WHY we’re drawn to the lunar cycle and HOW TO tap into ITS POWER
For millennia the moon phases have fascinated seers, storytellers and scientists alike. Whether bursting at spherical seams with luminescent glow, a mere seductive sliver of silver, or just a shadow of itself in the night’s sky ready to be born all over again. The human race has long felt a mysterious attraction towards this rocky, cratered satellite over 230,000 miles away.
For thousands of years, we’ve looked to the moon to find purpose and a sense of time and order. It was the moon phases that first provided the blueprint for how we defined the ‘week’ as being 7 days. Its patterns shaped the original calendars established by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Thanks to the moon phases, for the first time, time had a structure.
We’re been in constant pursuit to better understand the power of the moon’s continuous cycle of birth and rebirth too. The moon is the main character in myths crafted across continents and cultures, often depicted as the divine mother.
The Earth’s only constant natural satellite is also inextricably connected to the tides, rainfall and the human fertility cycle. Others hold its path responsible for shifts in mood, spikes in crime and even psychosis.
The Lunar Lure
While some of these phenomena are subject to skepticism, a recent peer reviewed study found that human sleep is synchronised with moon phases. People stay up later and sleep less in the days running up to full moon, and do the opposite before new moon.
The study’s author Horacio de la Iglesia, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, commented: “We humans tend to believe that that we managed to somehow control nature, and the use of artificial light is a great example of that. But it turns out that there are some forces of nature that we cannot get away from.”
Hardened skeptics aside, it indeed appears that society can’t get away from the lunar lure. In the past few years there’s been a surge of intrigue in astrology and the moon cycle. It’s no coincidence, surely, that this collides with global turbulence: a pandemic, political upheaval, the climate emergency, natural disasters, and game-changing movements against social injustice.
It’s an entirely natural human instinct that when the world around us seems uncertain, we seek solace, meaning, and reconsider our identities. And so, perhaps it’s something instinctual in us too that looks to the moon for some guidance.
Growing Interest from the cosmically curious
Unsurprisingly, in the year that the coronavirus rocked planet earth we increasingly looked elsewhere in the solar system for answers. Astronomy Ireland said its membership almost doubled in the latter half of 2020 due to what it called a “huge surge of interest in nature and space”.
In line with this, modern day wellness culture has in recent years warmly embraced the moon and all the rituals that come with it. Once ‘alternative’ affairs, full moon circles, for women in particular, have become highly anticipated gatherings, attracting people from all walks of life.
At Reformation, we host events and circles for our community and its not uncommon for our yoga teachers to theme a class around the current lunar phase. We’ve hosted events on crystals and how to programme them in accordance with the moon’s path: setting powerful intentions, cleansing and charging them.
While the number of people who fully commit to attending moon circles and the like might still be few, social media has provided a more light-touch entry point for the cosmically curious masses. Across the internet the moon has garnered legions of fans; Instagram accounts like @moonomens have millions of followers.
The Moon is cool again
There are slick moon calendar apps that send you timely notifications ahead of the landmark moon phases and daily moon affirmations. Many of these apps are linked to your ‘moon sign’, a lesser known marker on astrology charts. (You can find your moon sign on a chart calculator like this one – come prepared by calling your mom up first to ask her exactly what time you were born.)
All of this has been accompanied by a snazzy image overhaul. Gone are the perceptions that those who follow the moon cycle all come draped in a shawl, and don lashings of black kohl eyeliner. The moon is cool again. Whoever is doing the moon’s PR is doing a great job.
So, with all that said let’s delve into moon phases; learn what they are, how we might sync our lives with them, and with that, hopefully, find some comfort from our luminary mother figure.
What are the moon phases?
Even the least moon-savvy among us know that the moon changes shape and position. To put it very simply, every month the moon will transition through phases depending on the amount of surface exposed to the sun’s light.
It’s probably easiest to understand the moon cycle in this order: new moon and full moon, first quarter and third quarter, and the phases in between.
A full moon is seen when the whole moon is illuminated by the sun. A new moon cannot be seen as the sun is directly behind the moon. The first quarter and third quarter moons (both often called half moons) are seen when exactly half of the moon is illuminated and half is in shadow.
Once you understand those four key phases it should be fairly easy to visualise what happens in between: the illuminated portion gradually transitions between them. Those ‘between’ phases are defined using four key terms: crescent, gibbous, waxing, and waning.
What do the moon phases mean?
Before we dive into the significance of each phase, let’s recognise that if you’re new to following the lunar cycle you might start by just tuning into when the new moon and full moon appears. Then you can begin to attach meaning and rituals to the two half moon stages, and so on.
You don’t need to plan an elaborate ritual for each phase, but even just being aware of the lunar cycle can offer energy and guidance. It’s always there, whenever you need it.
The New Moon
The new moon is the start of a new lunar cycle and occurs once a month, so it’s the perfect time to make plans and decide what you want to achieve over the next 29 days.
The Waxing Moon
The waxing moon is seen as a slim crescent in the sky. As the power of the moon builds slowly, it’s a good time to build yourself up too. Start to put plans into place to reach the goals you set on the new moon.
The First Quarter
The whole right hand side of the moon is illuminated and it is at half power. This is a good time to reflect on what you’ve been working on so far and celebrate your achievements.
The Waxing Gibbous
Now there’s just a slither of dark moon remaining and we are only one phase away from the full moon. Its time to hone in on your intentions, goals and actions – staying mindful about what is happening both externally and internally.
The Full Moon
She’s here! The moon is at her full power and we can tap into her energy to help us manifest our intentions or gain insight into our problems. There are endless rituals and spells linked to this most powerful lunar phase. You can carry out releasing or banishing rituals, manifestation meditations, charge crystals and cleanse tarot cards.
The Waning Gibbous Moon
A shadow appears on the right hand side and the moon’s power begins to wind down. Take this time to turn inwards, evaluate and readjust your intentions and goals for the rest of the month.
The Third Quarter
The moon is back to half power, and illuminated on the left hand side. Now is the perfect time to let go of anything that is holding you back or causing negativity in your life.
The Waning Moon
The power of this lunar cycle is nearly over. There’s just a small left hand crescent visible. Take a deep breath and surrender to whatever has happened over the past month.
Didn’t reach the goal you set on the last new moon? No stress. It’s nearly time for a new moon and a new beginning.