Thursday, September 29, 2011

Temperament archetypes for men and women

This article was originally published in the Lughnassadh 2007 Issue of Mirror of Isis:, under the title "Which Goddesses or Gods are You?"

Over the years, I have done considerable study on the subject of personality types, especially as relates to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This test evaluates your preferred methods of gathering, assessing, and making decisions based on the information, as well as the your preferred attitude for thinking. The site, Similar, ( offers free tests to find your type, if you haven't already done so through work. (The MBTI is one of the most popular personality tests used in communication training and business.)

Author David B. Keirsey and Marilyn Bates developed a set of four super-groups of Temperaments from the sixteen MBTI preference types, which they evaluated in the context of male Greek archetypes that they felt best represented the fundamental character of each Temperament. The result is their landmark book, "Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types", and subsequent books for understanding how temperament affects people at work, among others.

These 4 temperaments go back to Classical Greece and the 4 elements, and were called Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic, and Choleric through the Middle Ages ( With the advent of Jungian psychology and the MBTI, Keirsey and Bates evolved them into masculine archetypal characters based on Greek mythology (

In working with Keirsey and Bates' "Temperaments", I came to feel that the masculine archetypes simply did not work well for women, especially based on work I was doing with Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen's Jungian books, "Goddesses in Everywoman" and "Gods in Everyman". Based on her work, and my own knowledge of Greek archetypes, I formulated a responsive series of four Temperaments for women showing how particular Goddesses manifested through their Temperaments.

The purpose of this article is to recap that work for you, the readers, and to give you ways in which you can evaluate yourself and see which Goddesses and Gods are prominent in your preferred character. Please note that these Temperaments only represent preferences, not an absolute assignment to one type or another.

Every person has the ability to act in any one of the preferential modes, and goes back and forth between them at all times based on the circumstances they encounter. The impact of preferential modes is that acting in a non-preferred modality will tend to cost you a lot of energy-it tires you out more quickly-than if you approached the task in a preferred modality. So keep in mind that all of the Goddesses and the Gods are available to you, you just have to spend a little extra energy to summon some of them to your aid.

Assessing your Temperament Type

Let's look first at how you determine your preferred personality. If you already know your personality type from Myers-Briggs, this will be easy for you to follow. You can simply read the article and find what types suit you best. There are a couple of sites that provide self-tests (, to determine your personality type:

A self-test to determine your temperament can be taken at the Advisor Team website, which offers a modified Keirsey-Bates temperament test instrument. To use this site, you must sign in as a non-professional user, take the test, and then request the free version of the results. (You can choose to pay for the more detailed reports, but the free one will tell you everything you need to know for this article.) Another self-test can be found on the PTypes-Personality Types website, which will give you a similar test and free results.

A qualified MBTI practitioner must administer the MBTI test, in part so that the practitioner can fully and clearly explain the results to you. The Myers-Briggs Foundation provides online access to the test instrument, and connects you with a qualified practitioner, for a fee. Other sites may have similar or lower fees.

Another personality assessment you may find of use is Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), which correlate to some degree with the Temperament types. In his MI theory, people have eight different types of fundamental intelligences, or proficiencies at doing things, and preferences among them. They are Bodily-Kinesthetic, Verbal-Linguistic, Musical, Visual-Spatial, Naturalistic, Logical-Mathematical, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal.
Now, keep in mind that one of the results of these tests may be to tell you that you are not one particular type, but a mix of types. This is a perfectly normal result, and indicates that you do not have one preferred mode of behavior, but several, which makes it easier to respond to situations in a fluid and adaptable manner. If you do come out to be strongly identified with one temperament, that simply means it's your dominant mode of expression, and you can choose other modes with the understanding it may take you a little more effort to perform in those manners. All of us have all of the preferences available at all times.

The Myers-Briggs Preferences

First, let me introduce you to a little bit of terminology. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which underlies the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, assesses communications preferences along four two-fold axes. (Details can be found on Wikipedia.) The preferences concern how you gather, process, and make decisions on data, and how it affects your lifestyle.

Typically, you will fall somewhere towards the center of each range, with only a small preference for one modality over the other, but in some cases, your preference may be very strong. Again, all functions are available to you, but non-preferred modes take a bit more energy to perform.

The first preference concerns "attitude" toward life and gathering information. The range is between Extraversion (E) and Intraversion (I) (which is not the same as being an introvert). Extraverts draw energy from being with people, thinking out loud, and moving around while they think. Intraverted thinkers need space and quiet time to consider the information coming in, and tend to prefer small groups of people with whom they are familiar over being in larger groups. They tend to lose energy in large groups, and may become overwhelmed by the inputs.

