The Moon Cycle
“As we look deeply within, we understand our perfect balance. There is no fear of the cycle of birth, life and death. For when you stand in the present moment, you are timeless.”
– Rodney Yee
If there’s one thing you should understand about astrology it is this: astrology is the study of cycles. The earliest humans observed and noted the cycles of the Sun, Moon and seasons. As an agrarian society they depended on these cycles for growing food and ultimately for survival. In modern times we still experience cycles through the days and seasons, although technological advances, like lights, air conditioners, furnaces, and other mechanistic ways of controlling our environment, disconnect us from the natural cycles that are constantly around us.
Women may be more sensitive to cycles than men due to their monthly menstrual cycles, but most of us could probably identify personal cycles in our own lives, whether they be cycles of employment, love, or even moods. Astrology helps us to recognize our own cycles and encourages us to work with them instead of against them.
The most notable and easily recognized cycle in the sky is the lunar cycle. Each month the relationship between the Sun and Moon changes and each of those phases describes a particular type of activity or state. Below are the eight phases of the Moon.
Phases move along a continuum; cycles are not linear. Time is not linear. The notions of a “beginning” and “end” are artificial designations for two points somewhere within the phases of a cycle. The balsamic phase isn’t the end of the cycle, but a transition between the last quarter phase and the new phase. Each successive cycle feeds into the next.
I would encourage you to look up! Look up at the night sky and observe the Moon. Notice how it changes from night to night and waxes and wanes over the course of the month.
Most of us would agree that certain efforts are more agreeable and produce greater results when applied at particular points of a cycle. For example, to avoid waiting at the bus stop I can refer to a schedule to determine when the bus will arrive. A woman who take pre-natal vitamins in the last three weeks of her pregnancy may get more benefit if she had started taking them in the third month. We may reap a better harvest if we plant in the spring as opposed to the summer.
Lunar Cycles in Astrology
In astrology we use cycles in two ways. The first is to describe the types of action or effort one could express – quiet and contemplative or active and aggressive? Secondly, we use cycles to determine the timing of those actions – now, next week, or next month.
The eight phases of any cycles describe the types of activities best suited for each particular span of time. Looking at this diagram we see the eight phases in blue and its associated keyword in green. The four quarters of the cycle describe the general atmosphere.
The monthly lunar cycles are good for changing habits and patterns, as these are symbolized by the Moon.
|New||Emergence. Sprouting. A new theme emerges. A seed is planted, an intention is set, a wish is made. Trust is a keyword, as no action is necessary, but a simple faith that the past has been released and a new pattern will emerge, much like a flower seed that has been planted and starts to germinate.|
|Crescent||Expansion. Growing. The concept begins to grow. This could be a time of struggle as the new pattern or idea is trying to develop, much like the tender shoots of a flower press through the soil.|
|First Quarter||Action. Flowering. It’s time to take concrete action in the world. The seed that was planted begins to grow and the need for expression is building. The flower is not yet visible but there is an expectation that requires continued faith in the process and diligent action to maintain growth.|
|Gibbous||Overcoming. Pollination. This is a time of connecting with others, sharing your vision and the expectant results. Like the flower that blooms to not only show its beauty but to also pollinate in order to bear fruit, we help actualize our intentions by sharing with others.|
|Full||Fulfillment. Fruit Bearing. This is the culmination of effort. It can be a sobering time- for you will get exactly what you planted- and requires objectivity.|
|Disseminating||Demonstration. Harvesting. Now that the fruit has ripened it’s time to do something with it. It’s time to share, distribute, and impart your gifts.|
|Last Quarter||Re-orientation. Cultivating. This is when what was harvested gets transformed. The fruit that was picked now must be consumed or reformed into something that will keep. What was learned from this cycle is integrated into the consciousness.|
|Balsamic||Release. Seeding. The seeds are taken and prepared for the next cycle. There is a dedication and commitment to the future and a respite before the new cycles begins again.|
The First Quarter Moon
Everyone notices the Full Moon. It’s the big, round, glowing sphere in the sky over our heads for a few days a month. The New Moon? Can’t see it, but it’s usually the time astrologers recommend for seeding our intentions and there is a lot written about it. But the First Quarter Moon? Who? While it’s not as glamorous as the Full Moon, or as mystical and special as the New Moon, it does play an important part in the lunation cycle and, by correspondence, in our personal cycles for growth and evolution.
