The earth is our home and in ancient times we had only the moon, sun, stars and planets to guide us. Today we regulate time with such a disconnection from nature that we can have an entire month without a full moon. To the ancients, the moon orchestrated each month in its waxing and waning fullness, affecting the earth's 'womb' in a monthly cycle similar to a woman's.
The solstice and equinox are determined by the sun's position relative to the celestial equator, but each month's cycle was established by the moon. Regardless of how we have come to organize time, these 'turning points' remain visible to us and connect us more deeply to the natural world.
The first new moon after the Spring equinox begins the New Year. The waning crescent phase prior to the disappearance of the moon was a time to release the past year and prepare for a new cycle. Passover, Easter and other holidays celebrate the first full moon after the equinox, but it was the new moon that was celebrated in ancient times as the New Year. The full moon pertains to fullness and harvest, but the new moon is about birth and beginnings.
Observing a full moon in the darkness is something that can take our breath away. It pulls on our feelings in the same magnetic way that it gathers the ocean to its bosom. It engages our imagination like a giant night-light, glowing and protecting us while we sleep.
The moon is the keeper of our dreams, and ancient moon deities were believed to orchestrate our dream life. The moon played an important role in ancient cultures, and understanding its cycles allows us to tap its archetypal power as we create and harvest our intention. Even today, farmers plant seeds during certain phases of the moon cycle. It is believed that moisture is pulled toward the top layer of the soil and improves germination.
In astrology, the moon is associated with the subconscious and our instinctive, unconscious behavior. Its cycles can be used to blend both the known and unknown—the tangible and intangible. Working with lunar cycles allows us to intentionally engage our feeling nature, and how it is unconsciously operative in manifesting intention. Just like dreams, what cannot be accomplished during the day can be given over to our larger body while we sleep.
In ancient times, the moon was observed to change over a 29 day period that coincided with a woman's reproductive cycle. The ancients observed how the moon affected the tides and by tracking it alongside of the sun, they developed calendars to predict agricultural rhythms. The sun was the life giving force, but the moon played an important role in predicting rainfall. In this way, the moon inspired culture for the ancients, when hunter and gatherers established civilizations centered on planting and harvesting.
Feminine and reproductive qualities were given to the moon, which is why many ancient cultures associate the moon with a rabbit. Fertility and moon goddesses were believed to have menstrual cycles synchronized with the moon. This synchronization played out in organized rituals called es-es during u-sakar or the New Moon. Waxing cycles were times for reflection, and the day of Laying Down the Moon called u-na-na was the culmination of the moons disappearance into the underworld. To the ancients, the moon was a living being that orchestrated phenomenon on the earth.
Women became the mediator of all that was spiritual and many ancient cultures were matriarchal prior to the rise of the patriarchal religions. In ancient Sumeria, the Marriage of Innana and Dumuzi represented a time of blending opposites in male and female qualities, and also merged the divine with the earth. Dumuzi, the shepherd, became Cronus or Saturn and is an archetype that still carries a sickle. Innana sings to Dumuzi prior to their marriage, asking him to plow her feminine parts as if they are embodied in the furrows of fields below. This symbolic representation of the fertility goddess with the earth led to a sense of the earth also being feminine.
The taboos of not touching the earth, water or light during menstruation or pregnancy was a way of containing and harnessing the creative power of the moon. Seclusion rituals reenacted the primordial darkness before creation. A woman too, moved into darkness during these periods. The word menses comes from the ritual of es-es, while the word period captures the cycles of our ancient practices.
While the moon is associated with the feminine, men participate in accessing their feeling nature through the Anima in dreams. His instinctual life can be associated with the mother or mate and appear as the females in his dreams. He expresses his instinctual urges through the Anima as a way of integrating his ability to feel. The male in dreams for a woman is symbolized by the Animus, adopted by the father, projected onto males in her life and appearing as the male characters that will seek to kiss or copulate during dreaming. The Animus embodies her ability to stand up and provide for herself. In this way all of us achieve a blending of masculine and feminine traits.
Consciousness is associated with the sun and daytime, but the moon ties to our dream life and all that remains unconscious to us. Just as ancient rituals removed the separation between the divine and the mundane, we can resurrect our ancient practices to blend the conscious and unconscious when working with our dreams and intention.