The second preference range concerns how we gather data, and ranges between Sensing (S) and Intuition (N). People who have a strong Sensing function draw their data from their five senses, and prefer concrete, detailed, demonstrable sources of information. People with a strong Intuitive function draw data from sources beyond the physical, and prefer more abstract, theoretical, and associative sources. Intuitives also tend to be self-described psychic, which is a rather classic means of collecting data from outside of the physical senses.

The third preference range concerns how we evaluate the data we've gathered, and ranges between Thinking (T) and Feeling (F). Thinking refers to the use of logical, rational, and analytical approaches to assessing the gathered data, whereas Feeling types prefer an empathetic, associative approach to evaluation. A classic example of the difference is where a Thinker will look at something and say to themselves, "What does this mean?" A Feeler will look at the same thing, and say to themselves, "How does this affect me, and those around me?" Neither modality is better than one another; however, our culture has a strong preference for the Thinking modality, and tends to denigrate the Feeling modality, which we see as manifesting in the repression of the Goddess.(This is the only range with a gender-based profile; 60% of men in the USA favor the Thinking function, and 60% of women prefer the Feeling function. This can make things difficult for the 40% whose preference does not match their gender!)

Finally, we come to the preferences concerned with how we use the information to take action in the world. The preference ranges between Judging (J) and Perceiving (P), where Judging types prefer closure, tasks to have clear schedules, and sometimes making decisions to meet their need for closure, ahead of all the data. Perceiving types prefer a more "wait and see" attitude, wanting all the data before making a decision, to leave matters open until required to meet a deadline, and to change plans if new information comes along.

Now, this information is mostly helpful in understanding the terminology used in studying the Temperament Types, not to be heavily dwelt on. It is provided mostly to avoid confusion if one of the test instruments quotes type preferences in the results.

For example, I come out fairly balanced on the Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving scales, and tend a little more towards the Intraversion end of the Extraversion-Intraversion scale, but I'm way off the Intuitive end of the Sensing-Intuition scale. This works out to a suite of MBTI types called INTJ (Scientist), INFJ (Author), INTP (Architect), and INFP (Questor), based on Keirsey and Bates's book (p. 70). This indicates areas where I prefer to center my activities, methods in which I prefer to function, and, to some extent, careers that I find most comfortable. However, I am perfectly capable of being an Extravert, when I need to, or operating in the Sensing modality for gathering data, if I'm performing research that requires it. It's just a bit more tiring than acting in my normal, open to the winds, airy headed mode!

The Keirsey-Bates Temperaments

Keirsey and Bates took the 16 possible MBTI types, and aggregated them into Temperaments according to a scheme involving the latter three preference scales; Temperaments don't include your attitude of either Extraversion or Intraversion. These are covered in detail in their many books on the subject, but I'm drawing most of this article from their original Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, which is available from Amazon or any other book resource. 

The Dionysian Temperament

The God, Dionysus, who represents the Sensing-Perceiving (SP) group of MBTI types (ESTP, ESFP, ISTP, ISFP), characterizes this temperament. Using older models, such as that of Galen (200AD), this temperament is known as Sanguine, and corresponds to Plato's (340BCE) artisan temperament. Keirsey and Bates later revised this temperament to be the Artisan, like Plato's characterization. Other models, such as the Personality Spectrum developed by Joyce Bishop (Carter, 2007), describe this temperament as the Adventurer.

People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for freedom and spontaneity. They can learn from studying the myths of Dionysus some of the more transformative traits the God possesses, such as his compassion, tolerance, and ability to sacrifice himself for the needs of others. Living in the moment is key for these folks, who tend to abhor planning for the future, to store up things, or to live by rules and regulations.
Dionysian personalities seek stimulation and adventure, and may take up skydiving, fire-fighting, or other adventurous activities, and become very stifled, restless, and unruly in restrictive, overly structured environments.

They tend to seek risks and adventure, and need to experience a particular activity in order to understand or learn it. Dionysian types constitute approximately 27% of the US population (based on data from Wikipedia).Dionysian folks may also be very kinesthetic, needing to work with their hands, and learn things by doing them, rather than by being shown or told. Dionysian folk tend to excel at Gardner's Bodily-Kinesthetic and Naturalistic intelligences.
The Epimethean Temperament

The Titan, Epimetheus, who represents the Sensing-Judging (SJ) group of MBTI types (ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ISFJ), characterizes this temperament. This temperament is also Galen's Phlegmatic or Plato's guardian temperament, and can be known as the Guardian (revised Keirsey type) or the Organizer (Carter).

People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for duty and belonging. They can learn from the myths of Epimetheus traits to avoid: trusting too much, over-reliance on the status quo, and acting before thinking things through. Remember that "Epimetheus" means "afterthought."

Living in the past is a key aspect for these folks; they want things to happen as they always have, and tradition tends to be venerated. Epimethean personalities tend to be quite conservative, feeling that if it happened that way yesterday then it should happen that way today and tomorrow. This temperament type is the most resistant to changes, but can be convinced to do so if sufficient, tangible proof can be provided. Many Epimethean personalities are drawn to solid, detail-oriented work such as accounting or teaching elementary or secondary school, and activities such as church-work or membership in a specific interest group. They tend to avoid risk-taking, and view those who take "excessive" risks with suspicion.

