Tripping "The Lights" Fantastic!
When two heavenly bodies interact in their orbits, we have a combined planetary cycle that becomes greater than the sum of its celestial parts. The most visible of these is the Sun and Moon—or "The Lights" as we call them in astrology.
Come, and trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastic toe.~ from L’Allegro, by John Milton 1642
The phrase "trip the light fantastic" means to dance. Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers made it look easy. In astrology, the synchronized steps of the planets form a Sacred Dance—the twirling of the planets in their interwoven cycles across the sky.
When this involves the Sun and Moon, we tend to think of it simply as the Lunar cycle, since it is visible through the changing appearance of the Moon. The Moon's shape changes with the amount of reflected light from the Sun that we're able to see from Earth. As the Moon circles the Earth, we see greater or lesser amounts of that light, correlating to the increasing or decreasing amount of Lunar energy that's consciously available to us.
Astrologically, the Moon represents the emotional and feeling part of the psyche, along with intuition and creativity. It is our most immediate connection to the personal unconscious, and as such is our first connection to the non-physical realm. The Moon contains the most personal aspects of who we are, including our most primal need for interpersonal connection, the root of which lies in the relationship with our mother or primary caregiver and family-of-origin. The Moon symbolizes our need to receive nurturing and indicates what makes us feel nurtured, as well as how we like to nurture others. The Moon is our most primal Inner Child feelings, both in its fragile tenderness and its bawling glory. As our quintessential planetary emissary of the element of Water, the Moon's energy moves fluidly and magically from one intuitive impression to another.
The Sun, on the other hand, symbolizes our central sense of purpose and identity. This is our basic driving force which propels us through life and into new growth. It expands and shapes who we are, like greenery flourishes from seedlings into full plants and trees under the Sun's light and heat. It is our primary sense of self and typically shows who we see ourselves as being, inside, which is often different from how others see us from the outside. As the main vehicle that drives who we are, it also fuels our will power and conscious intent. The Sun is our principal planetary ambassador of the element of Fire, and as such its energy burns brightly, inspiring us to shine and radiate the spirit of who we are, for all to see.
Your birthday correlates with the sign the Sun was in when you were born. When you say you're a Taurus or a Libra or whatever, you're actually saying what sign the Sun was in when you were born. Your Sun sign shows the characteristics by which your sense of purpose and identity expresses itself most readily—for example: down-to-earth, steady and methodical, in the case of Taurus, or with fairness, balance and beauty, in the case of Libra.
Knowing your Moon sign is a bit trickier, since the Moon changes signs every few days, so you need to consult an astrologer to find out what sign the Moon was in when you were born. Your Moon sign will show what makes you feel fulfilled or deprived in terms of inner security, connectedness to others, and nurturing support. It shapes how you access and express your fundamental sense of creativity—not just artistry but any situation in which you take an imaginative, fresh approach that cultivates and creates something new from what was. The Moon is also our foremost doorway into the mystical, magical darkness of the intuition, through which we experience non-rational awareness (which may or may not be IR-rational).
New Moon ~ Rebirth of the Seed
When the Lights tango together across the sky in their dual dance from month to month, they create a swirling ebb and flow of Fire and Water, conscious and unconscious, assertive will and receptive intuition, Yin and Yang. Their combined cycle begins at the New Moon, when the Sun and Moon are conjoined at the same degree of the zodiac. This is also known as the Dark of the Moon, when the Moon cannot be seen in the night sky. The Moon is operating at her deepest level of the cryptic unconscious now, stirring our innermost feelings, needs and instincts toward the surface where they can manifest as lessons for us to learn and grow by. The Sun's consciousness is not yet visible in the Moon's depths and is like a mystery seed that is planted and will grow into...we don't yet know what.
Whatever is cultivated throughout the coming cycle is imprinted by the qualities of the sign where the Sun and Moon conjoin. The New Moon typically appears in a different sign every month, progressing through the zodiac and giving us a full spectrum of energies to explore and grow. This is true for all of us regardless of whether the New Moon's sign matches your Sun sign, although a particular sign's energies and qualities will be experienced a bit differently by each Sun sign. (See later in this article for the qualities related to each sign.)
Waxing Moon ~ Cultivation and Unfolding
As the Moon's light waxes (increases), the seed that was planted at the New Moon becomes more apparent, building in gestation until it is birthed at the Full Moon, about 2 weeks later. The waxing Moon is associated with the Maiden of the three-fold Goddess. There is a kind of innocence and freedom about this time, as we nurture possibilities into actualities.
As the events and themes of the cycle become more manifest, we start to make decisions about how much to commit to these new possibilities, or whether we should choose a different direction and if so, what we want instead. Whether we embrace the cycle's energy as presented to us or change to a different course of action, or to try to avoid the events altogether, the energy begun at the New Moon will manifest in our lives in some way. If we reject it in one form, it will tend to find another route into our lives.
Full Moon ~ Emergence and Manifestation
When the Moon reaches Full, whatever has been developing now reaches full aperture. The Sun and Moon are now opposite each other in the sky, at maximum separation. Lunar energy has fully emerged from the darkness of the unconscious, made fully visible by the light of the Sun's conscious aware-ness and experience. The hidden possibilities of the New Moon are now birthed into the actualities of the Full Moon, associated with the Mother.