Rituals keep us balanced when facing challenges in the outer world. Just as our bodies are composed of everything that makes up the earth, we can understand our unconscious life and its effects by synchronizing to the cycles of the moon.
Moon Cycles and Intention
To the ancients, creation was closely tied to agriculture. Today, we have different creative needs, but the symbolism is the same. If we think of the moon in terms of ovulation, the most important days of the moon cycle are the New Moon, Quarter Moon and Full Moon. After the Third Quarter Moon, it disappears into the underworld for 7 days to release the past and renew itself. The first day of its re-emergence is the 7th day after a New Moon. The ovulation of the earth was believed to occur on the 15th day as the Full Moon.
The New Moon is the first day of the moon's re-emergence from the darkness of the past. Prior to sleep, connect with your solar plexus and manifest the feeling you would like to experience during the coming cycle. Think of what you are building for yourself and ask for a dream that will help you achieve it. If you are searching for inspiration and direction, this is an excellent time to seek inner guidance. The New Moon ritual focuses on aligning intention with creation or starting from scratch to achieve your desires. During the New Moon we begin our journey from unconscious to conscious creation.
The Waxing Crescent Phase is a week for building and establishing your intention. When observing the moon's growth each subsequent day, connect with all that is gestating within. Notice how light is gradually emerging from darkness and give your feelings over to your Higher Self. Prior to sleep, ask for guidance in ensuring you can manifest your desires. This is a growth cycle where the unconscious begins to rise into the light of consciousness.
First Quarter Moon is a good day for planting. This occurs on the 7th day after a New Moon and was a very important time for the ancients. It symbolizes the blending of conscious and unconscious—a time when the divine meets with the earth. It begins a week of taking appropriate action to sow your intention in a way that the growing light will nurture it. Prior to sleep, ask for a dream that can help you understand and work with any obstacles you are facing. The universe seeks to fulfill your intentions and this is an excellent day for giving intention over to your Higher Self's direction and influence. This day balances the dark and light evenly so the intangible can manifest.
Waxing Gibbous Phase is a week of observing and aligning with the universal response. The light of the moon is slowly building toward fullness and the momentum is in your favor. It is an important time to align with the present and observe what experience is reflecting back to you. Consciousness is overtaking the unconscious or and your success will depend upon your willingness to notice your projections and observe the synchronicities. This is a good time to ask for dreams that can empower your success. This is an impregnating phase and matches to a week where intention impregnates the vision to receive it.
The Full Moon is associated with harvest and represents a time of ovulation where a cycle is completing. This is a powerful day of ensuring that intention is clear and that what you began with the New Moon is still resonating within you. We harvest our dreams through experience and learn about our unconscious through dreams. This is a good day to practice a 24 hour awareness where you observe experience like a dream with the same non attachment and wonder. Any blockages you face can be made clear to you by observing what life is reflecting back to you. The Full Moon represents the height of conscious awareness and anything that was hidden can be brought into the light.
The Waning Gibbous Phase begins a week of honoring the part the inner world plays in all that we experience. We turn inward with gratitude for all that we are learning. Rituals focused on meditation and releasing are important during this phase. The Waning Gibbous Phase is an excellent week to practice non-attachment. We learn to let go of the unnecessary and honor what we have.
The Third Quarter Moon is a day to connect purely with feelings. Rather than operating by way of thought, observe the influence of your feelings on manifestation. This is an excellent day to check in with your feelings to see if they match to intention. Spend the day aware of your feelings and work on aligning feelings with intention. This was a time to transplant, harvest and prune so adjustments can be made to enable feelings to align with intention.
The Waning Crescent Phase begins a week of letting go. It is an important time for rest and rejuvenation. It is the journey of the complete disappearance of the moon into the underworld, and is an excellent time to focus on cleansing the body and the mind. The last day before the New Moon should be the a time when you give thanks and bury the past. This is also a good day to ask for a dream as direction and guidance to begin the upcoming cycle.
We are composed of the same elements that make up the earth and witness the moon's influences on it. The moon has always been the earth's traveling partner, and reflects the life giving power of the sun in the darkness. Just as consciousness and the sun by day is only half of the story of what we are creating for ourselves, re-connecting with the moon and its cycles allows us to give form to our inner life. When we allow our feelings and the unconscious to flow outward into the gravitational tug of the moon, all that remained dark can be brought back into the light.