Moon Magic

The moon is full of mystery and holds a fascination for us. The light of the Moon seems to contain a magic all its own. From the first moment that humans looked up into the sky, they felt an intense draw to the ever-changing moon.  The moon rides her month long cycle, showing her bright, full face and then gradually turning away again to leave us in the darkness. There is a belief common to many cultures that the phases of the moon affect us emotionally, and that working rituals at the time of different phases of the moon can bring about change and transformation.

THE PHASES OF THE MOON

The moon revolves around the earth in 27 days, 7 hours and 43 minutes. It is closer to the earth than any other body, and its magnetic pull affects the tides. It shines by the reflected light of the sun, and because of this, the appearance is affected as the earth casts a shadow over the moon.

There are eight phases:

New Moon also called Dark Moon – when the whole disc of the moon is in the earth’s shadow

Waxing Crescent – When 1 – 49% of the moon is lit on the right side (in the southern hemisphere it is the left side)

First Quarter – When half the moon is lit

Waxing Gibbous – when the moon is lit on the right side 51 – 99%

Full Moon – When the disc of the moon is completely illuminated

Waning Gibbous – When the left side of the moon is lit 99-51% (in the southern hemisphere this is the right side)

Last Quarter – When the left side is lit 50%

Waning Crescent – When the left side is 49-1% lit

THE LUNAR CALENDAR

The word “moon” probably comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “measurer”. The moon was the earliest method of measuring the passage of time. Its waxing and waning marked off the days, and the root word for moon still gives us our words for month, measurement and menstruation.

The time from new moon to first quarter is roughly seven days, then seven days to full moon, seven days to the last quarter, and seven days until the new moon again, giving us a lunar month, also called a synodic month.

It was simple to count time in moons. All early calendars were based on the phases of the moon, hence the word ‘calendar’ which is derived from the Latin kalendae which was the first day of each month on which the appearance of the new moon was proclaimed. Our word fortnight is a period of fourteen nights, and a further indication of the use of a lunar calendar in before we adopted a solar one. The old word sennight means seven nights or one week

The earliest known lunar calendar was found at Warren Field in Scotland and has been dated to c. 8000 BCE, during its Mesolithic period. Some scholars argue for lunar calendars still further back—Rappenglück in the marks on a 17,000-year-old cave painting at Lascaux and Marshack in the marks on a 27,000-year-old bone baton.

The average length of the synodic month is 29.530589 days. Thus on lunar calendars lunar months are in general alternately 29 and 30 days (sometimes termed respectively hollow and full). Because the period of twelve such lunations is around 354.367056 days, purely lunar calendars lose around eleven days per year.

In lunar calendars such as the Hebrew calendar, the most common form of tying in the calendar with the solar year of 365 days is an intercalation which adds an additional month every second or third year. In purely lunar calendars such as the Islamic calendar, the lack of intercalation causes the lunar months to cycle through all the seasons of the Gregorian year over the course of a 33-lunar-year cycle.

.MOON AND TIDES

While the moon is a constant presence in the night sky it is ever changing. Women often feel an identity with the moon; the womb waxes and wanes, with the belly swelling like a full moon during pregnancy.  People have called the menstrual cycle the ‘moon cycle’ and places where women retired during menstruation ‘moon lodges’.

Studies of human behaviour have shown that we are affected by the moon’s phases on both an emotional and physical level – men as well as women. Folks used to believe that the insane were worse at full moon, hence the term ‘lunatic’.

There was an early awareness of the Moon’s connection to the tides and the oceans. The Moon affects the creatures of the sea, many of which mate and spawn during particular cycles of the tides. Some fish are easier to catch during the full Moon, birds and animals are all affected during the phase of the full Moon, and animals are more active at this time. Ancient civilizations used the Moon to predict weather patterns, and it is known today that tornadoes and hurricanes tend to occur during the phases of the New and the full Moon more than any other time, and there is a tendency for more rainfall during the first quarter of the Waning Moon.

FIGURES IN THE MOON

People have seen various figures in the patterns on the moon’s face – a hare, a toad, a donkey, a winking eye, a bow, a ship, a queen bee, a chip of flint, a cheese, a man gathering wood, and a crab. Eclipsed it drips blood, eclipsing, it is a decapitating sickle, or a serpent swallowing the sun like an egg.

In myths and folk tales it may be the place where souls go after death, its light spawns mooncalves, makes the blind poet drunk with inspiration and makes the lunatic howl.

In myths it is visited by ladder, by boat, by tree, by bird.

THE MOON GODDESS

Every culture has at some point viewed the heavenly bodies as gods. In some mythologies the moon is male, in others female. The moon and the sun are usually thought of as related, either husband and wife or brother and sister, or sometimes as sibling rivals or even enemies, one controlling the night, the other the day.