Epimethean types constitute approximately 46.5% of the population (Wikipedia). Epimethean types often have strong auditory needs, and may learn by hearing a discussion better than others. They remember information by rote more effectively than the other types. Epimethean types tend to dominate in the areas of Verbal-Linguistic and Musical intelligences.
The Promethean Temperament

The Titan, Prometheus, who represents the Intuitive-Thinking (NT) group of MBTI types (INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP), characterizes this temperament. This is Galen's Choleric temperament, Plato's scientist, the Rationalist (revised Keirsey-Bates), and the Thinker (Carter).People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for power, knowledge, and competence, and a tendency to sacrifice personal needs for the greater good.

People should study the myths of Prometheus to see where they can get themselves into trouble: going against the prevailing mores and rules may bring mankind the "gift of fire," but the personal consequences can be dire. Also, there is a tendency not to think about the consequences of the gift to the recipients, merely that the gift is possible - e.g., nuclear weapons.

Promethean personalities tend to need to "see the data" and derive logical, rational conclusions from the information. They need proof of everything, and will make decisions through logic without regard to the emotional (or other consequences). They tend to live in the future, and to be concerned for where their activities will take them, not where they have come from. They only tend to be conservative when the data supports that position; otherwise, they are known for following the data through major changes in the world around them whatever the consequences may be.

Prometheans dominate the hard sciences, and the social sciences, to a lesser extent. Most people in the computer science and engineering industries are of this temperament type, and they are frequently encountered in teaching at the college or university levels. Prometheans represent approximately 10.4% of the US population, and are predominantly men.

Promethean women have a difficult time in our society because people tend to perceive them as being too masculine, or "unfeminine" due to their reliance on facts over feelings.
Promethean types often have strong visual orientations, and may have strongly developed Logical-Mathematical and Visual-Spatial intelligences. They often receive their most important insights and information in a flash of intuition or through a gestalt process, despite the image of the detail-oriented, data-collecting scientific process. They tend to trust the intuitive information quite strongly, as it gives them insights they would otherwise not receive.

The Apollonian Temperament

The God, Apollo, who represents the Intuitive-Feeling (NF) set of MBTI types (ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ, INFP), characterizes this temperament. This corresponds to Galen's Melancholic temperament, Plato's philosopher type, the Idealist (revised Keirsey-Bates), or the Giver (Carter).

People who exemplify this temperament are characterized by a drive for self-examination, self-development, and self-actualization. People should study the myths of Apollo to see how his characteristics can support their needs, especially in the areas of art, healing, and divination. Apollonians tend to care how their behavior affects others, and be very much aware of the need to help humanity better itself.

Apollonian types need to find out who they are in relation to others, and make decisions based on the impact on the lives and feelings of other people as much as their own. They get their data intuitively, from sources that may have no relationship to the physical senses at all, and they base all their decisions on how that information will impact themselves and others. Many people with this temperament type need to define clear boundaries between themselves and everyone else before they can go on to help others successfully, or they tend to be consumed by the needs and desires of the people they are trying to help.

Apollonians are frequently gifted writers, artists, performers, and spiritualists. They are often drawn to people-related jobs such as the ministry, holistic healing, or human resources. They will balk at jobs that require them to make decisions that could hurt people's feelings or lives, and tend to moralize their own self-identity onto others. They are highly futuristic, and frequently reject tradition in favor of new ideas they feel will better the human condition.

Apollonians make up approximately 16.3% of the US population, and are predominantly women. Male Apollonians have a difficult time because they are perceived as being too "soft", and unmasculine, because of their empathy and focus on the feelings of others.
Apollonian types share the visual orientation of the Prometheans, but may also find auditory stimulation to be important for them. They dominate in the areas of Interpersonal and Intrapersonal intelligence.

Goddesses Associated with the Temperaments

Many women find these male God associations difficult to relate to in their own lives. They don't tend to act in a wildly Promethean or Dionysian way, and they evolve in ways that are not as obvious as the male archetypes do. So I constructed a set of temperament descriptions based on female Greek archetypes to help women better relate to their temperaments.
The Artemis Temperament

The feminine archetype most representative of the Dionysian or SP temperament is the Greek Goddess Artemis. As Goddess of the Hunt, the new Moon, and the Eternal Virgin (complete in herself), she well epitomizes the SP woman's need to follow her own course through life. Artemis ran only to the hunt and to adventure, surrounded by close companions and avoiding contact with those who would try to control her (mostly men). Her myths are dominated by the need to be free of constraint. Of the four types, she is the most likely to remain who she is originally, unchanged by the passage of time in her means of expressing her essence.

