Smile at a baby, "aww" at a puppy, or share a personal secret with a new friend, and you're in the Moon's territory. Simply put, the Moon is your heart—your tender, vulnerable insides. Your natal Moon sign is the central place to look in your chart for clues on how to understand your emotional needs, as well as the experiences and types of environments that feel nurturing to you. The Moon also, in part, governs your instinctual self. The Moon isn't about thinking but simply feeling and responding. Our hearts instinctively open when we feel encouraged and loved, and close or shut down when we feel unsafe or insecure.
Understanding your Moon sign can give you insight into how to nurture and support yourself so you can feel free to express your most loving and open-hearted self. However, understanding your needs doesn't mean you'll always get them met; when they're not, you can feel unsupported, sad, and emotionally closed off. Identifying why those feelings are present can be instrumental in turning your frown upside down, but in order to do so, you sometimes have to be willing to explore the "dark side" of your Moon sign.
Astronomically speaking, the dark side of the Moon is the side of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. Because of a phenomenon called tidal locking, the Moon rotates around the Earth in about the same length of time it takes to spin on its axis, so the same hemisphere of the Moon is always facing Earth. The dark side of the Moon is more accurately referred to as the "far side" of the Moon, because it is actually not dark. The far side receives the same amount of light as the near side, but we never see it. Therefore, it is "dark" to us—unknown and distant.
Metaphorically speaking, the Moon is a doorway into our unconscious—the part of us that exists independently of our conscious awareness and that sometimes urges each of us to act or react in ways that we don't understand. When we are acknowledging, identifying, and purposefully acting on our feelings, we have left the realm of the Moon for the conscious territory of thought-processing Mercury or action-oriented Mars. But it's the Moon that symbolizes and takes us into the deep territory.
The phrase "dark side" usually conjures up the impression of something bad, evil, or undesirable. Cultural symbols and stories abound about the goodness of light and the evil of the dark. But wholeness and balance, not self-denial or suppression of negative feelings, is the key to understanding and embracing the dark side of your Moon. Our unconscious is inherently an unknown place, and it can feel frightening to let loose the feelings that aren't easy to control or don't have an appropriate outlet. We may be reluctant to explore them and, as a result, suppress them to the point where they become what psychologist Carl Jung called the "shadow," where we have little control or knowledge about what lurks within. But our shadow is always a part of us, and it makes itself known in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, especially the harder we try to deny it.
The dark side of our Moon can show up in our lives when it's time for us to acknowledge something that we may be afraid to see or admit. One of the most common reasons for this is our own neglect. Falling out of touch with your emotional self doesn't have to come about because of a big tragedy; in fact, it's often the mundane that slowly numbs us. Life can become and stay overwhelmingly busy, with demands from every direction and overloaded to-do lists, and suddenly we are responding to our life with the enthusiasm of a robot—if we're not outright breaking down in tears. Sometimes the motivation for neglect can be denial, where staying busy is not just a response to an overwhelming schedule but also a way to escape the things we don't want to feel or are scared to feel. However, "What you resist, persists," and it will grow until it becomes too big of a problem to ignore.
If we ignore our emotional needs, we may find ourselves throwing the equivalent of a temper tantrum. This is often an early warning device that can be useful in letting us know we are out of balance and should remedy the situation as soon as possible. We all get temporarily overwhelmed by life, but if we neglect or ignore our emotional needs as a matter of course, the problem can get bigger and we become more stuck. A routine can feel safe and our Moon likes safety, but an overwhelming or numbing routine is unsustainable and may also cause our dark Moon to rise.
While too much safety can cause us to sleepwalk through our life, too little safety can also draw down the dark Moon. Prolonged periods in our lives where we feel unsafe can also take their toll. Living in deadening situations or situations that constantly provoke fear, anger, or sorrow can prompt us to find coping mechanisms if we are unable to remedy the situation. Sometimes there are obvious situations where there is no simple fix, such as living with a dying or sick loved one, or the aftermath of a tragedy whose effects we cannot escape. Other times we may be deeply engaged in situations where we feel trapped and cannot or do not dare to see a way out. Again, tragedy doesn't have to strike for this to happen. We may feel stuck in a job, relationship, or living situation that would cause great upheaval or uncertainty to change. To cope, we may act out or eventually emotionally withdraw altogether, losing our ability to be open or empathetic to anyone, including ourselves.
Whatever the cause may be, to manage your dark Moon, first you have to identify the behaviors or thoughts that might start creeping into your life when the dark Moon is on the rise and tend to have an undesired impact on your life. Then, look beyond the symptoms to embrace what is inside of you that's trying to get your attention. Look for these symptoms as clues that your dark Moon may be rising and what to do about it.
