If you're into astrology at all, you probably know your sun, moon, and rising signs. If you practice pagan traditions or work with moon magic, you know about moon phases. But if you don't know your personal moon phase—the lunar phase you were born under—you're missing out on a powerful tool for self-discovery and self-actualization. I like working with astrology in practical ways that make my life better and more meaningful. Working with your moon phase energy helps you meet each moment more naturally and effectively. It symbolizes the way you're wired to engage in life and live your purpose. When you consciously sync up with and embody this energy, you get more flow. Even when it feels scary, awkward, or uncomfortable, embracing and acting on it brings a sense of alignment from the inside out.
When talking about astrology, we break things down, but nothing is operating by itself. I like to acknowledge that limitation regularly—that to learn and observe, we look at parts, but to really understand, we need the full integrated picture. So, when we talk about one cycle, keep in mind that many other cycles in different phases are happening simultaneously. These cycles represent individual and collective energy that interplays. The individual and collective energies create and mirror each other. For example, a particular full moon reflects and symbolizes something collectively (for us all) and also something unique for each of us individually. Within and without are intimately interconnected.
Planetary cycles, or synodic cycles, begin at a conjunction (when two planetary or cosmic bodies come together) and end at the next conjunction. All planetary cycles are based on the lunation cycle, the relationship between the Sun and the Moon. In this piece, I'm only talking about the lunation cycle, but the same cycle and phases apply to the relationship between any two planets. All cycles represent the circle of life—from birth to death to birth again.
The Sun and Moon Plus Earth
Let's explore the Sun and Moon, especially how they work together. Even though we talk about the Moon, moon phases, and moonlight, the Moon doesn't produce any light on its own. Moonlight IS sunlight; it's sunlight reflected. When it comes to cycles, it's all about relationships. The Sun and Moon are a team, a sacred union of energy, the lights within (Moon) and without (Sun). They're polarities, and polarities are one field of energy. The Moon is the yin or receptive end of their shared energy field, and the Sun is the yang or assertive end. You can also think of the Moon as nighttime and Sun and daytime. Together, they are the complete day-night cycle we experience—all 24 hours. And they also represent a whole human being, body (Moon) and spirit (Sun).
Now let's bring in the Earth. The Earth orbits the Sun. The Moon is a satellite that orbits the Earth. The Sun doesn't orbit anything (stars are held together by their own gravity). We can't look directly at the Sun without ultimately going blind, but we can gaze at its light reflected by the Moon. I imagine the Sun generating energy, the Moon receiving it and sending it down to us on Earth, and then on Earth is where the energy manifests in form. I realize this is metaphorical, at least in part, but it helps me connect with the symbology. It aligns with the symbols in the birth chart. The Sun shows our sense of purpose, energetic essence, and spirit. It's our pneuma, our vital force or energy. The Moon is our emotional nature, which is very connected with our physical body. The Moon shows how we feel, feed, digest, and respond, along with our habits and natural rhythms. The Sun is what we're living for or why we're living, and the Moon is how we're living day-to-day.
Moon Phases: The Soli-Lunar or Lunation Cycle
The lunation or moon phase cycle is more accurately called the "soli-lunar cycle" because it's all about the Sun AND Moon. Dane Rudhyar, considered the father of humanistic astrology, emphasized that our "lunation birthday" is just as important as our sun, moon, and rising signs. He explained the Sun as our basic archetypal purpose and the soli-lunar phase as how we're working this out and living it on this planet.
Your personal moon phase reveals the theme of how you're working things out here on planet Earth. It reflects your natural approach to life and the approach that generally works best for you. Whatever it is you want or need to do, the energy of your soli-lunar phase is how you can best do it.
If you're interested in learning more about planets, moon phases, and moon-planet phases, check out my new book, co-authored by Aswin Subramanyan: Astrology by Moonlight. Find Dane Rudhyar's pioneering work on the soli-lunar cycle in his book, The Lunation Cycle.
Digging in to Your Moon Phase
Moon phases are determined by counting the number of degrees between the Sun and Moon. In the birth chart, you find the Sun and count degrees counter-clockwise until you reach the Moon. You can use free online resources to determine your moon phase at birth, but I've found many to be inaccurate. A couple of years ago, I received a personalized moon phase bracelet as a gift. I've had success using that company's website since: https://www.moonglow.com/.
New Moon (0-45° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Emergence & Initiation (Aries energy)
Gemstones: Labradorite (new beginnings, light in the dark, inner sight, potential, third-eye opening), Black Obsidian (seeing and following your purpose, facing your true self, protection)
Essential Oils: Juniper Berry (new beginnings, clearing, energizing, protection) Lemon (spiritual awakening, awareness, immune booster, releasing old ways of thinking and feeling)
Spirit Animal: Panther (reclaiming your true power, asserting your will, strength in silence and darkness, awakened passion, rebirth)
Mantra: I am discovering who I am by experiencing life. I don't need to know what will happen. When I trust my inner guidance and act on my instincts, I win.
