While the name astrology means the study of the stars, in many ways, astrology is the study of time. For astrologers, time is not linear, but cyclical. There are many different cycles of time, and each of them is governed by one of the planets, or by the relationship between planets.
The most basic cycle in astrology is the cycle that is marked by the phases of the Moon. It is so basic, that many cultures, including our own, use the Lunar cycle in making their calendars, at least in part. It is the easiest cycle to notice. Indeed, all you must to do keep track of it is to look up at the sky at night. It is also tracked on many non-astrological calendars.
The Mechanics of the Lunar Phase Cycle
The Lunar Phases are based on the orbit of the Moon in relation to the perceived orbit of the Sun. In astronomical terms, the Earth orbits around the Sun. In astrology, however, we are looking at how the movements of the heavenly bodies impact our lives on Earth. For this reason, most astrologers work from the perspective of the Earth being at the center.
In purely physical terms, the Lunar Phases are caused by the shadow made by the Earth against the reflected light of the Sun. In metaphysical terms, the phases of the Moon are symbolic of many deep mysteries, and many myths throughout the world use the Lunar phases as teaching metaphors.
You can tell the Lunar Phase in any given astrological chart by looking at the relationship between the Sun and the Moon. The Moon waxes, or grows larger, starting from the New Moon, which is a conjunction between the Sun and the Moon. The Moon wanes, or becomes smaller, starting from the Full Moon, which is an opposition between the Sun and the Moon.
The Lunar Phase Cycle in Astrology
Lunar Phases are useful for many different things in astrology. First of all, they can be a “quick and dirty” way of doing elections, which is selecting times for various events and activities. If you are starting something that you want to last, it is best to do during a waxing phase. If you are embarking on something that you want to complete quickly, then starting during the waning phase is better.
The Lunar Phase that you were born into will also put a stamp on your personality, particularly if you were born at night.
In addition to the static phase that you will find in a Nativity Chart, there is a technique known as secondary progressions which among other things, tracks the Lunar Phases as they change throughout our lives. The technique of secondary progressions counts each day after your birth as a representative of the corresponding year of your life. As the Lunar Phase Cycle is approximately 29 days, by progression, it corresponds to 29 years in a person’s life.
For more information about this technique, see: A Second Look at Secondary Progressions: A Tale of Two Queens
There are four major Lunar Phases, although some astrologers divide the Lunar Cycle into smaller phases. One of the more common divisions is an eight-phase cycle. In my own practice, I consider the smaller phases to be subdivisions of the four major phases.
The major Lunar Phases are all marked by hard, tense aspects, which are conjunctions, squares, and oppositions. In the middle of each phase, there is a harmonious aspect, either a sextile or a trine. This halfway mark softens the meaning of each of the major phases.
Below is a description of these four major phases.
The New Moon
Seasonal Analogy: Spring
Temperament: Hot and Wet
The Lunar Cycle begins with a New Moon. This is when the Sun and the Moon are conjunct, or together in the sky. For the first day or so of this phase, the Moon is not visible at all. After that, she slowly peeks out.
In some traditions, such as Judaism, the New Moon marks the beginning of a new month, and in others, such as Islam, the new month is counted from the first day that the Moon can be seen.
This is a time of new beginnings and ideas. Each New Moon is a fresh start. Most people feel a burst of energy and excitement during this lunar phase.
The Waxing Crescent Moon
In a sense, the entire New Moon phase will appear as a waxing crescent, or it least it will once it is visible. Still, there is a special time halfway through this phase in which the Waxing Crescent sub-phase begins. This is when the Moon is about 60 degrees away from the Sun, which is an aspect known as a sextile.
While new beginnings are fun, they can also be quite tense. There is a time when anything is born in which it is vulnerable and fragile. One never knows whether it will survive.
After a little bit of time, the new life becomes more stable. While it is still vulnerable, one begins to be more confident that it will survive, grow, and thrive. This is the sense of the Waxing Crescent sub-phase.
Activities during a New Moon Phase
The New Moon Phase is a very good time to start anything that you want to last for a long time, such as a new business. It may not be time to make anything official as of yet, but it is certainly the time to develop plans and brainstorm new ideas.
This is also a time in which people are the most open to new ideas. The excitement of the New Moon gives a sense that anything is possible. There is a general sense of restlessness and anticipation during this phase.
Anything started during the New Moon phase will take some time to take root and grow. Despite the restlessness and excitement, it is important to be patient and not get discouraged. This is the time to think about the future and dream big.
The New Moon Phase in a Nativity Chart
If you were born during the New Moon Phase, you have a great deal of energy, and you are a dreamer. There is a youthfulness about you that continues well into adulthood and maturity. You like to start projects and activities.
