[Welcome to the debut of our new guest column, ev0king the Moon! Every month, a different Moon Books author will discuss a different topic; everything from Paganism in the midst of climate change to the Irish fairy folk to contemporary witchcraft. We start off with Rachel Patterson, and her essay on moon lore, mythology, and magic.]
Why Work with the Moon?
She is so powerful and affects not only our moods and emotions but can also provide us with the power to work very successful magic.
Living, playing and working in tune with her rhythms can change your life and the way you look at the world. She will help you to connect not only with her magic but your own, your intuition and every thread that wraps its way through this big ole world of ours. She has the power to transform your life, you have the power within you to do the same…
You can work with the guidelines found in books and online, and there are magical prompts that make sense such as a waxing Moon bringing things to you and a waning Moon taking them away. But if you work regularly yourself and tune in to her you will find your own way and what works for you. Let her be your guide.
If you find yourself in a real jam on the new Moon and need to release something but can’t wait until the waning Moon, re-word your spell. All it takes is a bit of creative writing.
Why is the Moon so important? Why do we work with the Moon and how come it has so much power over us and the planet?
As a witch one of the first things I was taught was to create a Moon diary and work with the phases of the Moon for spell work and to notice how each phase affected me and my emotions; a Moon diary is an excellent way of introducing yourself to Moon magic and see exactly what each phase means to you.
But why? How did this fascination with the Moon come about and what on earth does it all mean? Hopefully I have touched on some of the answers to those questions here, but whatever the reason, the Moon is a beautiful and powerful source of magic available for us to tap into.
Moon Magic History
Since man has walked on this planet, I suspect he has always looked to the stars at night and it wouldn’t have taken him very long to work out that the Moon had regular phases. Not only would man have worked with the seasons, but he would also have needed to pay attention to the Moon. On a dark/new Moon it would have been pretty black at night so his hunting would have been done during the day. However, on the nights of the full Moon he would have been able to track nocturnal animals to bop on the head for his supper. Finding food was one of his top priorities so the light of the Moon would have been very important.
Watching the Moon was a guide to the changing of the seasons. They were learning about how the planet worked and trying to predict the weather and the tides to allow them to grow more successful crops to keep them alive.
Roll forward in time just a tad, OK maybe more than just a tad…those clever Babylonians were also looking to the stars and creating the principles of astrology (somewhere in the region of 3500 years ago). They understood astronomy and worked with the phases to create a calendar for planting, harvesting and religious festivals.
By around 1000BC the Babylonians had created planetary omens, giving each planet a name and characteristics that it controlled. The twelve sign zodiac came into being around 600BC with the first known record of a horoscope dating back to April 410BC.
The Roman and Greek astronomers were a bit sniffy about astrology, but the public had other ideas and astrology grew in popularity.
By the beginning of the Middle Ages astrologers were struggling because of the rise in Christianity, it just wasn’t their thing…but those Crusaders brought back the idea from the Middle East and it became fashionable again.
Then in the 1600s the elliptical solar system was discovered kinda putting a dampener on astrology again, but it didn’t disappear for long. Just after the end of World War I daily newspapers started to carry astrology columns and it has been with us ever since.
It has also been suggested that some of the greatest minds such as Sir Isaac Newton studied astrology and many royalty and important public figures over the years have employed astrologers as counselors. Nostradamus is one of the most well known, and of course Queen Elizabeth I consulted John Dee. Napoleon was said to have astrologers on hand for advice.
Astrology is based on the positions of ten planets, including the Sun and the Moon but not including the Earth because the Earth is the centre or starting point for the positions of the other planets. We really do like to think we are the centre of the universe…which we aren’t…sorry.
When the Moon travels through the different signs (the Sun does too), that sign influences the magic of the Moon.
I think it is a combination of factors that make the Moon phases a key part in working magic. It is the huge power that the Moon commands in controlling the oceans along with the history of our ancestors and how important it was for them and their well being, all with a bit of astrology thrown in too. It is also about cycles; our whole lives work in cycles, think about it…the main one obviously being the cycle of birth, life and death and if you work with that idea the added bonus of reincarnation and doing the whole circus again…and again…
But we also work in cycles of years and months and weeks and days, the whole calendar system is a set of cycles and all tied in with the cycles of the Moon. Women will probably feel this more than men, but it isn’t exclusive, the menstrual cycle usually works on a monthly basis too. I say women will feel it more because we have the whole physical ovaries thing, but I do wholeheartedly believe that men are affected by the cycles as well. A lot of women will also notice that their menstrual cycles are aligned with the Moon phases. I always encourage everyone no matter what gender to keep a Moon diary; it can be quite enlightening to see how the phases affect your moods and mindset.
Just as the Sun has a rise time, so does the Moon. The Moon rise is the moment when the upper edge of the Moon touches the horizon. This also coincides with the time of high tide.
As a general rule this is a guide to the Moonrise times, bear in mind that these are affected by daylight saving time and your time zone:
New Moon will rise near Sunrise.
First quarter Moon rises close to noon.
Full Moon rises around Sunset.
Last quarter Moon rises close to midnight.
There is energy in all things, by working in tune with the ebb and flow of the Moon’s energy we can literally go with the flow. It makes life so much easier than fighting against the tide. It will just be a case of working out how the Moon affects you and how best you can fall in line with it. Although the general idea is the structure of: New positive upwards energy for waxing and then releasing or letting go with the waning, for example. It is a personal experience so it may be different for you. Work with it, play around with it and fashion your own schedule.
The Moon Phases
Most Moon calendars will show eight phases of the Moon; new, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full, waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent (balsamic). They don’t often mention the dark Moon because they call it the ‘new Moon’. Technically this is correct, but for magical purpose I like to separate the two. I feel the dark Moon has a different magic all to its own, separate from the new Moon. For magical workings I have separated the dark Moon and the new Moon, referring to the new Moon when we see the first slither in the sky, before it reaches the first crescent. It is entirely up to you if you want to work with the dark Moon as the new Moon, trust your intuition.
I have found that the full Moon brings the most power, but I also love working with the new Moon because it brings such a fresh and bright energy for new beginnings. The waning Moon I don’t work with as much, unless I need to get rid of something.
Which Way Round?
The waxing and waning Moons show in the sky as different facing crescent shapes. Think about the triple goddess Moon sign:
In the Northern Hemisphere the first shape looks like a backwards ‘C’, this is the waxing Moon i.e. leading up to the full Moon in the centre. The waning Moon will be opposite, the side that looks like a forward facing ‘C’. In the Southern Hemisphere it will be reversed.
I see the Moon as female and the Sun as male and that is quite often the case for a lot of Pagans. However not all cultures see it that way and some don’t assign a gender at all. The Moon has a lot of feminine connections including controlling water and our emotions. Whereas the Sun is often associated with more masculine attributes such as power, strength and energy (but then the roles can easily be reversed). The Moon also follows a twenty eight day cycle much as a woman does with her menstruation cycle.
Different cultures will also have a lot of stories, some involving the Moon being male and some female.
The Sun was seen as a stable life giver, it provides light and heat. Whereas the Moon appeared in the dark sky as a shape shifter, always changing shape or not there at all, it is full of mystery. The Moon was seen perhaps as a cycle of destruction, growth and rebirth, linked to fertility even. The powerful Sun took on the masculine role and the mysterious Moon the female characteristics.
Mythology on the Sun and the Moon often sees them as siblings or partners, stories woven to tell of their chase across the skies, never to catch each other. The Sun god usually riding in his chariot drawn by various animals depending on the culture.
As a child I was taught nursery rhymes that claimed there was a man living in the Moon.
The Polynesians believe it to be a woman in the Moon with her child.
The Selish Indians believe the Moon shows the image of a toad.
Some see the image of an old man carrying a bundle of sticks on his back.
Some see a giant or a hunchback.
In some areas of East Asian and Japan the Moon is thought to hold the image of a rabbit.
In India the Moon is seen as a pair of hands.
Scandinavians see a girl and boy holding a bucket of water (ala the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme).
I think this is a case of going with what works for you, do some research, look at different cultures but ultimately the choice is yours and it doesn’t need to have a gender at all.
Moon magic is a huge subject and one that I hope you will delve into further.