A growth path may manifest as the Aphrodite archetype, for whom sexual contact and love are adventures to be celebrated and enjoyed while they last, then return to her essential self as Aphrodite renewed her virginity in the sea at Paphos every year.

The Hestia Temperament

The Goddess most clearly associated with the Epimethean or SJ temperament is Hestia, who was known as Vesta to the Romans. She is the goddess of home and hearth, the center and linchpin of family life, sustainer of traditions-Keeper of the Flame. Hestia is also virginal, not through lack of wanting anything different, but because it is inappropriate to change that state without the formalities of marriage. We can consider her as a woman of faith and belief, many nuns and other religious types are Hestian.

In the course of most women's lives, the person of Hestian temperament will tend to grow into the Hera archetype, that of the wife and preserver of family, community, and tradition. Hera's struggles with Zeus are clear examples of this manifestation, in that she would rage over Zeus' straying with other women-and punish the other woman severely for breaking the sanctity of marriage-but always "stood by her man".

The Athena Temperament

The Goddess most strongly associated with the Promethean or NT temperament is Pallas Athena. Athena is her father's daughter, and competent and at ease surviving and competing in a man's world. She teaches humanity the crafts of agriculture, weaving, and other cultural enhancements, sustains them in logic and in war, and provides a resource of wisdom.

Athenians do not depend on the good graces of anyone outside themselves-they know and provide information as needed. Despite the sense in our society that women should be and are essentially emotional creatures, the Athena archetype in her best manifestation is revered as the competent businesswoman, the scientist, and legalist. She may seem to be virginal, or to lack an appreciation of the need for love and marriage, but will generally, eventually marry.

Athenians will find her fulfillment in areas where her logic and wisdom are valued and appreciated. Athena, like Artemis, may never grow beyond her essential nature, as she is complete and competent in herself. When Athenians are traumatized by society into more negative manifestations of this archetype, they may transition toward the Circe or Medea archetypes, both of whom spend much of their lives in search for greater knowledge of how things work in order to control others, to their eventual downfall.

The Persephone Temperament

Lastly, the Goddess most strongly associated with the Apollonian or NF temperament is Persephone. As Demeter's daughter, she is somewhat smothered under her mother's expectations of her, indeed, in many myths, she doesn't even have a name of her own-she is known as the Kore or Girl. Her inability to stay grounded in her Self and lack of boundaries leads to her capture by Hades while she's out picking flowers, rather than attending to a task assigned by her mother. Hades then attempts to impose his own perspective on Persephone by making her the "Queen of the Underworld", and attempting to bind her to his reality by tricking her into eating the pomegranate seeds. 

Persephone is typically pulled in many directions by the expectations of others, until she integrates herself and realizes that she truly is a part of both worlds-conscious and unconscious combined. She must master her desire to help others, and control her own tendency to lose herself in the process. Persephone's greatest challenge is the development of clear and sufficient boundaries.

In her more mature manifestation, she becomes Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads and guide between the inner and outer worlds. Hecate is balanced, wise, and knows herself well enough to give to others from strength, rather than give herself up through excessive empathy.

People of the Persephone temperament may also, often through surrender to the excess pressure and desires of others, become another Demeter, giving life and sustenance to those around her-giving herself away at the expense of her essential Self. The Demeter manifestation is often prone to depression, for Persephone is aware of what's she's "lost"-her connection to her darker, more spiritual side. Or the Persephonean will move back and forth between Demeter and Hecate archetypes in a fashion that is perfectly self-consistent to her, but incomprehensible to others.

Further Study

The study of personality is a fascinating one because the subject is ourselves. Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology, developed this idea that we carry around these archetypes in our personality, and enact and reenact their mythic triumphs and tragedies. He tapped into a profound source of resonance between human beings and the gods they create to explain the universe around them, and developed the idea of the Collective Unconsciousness to explain where much of the Intuitive information arises. It is through activation of the Collective Unconsciousness that we engage in direct communion with our gods and goddesses, which we typically call mysteries because the results do not accord with our every-day reality.

Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen has made considerable study of the phenomena in her books, "Goddesses in Everywoman", "Gods in Everyman", and "Goddesses in Older Women". In them, she examines how each of the archetypes manifests in every woman and man over the course of their lives, and how we each have preferences for the archetypes we manifest most often. She makes the point that both men and women resonate with archetypes of the opposite gender, and thus makes the point that the study of both the Gods and the Goddesses can help people better understand their behavior.

One of the ways that men and women enact their gender-opposite archetypes is through projection: they tend to find companions who prefer the archetypes they need to see manifested rather than find them within themselves. Thus, a man seeking a traditional wife who will fill the roles he tends to associate with such behavior will be drawn towards someone manifesting Hera, rather than developing the desired qualities of loyalty, faithfulness, and steadfastness himself. A woman, exhibiting the Hera archetype may revert into her negative modality when confronted by her husband's unfaithfulness, and direct her rage towards the "other woman" her husband prefers, which may be an actual person, a job, or sports.

