthly experience), so the enactment of our life path can similarly be obscured by the clouds and flurries of small intervening things – traffic lights, others' behaviour, kids, money, our self-obstructing habits, lunch breaks, thoughts and flaps, obsessions and malaise and all manner of diversions! Life becomes an interplay between getting our way (Sun) and accepting that which is, straight in front of us (Moon). Our capacity to deal with this paradox greatly affects the success we make of our lives, and the happiness we derive from it.
All of us at times allow the daily-life pressing demands of life to dominate our lives, becoming slaves to circumstance, and life’s true direction can become lost, buried or forgotten. At other times we might project our intent upon the world unreceptively, in a way which creates a wake and reaction, or which fails to connect realistically with what’s really going on, such that we mis-fire, fail or create complications. Life is an interplay of creativity and receptivity, of solar and lunar power. Our challenge is to become ever-increasingly clearer in working our way through this process. Interestingly, Sun and Moon appear to be the same size in our sky, even though, astronomically, they are beings of an entirely different order – so too, the little daily things of life are of a different order to life's great questions, yet the former can impact hugely on the latter as well as vice versa.
The lunation cycle is thus an interactive cycle in which intentions and purposes, both conscious and unconscious, meet up with realities, particularly through the intercession of our habitual and learned responses to life. In other words if, when driving from A to B (an expression of intent), you meet a herd of cows blocking the road (an objective fact), your reactions to this situation can affect your life: it could be a relaxing joke, a minor annoyance, a cause to pause, an outrageous imposition, or even a causative factor in a major mishap or a heart attack three days later!
These reactions will, more often than not, be influenced by past experiences of a similar nature, and the way our deep-memory has stored them and serves them up by unconscious association during the day. These semi-conscious memories might cause positive responses – for example, making things easier and allowing facts to be facts, while enjoying the other possibilities the situation might yield – or negative ones – such as getting annoyed, giving up, blaming an innocent bystander or using a lot of fuel revving the car engine – and these responses are essentially our own choice, whether or not we consciously exercise that choice.
The lunation cycle (or cycle of phases) lasts 29 days and around 12 hours. Each cycle begins at newmoon, when the Moon is invisible and in the same place as the Sun in the sky. The cycle reaches a climax at fullmoon, half-way through the cycle. And each cycle, of which there are 12-13 in a year and about 125 in a decade, has its own story to tell, its own issues which are featured and explored.
Each lunation is flavoured according to the sign in which the opening newmoon takes place – when the newmoon is in Capricorn, the whole lunation will be involved with Capricornian kinds of issues, even if the Sun moves into Aquarius part way through. Such a lunation will underlyingly concern issues of realism, organisation, tradition, social role-formation, obligations, routines and grounded functioning, even though the Sun’s ingress into Aquarius will change the slant on this question to issues concerning how to make things different, how to point things toward the future or how to change old routines, even at times when they don't need changing.
It is very valuable to clue into the under-the-surface themes inherent in each cycle: retrospectively seen, these themes are usually quite simple and straightforward, taking us through learning processes or life-developments, and revealing to us different aspects of the same question. If the cycle is, for example, about working hard, then sometimes the experience will be joyous, sometimes productive, and at other times a bane and a labour, all in the same cycle, revealing to us facets of this part of life we call 'work'.
During the pattern of unfoldment in each cycle of lunar phases, all sorts of ins and outs have to be investigated – they are oscillations and wobbles around a partially-visible emergent life-question. It is as if we were circumambulating the question at hand, seeing it from different viewpoints, problematic one day, pleasant and hopeful the next, as a future potential and then as a past fact, dull then colourful, rough and then smooth. If you observe meditatively how your standpoints change during the course of a lunation, in relation to whatever major question underlies that lunation, you’ll see what the underlying question is about.
For life is not only about what is happening to us: it also concerns how we are internally experiencing it and thereby responding to it. Our initial instinctive or programmed responses might be different from our later considered responses: the salient question is whether we acknowledge and take charge of our reaction patterns, or whether we blame life, others, God or, guiltily, ourselves, for what’s going on.
