If you are anything like me, it does not matter how old you get, the moon never loses its allure. It is not uncommon for me to catch myself searching the night’s sky for the appearance of our closest cosmic luminary. Even when my vision is obscured with clouds, I test my own “witch power” in an attempt to encourage the moon to reveal itself from its hiding place. This is because even the briefest of sightings seem to offer up a sense of reassurance that things here on Earth wax and wane just like the endless cycles of the moon. There is also a rather calming presence emanating from the moon which possibly leads to its mysticism that has drawn us humans to it for many a century.
The moon is the keeper of the inner mysteries of life, the subconscious, and all that is hidden from plain sight. It is the opposite end of the cosmic polarity to our externally focused sun, which represents the consciousness and all we can see. With a cycle (lunation) lasting some 29½ days, the moon moves effortlessly from its first sliver to the enticing brightness, before waning and then disappearing from sight. We then wait with almost bated breath for the first sliver to reappear, a sign that the entire cycle will repeat. Unlike the sun, which is somewhat steady and constant in the sky, the moon is changeable, growing and diminishing in size, and yet it always looks upon Earth with the same enigmatic face.
Up until relatively recently, humankind was deeply connected with the moon. The silvery light was used as an indicator as to when to plant crops, it was a marker of tides as well as being a guide for night-time seafarers. Some of the ancient monuments we marvel at were built in alignment with the difficult lunar phases. Today, it is more common for people to check an app on their mobile phones than step outside to notice the moon. While this may be practical when the clouds obscure our vision, I believe that something transforms within us when we turn our gaze upwards to the heavens. Despite whether the moon is visible to us, its pull on our subconscious and psychic senses can still be felt.
The earliest observations of the moon were recorded on clay tablets dating back to ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 1,000 BCE. These tablets, written in cuneiform script, recorded the times and dates of when the moon rose and set, as well as stars it passed. The tablets also compared the rising and setting times of the moon with those of the sun, indicating that the Mesopotamians had in-depth knowledge of workings with the moon, not to mention the ability to construct complex lunar calendars.
Throughout history the moon continued to allude us mere mortals. In the 6th century BCE, Thales of Miletus, an early pre-Socratic philosopher, declared that the moon had no light of its own and instead reflected that of the sun. In the 1st century CE Greek philosopher Plutarch held the view that the moon was some kind of lunar waystation for our souls. Believing that humans had two deaths, he considered the first occurred on Earth, the domain of Demeter, the Greek Goddess of Fecundity. This was when the body was severed from the mind and soul and returned to dust. The soul and mind then travelled to the moon, the domain of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, where it undertook a second death that separated these two aspects. The soul was dissolved into the substance of the moon, where it was able to retain the dreams and memories of the life that had been lived. The mind, meanwhile, went to the sun, where it was absorbed and gave birth to a new soul. When rebirth occurred, the process was reversed; the sun sent the mind to the moon, where it was joined with the soul, then travelled to Earth to join the body and be born anew.
Many ancient cultures perceived the moon as feminine when being compared to the sun’s masculinity. To the ancient Greeks, for example, it was Helios, the sun god, who drove his fiery chariot across the skies on a daily basis, while the moon that shone at night was referred to as Artemis, Selene or Hekate depending on what phase could be seen. Indeed, in my forthcoming book, On Her Sacred Rays: A Guide to the Moon, Myth and Magic I confessed that I often perceive this luminary body as feminine, and as such, affectionately call her “Lady Lunar”. Yet, this is for ease and reflection on the numerous associations of the moon holding feminine energies, tapping into the inner, psychic, mysterious realms as opposed to masculine, external and more “in your face” (so to speak) energies of the sun.
Where I live in Australia, the Aboriginal peoples often refer to the moon as male and the sun is female. For example, within the mythology of the Gamilaraay people, whose traditional lands stretched from northern New South Wales to southern Queensland, there is a story of Bahloo, a once clever man, who lived with Wahn, the Crow, and Buumayamayal, the fly catcher lizard. Together they created all the babies of the world. One day Wahn suggested that they resurrect the dead, to which Bahloo refused. This upset the crow, and upon seeing a large gum tree, Wahn asked Bahloo to climb the tree for grubs. While Bahloo climbed the tree, Wahn breathed on the gum tree, causing it to grow into the sky. And it was up here that Bahloo remained, representing the moon.
Working with the Moon
Today there are plenty of resources available offering up ways of working with specific phases of the moon, in particular for manifesting things into your life during the new moon as well as removing obstacles while the moon is waning (or decreasing in appearance). Having worked with the moon for over 30 years, I believe it is important to not only ascertain what phase the moon is in but also to look at the astrological sign it is in. In order to provide a deeper level of insight into what area in your life you should be focusing on during a particular lunation, take note of where this sign is located in your own natal (birth) chart, and in particular, what house. For example, if the new moon is in Taurus, then this astrological sign is very practical (“earthy”), orientated on filling our needs directly, making sure our foundation is solid as well as bodily pleasures and sensations. In other words, bringing things into reality, the here and now, as opposed to the dream state. If Taurus is in your sixth house in your natal chart, then as this house rules health, wellness and daily routines, during this new moon you might want to focus on manifesting an improved health and wellness routine, i.e., actually using that gym membership, going for a walk at lunchtime, or including more fresh vegetables in your diet and limiting how much processed foods you eat.
I love simplicity and I find acknowledging the moon, noticing when the first fragile sliver appears in the sky, or when it is has reached its abundant fullness, is just as rewarding as undertaking a full-blown lunar ritual. During the full moon, I may undertake a form of divination such as scrying. For this all you need is a mirror or a bowl of water in which the reflection of the moon can be observed. Position yourself where you can see the moon being reflected in your mirror or bowl of water. Begin by taking a few slower and deeper breaths, breathing in your diaphragm as this will help you relax and settle into your body as opposed to being in your head. When you feel settled, focus on the image of the moon being captured in your reflective surface. Then, with each breath that you take, visualise the lunar light being reflected into you through your third eye, the ajna chakra, which is located in the middle of your forehead.
As you continue to breathe, you may find yourself starting to go into a light trance. This is perfectly fine. Focus on your breathing and allow yourself to be “moon blessed”. Sometimes I feel inclined to hum or vocalise some other sound. If you find this happening to do, then do so, even if it is under your breath. Trusting your intuition enhances your connection with the moon on a deeper level.
When you are ready to come back to normal consciousness, bring your awareness to your physical body, wriggling your fingers and toes. Take a few more deep breaths into your diaphragm and open your eyes. I always commend recording any experiences in a journal or diary of some description as this can form an invaluable source, not only in any messages and insights that you may receive, but also in noting the progression of your spiritual development.
In our highly technology-focused society, I find that there is still something magical about the moon. And to see her effortlessly glide across the evening skies, offers us a sense of peace in this somewhat chaotic world.
[Frances Billinghurst is an initiated witch, energetic healer, metaphysician, and student of the Mysteries who has long been under the spell of the moon. She is the author of a number of books including Encountering the Dark Goddess; A Journey into the Shadow Realms and Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life (both published by Moon Books), and Dancing the Sacred Wheel (TDM Publishing, 2012). Her upcoming book On Her Silver Rays: A Guide to the Moon, Myth and Magic will be released through Moon Books in 2023.]