On the other hand, depending on the rest of your chart, you could have trouble finishing what you start. You enjoy the initial burst of activity when something is new. You may tend to get bored when it comes to the tedious work of following through with what is started.
You may also be subject to overconfidence. Often when we first start something, we think we know all that there is to know. It can take time to learn enough to know what we don’t know. It can be hard for you to stick to anything long enough to get to that point.
Even so, there is a charm to your enthusiasm and energy, and your optimism can be infectious. You find it easy to get others to go along with your plans.
The Progressed New Moon Phase
If you are in a progressed New Moon phase, this is a time of new beginnings. You have started a new chapter in your life, and you are looking forward to the future. Your old life has passed, and you are looking at the world through fresh eyes.
Even though this is a time of new beginnings, you may not see any outward change at this time. You are planting seeds that will sprout and grow when the time is right. Anything that you do during this phase will have lasting consequences, so it is important to take care in deciding what you want to plant.
Even though you are in a brand new cycle of your life, there may still be things that need cleaning up from the previous cycle. This is not the time to be sentimental or nostalgic. If something from the past is no longer meaningful to you, let it go.
The First Quarter Moon
Seasonal Analogy: Summer
Temperament: Hot and Dry
The First Quarter Moon occurs when the Moon has gotten far enough away from the Sun to form a tense aspect known as a square. The seed that was planted during the New Moon phase has now grown and is reaching for the sky. At the beginning of this phase, half of the visible side of the Moon can be seen, and every day thereafter, we will be able to see more and more.
This is a busy, exciting time. Things are starting to take shape, and the shaky bravado of the previous phase has become real confidence. We can see visible progress, and we have a good idea of where things are headed.
The Gibbous Moon
Halfway through the First Quarter Moon phase, the Moon will form a trine with the Sun. The trine is the most harmonious aspect, and in many ways, this subphase represents is the most prosperous time in the entire cycle.
This is when everything comes together, and there is a feeling of optimism in the air. All of your hard work seems to be paying off, and you can really see your new idea or venture taking form.
Activities during the First Quarter Moon
This is a good time to make things public. In general, this phase is best used to build on and expand the ideas and activities that one began during the New Moon Phase. You will generally receive good results for your efforts, and in general, most things will be easier to accomplish.
This is also a good time to start activities and projects that you want to take off quickly. This is still a part of the waxing stage, so these ventures will generally last, but they will not have the slow build-up like those that had been started during the New Moon phase.
The First Quarter Phase in a Nativity Chart
If you were born during the First Quarter Phase, you are energetic and forward-thinking. You enjoy being active and trying new things. There is an air of confidence to you, and you are usually optimistic about what life has to offer.
Like those born during the New Moon Phase, you like starting new things. On the other hand, you generally have a lot more staying power, and it is easier for you to finish what you start.
You may have some trouble in handing frustration, however. It could be difficult for you to take setbacks in stride, which may cause you to give up much earlier than you should.
The Progressed First Quarter Phase
For most people, this is the most fortunate and prosperous phase of the progressed Lunar Cycle. This is when what you started during the New Moon phase really starts to come to life. You will feel like you are accomplishing the things that you are setting out to do.
You will start to grow in maturity in your relatively new role. The energy of the New Moon phase will continue, but it will be more settled and calm. The restlessness will turn into a feeling of accomplishment. There is still more that you want to do, but you now have a sense that you can achieve your goals.
The Full Moon
Seasonal Analogy: Autumn
Temperament: Cold and Dry
The Full Moon is the point that is halfway through the Lunar Cycle. The Moon is now opposite the Sun, and thus, she is no longer blocked by the shadow of the Earth. She can now be seen in all of her brightness.
The Full Moon is associated with autumn and the harvest. Many of the associations of the harvest apply to this phase. This is a time of abundance when we receive the rewards for our labors. It can also be a time of reflection and regret if we have not done the work that we needed to do in the earlier phases.
Yet, as is the case with most things, once the Moon has reached her full brightness, she will start to fade and enter the waning portion of her cycle. The time of new beginnings has ended. It is time to enjoy the fruits of our labors.
The Disseminating Moon
Half-way into the Full Moon phase, the Moon trines the Sun again. Like the Gibbous Moon, this is a prosperous and harmonious time. Yet, rather than being filled with excitement and enthusiasm, this subphase is calm and gentle. There is a sense of accomplishment, but generally, the focus is on the past rather than the future.
In this phase, we have achieved what we set out to do and are taking the time to relax. There is also a sense of wanting to pass on what we learned along the way. We are coasting through our tasks and duties. They have become familiar and easy for us.
In some ways, things are almost too easy. There can be a sense that there are no longer any challenges to overcome.