Crescent Moon (45-90° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Expansion & Foundation (Taurus energy)
Gemstones: Carnelian (creativity, motivation, endurance, power to overcome difficulties and work toward goals), Laguna Agate (flexibility, release depression, recognize all things are possible with focus)
Essential Oils: Ylang Ylang (relieves anxiety and stress, emotionally healing, enthusiasm, clears negativity), Basil (protection, courage, strength, uplifts the spirit)
Spirit Animal: Beaver (persistence, building your dreams, diligence, productivity, structure, transforming reality)
Mantra: I have the strength and dedication to build a new future. When I focus on what truly has value, meaning, and purpose, I can do anything.
First Quarter Moon (90-135° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Action & Expression (Leo energy)
Gemstones: Citrine (manifestation, empowerment, creativity, self-expression, decisiveness, uplift), Sunstone (leadership, originality, awakening, personal power, confidence, energizing)
Essential Oils: Ginger (liberation, optimism, vitality, stimulates action, releasing doubt, courage), Clove (inspiration, love, making things happen, prosperity, confidence)
Spirit Animal: Peacock (show your true colors, vision, immortality, honor, stand up for your beliefs, confidence, performance, rising up)
Mantra: I am creative and courageous. When I put my heart into it, my uninhibited self-expression blesses the world.
Gibbous Moon (135-180° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Overcoming & Adjustment (Virgo energy)
Gemstones: Dumortierite (enhances intellectual abilities, stimulates divine mind, patience, organization), Moss Agate (increases self-esteem, strength, attaining goals, calm, eliminates toxins)
Essential Oils: Frankincense (introspection, protection, purification, centering, understanding), Marjoram (optimism, perseverance, mental clarity, releasing obsession)
Spirit Animal: Ant (order, work, discipline, effort, achieving goals, planning for your future, teamwork, self-sacrifice, patience, tenacity)
Mantra: I am dedicated to my personal improvement, and to being kind towards myself in that process. No matter how much learning and growing I have to do, I am always enough.
Full Moon (180-225° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Fulfillment & Awareness (Libra energy)
Gemstones: Moonstone (fulfillment, fruition, reflection, gratitude, emotional balance, possibility),Selenite (peace, happiness, illumination, expanded awareness, purification)
Petitgrain (joy, awakening consciousness, harmony, mental clarity), Lemon Balm (friendship, love, success, blessings, success, spiritual progression)
Spirit Animal: Buffalo (abundance, gratitude, interconnectivity, manifestation, integration of heaven and earth; spirit and body, opportunities, synchronicity
Mantra: With increasing awareness, I see myself and the world with new clarity. I celebrate the results of my efforts and manifestation of my intentions—and collaborate with others to put them to good use.
Disseminating Moon (225-270° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Demonstration & Contribution (Capricorn energy)
Gemstones: Aragonite (problem solving on the earth plane, accepting increased responsibilities with greater ease, patience), Tiger Eye (strategy, practicality, wisdom, success, right use of power)
Essential Oils: Peppermint (focus, increased perception, strength, rejuvenation, positive changes), Patchouli (abundance, wealth, sound judgment, grounding, releasing old patterns of shame or low self-worth)
Spirit Animal: Wolf (loyalty, leadership, guardianship, ritual, rules, order, social hierarchy, strength, confidence, knowing who you are without having to prove it, freedom through discipline)
Mantra: My wisdom and skills are helpful and meaningful to society. I contribute my effort to a collective vision that supports us all.
Last Quarter Moon (270-315° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Reorientation & Awakening (Aquarius energy)
Gemstones: Angelite (elevated consciousness, universal knowledge, connection with brother/sisterhood of humanity), Scolecite (understanding your soul's journey, higher mind awakening, connection with other dimensions)
Essential Oils: Cardamom (spiritual awakening, clarity, generosity, insight, inner wisdom), Bay Laurel (creativity, looking forward, purification, releasing judgment)
Spirit Animal: Hawk (awakened vision, messenger/messages, higher perspective, seeing the bigger picture, observation, fearlessness, spirit realm connection)
Mantra: I let go of who I thought I was and embrace who I am. My innovation and insight help me and my communities take responsibility for the past and create a better future.
Balsamic Moon (315-360° between Sun and Moon)
Theme: Closure & Releasing (Pisces energy)
Gemstones: Amethyst (crown chakra activation, spirituality, peace, meditation, letting go), Aquamarine (flow, balance, spiritual awareness, higher self, compassion, trust)
Essential Oils: Cedarwood (protection, healing, rebirth, ancient wisdom, spiritual awakening), Champaca (peace, reverence, letting go, higher consciousness, comfort, unconditional love)
Spirit Animal: Whale (creation, inner depth awakening, keeper of all time, power of song, sensitivity, imagination, emotion, love, expansiveness, mysticism, in the flow)
Mantra: My form is changing, and I embrace the betwixt and between. With no holding back, I give of my mind, heart, and soul. I know that whatever is true will never leave, and I release everything else.
We are not on this planet to become something different or better. We are here to be more fully, consciously, and radically what we already are. Working with my moon phase helps me do this—every day. I was born under a new moon, so sometimes it means making a move when I'm uncomfortable. Sometimes it means being direct when my Cancer Sun-self wants to retreat into my shell or lean toward passive-aggressiveness. The more I learn to trust my instincts and go after what I really want, the better I feel—even when it doesn't "work out." However you choose to work with your moon phase, I hope it brings you closer to the heart of who you are and helps you live it more fully in this lifetime.