We can use an awareness of the Moon’s antics to look into our own. It is not the Moon which steers us, so much as our programmed past, our unconscious memories. But the Moon tweaks and activates these, bringing them to our attention. When life confronts us with challenges and crunches, we have an opportunity to change our responses, release old patterns and open to the wonder of the present moment.
For, at root, life is a flow which provides us with every kind of experience we need, at exactly the time and in the way we need it, regardless of what we tell ourselves we need. The never-ending internal rapport of reactions, chunterings and grindings which we go through each and every moment of our lives is pure habit, and blocks our appreciation of what is available to us in each moment. The challenge is to remember this truism!
The four quarter phases of the Moon (newmoon, halfmoons and the fullmoon) particularly test our fundamental sense of okayness or agitation about life-as-it-is: they are marked in most diaries, and are worth watching, for starters. By doing so, we can come to observe ourselves, and thereby gain insights into how to reduce all this rather exhausting internal rhetoric.
A lunation has two main halves or hemicycles: the waxing hemicycle, in which the future is being opened up out of the context of the past, and the waning hemicycle, when the past is being worked with as a result of what has been opened up, and also as a foundation for the future. When Moon waxes, new possibilities, scenarios, life-tracks and situations emerge, and when it wanes, already-established forms and arrangements have to be lived with, made use of and completed. It waxes after the newmoon and before the fullmoon, racing ahead of the Sun until it opposes it (occupying the opposite side of the zodiac).
At fullmoon she fully reflects the Sun’s light (as seen from Earth), modified into moonlight – and her influence involves subtle energies as well as visible light. Moon wanes after fullmoon, gradually catching up with the Sun by the time of newmoon. In the meantime, while the Moon has moved through twelve zodiac signs, the Sun will have moved through approximately one sign. Which meaans that the Moon must move approximately thirteen signs in order to catch the Sun and conjunct it again. Consider the hands of a clock and the times of their successive conjunctions, which occur at 12.00, 1.05, 2.10, 3.15, 4.20, and so on.
Sun has a yearly cycle with twelve main shades to it, shown by its movement through the signs. Moon has its own zodiac cycle of 27 days. Moon acts as an independent-but-related factor in bringing these two cycles together in the cycle of phases. Each time the Moon moves through Taurus, it will be in a different lunar phase, owing to Sun’s own motion. Similarly, newmoons and fullmoons wander in sequence from sign to sign, usually having one of each during the Sun’s sojourn in each sign, but sometimes having either two newmoons or fullmoons in the same sign, at the beginning and end. Successive newmoons in the same sign (usually roughly a year apart) wander gradually backwards through the zodiac. This is a very organic cycle to visualise.
These soli-lunar panegyrations are best followed by using the astrologers’ holy book, an ephemeris. We’ll be looking at ephemerides soon. Of course, keeping an eye on the heavens, observing the rising and setting of Sun and Moon, and noting the changing of Moon’s phases will get you in touch with how it looks in real life. The ancients, and not-so-ancients too, used to make careful measurements and keep tallies of time in order to keep track, but now we have books available which give exact readings: something has been lost and something gained, as with all ‘advances’!
Now we shall trace the main elements of the lunation cycle in detail. Try to observe them at work on a daily basis, using your own life and surroundings as the material with which to learn how to move in tune with lunations.
The Lunation Cycle in detail
* NEWMOON (). When Sun and Moon conjunct, an old cycle ends and a new one begins. Moon is invisible, being in the sky with Sun at daytime and under the horizon at night, with its dark side facing us. The new time-cycle starts with a feeling of immense possibility, openness or even vacuousness: here we stand, just being, in the way we are, clear of past grooves yet unstarted on the future. In this sense of beingness are the seeds of the new. Starting or planning new activities is auspicious now. Ideas, plans, expectations, new chapters, preparation of the ground or facing inevitable possibilities can be the keynote here – or it might well be time simply just to be, for once, to reclaim ourselves and our own private lives, and to release our addictive attachment to reasons, plans and life-trajectories. Energy can sometimes be low, sometimes zippy and charged with potency, but after observing a few newmoons, you will notice their characteristic flavour. As with turnings of the tide, nothing much necessarily happens, but it's nevertheless a potent turning-point.