In "Gods in Everyman", Bolen addresses "Father" archetypes, which she depicts through the Gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. She looks at the "Son" archetypes, which she depicts through the Gods Apollo, Hermes, Ares, Hephaestus, and Dionysus. Finally, she looks at the "Missing God", who represents the aspects of men that they typically don't look at in our culture. The book is a valuable tool to help men to grow in self-wisdom and self-worth, and helps them to see which archetypes they manifest most strongly, and which they would prefer to manifest.

"Goddesses in Older Women" addresses the needs and roles of women as they mature and change in life. Here, Bolen draws on archetypal Goddesses of Wisdom from around the world to show women how they become the "wise woman" over time. She also highlights archetypal Goddesses who provide women with their expressions of transformative wrath, healing laughter, and compassion, and then re-examines the original Greek archetypes from "Goddesses in Everywoman" to see how they have changed over time.

Bolen, J. S. :Gods in Everyman: A New Psychology of Men's Lives and Loves. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.Goddesses in Older Women: Archetypes in Women over Fifty. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2001.
Carter, C., Bishop, J., & Lyman-Kravits, S. Keys to College Studying: Becoming an Active Thinker. New York: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Keirsey, D. & Bates, M. Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1984.
Levinson, D. Howard Gardner, (2004, March). Retrieved on July 15, 2007, from
D. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, (2002, September). Retrieved on July 15, 2007, from
No Author. (n. d.) Retrieved on July 20, 2007, from
No Author. Advisor Team, Inc. (n.d.) Retrieved on July 20, 2007, from
No Author. Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. (n. d.) Retrieved on July 20, 2007, from
No Author. The Myers-Briggs Foundation. (n. d.) Retrieved on July 20, 2007, from
No Author. P-Types Personality Types. (n.d.) Retrieved on July 20, 2007, from

(c) 2007 “Goddess Temperaments” by Rt. Rev. Michael A. Starsheen, GKC, ArchDr., SA, H, Temple/Lyceum of Isis of the Stars. All rights reserved.  Photos of Goddess statuary courtesy of Michael A. Starsheen.  Isis of the Stars Lyceum logo, copyright Michael A. Starsheen. Hieroglyphic Isis of the Stars Lyceum logo, copyright Michael A. Starsheen. Other images courtesy of Google image search.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Solilunar Phases

Note: This article was first published as "Solilunar Phases" in the online magazine, Mirror of Isis, volume 1, number 2, (Lughnassadh 2006). You can find the original at, although I've updated and edited this post.

In this essay, I will look at the phases that the Sun and Moon go through over the course of their cycles.  Yes, I said the Sun has phases; I’ll get to that.  First I’m going to look at the Moon because it’s more familiar, and its phases are obvious.  I’m going to look at why the phases arise, how the energies manifest, and then how they create the eight Solar festivals that are widely celebrated around the world.  And I’ll recommend some avenues for creating rituals to celebrate the energies of the Sun’s and Moon’s phases.  (There are more detailed rituals on-line on the COI email list, or you can contact me at

Moon Phases

Everyone is pretty much familiar with the fact that the Moon goes through phases; it’s one of the more obvious astronomical facts of our existence.  It’s marked on most of our calendars, we see the crescent Moon in the evening skies, and watch as it grows bigger and bigger towards Full Moon.  Some of us even watch as it begins to fade away afterwards, for a few nights, but few of us stay up to watch it die away in the wee hours of the morning in its last few nights before New Moon.

At the next level of awareness, we come to realize that there are eight distinct lunar phases: New, Crescent, First Quarter, Gibbous, Full, Disseminating, Last Quarter, and Balsamic.  Each of these eight phases has its own special qualities and energy flows that can be felt and experienced by anyone who wishes to know the exquisite light of the Moon.

The energies arise out of the astrological aspects that are occurring during the lunar month.  

At New Moon, the Sun and Moon are conjunct each other, or exactly at the same location in the same sign.  This means that each of them are expressing the same sign’s energy, although through different “lenses”, the Sun as a direct and essential force, and the Moon as a softer, indirect, and emotional force.  The energy of the signs varies a great deal:

  • Aries: The energy focuses on new, positive personality traits and self-expression.
  • Taurus: The energy focuses on abundance, sensuality, and stability.
  • Gemini: The energy focuses on better communications, learning, and relationships with siblings.
  • Cancer: The energy focuses on home life, food, sustenance, and emotions.
  • Leo: The energy focuses on creativity, self-image, and children.
  • Virgo: The energy focuses on health, service, and order.
  • Libra: The energy focuses on balance, harmony, and peace.
  • Scorpio: The energy focuses on transforming old habits, rebirth, sexuality, and deep emotional cleansing and healing.
  • Sagittarius: The energy focuses on ideals, philosophy, goals, travel, the outdoors, and movement.
  • Capricorn: The energy focuses on consolidation, empowerment, traditions, structure, and planning.
  • Aquarius: The energy focuses on society and social relationships, the future, change, and relationship to the Earth as a whole entity.
  • Pisces: The energy focuses on ideals, dreams, visions, and release of old issues. 

