From Chapter 2 on the cycles of the Moon:
Moon illustration by Jan Billings
The lunation cycle (the cycle of phases) lasts 29 days and around 12 hours. Each cycle begins at newmoon when the Moon is invisible, in the same place as the Sun in the sky. Its sunlit side is facing away from us and also, being up in the sky in daytime, it’s invisible. (Theoretically we could see some reflected Earth-light, from the light emitted by Earth’s clouds, but daylight prevents this). Occasionally, the Moon’s and Sun’s positions are so accurately aligned that the Moon passes in front of the Sun, causing a solar eclipse.
The lunation cycle reaches a climax at fullmoon, half-way through the cycle, when the Moon has moved to the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. At this time, when the Sun sets, the Moon will rise – but only at fullmoon. If the alignment of Sun, Earth and Moon is exact, we see an eclipse of the Moon in which the Earth’s shadow passes over the Moon.
Each lunation 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 that are featured and explored. If a year is a chapter of life, then the lunations in a year mark the subheadings and sections of the chapter.
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 the cycle. Such a lunation starting in Capricorn will underlyingly concern issues of realism, organisation, tradition, social roles, obligations, routines and practicalities.
This will shift at the next newmoon, in Aquarius (when the Chinese have their New Year –quite a good time for it). During this Aquarian lunation the issues concern making circumstances different and trying to shake them around, while still feeling embedded in them. The emphasis is on the future and how to loosen up old routines or resolve unchanging situations. Sometimes things do need changing and at other times we need simply to consider change, even if we realise that things are alright as they are.
It is valuable to clue into the under-the-surface themes in each cycle. Retrospectively seen, these are usually quite simple and straightforward, taking us through learning processes or developments while revealing to us different facets of the same question. But at the time the lesson can be more tricky to discern. 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 that aspect of life called ‘work’.
During each cycle of lunar phases, all sorts of ins and outs are there to be investigated – they constitute oscillations and wobbles around an emergent life-question. It is as if we were circumambulating the question at hand, seeing it from differing viewpoints, problematic one day, pleasant and hopeful the next, as a future potential and then as an established past fact, dull then colourful, rough and then smooth.
If you observe how your standpoints change during the course of a lunation, you’ll see more clearly what the underlying, abiding question is about. For life is not only about what is happening to us – it also concerns how we internally experience and respond to it. Our initial instinctive or conditioned responses might be different from our later considered responses: the salient question is whether we acknowledge and take charge of our patterns, or whether we blame life, others, God or, guiltily, ourselves, for what’s going on.
The four quarter phases of the Moon (newmoon, halfmoons and fullmoon) particularly test our fundamental sense of okayness with life-as-it-is: they are crisis points, marked in most diaries, and they are worth watching. Watching them, we can observe ourselves and gain insights into how to reduce all this rather exhausting internal rhetoric, chatter and turbulence that we plague ourselves with on a daily basis.