Do you remember when the term "seasonal affective disorder" became more widespread? Most of us are aware of how the light from the Sun affects us; people affected by SAD have moods that are directly related to the amount of sunlight in the sky. During the winter, people tend to become more depressed when days are shorter, and the sun hangs at a lower angle. Yet, a planetary object even closer to the earth affects our tides, our body rhythms, fertility cycles, even mood changes, and is seldom considered in conjunction with our moods.
The moon has captivated poets, philosophers, songwriters, and lovers for millennia and is, by far, the most notable object in the night sky. This hardy, rocky satellite does a lazy do-si-do around Mother Earth every 29 ½ days, but always keeps the same face turned to our planet. Whether gibbous (around ¾), a thin crescent, or gloriously full, the moon commands our attention and our awe.
The phases of the moon are easy to understand once you remember that the moon is always either waxing or waning. The Waxing phase lasts from the New Moon (when the moon is hidden from our sight in a darkened sky) to First Quarter is about a week. Another week takes it from First Quarter to the Full Moon. After the moon is full, it wanes, getting narrower and narrower until the Last Quarter, and then diminishing to blackness for the New Moon. Each waxing/waning cycle takes about two weeks. The night before the New Moon is called "Dark of the Moon," and is considered to have magical significance. This is not considered an auspicious period for beginning a new project. Other Lunar phases include the extremely rare "Blue Moon," the second full moon in a month. We had one in August, 2012 and we'll have another in January, 2018—which gives you an idea of just how infrequently "once in a blue moon" occurs.
The moon rules Cancer, the fourth sign of the zodiac; its symbol is the crab. This sign is associated with the home and domestic life in general. If you know any sunsign Cancers, think about their attitude towards the home. Do they prefer not to travel? Are they exceedingly domestic—perhaps excellent breadbakers or cooks? Are they fiercely loyal and extremely sensitive? When you think about the moon, bear in mind these essential Cancerian qualities.
The English language has plenty of words deriving from our satellite neighbor. We associate the moon with craziness ("full moon madness") and sub rosa activity (someone who moonlights making moonshine would prefer no one knew about it!). Yet in astrology, the moon is considered to have many attributes, most of them positive. In your personal chart, the moon can represent your mother (and your attitude toward her), your emotional equilibrium, and the tendency for self-protection as well as moodiness.
The ancients were fascinated by the moon, so luminous and changeable. Early Romans gave the Moon her own sacred feast day, which we now call "Monday." Even our nursery rhyme about Jack and Jill can be traced back to a Scandinavian legend about a boy and girl, named Hjuki and Bila, respectively, who were fetching water from a well when the Moon demanded they serve her. She carried off the pair in a pail—thus their adventure relates to the waxing and waning of the moon ("Hjuki" means "increasing" and "Bila," decreasing). The Australian Dieyeries tribe believed that people were created by the moon, and in many Native American languages, the moon was regarded as having male gender.
But perhaps most significant is the moon's 29½-day cycle, which relates very closely to the standard (but not always correct) 28-day fertility cycle in females. Why not always correct? Well, check your own menstrual records over a one year period, and see whether your "personal average" isn't closer to 29 days than 28. For female readers, consider getting a calendar that notes when New, Full, and first and last quarters of the moon occur, and whether or not there is a correlation to your menstrual cycle (menstrual from mens, meaning "month," and month from, of course, "moon!").
Full and New Moons
How many times have you noticed some wacky behavior on the part of a coworker and heard someone say, "Must be the full moon." Maybe you've even thought this yourself, but what does the moon have to do with mood? Well, the moon exerts a gravitational force on the earth's oceans, causing high and low tides. A high tide during a full moon is a higher tide than during a new or quarter moon. New England's famous Blizzard of '78 occurred during a full moon and a high tide—talk about excess! There are about six hours between high and low tide, and if you spend an afternoon at a beach with a sandbar or tidal inlet, you can actually watch the progress of the incoming tide.
The tide comes in, the tide goes out; a gentle, reliable rhythm. Now, consider that our bodies are mostly water. Isn't it natural to wonder whether the moon might not be having an effect on our own "internal tides," as it were? Have you ever felt frenzied or hurried, needing to finish a project for a deadline that came some time ago, and then noticed the moon was full? One client describes this feeling as if your "personal high tide washed over the seawall."
Or, take the opposite feeling: ennui. Have you had days where no matter what you did the overriding impulse was, "Why bother?," or, "What's the point?" Call it temporary existentialism, but did you ever ask yourself what the moon was doing? Chances are that it's either new, or waning from the last quarter. If you can describe this feeling as a "psychic low tide," accompanied by a mild despair or hopelessness, just hang in there and see if your mood doesn't turn around after the New Moon passes and the Moon begins waxing again.
How to Use the Moon in Your Life and Work
If the preceding two paragraphs strike a responsive chord, think about at least being aware of the moon's rhythms as you plan your life and work. I've found that the Waxing Moon phase can be very helpful for sparking creativity, coming up with ideas for projects, beginning plans, and acquiring objects. The First Quarter to Full Moon phase just cranks up the intensity of those projects a notch. You might find yourself overwhelmed with "input" from sources you contacted during the waning moon phase, and might have that, "it never rains but it pours" feeling.
The Waning Moon phase is helpful for culling extraneous elements from your life—a good time for housecleaning, yardwork, filing papers, or any project that requires a critical and decisive eye. You'll find that your psychological insights might become more fine-tuned during this transit, especially during the Last Quarter to New Moon phase. But beware of creeping pessimism and inactivity, which is very alluring during the waning moon.
The New Moon and Full Moon are ideal for meditation and partying, respectively, and even if you don't spend your time in those pursuits, you'll feel like it!
The Signs and the Moon
It's a lot of fun to use the zodiac to understand lunar transits, but this will take some practice, patience, and record-keeping. The twelve signs of the zodiac each take about 2½ days to transit, and I've found that the world, as it were, often reflects qualities of the sign the moon is transiting through. Here are some examples for all twelve signs.
When the moon is in Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius (the fire signs): People might be feistier or more impulsive. This is a good time for people who are in sales or other occupations requiring persuasion. This is also a time when people who need a lot of attention will put themselves in a position where they get attention (for example, throwing tantrums, pounding fist on table, etc.)
When the moon is in Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorn (the earth signs): This is a good time to deal with finance or practical concerns. Taking care of your house, your body, or you business comes more easily when the moon is in one of these sun signs. This is also a period where you may feel impatient because other people aren't moving quickly.
When the moon is in Gemini, Libra, or Aquarius (the air signs): Ideas come freely, and communication is easy. This is a great time for having meetings, or writing and editing, or doing something that requires a lot of intellectual concentration. This is also a period where you may find you (or others) lose interest very quickly in something that seemed so important not long ago.
When the moon is in Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces (the water signs): This is a sensitive time for many. It's excellent for listening to music, going to an art gallery, or any other kind of escapism. Procrastinating comes easily during this moon, as does one's need to nurture—or be nurtured. Cooking and domestic pursuits are consoling.
When the moon is in the same sign as your sun sign (this will happen once every 29 days or so, and will last about two and a half days), you may find your emotions or intuition (or both) are heightened considerably. Use this time to plan your next month of action-taking, and give yourself a break if you feel like you've been on the go.