The Moon

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Related to The Moon: Phases of the moon, full moon
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Personification of the Moon as ruler of Cancer the crab is shown in this detail from Doge’s Palace Venice. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

The Moon

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Moon is the Earth’s only natural satellite. It is technically not a planet; however astrology traditionally groups the Moon, along with the Sun, which is our star, with the planets. The Moon has a diameter of 2,160 miles, and an average distance from the Earth of 328,000 miles. The sidereal month, or the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth, is 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes (27.3217 days). The synodic month is the time from New Moon to New Moon and takes 29 days, 12 hours, and 44 minutes (29.5306 days). The synodic month is also known as the lunation cycle.

The Moon is intrinsically linked to the concept of time. The lunation cycle, or month, is one of three natural time cycles observed on Earth. (The other two are the year based on seasons, and the day based on the day/night cycle.) The archeological record shows that humans were documenting the lunation cycle as early as the Paleolithic era (35,000 b.c.e.). There is evidence from around the world that the first calendars were lunar-based. Many contemporary religious calendars are still lunar-based including the Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist calendars. The word “calendar” comes from the Latin kalendae and is connected to the Moon. In ancient Rome the kalendae was the first day of the month, or day of the New Moon. It was important to the Romans because interest payments were due on the day of the New Moon.

The word “moon” comes from the Greek mentron, meaning “to measure.” The root is me, which means “to mark an appointed time.” Expanded, this results in the words “meter,” “menses” (the female menstrual cycle), “measure,” and “month.” The Latin word for moon is luna, from the word leuk, meaning “bright” or “shining.” The Moon is visible because it reflects light from the Sun. A bright full Moon can cast shadows. Modern words that come from luna include lucid, luminous, and lunatic.

The Sun and the Moon are paired in most mythologies throughout the ages. Pairings have included husband and wife, father and mother, and brother and sister. The European culture that developed from Hellenistic Greece believed the Moon was a female deity. However the early European, Oriental, and indigenous American cultures often choose to portray the Moon as male in gender. In all cultures the Moon is linked with fertility and conception. The female menstrual cycle is clearly linked to moon cycles and the period of the month when a woman is able to conceive. Farmers often sow their crops during specific times of the Moon’s cycle in order to reap the most beneficial harvest. Just as crops require the Sun to grow, it was the Moon that ensured that the seed would germinate. While the Sun rules the day, the Moon rules the night.

In Sumerian mythology, the Moon is the son of Enlil (Saturn) and Ninlil. Ninlil’s mother had warned her daughter not to bathe in the irrigation canal. Ninlil did not obey her mother and washed herself in the water. Enlil, the god of air, saw the beautiful and naked girl, and quickly took advantage of her. His punishment for the rape was exile to the underworld. He left the city, but Ninlil followed. Enlil knew that the girl carried his son, the Moon god Sin. Enlil wanted a bright child (Full Moon) and not a dark child born in the underworld (New Moon). In one version of the myth, he impregnates Ninlil several more times to effect the order and timing of the birth, or appearance, of the Moon. Sin is the bright Moon and his brothers are the dark and waning Moon. In Sumerian mythology, the Moon is best known as the father of Innana, the planet Venus.

In ancient Greece the Moon was associated with three different female deities: Selene, Artemis, and Hecate, known collectively as the Three-faced Goddess. Selene is the goddess in the sky, Artemis is the earthly form, while Hecate is the goddess of the underworld. These manifestations represent the phases of the Moon: Selene is the waxing Moon growing in brightness, Artemis is the full Moon illuminating the Earth, and Hecate is the waning or dark Moon, lessening in light until it is not visible. This is symbolic of the phases of human life: childhood, adulthood, and old age.