The Fire Signs: Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
Your dark Moon can also rise when your flame has gone out. Fire is the liveliest of the four elements and it needs frequent renewal, operating on a cycle. The fuel of inspiration sparks (creative) expression, and when that fuel source burns out, another must be created and new inspiration sought. Your passion for life does not generate out of nowhere, but out of spirit, and since you carry your fire in your heart, you must light your fire from within. Mythologist Joseph Campbell once said that we aren't really seeking the meaning of life, "what we are seeking is an experience of being alive"—a sentiment especially true for fire-sign Moons.
Light a robust fire and it wants to spread. At your core, you have an instinctive need for space and the freedom to move and do your own thing, to participate in this emotional renewal cycle as an individual. Stagnancy or confinement can rapidly take its toll. The bossiness of an Aries Moon, the diva-like behavior of a Leo Moon, or the restless evasion of the Sagittarius Moon can often be dark Moon symptoms of the need to claim their space.
The Air Signs: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius
The existing social constructs around feelings can also exert control over how you manage your feelings. It seems easier to understand that you feel sad because a loved one died or you just got dumped, and it seems reasonable that you would respond to winning the lottery with giddy happiness. But while feelings are often the effect of a cause, that cause may not always be obvious. Furthermore, if you are an Aquarius Moon, you may find that your genuine emotional reactions deviate from expected norms. If you are a Libra Moon, you may find it all too easy to hide any of the emotions that aren't easy to accept in response to social pressure. However, you have a strong need for emotional equilibrium and don't like to feel unbalanced by strong emotions, especially toward others, so the pressure to suppress or skip over the hotter emotions may also come from within.
You can be a little too good at convincing anyone of anything, including yourself, especially if you are a Gemini Moon. You have the ability to grasp an objective perspective from multiple angles better than most without necessarily getting emotionally attached to any one viewpoint. This is one of your talents, but it can also be fertile ground for the dark Moon. If you are too good at convincing yourself nothing is wrong, talking yourself out of feeling the way you do, or scolding yourself for of your irrational reaction altogether, the internal pressure can keep building. This is a subtle method of denial, because you seem to be acknowledging your feelings and moving on, but you may be doing so without really taking in the depth of their impact on your inner state.
Sometimes you may find that you don't realize how strongly you feel about something until you begin talking about it. Talking can be a good way to tap into the true depth of your dark Moon, but beware: it's also the route back to rationalizing your feelings and ignoring them.
The Earth Signs: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn
If you are a Taurus Moon, you may dig in your heels at change in direct proportion to how much you feel put upon or that life (or someone else) thrust it on you. You feel most secure in moving when and if you decide to move, not just wherever the wind takes you, and you deeply resent feeling pushed around or overrun. If you are a Virgo Moon, you may find that your attempts at controlling everything around you rise in direct proportion to how much you feel out of control. The more anxiety you feel at being unable to control the uncontrollable—such as the surprise elements in life and the chaos that other people bring—the more you may try to relieve that anxiety by controlling something small, even if it's inconsequential. If you are a Capricorn Moon, your stoic ability to see something through to the end and put your duty before your comfort does have a limit; if that’s crossed, you may become the cold, robotic type that pop astrologers often accuse you of being.
A good way to defuse the tension in an earth-sign Moon's heart is through the material world, whether it's through pleasing the senses to help a Taurus Moon relax or putting something in order (the bedroom closet, the schedule, or the to-do list) to downsize anxiety for the Virgo Moon. The <ahref="https://www.llewellyn.com/encyclopedia/term/archetype">archetype of the hermit suits a Capricorn Moon well; it's easiest to calm your urge to put everything on your shoulders if no one is there to remind you that you should.
The Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces
If your Moon is in Pisces or Cancer, you may find yourself escaping into an outlet that takes you away from the everyday world, which can be a good temporary release until you feel more emotionally stable to handle the source of the issue. However, chronic or prolonged avoidance in response to a situation that won't get better on its own can cause more problems. If your Moon is in Scorpio, you may still be inclined to escape, but since you tend to be friendlier with the "hotter" emotions, you may not be as prone to escape from them as much as escape into them. Power (or the perceived lack of it) can really spin your insides for a loop. If you are in a situation where you feel like you have been robbed of your power, you are vulnerable to letting yourself become consumed with thoughts of how to get it back. This is often an illusion but a powerful motivation for the dark Moon.
often an illusion but a powerful motivation for the dark Moon. Dreams are a great way to access the unconscious, and strong feelings tend to find expression in dreams when our conscious defenses are down. This is true for everyone, but as a water Moon sign, you can attune yourself more easily to the sometimes confusing symbolism that can show up in dreams. Dreams are symbolic, not rational, so their communication has to be put in symbolic context and personalized, but they can provide a wealth of insight about what's really hurting.
Excerpted from Llewellyn's 2015 Moon Sign Book. Click here for all current-year calendars, almanacs, and datebooks.
Amy Herring (Shoreline, Washington) has been a consultant and teacher of astrology since 1995. A graduate of Steven Forrest's Evolutionary Astrology Apprenticeship program, her articles have appeared in various astrology ...