The sign in which the newmoon takes place is worth looking at, for both Moon and Sun are at that moment featuring this sign. Sometimes we can feel void and vulnerable at newmoon, and sometimes we are raring to go: either way, what starts now reaches a climax in two weeks’ time at fullmoon: what begins as a potential seeks to become actual, and what comes from me-in-here must move into relationship with that-out-there during the waxing hemicycle. The newmoon period lasts two days either side of the exact soli-lunar conjunction, and although there is an energy- or perspective-change around the precise newmoon, the whole period is one of beingness, transition into a new story-line, or a new quirk on an existing story.
* CRESCENT MOON (). Two days after the exact newmoon, the crescent Moon becomes visible westwards shortly after sundown. Things are beginning to take shape, and utter potential is beginning to form itself either into stimulating or daunting possibilities. Details are emerging which give shape to the future. The theme here is therefore the fleshing-out of potential and emergence of threads of possibility. On the third day after exact newmoon, when Moon forms a 45° angle to Sun (), choices need to be made, and a state of beingness is beginning to move into a state of doingness – often goaded by an urge or an imperative. Developing avenues of possibility show themselves to be either enthralling or appalling or somewhere between, but a commitment must be made in order to set some definite tracks for the future, and wilder, vaguer possibilities must be thrown out or modified. Get clear, for it is necessary to invest decisive energy into things if they are to take off and get somewhere.
Four days after newmoon, when Moon is 60° from Sun (), things can start moving and progressing fast, developing and gathering momentum, and we find ourselves either getting closer to where we need to go or having to deal with the fact that things are on the move anyway, whether we like it or not – it all depends on whether we are the active or passive ingredient in our lives at this time! This phase, when Moon is a fatter crescent, and setting westwards later after the Sun, is flowingly, even compulsively productive, and much is afoot. It can occasionally be frenetic. Possibilities widen or progress, and move into increasing tangibility, and the enjoyment of advancement can make this time rewarding.
* WAXING HALFMOON. Seven or so days after exact newmoon, Moon forms a 90° angle to Sun (), and now she sails high in the sky as the Sun sets, rising around noon and setting around midnight. At halfmoon we must really do something to make things work, to make choices and face facts, whether we like to or not – or we must accept that some things aren’t working and must be discarded to make space for things that do work. Or life and other people make the decisions for us. Or decisive, pattern-setting events impact on us. Or we cross a big hump. Life can present us with obstacles without or problems within, and the overall feeling is one of overall unclarity, yet we also have a implicit knowing of what we must do, immediately, in order to deal with the facts of the situation, or to save the day. Everything has been set up, whether we proactively did so or just let it happen, and now we just have to get on with it: we’re moving into a new, further stage of development. Things have taken shape, and there's more to go. Often new elements or problems can suddenly surface, squeezed out of our unconscious or out of the Unknown, changing things radically – even though, in retrospect, they clearly fit in with the unfolding scenario and were somehow meant to happen.
Imperatives and realities are the halfmoon question, and facing up to them is what is best to do. It is a time for work or transition, overcoming blockages, making things move, or squaring up with the truth of the situation. Here arises the question of whether we truly are creators of our lives, willingly shouldering what we should bear, or victims of life, requiring the world to force us to face things. The halfmoon period lasts one day either side of the exact 90° aspect, and much can be achieved at this time. A transition is being made between subjective, what-I-want-of-life viewpoints, and objective, what-life-will-actually-furnish realities.
* GIBBOUS MOON. If the halfmoon slammed us when we weren’t looking, then the next few days we spend getting over it and dealing with, or avoiding, the consequences! If, on the other hand, we used the halfmoon to get to grips with things and jump through the hoops, then the momentum gathered goes a long way. Two days after halfmoon, Moon, and Sun form a 120° angle (), and things tend to go easygoingly and floatily. This is a pause for a rest and rethink, or even a no-think, a space allowed for creative input or reflection, or for simply allowing things to unfold as they will. Life is lighter if we have grappled well with it at halfmoon, and if we haven’t, it takes on something of a void or sluggish, droopy flavour. Wider perspectives can regain ground, and fun can be had – or time drags. If action is what you seek now, let things be as they will, for this is not, a time for making things happen – action times will come again soon. At this stage, things will connect only if we allow them to, not if we push them.
