The Moon is the Earth's sole natural satellite, whose journey around the Earth has given us the word "Month". In many ways the Moon and her cycles, the movement of her nodes and the power of eclipses mark the most profound human experiences and intense natural phenomena. This article features a lovely animation of the Moon's Phases, courtesy of Sumanas, Inc.
The Moon is classed as a planet ("wanderer") in astrology and represents matters to do with women, the mother, the public, the emotions, habit patterns and so on. A feminine planet, the Moon rules Cancer and is exalted in Taurus. Several other planets have recently been determined by astronomers to have moons, but these are not generally considered in astrology.
The phases of the Moon have a remarkable effect on Planet Earth and the beings that cling to her surface! The Moon, our only natural satellite, travels around the Earth once every month, creating the phases of the Moon as she travels from "New", when the Moon is aligned with the Sun, to "Full" when the Moon opposes the Sun and back again. These phases are well-known in scientific circles for generating the ocean's tides, governing mating behaviour in certain species, and particularly at the Full Moon for bumping up the rates of crime, especially violent crime, and irrational behaviour. The terms "Lunacy" and "Lunatic" are the (now unfashionable) words for insanity and the insane, drawn from the widespread observation of the way the Moon ("Luna") affects mental and emotional states. Every serious gardener also knows that the phases of the Moon with relation to the Sun in its seasons affect suitable times for planting, fertilising, husbandry and harvesting.
Here we have a fantastic animation of the Moon's phases, and down at the bottom of the page, we have a beautiful graphic by Maria Kay Sims, illustrating the spiritual meaning of this eightfold cycle of transformation.
New Moon: dark phase at the beginning of the lunar month, when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction. A time for formulation and planning. The arc of aspect from Moon to Sun is between 0° and 45°
Crescent Moon: waxing between new and first quarter. A time for setting things in motion. The arc of aspect is between 45° and 90°
First Quarter: when the Moon is half light and half dark. A time for focused, forceful activity. The arc of aspect is between 90° and 135°
Gibbous Moon: when the Moon is waxing towards the Full, with more than half of its surface visible. A time for overcoming obstacles. The arc of aspect is between 135° and 180°
Full Moon: bright phase when the Moon is has all or nearly all of its surface visible. A time for fulfilment, when plans succeed or fail. The arc of aspect is between 180° and 225°
Disseminating Moon: when the Moon is waning but still has more than half of its surface visible. Also known as a Waning Gibbous, it is a time of bearing fruit and participating with others, or dropping failed plans and making a new start at the coming New Moon. The arc of aspect is between 225° and 270°
Third Quarter: when the Moon is rapidly waning towards the New. A time to move beyond the past and start working in earnest towards the activation of the New Moon. The arc of aspect is between 270° and 315°
Balsamic Moon: when the Moon diminishes from a sliver to the darkness of the New Moon. A time of completion, inward-looking, yet of planning for the next phase. The arc of aspect is between 315° and 360°
1."Waxing" means growing and "Waning" means shrinking.
2. One appropriate definition of "gibbous" is "swollen on one side".
The Eightfold Cycle of Transformation
So there we have an outline of the Moon's Phases and a neat animated graphic. In many ways the Moon and her cycles, the movement of her nodes and the power of eclipses mark the most profound human experiences and intense natural phenomena. Artist and astrologer Maria Kay Simms has drawn up a beautiful picture of the Moon's Phases as they relate to growth, development and the eightfold structure of the natural year. She calls this the 8-Fold Cycle of Transformation. If you click the image, you will get a full sized version, which makes it easier to follow.