Introduction: A Different Kind of Astrology
If you ask for someone’s sign, he or she will probably understand you to mean the sun sign—where the sun was at his/her birth time, meaning against what backdrop of stars, what constellation (such as Aries or Cancer). Astrological advice columns—newspaper or internet “horoscopes”—are sun-sign astrology; they give daily advice based upon your natal (birth-date) sun sign.
But there is another way to advise from current astrological data and with a bit more precision than sun-sign astrology. And that’s to use the moon, the other important “luminary” in the sky. The moon rules the night, the sun the day. Daylight is our waking life—our thoughts, plans, behaviors, worldly interactions. The sun is consciousness. (It is also the essence of our existence, astrologically speaking—the fire that motivates us, our core values and sense of self.) The night is our “non-waking” life, the night within us and its moods, feelings, intuitions, and dreams. The moon is our unconscious self. (Astrologically speaking, the moon also represents that which makes us happy, since moon is heart and sun the head, waters of emotion vs. fires of mind. Happiness—or lack of it—rises more centrally from maturity of emotions than power of thought.)
However, because the moon travels so quickly across the sky, traveling in about 29 days the apparent distance that it takes the sun about 365 days to go, the moon’s influence on a daily basis is more fleeting (as opposed to the natal, birth-date moon, which is a model for one’s entire life). Also, the moon travels through an astrological sign in about two and a half days; the sun in about thirty. In the lunar month, then, there is little life-changing instigation from the moon, and yet it is within each day that we live, and what people do in the next fifteen minutes, so it is said, will determine the extent of their happiness (not planning castles, that is, but attending to the moment’s needs).
And it’s the phases that move us along the lunar month: 1. new (in the heart of the dark moon, though some argue that “new” should refer to the first sign of the crescent sliver), 2. waxing (growing) crescent, 3. first quarter, 4. waxing gibbous (3/4 full), 5. full, 6. disseminating (waning—or diminishing—gibbous), 7. last quarter, 8. balsamic (waning crescent), and 9. dark moon. (The first quarter moon is so named because it is the first visual quarter moon in the lunar month; technically, it initiates the second-quarter period, after the new moon.) These phases happen against the backdrop of a sign (constellation), and the entire cycle happens within the “life” of a certain kind of full moon within the lunar year. The harvest moon is perhaps the most well known, but each of thirteen moons in the lunar year has a name.
Each monthly column discusses, for the named lunar month, each of the quarter phases of the moon (new, first, full, and last)—and the dark moon. Crescent phases, though significant (not least because of their visual beauty), are incorporated into the quarter-phase notes; time passes so quickly with the moon, that to incorporated their importance here would have my readers shifting focus often enough to create a kind of meditative whiplash, perhaps too much information to take in—a “re-imagining” every three to four days, instead of each week, as with the quarters.
And the names—they may seem odd. The first quarter actually begins the second of four quarter phases; visually, it is half of the full moon. And the “full” moon is actually only half of the full cycle. Further, the new moon, though usually considered (as it is here) to begin in the heart of the dark moon phase (when the moon is exactly “conjunct”—as if together with the sun in the sky), begins as “new” for some people only when that moon is actually first seen as a slender crescent of light.
As to general meanings, the waxing phase, when the moon is growing towards full in new and first quarter moons, indicates a time for imagining, planning, and expansion. The waning phase, when the moon appears to diminish in the sky (full and last quarter moons), suggests the harvesting of one’s actions and the dispersing of one’s endeavors. More specifically, the new moon is a time for vision, listening, planning. The first quarter is for action, when the seed sprouts, resistances are overcome, or (to change analogies) when the plane takes off. The full moon is the time of greatest interaction with the world, the manifestation of one’s intentions, the ripples of one’s decisions riding out in a circle. The last quarter is a time to refine, to consolidate. And the dark moon is the fallow ground, a letting go, the days and nights of rest. All of this, however, being of the moon, emphasizes the inner dimension, or emotional tone, of one’s actions—the purpose behind the act, the heart within the word.
And, because the moon is about our soul rather than the structure of our personality (sun), the “advice” given is more about opportunities to integrate outer experience into the inner life, and times and means to consider the inner life and is ripples into the waking world—in short, a way to honor the inner self as fundamental to our material existence. And because the length of this column would be formidable if every natal moon sign was figured into each moon phase, the writings here cannot be correlated specifically to your circumstances; for that, an astrologer should be sought, who can also investigate the relationship of your natal moon and these current phases to the other planets and thereby give you a full accounting of your astrological circumstances.