Moon is now growing larger, and when it is 135° from the Sun (), 10-11 days after newmoon and three days before fullmoon, realignments and re-prioritisations must be made. A sharp-edged and busy, compelling energy or situation surges up, which forces us to square current actualities with our overall aims. The actualities tend to win unless we can reframe them within a reworked aim and context. Unworkable intentions should be honed or dropped, and workable developments should be re-committed to outward manifestation, concretely. Here our personal dreams and schemes meet the world as is, and a reality-jousting occurs. This is a good time for letting go of preconceptions, to allow the universe to support us in achieving what we really need to achieve. This might go beyond or be different from what we previously thought we needed. The fullmoon period is building up, and an energetic tension is growing.
* FULLMOON. The fullmoon period lasts four days, two days before and after the time of the exact opposition of Moon to Sun (, 180°). It starts when Moon and Sun are 150° from each other (), when Moon is almost full, rising before sundown. Here, at the quincunx (called 'inconjunct' in USA) we get a crisis of perspective. Things take on a distinctly different light and context. It can feel as if we no longer know what we are doing and why. Yet we know we need to stand by what we have created and carry it through, as much as reality will allow, for the stage is set and the lights are up. Whatever we feel about things, it's too late to change anything now.
If we are unsure as to what we are doing, we can develop a feeling of emptiness, lostness and disorientation. If we are hanging on to fixed ideas they can become questionable and void, or life events can bring them into question. If we are receptively playing things by ear, and if we are clear on our priorities and underlying intent, things tend to come to a head: this is it, the time is now, or it is imminent. Pre-fullmoon can either be a time of intense suspended animation or one of frantic activity to get things right and up'n'running. The world can begin quivering and zizzling to the climaxing energy. It is a time for letting go, suspending judgements and dropping stances, for acceptance and allowing life to go as it will, for the truth will out, regardless.
Fullmoon is electric, zingly and at times riddled with contradiction, tension and paradox, at times highly-strung and complex, and at times calmly, quietly loaded. But always, at exact fullmoon, there is a fundamental energy-change and perspective-flip, which can make for a remarkably different situation to follow – although the difference is often within us. Sometimes things can turn inside-out, sometimes they break through, and sometimes they grind to a halt and we're left with what is. Moon rises as Sun sets, and moonrises at this time can often be edgy, intense or headachey, until it swings above the horizon. After fullmoon, high energy can fall flat, or subdued energy can erupt or explode; clarity can lapse into dreaminess, or unknowing can move into profound understanding. It is not without reason that tradition has it that Sakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment on the fullmoon – he did it by breaking his previously tight religious rules.
Fullmoon is a prime time for spiritual-psychological breakthrough and growth, facing what’s really real, letting go of old hangups, accepting life and generally sorting out our relationship with others and the world around. It is a time of potential revelation and truth. Be aware of your reactions to life around the time of fullmoons, and ask yourself if they are truly appropriate or fruitful ones – otherwise you can lose your way, and a more serious schism can arise between your reality and wider reality. This is the climax of the lunation cycle. It starts a new hemicycle in which contexts, outcomes, results and effects matter. At fullmoon, Sun and Moon are in opposite signs, and contrapose the messages of those two signs in a dynamic paradox: the question is, how do we get the contrasting elements of these signs to work together?
The waxing hemicycle was dedicated to exploration, opening channels, expressing our wishes and finding our personal identity. The waning moon now asks us to join the human race, make our lives useful in a larger context, set up more lasting structures, complete what we have started, and derive the benefits we deserve from making our contributions and creations. And if we have omitted to develop a sense of selfhood, a contribution, a statement, or if we have not taken responsibility for our lives, then the waning Moon becomes a period when the world takes us over, forcing its ways on us, and we must to some extent follow along and learn from the outcomes we have created.
