Have you ever looked up in the sky on a cool dark night to see the magnificent moon alight? Have you wondered why they say to set your intentions on New Moons, and why there’s a sort of tension in the air around Full Moons? Astrologically speaking, there is an answer, thanks to pioneers of modern psychological astrology like Dane Rudhyar and Demetra George we have a wealth of information to connect the Lunar phases to our own emotional attunements.
Time for a little background:
The Moon has been worshipped as a deity of the night dating back at least 35,000 years ago in the upper-paleolithic era. Across the globe and across history the symbolism of the Moon appears in the form of deities like Hekate, Chang’e, Diana, and Chandra. Hekate's origins date back to 3200 BCE in ancient Greek religion. Her domain involved witchcraft, crossroads, graves, the night, and the guiding light of the Moon among other lunar topics. Chang’e has origins that trace back to Chinese mythology as goddess of the Moon who chose to live on the Moon to stay close to her mortal/human husband.
Observing the Moon can give many clues to the astrological significations. The speed and proximity of the Moon's orbit in relation to the Earth makes its cycle an exceptionally intimate, and personal one. We can see that reiterated through immortals like Chang’e and her wish to remain close to her human husband. The Moon's transit is associated with extremely personal concepts like emotions, comfort, nourishment. These are often the things we are most defensive about. We also observe that the Moon shines brightest at night, a quality of “lighting the dark” both figuratively and literally. The Moon reflects the Sun’s light enhancing both the reflective and receptive significations of the Moon.
The phases of the Moon astronomically refers to the distance between the Sun and the Moon or how much light the Moon is able to reflect at a given moment. The Moon takes 28.5 days to orbit the Earth and about 3.6 days to transition from one phase to the next. There are 8 phases in the Lunar cycle that we here on Earth witness every month.
We know the Moon to have an immense effect on water and the tides. We know of animals, ex. Sea turtles and coral, that have biological rhythms which perfectly align with the cycle of the moon. We, adult humans, are comprised of 60% water. Seems we too are affected by the Moon’s influence.
The Sun and Moon appear to be about the same size from our earthly perspective. This similarity in size speaks to a concept that often gets overlooked in popular astrology but is nonetheless an important one. Regardless of the misogynistic cultural bias toward “masculine”/Solar principles, the truth of the matter is that Solar and Lunar principles carry equal weight in the development of an individual. All of this information is important when understanding the magnitude of influence that these Lunar phases have over the very world we live in and ourselves.
The 8 Phases:
As I mentioned previously there are 8 phases in the Lunar cycle. The 8 phases each occur within a range of 45 degrees which completes the 360-degree wheel/cycle. They are referred by different names depending on how you’ve come to learn them (astronomically or astrologically) and I will include both names for reference.
The first of the phases is the New Moon. The New Moon occurs from the moment the Moon aligns (conjunction) with the Sun and up to 45 degrees after. In the night sky it appears as though the Moon disappears during this phase. The alignment of the Sun and the Moon in conjunction results in the reflected light not being visible from our perspective here on Earth. This phase is described as the seed being planted in the ground/germination, the start of something new. Much of this stems from the conjunction between the Sun and the Moon in which they are in direct alignment with one another. This phase is known for their ability to seek and discover new experiences, solutions, and answers. According to astrologer Daniel Larkin, Plato’s allegory of the cave is an excellent way to conceptualize this Lunar phase as these individuals often feel as though they are outsiders due to their spontaneous, child-like, and curious nature. In the same way, those who leave the cave are condemned by those who never have. (Those who seek new/unknown experiences are often called crazy by those who haven't/won't)
The second of the phases is the Waxing Crescent. The Waxing Crescent Moon occurs from exactly 45 degrees away from the Sun and up to 90 degrees after the Sun. This phase is described as the moment in the plants cycle in which it pushes up its first shoots. There is still a connection to the seed material for the plant just as individuals with this Lunar phase often learn and develop a connection to the resources available to them. The Waxing Crescent is defined by their necessary struggle between the past and the future, and journey of leaving behind their “seed” identity. The Sun and Moon form the sextile, or 60-degree, aspect with each other at this phase. The sextile encourages two planets to learn from one another in a way that isn’t overindulging (trine) or harsh/irritating (square). In this way, individuals born under the Waxing Crescent Moon are able to learn how to nurture their own sense of capability and confidence.
The third of the phases is the First/Opening Quarter. The First Quarter Moon occurs from exactly 90 degrees away from the Sun and up to 135 degrees after the Sun. This phase is described as the moment in the plants cycle in which the plant must expand its roots and leaves if it is to survive on its own. The plant can no longer rely on seed material and must now take action to establish growth. The Sun and the Moon form the square or 90-degree aspect when the Moon is in this phase which is categorized by irritation, crisis (the need to make a decision), and action as a result and a solution to internal/external irritation. Individuals with this Moon phase are able to use this intense energy in order to learn to skillfully take control in necessary situations, building and maintaining structures that support their growth, and committing to deliberate supportive action.