Selene is one of the ancient Greek gods, born of the primordial gods called the Titans. She is associated with sleep. Artemis is also ancient, and there is evidence that she was worshipped in Minoan Greece, although she must date from far earlier. She is called a virgin goddess, but this is misleading. She is properly called the unmarried maiden and governed female rites of passage such as reproductive maturation, marriage, childbirth, etc. She is called the Goddess of the Hunt and Mistress of the Animals. Her animal is the deer. If Selene is the expression of the Moon in the heavens, and Artemis is the expression in the physical world, then Hecate is the expression of the Moon in the underworld. She is a chthonic goddess belonging to the graveyard. Hecate is the goddess of the dark Moon and rules witchcraft, potions, crossroads, and death. She is Persephone’s attendant during her yearly stay in Hades known as the season of winter. In all her forms, the Greek Moon goddesses are connected with fertility, because they protect women and children, and the end of life. A quick, painless death was often attributed to the blessing of the Three-faced Goddess.

In Indian or Vedic mythology the Moon is known as Chandra or Soma. It is interesting that the Vedic sages considered the Moon male in gender, but represented feminine energy. The myth explaining why the Moon waxes and wanes may provide a clue. Chandra was married to Daksa’s 27 daughters. Each night he would spend with a different wife, equaling a sidereal month. But Chandra had a favorite wife known as Rohini and he stayed longer with her than with the others. The other wives complained to their father Daksa who cursed Chandra for not treating his daughters more fairly. Chandra immediately fell ill and started to waste away. When the wives saw their husband dying they pleaded with the father to undo the curse. It was not possible to completely reverse the curse, but Daksa was able to lessen the effect. That is why the Moon waxes and wanes.

The Moon rules the zodiac sign of Cancer the Crab. The tides of the oceans are controlled by the Moon, and the tidal zone is the natural environment of crabs and other crustaceans. This is one reason why the Moon represents and governs water in astrology. Water, like the Moon is responsive and adaptable. Just as water assumes the shape of any container that it is put in, the Moon responds to changes in the environment. The Moon is exalted in Taurus, and in debilitation or fall in the sign of Scorpio.

The Moon represents emotions and feelings in the modern natal chart. Daily habits are indicated here, as well as memories of the past. The sign and house placement of the Moon indicate the emotional expression and response of the individual. Planetary aspects to the Moon indicate the areas of life where emotional strengths and weaknesses will develop. Contemporary astrology tends to think of the Moon as representing the unconscious mind as compared to the Sun, which represents the conscious mind.

The Moon is an indicator of early childhood environment, when the first emotional patterns are laid down. In this way, the Moon represents the mother who provides nourishment and guidance. It is the mother who teaches how to respond to external stimuli, and exist in the world. Therefore the Moon is the greatest symbol in the natal chart for how the individual perceives and responds to the external world.

Particular attention is paid to the lunation cycle, which provides insight into the psychological development of the individual. Secondary progressions of the Moon, or advancing the natal chart one day for each year of life, can indicate the long term cycles of an individual’s life.

The basic nature of the Moon in Hellenistic astrology is collection and inclusion. The essence of the Moon is pronoia, a type of fate suggesting “forethought” and providentia meaning “foresight.” The Greeks, who loved analytical thought, considered the concept of “foresight” a virtue. There was also an aspect of protection, as Providentia deorum was the protectress of the imperial family and the empire. These qualities of forethought, foresight, and protection or continuation of family or empire, are all essences of the Moon in ancient Greek astrology.

In Hellenistic astrology the Moon is the significator for the mother, conception, money, property, travel, and the populace. The Moon rules night births and becomes ruler of the lunar sect, which includes Venus, Mars, and Mercury when an evening star. In Hellenistic astrology the Sun and the Moon are called “the giver’s of one’s all.” The Sun represents the conditions of the soul, while the Moon represents the conditions of the physical body.

In Vedic astrology the Moon, called Chandra, symbolizes the mind (manas), the mother, and the home. In a culture that values stability these are the most important elements. Ambition was not as highly regarded as the ability to lead a happy, contented life. For the ancient Indians, this required a peaceful and calm mind, which was cultivated by a virtuous mother and proper home life. In Vedic astrology the Moon is the key indicator the of the native’s ability to enjoy happiness.

Just as the Moon reflects the light from the Sun, the Moon represents the soul expression through consciousness. The Moon represents our personality, or how we relate to others, and our popularity in general. The Moon is considered strongest when waxing towards a full Moon, and weaker when waning. A strong Moon indicates a strong, clear mind allowing productive involvement in family and society. A weak Moon indicates a wavering or confused mind that prevents productive participation in life.