The fullmoon period lasts until Moon and Sun are again 150° apart, in a waning quincunx aspect (). But now Moon is moving on the home stretch. Moon’s light is waning, and it rises later each evening. During the two post-fullmoon days before the quincunx we digest the impact of the fullmoon and prepare to move on with the outcomes we have created. The deed is done. This is a time of new understanding, of lessons learned and new orientations begun. At the end of this period, we feel clear as to what we must next do, or we feel lost and dissipated, awaiting our apparent fate – it all depends on how we create our lives.
* WANING GIBBOUS MOON, otherwise known as the disseminating Moon. When Moon is 135° away from Sun (), three days after exact fullmoon, the world wants something of us, or offers something to us, and it is time to gear up, get down on it and start seriously following through on what we have set up – or we must prepare to face the music if we don’t. Here the social contract is signed, and we are become aware of wider obligations. If we cannot carry things through, or if we do not like what’s on offer, we tend to feel adrift, excluded from life, victims of demands, and while we might seek alternatives, they often cannot emerge now unless they are truly appropriate. We must sign on the line and do it, or fix up with others what is to be done if we do not do it. We are all a part of each other, and the system is interdependent: we are needed.
On the fourth/fifth day after fullmoon, when Moon moves into a 120° angle to Sun (), things move into an easier, relaxed mood, even though they might still be moving quite fast. Space opens out to allow new meaning, new contacts and a relaxed creative edge to enter. During the waning Moon, the world affects us greatly, and at this phase our relations with world take on new significance – we belong. It is time to catch up on things fallen behind on, to potter, and to follow along with what’s happening.
* WANING HALFMOON. The halfmoon period () lasts two days. This is the time to fulfil our agreements with others and the world, to really do it, to carry through our side of the bargain and our obligations. Halfmoon brings a focusing of energy on the task at hand, or, if we avoid this, it brings a crunch, where the world confronts us with our true assets and failings. This can mean things going 'right' and progress being made, or it can mean things going 'wrong' – the car breaks down, people give up on us or give us problems, things become turgid or impossible, or it rains when we wanted sunshine. Either way, we are faced with the truth of how we fit into our world, and the outcomes of our acts to date stand before us, sometimes rewardingly, sometimes harshly or burdensomely. Our lives are in great degree in the hands of others, and the roulette wheel is spinning – for our chance has already been, and if we are acting as victims, we can suffer. What is done is done. At the waning halfmoon, the past is beginning to end, and a glimmer of the future is peeking out: in the involvements of the moment, with their lessons and outcomes, the future is reborn as a seed of possibilities for a future cycle. Having created a context for our lives, and a role in which we are accepted (or rejected), a question pops up: what have I got from all this, and where does this lead me, in the end?
* WANING CRESCENT MOON. At this phase, Moon rises before dawn, thinning as the days pass. When Moon is 60° from Sun (), about 9-10 days after fullmoon, we move into a productive time where payoffs and fruits can arise. Things move along habituated lines and grooves, because that's the way they have been – things slot into place at last. We are all in it together, and all affected by each other – this can be disjunctive and grating or immensely rewarding and synergistic. Progress is being made, and things are as normal. Underneath, new possibilities (or worries), previously unseen, emerge out of the established flow of events, and new understandings develop, yielding perspectives on the past and present. This is a time of before-completion, of finishing touches, or of receiving rewards of our labours. Momentum is strong, moving along the lines we have created and agreed with others. Even if our actions can be seen to have failed, positive outcomes can nevertheless emerge.
When Moon moves to 45° from Sun (), it is clean-up time, let-go time, time for resolving old arguments, dropping old grudges, clearing up the mess and summating things: for the time is coming soon to move on to a new chapter, and the sometimes relentless wheel of change still turns. We are called upon to release our previous actions to history, and allow them to become a ground to stand on, not an environment to be in. We must complete things, tie things up, drop them and give them away. What we once identified as our own is no longer so – it belongs to life and memory. This sharp edge can give immense clarity of purpose, or a sense of perspective over the longterm drift of our lives, or release, a lightening of a burden.