So what is the first quarter moon and why should you care?
The quarter moon, astronomically, is the time during the month where the Moon is at a right angle, 90 degrees, from the Sun. When the distance between the Sun and Moon is 0 degrees it’s the New Moon- they’re both in the same spot. When the distance between them is 180 degrees it’s the Full Moon- the sun is directly across from the moon and we see the light reflected off of it. The quarter moon is when the moon is halfway between new and full. So, when the Sun is just setting and dipping below the horizon the Moon will be overhead for the First Quarter Moon or if the Moon is overhead as the Sun is rising it’s the Last Quarter (since the distance between the horizon and directly overhead is 90 degrees) Got it? Good.
Now, what does this mean astrologically or metaphysically?
The meaning is derived from the Sun and Moon’s relationship to one another- one of 90 degrees, or what in the astrology “biz” we call “square,” or, more accurately, “in a square aspect to one another.” Since the Moon is moving away from the Sun we say that it is separating. A separating square in astrology is referred to as a “crisis in action.” The word crisis doesn’t necessarily mean a dramatic situation in this case (although that’s what I might need in order to take action). The word crisis comes from the Greek krisis “turning point in a disease” (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen), lit. “judgment,” from krinein “to separate, decide, judge,” fromthe base *krei- “to sieve, discriminate, distinguish” [reference]
A crisis simply mean a turning point- a situation where a decision must be made. It sounds more dramatic than it really is, and I think in our common usage of the word it has lost some of its objectivity. So a crisis in action simply means that it’s time to actually choose to do something. To act. The New Moon challenges us to set our intention and plant the seeds that will potentially blossom at the Full Moon. But without taking real action- physically doing something- nothing will get done and the full moon will yield nothing. The quarter moon says that it’s time to engage- don’t just sit there- do something!
This phase within the cycle is a critical phase. This phase relates to Cancer and the fourth house: action must be taken to nurture, feed, and protect your intentions. This angle of the chart is also very sensitive and translates into physical action. This is when the idea starts to become real.
The first quarter moons happen about a week after the New Moon.
The Last Quarter Moon
In our study of cycles we know there are 8 phases; the four major phases include the new moons (beginnings) and first quarter moon (action) and full moon (fulfillment). The last major phase before the end of the cycle is the last quarter moon.
Re-orientation is the keyword for the last quarter moon. The lunar month is now three-quarters over. The current cycle/pattern is reaching a conclusion before the next pattern/cycle begins. Re-orientation means to “find ones position again” lending to its place within a cycle and not along a linear plane.
The Moon is our emotional and experiential self. Transits of the moon around the chart are transitory and fast moving, and, because it is a short cycle, they tends to describe our habits (the Moon rules our habits and reactions to life). Habits are the things we tend to repeat in shorter, more regular cycles, unlike, say, our career or relationship cycles.
During the new moon we set our intentions- plant the seed. At the first quarter moon action is taken- things begin to flower. At the full moon we experience a culmination- fruit bearing. Now, at the last quarter phase, is the time to re-orient. That which was produced at the full stage must now be turned under and let go of, so that it can become part of the next cycle. This corresponds to a farmer turning over his soil after the harvest; on a soul level it’s our ability to recognize and be aware of ourselves and make the necessary adjustments for the future. We “turn over” the lessons of the month in our mind and integreate them into our psyche.
It’s surrendering now with the knowledge of eventual return. It can be a bitter-sweet time when we begin to let go of the past and immediately before we settle into our hibernation until the next cycle begins.
Last updated on December 3, 2017 at 10:49 pm. Word Count: 1731