New Moon is a time to begin a new project, perhaps in line with the energy of the sign in which the New Moon occurs.  This is a way of maximizing the use of the energy of the Sun and Moon working together.  Typically, the energy of New Moon is considered active the day before the actual conjunction, the day of it, and the day after it, which can be determined from a good ephemeris, such as the one listed in the bibliography, or a good astrological calendar (also listed in the bibliography, although there are several on the market and on line).  

The second phase, Crescent, lasts about four days, and encompasses several smaller aspects, including the semi-square (45°) and the sextile (60°).  It is a very mutable, changeable, shifting time.  Here the Moon rises just after sunset.  These are considered to represent struggles and opportunities, leading people to overcome inertia and dependencies on past conditioning.  This is a time to start actualizing the project that was started at New Moon, and begin moving it into the future.

The third phase, First Quarter, lasts three days, like New Moon.  Here, the Moon rises at Noon, and is directly overhead at sunset.  It can often be seen in the afternoon sky.  This is the first square (90°) aspect, which provides a challenge to action, and a task to take stock of where you are on your project.  There may be a struggle to energize your meditations, but be prepared to let go of anything that is not working, or rework things until they do.

The fourth phase, Gibbous, also lasts about four days, and encompasses the trine (120°) and the quincunx (150°) aspects.  It rises in the afternoon, and sets after midnight.  The trine energy helps you perfect the project, lending a hand in refining and polishing the work, while the quincunx challenges you to learn its lessons, begin introspection, and analyze your self-expression.

The fifth phase, Full Moon, lasts three days, and encompasses the opposition aspect, when the Moon is in the sign directly opposite the Sun, and they are engaged in a tug of war for control of the available energies.  The Moon rises at sunset and sets at dawn.  This is the peak point of the Moon’s energy flow, when Her power is at Her greatest, because Her separation from the Sun is Her greatest and She is in the sky all night long.  This is the time to relish the perfection of your project, and share it with others, to perform magic, and to share in relationships with one another.

The sixth phase, Disseminating, lasts about four days, and encompasses the aspect sequences in reverse of quincunx and then trine.  The Moon rises later and later after sunset and sets well after dawn.  In this phase you are challenged to assimilate the lessons learned from the monthly project and begin passing them on to your fellow man.  It is time to give from abundance, and to create from synthesis.

The seventh phase, Last Quarter, lasts three days, and encompasses the last square aspect.  Here, the Moon rises at midnight, and sets around noon, shining its light into our sleep and dreams.  You won’t see it in the evening sky at all, so don’t look for it!  Old forms begin to break down, you are sick to death of the project and are ready to release it and prepare for new work.  This is a time of crisis of consciousness and reevaluation.

The last phase, Balsamic, lasts about four days until New Moon, and encompasses the waning Crescent aspects of sextile and semi-square.  The Moon rises later and later after midnight until it is rising just before dawn as a thin, tiny crescent in the dawn sky, very lovely in the blushy glow, if you are up that early.  Maybe Venus is nearby.  This is a time for distilling the wisdom that you have learned over the course of the Moon’s journey through this cycle, in your meditations, practices, projects, magic, and other activities.  It is a time for completing karma, and the release of dead and decaying energies, while you are preparing for transformation into the next cycle.

It is possible to take advantage of the energy at any particular phase to do work with that phase’s action, such as release and transformation with the Balsamic phase.  You simply have to use your calendar to time it correctly, which is greatly helped by one of the calendars that shows the Moon phase for each calendar day.

Or you can choose to work with an entire lunar month’s worth of phases, which is an excellent attunement ritual to truly understand Her energy flows.  If you make the effort to go outside and gaze at the Moon in the sky during each cycle, visually attuning with her light energy as well as simply meditating on Her, you will get a real feel for Her movements and Her rhythms.  That is part of why I included the timing of Her rising in the discussion above.  You can also use the Lunar bath ritual I describe in my book, Universal Alchemy.

Lastly, I have found that it is useful to know under which Moon phase you were born.  It has an affect on you, somewhat stronger for women, but it gets stronger as you attune to the Moon’s energy.  When your phase comes around, you can feel the energy flowing very strongly, like a sudden surge going through you.  And it has karmic implications, also.  Someone born on New Moon is starting a new cycle of karmic lessons, and is approaching the world with fresh, innocent eyes and ideals.  A person born on the Balsamic Moon, on the other hand, is ending a long, hard slog, and is letting go of their accumulated karmic wisdom, and is really tired of shepherding people around.  People at Full Moon are at their peak, blazing beacons of light, energy, and warmth to all around them, although they are also a tangle of opposites.  It gets interesting.