Still, however, there are two-to-three days before newmoon – this is the old-moon phase. At the waning semi-sextile (), the thinning lunar crescent, rising before Sun at dawn, gradually disappears. Many are the issues to contemplate, and the distant as well as the recent past comes in to help us integrate our experience and commit it to the memory-files, as new hopes and intentions for the next step emerge out of the dust of the old. Side-issues need sorting through, things need cleaning, polishing, mending, fixing, and our resource-base demands attention. Habit prevails, and the waiting for the old to end is on. Oldmoon is sometimes a low-energy time, thoughtful, a phase for accepting the past and simply being, letting the dust of life settle. Sometimes it can be busy, if things demand finishing, if the foundations of future possibilities need building: things now need sorting out before it is too late. The old Moon, while past-dominated, hatches within it new openings.
* NEWMOON (). After all this cyclical hyperactivity, it is well to spend some time just being, living in our own space, doing, or not doing, things we ourselves feel are best. This is a transition time, and things cannot be hurried. Seeds are germinating, but have not yet taken any distinct form, and need tender nurturing. Things might not happen in great quantities at newmoon, but the qualities of our thoughts and feelings, and the omens presented by events have great relevance. If things are lined up to be carried out, it is well to begin them at newmoon. If things in the past have been busy, and if the future is as yet unclear, it is well to take advantage of the hiatus to allow possibilities to emerge – create space. A new awareness is coming through, a new cycle, and a change of perspective is common at newmoon, setting off a new tone and set of themes for the future. Life goes on! And at this stage, an overall picture of life can present itself to us, as if we were temporarily outside the process, looking in.
Tuning into Moon and its phases has great implications. It is not only a way to familiarise ourselves experientially with lunations, cycles and the astrological language, but it also facilitates big changes in the way we handle life. In tune with Moon we can move into a new sense of flow with life. Lunar phases time the unfoldment of larger, longer changes, like a minute-hand. Especially at critical moments, it is very useful to understand the astrology of what is happening, since light will be thrown on life, and we can make our choices more clearly, seeing our experiences in a larger context, and understanding some of the more hidden meanings in life. Consciously living with lunar energy opens cracks between the worlds, and we can engage deeper reality-levels in our lives, in a very practical way. When it is time to act, act, and when it is time to lie low, lie low – this is the simple order of life, which hasn’t changed since people like Lao Tzu wrote such advice 2,500 years ago.
For women, awareness of lunations is very important. There is a strong theory that once, in ancient times, menstrual and lunation cycles were synchronised – all women ovulated at fullmoons and menstruated at newmoons, and women were in more active touch than now with a deep power. It was a power to attune with their bodies, hormones and psyches in a wavelike way which men cannot experience, and which many modern women have lost touch with. There was no population problem, no unwanted birth, no worry about contraception or infertility. Women were more in tune with the natural, instinctual secret of their beings, and asserted full influence in the life of the human family: it will be a major world transformation when womankind regains this harmony. Lunar and solar energy need balancing.
It helps men to tune into the Moon as well, not only to understand women better, but also to put them in touch with their deeper sensitivity, their a-rational side, their innocence, humanness and naturalness within, the anima. A man in touch with his inner woman can move the full power of his manhood without needing macho behaviour: his strength lies in his ability to be sensitive and vulnerable (qualities to which men are traditionally taught to avoid), and yet to survive without the need for militant protection of the kind men have traditionally been taught. Without opening to the feminine, whether we are a woman or a man, we cannot receive what we need out of life, feel nourished, at home, alright, a full member of humanity, here in the world.
Observation of the lunar cycle
To start with, watch what goes on in your own life around new and full moon. Diaries give the dates, but ephemerides are better, giving a more exact time and the zodiacal positions too. Observe what goes on within you as well as around you. Seek not to form judgements or conclusions: simply watch, and pick up experience. To move in accord with Moon means that we need to open up an umbilical feel for Life, in a part of us where thoughts are of little relevance. Sleep with your curtains open, to let the Moon shine in.