The fourth of the phases is the Waxing Gibbous. The Waxing Gibbous Moon occurs from exactly 135 degrees away from the Sun and up to 180 degrees after the Sun. This phase is described as the moment in the plants cycle in which the buds are in anticipation to bloom. The Sun and Moon form a quincunx, or 135-degree angle, to each other in this phase. Adjusting, perfecting, and persevering are all characteristics that describe not only this phase of the Moon, but also the quincunx aspect. Individuals with this phase are able to utilize this tinkering sort of energy in order to adjust and ultimately improve upon themselves, their chosen craft/interests, and larger systems. It is important, however, for those with this phase to recognize not only the importance of dedication and time, but also that not everyone is seeking a version of perfection and that's okay. The Waxing Gibbous individual is capable of analyzing, critiquing, and putting in the necessary work to create efficient ways for systems to function.
The fifth of the phases is the Full Moon. The Full Moon occurs from exactly 180 degrees away from the Sun and up to 225 degrees after the sun and begins the journey of the Moon back to the Sun. This phase is described as the moment in a plants life when it blooms. The Sun and Moon form an opposition or 180-degree angle between each other at the start of this phase. Reciprocity, theatrics/dramatics, polarization, and being seen are all key characteristics that align with the Full Moon. As Full Moon individuals develop an understanding of their internal conflicts this helps them to recognize the external competition in their life and in turn start their quest to be less competitive/develop a sense of healthy competition. Individuals with this phase also innately understand reciprocity as they are attuned to giving a lot to relationships and recognize the way conflict can injure that reciprocity. Ultimately, this phase calls individuals to step into the light, recognize who they’re performing for, and integrate the polarities that exist within them.
The sixth of the phases is the Disseminating Moon/ Waning Gibbous. The Disseminating Moon occurs from exactly 225 degrees away from the Sun and up to 270 degrees after the Sun. This phase is described as the moment in a plants life in which the fruit ripens, and the seeds must be spread. The word “disseminate” is a verb which is defined as to spread (something, information especially) widely. This definition is fitting as this phase is attuned to the concept of sharing a message. Individuals born under this phase are here to spread what they have found to be of value and meaning, however finding a productive way to communicate and shape their ideas while taking other’s unique and individual perspectives into account. Disseminating Moon individuals are here to learn the important distinction between embodying a message of value and crossing the line to fanaticism.
The seventh of the phases is the Last/Closing Quarter. The Last Quarter Moon occurs from exactly 270 degrees away from the Sun and up to 315 degrees after the Sun. This phase begins with a 90-degree (square) aspect which we also saw during the First/Opening Quarter Phase. However, unlike the earlier phase this square aspect is reaching the end of its cycle. Meaning that the friction experienced is through the process of decay much like the process in the life cycle of a plant that this phase represents. There is an underlying theme and many instances in the lives of these individuals in which they turn away, start over, and let go. There can be an intentional kind of rebellion to their personalities as well as a sort of iconoclastic feel. Individuals with this phase are here to turn away from outdated ideologies/conditionings and actively seek new ways of being.
The eighth, and final, of the phases is the Balsamic Moon/ Waning Crescent. The Balsamic Moon occurs from exactly 315 degrees away from the Sun and up to 360 degrees after the Sun and is the final phase of the Moon’s journey back to the Sun. The balsamic moon has been seen as a Moon of transformation as it acts as the bridge between cycles. In the same way, this Lunar phase is represented in the life cycle of a plant as the seed. The seed is not yet planted in the ground which is symbolic of the Balsamic Moon’s attunement to not being of their time. Those born under this phase are often considered to be the black sheep of their family. This phase deals primarily with the concept of closure, ending of cycles, and preparation for the future. In this way, Balsamic Moon individuals often experience many friendships/relationships which seem to have definitive ends despite a felt connection. This is not a negative thing however, as this phase learns a deeper connection to the intimate concept of closure. Despite the difficulties this phase may have they have the largest capacity to contribute something of value for generations to come.
How to Find Your Phase:
Each of the 8 phases occupies 45 degrees in the 360-degree cycle. In order to calculate your lunar phase you must count the degrees from the position of the Sun to the position of the Moon.
I use what I call the 30-degree trick to make the math a bit easier in my brain. The 30-degree trick works like this: No matter which house system is being used, each of the 12 zodiac signs in the 360-degree wheel can only ever occupy 30 degrees each. 360/12=30. This means that moving from one sign to the very next at the same degree would be to move 30 degrees. Using the example below, we can see that to calculate the degrees from 12 Leo -> 8 Capricorn we start at the Sun at 12 Leo and jump to 12 Virgo . This gives us 30 degrees, we can then go from 12 Virgo to 12 Libra which adds the distance to 60 degrees. From 12 Libra to 12 Scorpio gives us 90 degrees. From 12 Scorpio to 12 Sagittarius brings us to 120 degrees and from 12 Sagittarius to 12 Capricorn gives us 150 degrees. However, we can see from this chart that 12 Capricorn is past the point we are measuring to which is 8 Capricorn. The difference between 12 and 8 is 4 which is we subtract 4 degrees from the 150-degrees measurement and we arrive at 146 degrees. There are 146 degrees between the Sun at 12 Leo and the Moon at 8 Capricorn making this Lunar phase the Waxing Gibbous phase!
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