In the Craft we view the moon as a visible manifestation of a goddess, and its phases as her journey from birth to young girl, fertile mother, middle age, hag and death to rebirth again, the same journey that is promised to each woman. The monthly swelling of the moon was certainly a symbol of pregnancy and birth.

In the Chinese yin-yang symbol, for example, the yin part is lunar and feminine, and symbolises gestation and nurturing.

For the Greeks, the moon goddess was Selene, though her attributes were later taken on in classical times by a variety of other goddesses including Artemis, who originally had no moon connotations.  In Rome, the moon goddess was Luna, though much of her role passed to Diana the huntress.

We project our own symbolism onto the moon, personifying it in order to relate to the goddess and work with her as an expression of our spiritual devotion.

Lunar energy is reflective and mediates whatever is projected onto it, and reflects it back to us. This is portrayed in the tarot card of the moon, which is usually described in the following terms:

MOON MAGIC

Moon magic relates to dreams, the psychic senses, illusion, and spiritual power, so when we weave our magic using the energies of a particular moon phase, to shape our intentions and give them an imaginative form that will manifest on all planes of existence. Moonbeams are the bridge over which we cross to the place between the worlds where magic takes place. [1] The phases of the moon function as a channel for our devotion to the Goddess.

.The Moon speaks of the mystery of regeneration – the monthly renewal of the moon, the yearly renewal of the earth, the cyclical renewal of the spirit and the reincarnation of the soul. All things move from the darkness into the light and pass back into the darkness once more.

Our ancient ancestors believed that it was during the dark time of the moon that its regeneration took place just as during the darkness of winter the regeneration of the earth prepared itself to emerge in the spring. For humans and animals, in the darkness of the tomb, the soul prepared itself for rebirth.

From the moon we learn that each thing has its season – a time to be born, a time to grow, a time to wither, a time to end and pass back into the void until it is called to enter the light again. It is important to recognise the time for an idea, project or relationship to be born, the time to bring it to maturity and the time to let go of it.  Important to recognise that you may be in a growing stage or a fallow stage, that this will change and come again in its season, changeless but ever changing, moving and flowing. It is in the darkest time of the moon that the great mystery of regeneration takes place, and it is often that during the darkest time of your life that you will discover the most precious things about yourself that will allow you to grow beyond recognition in the future.

There is a belief common to many cultures that working rituals at the time of different phases of the moon can bring about physical, psychological and magical transformation. These beliefs would seem to be consistent with many other cultures traditions, for instance, casting of the I Ching is often done during the full moon. Gathering magical herbs was done at the various correct phase of the moon.

For centuries civilizations bowed to the power of the Moon, crops were planted according to the Moon’s phases, and there were many rituals celebrating the power of the Moon.

Witches in Greek and Roman literature, particularly those from Thessaly, were regularly accused of “drawing down the moon” by use of a magic spell, according to the tract: “If I command the moon, it will come down; and if I wish to withhold the day, night will linger over my head; and again, if I wish to embark on the sea, I need no ship, and if I wish to fly through the air, I am free from my weight.”

This served to demonstrate their powers, aided their magical endeavours or was done to extract a magical juice from the moon. [2]  The name most likely comes from a depiction of two women and the moon on an ancient Greek vase, believed to date from the second century BCE.

The version of drawing down the moon used by modern witches is based on liturgy that appears in Aradia or Gospel of the Witches by the American folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland published in 1899. It contains what he believed was the religious text of a group of pagan witches in Tuscany, some of which is Leland’s translation of an original Italian manuscript called the Vangelo (gospel), which he claimed to have received from a woman called Maddalena. The rest of the material comes from Leland’s own research on Italian folklore.  Leland’s work remained obscure until the 1950s, when other theories about pagan witchcraft survivals began to be widely discussed. Along with increased scholarly attention, Aradia came to play a special role in the history of Gardnerian Wicca and its offshoots. 

Witches today believe that the Moon plays a very profound role when it comes to working magic. By tapping into the energy of the different phases of the moon you can make your magic much more powerful.

The subconscious mind is ruled by the Moon. When working magic you are working with the subconscious mind, the elements and with energy, and the transformational powers of the moon can be accessed and utilised.

NEW MOON ALSO CALLED DARK MOON

During the three days of the new moon, also called the dark moon, the moon seems to disappear from the sky for a while. All is darkness. But within that darkness is a stirring, like a seed in the earth, the forming of a tiny point of light. It is a time of possibilities, from which we have to choose. Those possibilities might come to fruition, or they might fizzle out. It is a time of irrational thought and wildness, from which the greatest creativity often comes. The priestesses of Artemis called upon her at the new moon, and she was a huntress, a goddess of wild places and untamed spirits, fierce and independent.

Over the next few days, the pace will steady to a gentler energy.