There are 27 lunar Nakshatras, or lunar mansions, that describe the monthly sidereal motion of the Moon. The Moon stays approximately one day in each Nakshatra. The birth Nakshatra of an individual is called his or her star and is the most important planet in the Vedic horoscope. Nakshatras are used extensively in determining personality characteristics, as well as in horary and electional astrology.

Arabic astrologers also used a system of lunar mansions called manazil. The 28 manazil were initially used for navigation over the desert, and later took on predictive qualities. The Chinese called their lunar mansions hsiu. The three difference systems—Nakshatra, manazil, and hsiu—share a few constellations, but there are significant dissimilarities.

The cycles of the Moon have always been connected with germination and fertility. Specific times during the lunation cycle were considered more supportive of both human and animal conception. Sowing and reaping in farming were optimally timed using the phases of the Moon. The Hellenistic Greeks considered the phases before and after the birth of the child to indicate the general health of the child. A new technique using the lunation cycle was introduced in the twentieth century by Dane Rudhyar (1895–1985), the father of humanistic astrology. He applied the lunation cycle to human psychology. He believed that the lunar cycle one is born under determines the basic psychological outlook of the individual. Over the course of a life, the development of the individual’s psychological outlook can be determined through the lunation cycle of the secondary progressed Moon.

Rudhyar defined eight phases of the lunation cycle. The cycle describes the spatial relationship between the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth. Because the cycle is perceived from the Earth, the Moon phases are most easily defined as degrees of separation between the Sun and the Moon as observed from the Earth. The phases according to Rudhyar, the degrees of separation, and a few key words for the eight phases of the lunation cycle are provided below:

New Moon (0–45° from Sun to Moon): birth, new beginnings, initiative, creativity, emergence

Crescent Moon (45–90°): challenges, effort, change, activity, expansion

First Quarter Moon (90–135): breakthrough, crisis of action, separation from past, action

Gibbous Moon (135–180°): development, evaluation, perfecting, overcoming

Full Moon (180–225°): culmination, illumination, objectivity, vision; fulfillment

Disseminating Moon (225–270°): teaching, reaping, maturity, communication, demonstration

Last Quarter Moon (270–315°): assimilation, crisis in consciousness, harvest; reorientation

Balsamic Moon (315–0°): death, transition, prophetic or future oriented, destiny, release

—Maire M. Masco


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References in classic literature ?
it ought to reach the moon four days after its departure, that is on the 5th of December, at midnight precisely, at the moment of her attaining her perigee, that is her nearest distance from the earth, which is exactly 86,410 leagues (French), or 238,833 miles mean distance (English).
Come hither"; and I led them to the door of the hut and pointed to the red ball of the moon.
But it was a liar with its pregnancy; and sooner will I believe in the man in the moon than in the woman.
Photography has given us proofs of the incomparable beauty of our satellite; all is known regarding the moon which mathematical science, astronomy, geology, and optics can learn about her.
The watchman's spirit understood the language of the inhabitants of the moon pretty well.
But one evening when the moon was full they sat together watching their flocks, and the shepherd played upon his flute.
Had gloom but rested, no matter how lightly, on his brow, or had his bovine countenance grown long and serious and less like the moon, or had he removed that smile but once from off his face, I am sure I could have forgiven him for existing.
The pearly lustre of the moon went out: The mossy banks and the meandering paths, The happy flowers and the repining trees, Were seen no more: the very roses' odors Died in the arms of the adoring airs.
The moon being the heavenly body much the nearest to us, of course we see farther into its secrets than into those of any other planet.
Very likely, sir," answered Partridge; "and if my eyes were fixed on a good surloin of roast beef, the devil might take the moon and her horns into the bargain.
The jungle which is presided over by Kudu, the sun, is a very different jungle from that of Goro, the moon.
that I were a lady of the ghost-wolves, there should be a picking of bones in the kraal of Jikiza before the moon grows young again.

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