Activities during the Full Moon
All of the analogies of the harvest apply to the Full Moon phase. This is the time to take stock of what we have gathered and to see how to make the best use of what we have. It is a good time for getting one’s affairs into order and taking stock of our strengths and our weaknesses.
Even though this is the time for the harvest rather than for planting seeds, you can still begin new things during this phase. Generally, these things will take root and grow quickly. They may not last as long as things that were started during the waxing portion of the cycle, but they can still be successful.
The Full Moon in a Nativity Chart
If you were born during the Full Moon phase, there will be an air of maturity to you, which will have been present even when you were young. You may have had to grow up quickly. You tend to be responsible and have a strong sense of duty.
Often, you will be aware of your talents and limitations, and they will be quite clear from an early age. You are not as eager to try new things as those that were born during the waxing phases. It is easy for you to become set in your ways.
You approach most tasks calmly and confidently. It is not easy for you to become passionate or excited about things, but you are very good at finishing what you start.
The Progressed Full Moon
This phase starts about 14 or 15 years into the progressed Lunar Cycle. You have now reached a high level of maturity, and you now know what you are doing. The feeling of excitement and enthusiasm has dulled somewhat and is replaced by a feeling of confidence and accomplishment.
You have finished your long apprenticeship and are beginning to reach a level of mastery in your activities. You may feel the desire to mentor others and pass on what you have learned.
Even though many parts of your life have become settled and routine, you will generally still be able to find enjoyment in what you have and in what you are doing.
The Third Quarter Moon
Seasonal Analogy: Winter
Temperament: Cold and Wet
The Third Quarter Moon marks the end of the cycle. It begins when the Moon forms a square with the Sun as she is returning to the Sun. This is the final challenge she will face in this cycle. From now on, less than half of the Moon will be visible.
One of the difficult mysteries of life is that everything that begins must eventually end. We live in the physical world, which is a world of flux and change. Nothing is permanent.
Yet, even though this is the end of the cycle, a new beginning is just around the corner. During the winter, there are seeds under the ground that are waiting for spring to sprout.
The Balsamic Moon
About half-way through the Third Quarter Moon, the Moon forms a sextile with the Sun. This is the last major aspect of this cycle, and it marks the deepest part of the Third Quarter Moon.
This is a time in which most activity stops, and it is very quiet. It is hard to get anything accomplished, and the energy of many people lags. Everything seems old and worn, and it is difficult to feel enthusiasm or excitement.
This is a time of rest. A new beginning is coming, but for now, it is best to just let go and try to relax.
Activities during the Third Quarter Moon
In general, this is not the time to start anything new that you want to last. Instead, focus on letting go. The Third Quarter Moon is a good time for cleaning and housekeeping. In particular, this is a great time for getting rid of things that you don’t need.
While you don’t want to start something that you want to last, this is a great time to do unpleasant things that you want to get done with quickly. In the U.S., this is the best time to file your tax returns. Usually, this will help the process to be quick, painless, and without incident.
The Third Quarter Moon in a Nativity Chart
If you were born during a Third Quarter Moon, you tend to be rather mellow and easy-going. You generally do not like to initiate anything. Instead, you would rather go along with other people. This makes you very easy to get along with, and it is rare for you to find yourself in conflict.
It can be hard for you to get excited about things, and you tend to spend a great deal of time daydreaming. There is an “old soul” quality to you, and you are likely to have strong memories of your past lives.
The Progressed Third Quarter Moon
This phase lasts about seven years, and many people find this progressed phase difficult. This is a time of releasing and letting go. The reason people have difficulty with this phase is that they are resisting change. It can be hard to let go of what has been building for over two decades.
Yet, this is an important part of the cycle. We must let go in order for there to be room for something new. The less we hold on to the past, the easier this phase will become.
Be skeptical of new ideas that come during this phase. Often people will feel restless and dissatisfied with their current situation and will try to start something new to relieve these feelings.
On the other hand, there may be seeds that start to germinate for the new cycle at this time. Even so, these will be latent seeds, and they will generally not become manifest until after the coming New Moon.
Analogies in Other Cycles
It can be argued that the Lunar Phase Cycle is the most important cycle in astrology. It is powerful and governs everything in life. Even non-astrologers are aware of it, and it has been used by almost all societies and cultures throughout history.
Not only is the Lunar Phase Cycle important in its own right, but all other cycles in astrology have analogies in it. Every cycle begins with a conjunction, grows and develops until it reaches the opposition, and then declines and releases until it is over. After that, there will be a new conjunction, and the cycle will start again.
For this reason, developing an understanding of the Lunar Phase cycle will go a long way into developing a firm grasp of astrology as a whole. It can also help give wisdom and an intuitive sense of the natural rhythms of the cosmos.