Psychologically, our experience of the internal realm is at its peak now—emotions, needs, intuition and our connection to the enchanted unconscious. If we lack awareness of our inner dynamics, or if we have not yet learned how to separate our inner emotional drama from our outer behaviour, primal impulses may explode out before we realize what is happening. If we have cultivated some self-awareness and learned constructive ways of dealing with our passions and feelings, the Full Moon can be a time of harnessing powerful energy.
As a traditional time for magical workings, the Full Moon can tap into the depths of our desires and impulses. When focused through the lens of mindful intent, the Sun and Moon form a marriage of conscious will and mystical intuition. However, these energies are cranked up to full volume, so if our feelings, needs and impulses are not kept in balance with objectivity, self-awareness and realism, we may succumb to a kind of "lunacy" of unbridled emotions, passions and compulsions. Alternatively, we may also experience the spontaneous intuition of "lunatic wisdom," in which the Gods and the Higher Self speak through the wellspring of our natural instinctive flow.
Waning Moon ~ Application and Assimilation
After the Full Moon, the light wanes as it approaches the next New Moon, another 2 weeks later. The waxing Moon signified a time of expansion, development, cultivation and emergence of what was begun at the initiatory New Moon. The waning Moon is therefore a time of application and assimilation of whatever has emerged, as well as distilling what we've learned from the process that brought us that learning.
Associated with the Crone, the waning and dark Moons are times of mystery and letting go in order to make way for new possibilities to issue forth. As the Moon's light fades and we enter once more into the Dark of the Moon, we need to let go of the structure that facilitated our growth and learning. We enter that darkness empty, yet full of new potential, sinking back into the depths of our mystical unconscious to await the next step in our evolutionary journey. Having shed the husk of the current cycle, we plant its seed at the next New Moon. A thread of continuity is thereby spun from one cycle to the next.
Drawing Down the Moon
Regardless of the person's Sun sign, we all contain and respond to the energies of ALL twelve signs. Having the Sun in a particular sign puts a special emphasis on that sign, but each of us still contains the energies of all twelve signs within us, since the zodiac reflects the full spectrum of human experience which we all share. So, as successive lunar cycles unfold throughout the year, we have the opportunity to grow and expand in the areas related to each New Moon's sign.
Below is a list of the zodiac signs with a range of dates (give or take a day) when the Sun travels through each sign, and therefore the time when a New Moon would occur in that sign. The precise date of each New Moon is different every year, but will fall within that date range.
Also listed below are the central themes associated with each sign. We can explore and work with each sign's energies during the New Moon cycle that begins in that sign. We might embrace under-used qualities of that sign, integrate them at a deeper level, observe and respond to those qualities in others, or perhaps discover how we're expressing that energy in a counter-productive, destructive or unconscious way. We can also invite new experiences of that sign into our lives by focusing on how we want to manifest its energy. For example: you might explore how past experiences, especially childhood, affect your present emotional security needs and how easily you connect to others, in the upcoming Cancer lunar cycle.
Qualities of the Signs
ARIES (Mar. 20 – Apr. 18) Courage, action, outer personality, risk-taking, anger, aggression, assertiveness, enthusiasm.
TAURUS (Apr. 19 – May 19) Finances, possessions, abundance, resources, values, self-worth, cultivation, slow down.
GEMINI (May 20 – Jun. 20) Communication, thoughts, ideas, conscious mind, commonality, awareness, perception.
CANCER (Jun. 21 – Jul. 21) Family, roots, belonging, emotional security, nurturing, needs, home, feelings, intuition.
LEO (Jul. 22 – Aug. 21) Identity, purpose, intent, self-expression, creativity, drama, heroics, fun, play, ego.
VIRGO (Aug. 22 – Sep. 21) Health, work, routines, service, contribution to your surroundings, analysis, perfection(ism).
LIBRA (Sep. 22 – Oct. 22) Balance, fairness, beauty, love, relationships, partnerships, one-on-one interaction, mirroring.
SCORPIO (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21) Transformation, death, rebirth, power and control issues, secrets, psychology, "the Shadow."
SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 – Dec. 20) Truth, ethics, philosophy, religion, higher understanding, Big Picture, multiculturalism.
CAPRICORN (Dec. 21 – Jan. 19) Authority, responsibility, social standing, rules, boundaries, structure, status quo, goals.
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 – Feb. 17) Rebellion, liberation, freedom, future, diversity, personal uniqueness, groups, friends.
PISCES (Feb. 18 – Mar. 19) Spirituality, imagination, illusion, sacrifice, surrender, the unknown, universal oneness.
So next time you look up in the sky and see the Moon, think about what the Lights are bringing to you. What themes of learning and growth were begun for you at the New Moon? Notice how the qualities of the New Moon sign colour the events that develop in the waxing light and how they manifest at the Full Moon. Observe how you apply and integrate those themes during the waning Moon, and how you need to let go as the Moon dips into darkness again. At the next New Moon, send out positive intent for how you want to cultivate that seed energy. Then harvest it at the Full Moon and bake it into sacred bread during the waning Moon.
The Maiden, Mother and Crone lead us in a spiral dance around the zodiac every month. The more we follow their footwork, mindfully and joyfully, the more they will bring us inevitably to a truer expression of our Highest Self.
© 2004, Wendy Guy. All rights reserved. Originally published in the Summer 2004 issue of Cauldron and Quill Magazine.