Magic for the new moon is concerned with new wishes and goals. It might include planting a seed to represent your goal, or visualising a spell as you anoint a white candle, burning a little each night to bring it to fruition. New Moons are used for internalized work that often takes the form of meditation, visualization, relaxation exercises and chakra balancing work. This time of intense introspection provides the clarity we need in order to plan wise manifestation in the coming waxing phase.

WAXING MOON – CRESCENT

The slender waxing crescent forms the bow of Artemis the huntress in the sky, and the shafts of moonlight her arrows.  The fraction of the Moon’s disk that is illuminated is increasing. It is time for making plans; laying a foundation, making positive changes.  Anything you do to strengthen your body, to fortify yourself, is much more effective that when the moon is waxing.

WAXING MOON – FIRST QUARTER

There is a feeling of balance in tension as the moon prepares to open out into fullness. The midpoint between the new and full moon has been reached. It is a time of balance between light and dark but it is fleeting. Once passed the energies will quicken again.

Magic done now is about bringing balance – into relationships, between the body and spirit, mind and emotions. It is also time to infuse power into projects begin at the waxing crescent or new moon. It is a time dedicated to the energy of making decisions, of manifestation.

Goddesses of this phase are goddesses of compassion and harmony, like Kwan Yin or Concordia.

WAXING MOON – GIBBOUS

The Moon appears to be more than one-half but not fully illuminated by direct sunlight. The fraction of the Moon’s disk that is illuminated is increasing. Movement and action may not be visible but it is occurring. It is a good time for any magical workings to do with the power of increase – increased healing, strength etc.

FULL MOON

The night skies grow brighter and the clouds glow with moonlight. There is an increase in energy and excitement, whether it is a short summer night perfumed with flowers, or a long winter one crisp with frost. Maximum strength and energy has been reached and it needs to be used or discharged through physical activity, creativity or magic.

Psychic and magical skills are enhanced by the full moon. In an occult sense, everything is ripening, moving to culmination and possible release.

Work started at the new moon is nearing the time of harvest or can be given a massive energy boost. It is time for magic to do with love and relationships, material matters and abundance, or success. This is a time of strength, love and power.

Psychic skills are enhanced and you can scry in a bowl of water under the light of the moon, or use your tarot cards or crystal ball.

You can use the light of the full moon to empower crystals and magical tools, or make magical moon infused potions.

The time for full moon magic is just before full, at the precise second of fullness, but not after the point of fullness, when the tides are imperceptibly but definitely ebbing.

This is the phase of the Mother Goddess, pregnant with potential. Goddesses of the full moon are mother deities, like Demeter, Isis, Inanna and Lakshmi.

WANING – GIBBOUS

While time of the waxing Moon is more concerned with outer matters, the period of the waning Moon deals with subconscious enlightenment. While the waxing Moon brings instinctual growth, the waning Moon brings a conscious process of creative release.

This is the Moon of the Earth Mothers and Harvest Goddesses – Demeter, Ceres and Danu.

WANING – LAST QUARTER

The energies are ebbing and the moon fades visibly, night by night. The moon once more reaches a balance of dark and light, but the light is fading. This is a more peaceful energy than the waxing quarter, a sense of release into decline and resolution. The energies are winding down, instead of increasing. It is time to accept what cannot be changed, let go of whatever hasn’t worked out.

But there is still magic here. It is time to seek equilibrium, letting go of what does not work, or that things whose time has passed. It is valuable to prune out the deadwood that prevents growth and spreads disease. The waning moon is the time for self-examination. It is time to banish bad habits, addictions and disease.

Goddesses of this phase are those of justice and balance, like Themis or Maat.

WANING CRESCENT

The energy has waned, and even people and animals seem to go about with less vigour. Everything turns evermore inwards. It is a peaceful time tinged with the melancholy and nostalgia that comes with a loss of vigour. It even seems to take longer to accomplish tasks at this phase.

The silver-white sickle of the moon belongs to the crone, the goddess of death, goddesses such as Hecate and Ceridwen.

Like a pile of dead autumn leaves, our inner selves contain a rich and potent store of discarded or repressed experiences that can reveal valuable insights. Meditation at this time is useful to determine blocks and areas of stagnation in life. It is time for meaningful inner spiritual work. Use the energies for banishing and elimination.

INTO THE DARK MOON…

As the moon is swallowed by darkness, we are left with a profound inner dark where the potential for future growth is stored. The Dark of the Moon is traditionally the last three days of the lunar cycle, just prior to the appearance of the first sliver of New Moon in the night sky. 

During Dark of the Moon, the energy is best for scrying and divination as it is a time of tremendous psychic power.  It is a time of stasis, rest, and quiet before the manifestation time of New Moon begins.

© Anna Franklin, 2022


[1] Elen Hawke, Praise to the Moon

[2] Apuleius Metamorphoses 1.3.1

Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: