The re-emergence of pagan practices is driven by those seeking a more nature inspired philosophy for living. Many gardeners discover growth benefits by planting according to moon phases, and a growing trend draws on ancient beliefs to understand the role the moon plays in connecting us to the creative power of nature.
Since ancient times, the moon has been a constant companion to the earth. The oceans move in unison with its expanding light and darkness, and these tidal influences played and important role in beginning life on earth. The moon’s synchronization with feminine cycles led to the fertility cults that established culture.
When hunter and gatherers adopted agriculture, moon phases became an important time for planting and harvesting. While the sun orchestrated the calendar, the moon regulated seasonal activity. Studies show how our sleep cycles are also regulated by lunar phases.
The earth was observed to be the divine body of a goddess and farmers treated the fields like a womb of creation. A Sumerian love poem from 2000 BC describes the goddess Innana singing to the shepherd Dumuzi, inviting him to plow her as if feminine parts are the furrows of fields below. Fertility and moon goddesses were believed to have menstrual cycles corresponding with the moon, and rituals on the day of the New Moon, First Quarter Moon and Full Moon became important. Because the moon moves in a 29 day cycle that mirrors ovulation, the moon phases represented the gestation and life giving power of heaven with the earth.
Es-es was a ritual practiced during u-sakar or the New Moon and itu-tar or First Quarter Moon. Waxing cycles were times for reflection, and the day of Laying Down the Moon called u-na-na, was the culmination of the moon’s journey into the underworld. The moon deity inspired the dreams of the ancients, and orchestrated phenomena on the earth.
The taboos of not touching the earth, water or light during menstruation or pregnancy was a way of containing the creative power of the moon. Seclusion rituals reenacted the primordial darkness before creation, and women too, returned to darkness during these periods. The word menses comes from the ritual of es-es, while the word period captures the cycles of our ancient practices. Women became the mediators of all that was spiritual and many ancient cultures were ruled by matriarchs prior to the rise of the patriarchal religions.
Symbolically, the moon is associated with illusion and projection until the unconscious is made conscious. Dreams portray our hidden potential through symbols that express our unlived life within. What is not available to consciousness by day is explored while we sleep. As the keeper of our dreams, the moon is like a giant night-light in the sky, keeping us safe in the darkness.
In astrology, the moon is associated with the subconscious and our instinctive behavior. Its cycles can be used to blend the known and unknown—the intangible with the tangible. Working with lunar cycles allows us to intentionally engage our feeling nature, and how it is unconsciously operative in manifesting intention.
Men participate in accessing their feelings through the Anima in dreams. His instinctual life relates to the mother or mate, and appears as the females in his dreams. He expresses his instinctual urges through the Anima as a way of integrating his ability to feel. For a woman, the male is symbolized by the Animus, adopted by the father, projected onto males in her life and appears as the male characters that will seek to kiss or copulate during dreaming. The Animus embodies her ability to stand up and provide for herself. In this way all of us achieve a blending of masculine power with feminine sensitivity.
Consciousness is associated with the sun and our daytime awareness, but the unconscious has expression in the night, through dreams. Working with intention is not accomplished by thought alone because the unconscious is the chief creator of what we experience.
Like the sun and moon, our dreams revolve around and influence consciousness. They capture a more potent light within and reflect the possibility for empowerment back to us. As a ritual for mindfulness and to activate intention, we can use the phases of the moon to bring what is hidden into light.
The New Moon is the moon’s re-emergence from the darkness of the past and represents a time of new beginnings. Meditating prior to sleep, connect with the solar plexus located in between the rib cage and belly button. Check in with what you are feeling in this area. The purpose of the New Moon is to allow for the alignment of feelings with intention. Think of a feeling that you would like to experience in setting intention. If you are searching for inspiration or direction, ask for guidance from your dreams. The New Moon ritual focuses on creation and starting from scratch to achieve your desires.
The Waxing Crescent Phase is a week for building and establishing your focus. When observing the moon, notice how light is gradually emerging from darkness and open your awareness to the same process. This is a good week for practicing seeing everyday things in a new light. When your mind operates from wonder it creates an opening that makes anything possible. The Waxing Crescent Phase is a growth cycle where the intangible can take form.
First Quarter Moon has traditionally symbolized a time when the divine meets with the earth. Vision requires the commitment to observe its manifestation so this can be a day of mediation between the seen and unseen. The light is equal to the darkness and this is a good day to explore how fear and disappointment undermine intention. Spend the day practicing how to remain in a state of excited anticipation without attachment to an outcome. Prior to sleep, ask for a dream that can help you understand and work with any obstacles you are facing. The universe seeks to fulfill your intentions and this is an excellent day to practice mindfulness.
Waxing Gibbous Phase is a week of observing and aligning with the universal response. The light of the moon is building toward fullness and the momentum can bring about synchronistic events that connect the inner and outer world as life speaks to you. It is an important time to align with the present and observe what experience is reflecting back to you. Notice your projections in what you experience. Transcend the story you tell and return to your intention. This is an impregnating phase and is an important week where intention impregnates the vision to witness it.
The Full Moon is associated with ovulation and is the day when intention takes root. This is a powerful day of ensuring that intention is clear and that what you began during the New Moon is still resonating for you. We harvest our intention through experience, so manifestation will always reflect your intention. The Full Moon represents the height of conscious awareness and studies show that people have difficulty sleeping during the Full Moon, even when all light signals are removed. On this day, anything that was hidden can be brought clearly into the light.
The Waning Gibbous Phase begins a week of turning within to explore the inner world and its effects on what you experience. Mindful intention requires gratitude, and gratitude always returns you to the present. Rituals focused on meditation and releasing are important during this phase. Just as the light is slowly receding, the Waning Gibbous Phase is an excellent week to practice non-attachment. It is a time to let go of the unnecessary and honor what you do have.
The Third Quarter Moon is a day to connect purely with feelings because the darkness and light are in equal balance. Rather than operating through thought alone, observe and respond by just allowing your feelings to resonate. This is an important day to recognize the part your feelings play in what you experience. Practice smiling when meeting others and observe the response. Smile with your heart and send love and gratitude out into the universe.
The Waning Crescent Phase begins a week of letting go. It is an important time for rest and rejuvenation and traditionally, is not a phase for beginning anything. In preparation for the complete disappearance of the moon’s journey into the underworld, this is the time to focus on cleansing the body and the mind. Ritual cleanses can bring about enlightenment. The last day before the New Moon is the Laying Down of the Moon and is a time to bury the past. If you are struggling with forgiveness this is an excellent week to learn to let go of what impedes your forward progress.
1. Richard Lathe, Fast Tidal Cycling and the Origin of Life https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/923a/fc758a965307c14878dde294e12b1d70dfdf.pdf
2. Christian Cajochen, Evidence That the Lunar Cycle Influences Sleep http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(13)00754-9