Watch your reactions to life situations as they arise: resistances, acceptances, control and relaxation, efforts and allowings. Note the changing paradoxes between what you seek to create and what actually happens, and note the ways you deal with them and the choices you make. Take a look at nature, especially at everything related to water (cloud, rain, water flows, tides, plant growth, water within your own body). The Sun brings warmth and the fluxing of seasons, but the Moon, through the medium of water, times how and when those seasonal changes develop – just watch the blooming of flowers, the falling of the leaves or the changes in the weather for evidence. Watch road traffic, the behaviour of animals and children, the people on the train, the cat, the house-plants, your patterns of sleep, patterns of thought and the phases in your relationship with others. Yes, go on, observe your daily bowel-movements too!
When you have a taste of what fullmoons and newmoons are about, look into the two halfmoons and, after that, gradually expand your observations to the whole lunation cycle. Since the Moon moves fast, you don't have to wait long, and in one year you'll have observed thirteen cycles. As time goes on you will find that something in your body-consciousness starts moving into greater harmony, giving you reliable messages which your brains would never see. The lunation cycle is a goodly potted cycle to look into, for it is rapid and repeating, and it illustrates how other astrological cycles work. While no two lunations are the same, there is an underlying pattern to all lunations and to all cycles, and there is also a pattern of responses within you to them.
Keep your eyes peeled, when poring over your ephemeris, for eclipses. Only sometimes are they visible, either because what is visible might be taking place under the Earth (a 50:50 chance), or because it is not an exact enough eclipse to be visible as one – or because the weather doesn't oblige! Moon is eclipsed only at fullmoons (when Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon, lasting up to 1 hour and 20 minutes). Sun is eclipsed only at newmoon (when the Moon passes in front of the Sun, a rarer occurrence, lasting up to 8 minutes, and throwing a dark shadow on parts of the Earth).
Despite visibility or lack of it, there is a distinct and noticeable energy-condition which accompanies eclipses. They are extraordinary new or full Moons, which can prove to be major turning-points. Around the time of an eclipse, things go very still, and a pensive, lurking, forcibly-becalmed quality pervades the airwaves, as if all things were waiting for something. Birds return to their nests. Water goes still. An eerie stillness pervades, even amidst chaos or activity. Eclipses take place when the Moon and Sun conjunct or oppose one another close to the Moon’s Nodes. Technically, these are the points out in space where the Moon’s plane of orbit around Earth intersect Earth’s plane of orbit around the Sun. They are a nexus-point which connects the Sun and Moon. The nodes move slowly backwards (retrograde) through the zodiac, making a complete cycle once every 18.6 years. This is called a Metonic cycle, which the ancients used to count as very significant, in that it was a time-period which spanned one generation. People who felt that the ancestors lived on through those who are alive, and who had a strong sense of longterm timing spanning generations and lives, counted the Metonic cycle carefully. It is built into the architectural mathematics of many ancient sites in Britain and worldwide.
The zodiac positions of eclipses, which tend to take place at two periods at opposite sides of each year, move slowly backwards with the nodes. Wherever the nodes are, eclipses will be, whether they coincide approximately or exactly. If approximate, there will be a partial (partially visible) or an annular (virtually invisible) eclipse of the Moon or Sun. If exact, there will be a near-total or total eclipse. Either way, you can tell the feeling of an eclipse, visible or not, once you've felt it.
Different zodiac signs get singled out for being featured by an eclipse – in the case of lunar eclipses, two opposite signs are featured. Opposite signs essentially work with the same basic question from different viewpoints – as if they were two sides of the same coin. Eclipses bring out the contradictions and unity in opposite signs, and on a spiritual/ psychological level, they ask for resolution of conflicts into harmony. Try to observe the energy-weather at eclipses, and to use them consciously and respectfully – they are awe-inspiring times when it is auspicious to get clear on intents, perspectives, deep choices, crossing watersheds, or allowing the forces of life to indicate the best way forward. They are excellent times for ceremonies and meditations – one of the profoundest, calmest meditations I have ever experienced was but two hours before a solar eclipse.
Moon reveals facets of life which we normally keep subconscious. She gives us inroads into the secret fluxings behind everyday events. The sensitive inner child within us, wide-eyed and open, is waiting to come out. Anachronistically, when it does, we start truly growing up.