Sun Phases

The Sun goes through phases, just like the Moon, it’s just not as obvious because it doesn’t visibly show a crescent or a partially full face.  What it does show us, if we watch it carefully, is what astronomers call an analemma, which is a pattern of points showing where the Sun is located at the same time each day for your latitude. 

This is not, by any means, a new idea; our ancestors marked hundreds of such patterns, such as rising and setting points of the sun, with stone markers all over the world.  These coincide with horrific myths concerning disasters where the Sun “went crazy in the sky” and rose in the West and set in the East.  A very good book on the topic is Uriel’s Machine, by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas.  Another is Cataclysm, by D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair, which describes the geological and mythological evidence supporting a post-glacial catastrophe around 12,000 years ago.

Figure 1—Analemma
The analemma marks the declination of the sun’s path according to latitude; it’s different for each location.  But it always shows the Sun’s path back and forth between the Tropic of Cancer (at the top) and the Tropic of Capricorn (at the bottom), delimiting the seasons of the year.  When the catastrophe occurred, for some years conditions were so bad that gathering and what agriculture had existed were impossible, and people needed a way to remember how to reconstruct their seasonal knowledge after things began to normalize.

Uriel’s Machine tells the story of how the ancients taught people to construct, in stone or other materials, a local form of sunrise and set analemma that would let them recover their knowledge of the seasonal movements of the sun in the case of another seasonal disaster.  This was retold and recovered from the information contained in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and reconstructed from the authors.  A detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but anyone interested in recreating their own miniature “Stonehenge” and experiencing the Sun’s phases that way should definitely check out this book.
I’m going to start by describing the Sun’s phases for the Northern Hemisphere; later in the article I will reverse the phases for the Southern Hemisphere, as I believe that we need to keep our southern brethren in mind when we do these things.  I also want to speak to something before I get into the actual phases.

We have no real problems dating the Equinoxes and the Solstices, as they fall quite obviously on the Equal Nights ("Equi-noxes"), and Longest/Shortest Days (Solstices), and can be marked both astronomically and astrologically.  For those of you who are not astrologers, the Equinoxes and the Solstices are marked by specific solar actions from the point of view of the Earth, and enters into the cardinal Zodiac signs as follows:

Spring Equinox:  The Sun is at the crossing point of the Zodiac and the equatorial plane, which begins the sign of Aries.  (It is actually at the end of the sign of Pisces astronomically and about to go into the sign of Aquarius, hence the coming of the “Age of Aquarius”.  There are some funky things about the traditional practice of astrology, please bear with me.)  This is shown on the analemma where the equator crosses the figure midway.  The pinch point where it crosses over itself occurs later, in April.

Summer Solstice: The Sun is at its greatest northern extension above the equatorial plane along the Zodiac, and enters the astrological constellation of Cancer (hence the Tropic of Cancer marked on maps and the analemma).

Fall Equinox:       The Sun is again at the crossing point of the Zodiac and the equatorial plane, and begins the astrological sign of Libra.

Winter Solstice:   The Sun is at its greatest southern extension below the equatorial plane along the Zodiac, and enters the astrological sign of Capricorn (hence the Tropic of Capricorn marked on maps, and the bottom of the analemma).

However, the cross-quarter days when the so-called High Festivals are celebrated have drifted off their energetic "peak" dates onto forced calendrical dates--the eve of the given month, such as May Eve (Beltane).  Mostly due to pressure from the Christianization of Europe, I suspect, as by dislocating paganry from its traditional ways, the their energetic connections with the Sun and Earth were broken, which prevented people from backsliding into their natural ways and lapsing from their "newfound faith".

(I celebrate the Solar Festivals because I live in a temperate environment where the energy cycles resonate with them, even though I primarily work with the Egyptian Gods. We can limit ourselves too much when we restrict ourselves to "I only work a Khemetic Path, and I reject/ignore anything that does not fit with that worldview."  If you don't anchor yourself to where you live, it takes very little to blow you away, now doesn't it?  That’s why I’m a priest of Isis and a Druid.)

There is enough "head" of energy behind the "eve of" dates now that they are strong portals for the Solar energy--there is no reason not to celebrate them as the Solar festivals like many do--but I am also investigating the energies of celebrating them in synch with their proper astrological timing.  This corresponds to the center point of the fixed signs, which lies *exactly* half way between the equinox and the solstice; hence, the term "cross-quarter days."

These points can be gleaned from any basic astrological ephemeris.  For the next few years, they were/are:

3 Feb
3 Feb
3 Feb
3 Feb
5 May
4 May
4 May
5 May
7 Aug
6 Aug
6 Aug
7 Aug
8 Nov
6 Nov
6 Nov
7 Nov

Ok.  Phases.  In the Solar Phases, I find that it actually does better to start just before New Sun, rather than on New Sun, but try what you want.  You can start at Full Sun with no problem.  Or at any other phase that works for you.  The same associations given for the Lunar Phases should work for the Sun Phases.

 Balsamic Sun (Northern Hemisphere) is Sahmain on November Eve, equivalent to Last Crescent Moon, as the energy of the Sun is "dead" and fading away. This is why so many traditions feel that the period between Sahmain and New Sun at Yule is a dangerous time--the Sun's energy is draining away and taking us with it.  The Sun is almost at its farthest southern point on the horizon, it is moving south slower and slower each day, and is providing very little in the way of heat.

New Sun is at Yule, with the birth of the Sun and the spark of new energy.  This is why so many sun gods births are celebrated on the solstice or three days later, when the energy has another slight peak.  Everyone knows what this energy feels like, happy, bubbly, and fresh. Today, the Sun reaches its farthest southern point on the Tropic of Capricorn, and begins its turn back towards the north to bring light and warmth back to the Earth.  

First Crescent Sun is at Imbolc on February Eve, when the Sun's energy begins to shine forth into the New Year.  (Although some traditions give this festival any date ranging from January 29th to February 2nd.)  This is when we light the candles to summon the light in the depth of winter, to remind ourselves that the Sun is strengthening.  This is when life in the seeds is quickening.  Day by day, the Sun journeys northward, bringing warmth and growth with it, although it is hard to tell in these dark and cold days of winter.

First Quarter Sun is at Spring Equinox (Oestre), when the Sun's energy is growing warmer, and it is time for action.  In most temperate locations, it is time to prepare the soil, and perhaps to begin planting things in the garden, or at least to look at seed catalogs and dream.  We start seeing the birth of little critters this time of year, and it gives us hope.  Today, the Sun is balanced exactly halfway between North and South on the horizon, and night and day are equal in length.  

Gibbous Sun is at Beltane on May Eve, when the Sun's energy begins to "quicken" and perfect what was started at Oestre.  Warmth is growing stronger, seeds are sprouting, flowers are blooming, and winter is over for good.  The Sun is moving daily closer to his peak, and we are filled with joy.  The Sun is moving northward along the horizon, but slowing as it heads toward solstice.

Full Sun is at Summer Solstice (Litha).  At this time, you are subjected to the full-throated roar of the Sun's energy, Heru Khuti, when his rays are at their strongest.  This is the point of illumination of all the works that have been developed since New Sun at Yule, when the polishing and perfecting of what you have been creating all year may be assessed for finishing as the Sun declines.  Take in the Sun at this time, and prepare for the ripening towards harvest.  The Sun is at its northernmost point on the horizon, grazing the Tropic of Cancer, and begins its journey southward after today.

Disseminating Sun is at Lughnassadh, which is First Harvest on August Eve.  The Sun's energy is still strong, but it is beginning to fade away.  The first fruits are ripening, and we are gathered to distribute those fruits of the Sun's energy among ourselves in thanks for his glory.  You can still feel the warmth, but you can also feel the dying.  The sun daily heads further southward, fast, for now.

Last Quarter Sun is at Fall Equinox (Mabon), and is the deeper Harvest Festival, when the Sun is truly dying, and the harvest is fully underway.  This is when we gather for our great thanksgiving to celebrate the grains and fruits and vegetables that the Sun has given us through our efforts over the course of his cycle.  Drink deep of the sun at this time, for the Sun will shine deep into your heart and soul now.  This is the time that Persephone leaves Demeter for her yearly sojourn with her husband, Hades, and the world begins to shut down for another winter.  Today, night and day are of equal length, and the Sun is exactly halfway between North and South on the horizon.

 And we return to Sahmain, Balsamic Sun, and Last Crescent.

Each Solar Festival has its own quality, and there are innumerable ways of celebrating them, and traditions that have grown up around how to celebrate them.  Obviously I don’t have the time or the space to go into those here.  However, I can make a few suggestions. 

A wonderful, if lengthy, way to experience the Sun’s phases is similar to the Moon phase journey, and involves dedicating a year to the cycle.  Start on Sahmain, or Yule, or even on Midsummer (Litha), and experience the ebb and flow of the Sun’s energies as it moves through its course.  At each festival, you attune with the phase energy according to the discussion above, recognizing whether the energy is increasing, decreasing, or static at the equinoxes and solstices.  Feel the flows as it shifts around the analemma.

Although the Solar phases take a while to experience, the energy flows are ecstatic, and the connections they make between you, the Sun, and the land around you are something that you will never forget.  

At any phase, if you use the meditation I describe in my book, Universal Alchemy, on the Solar Bath to open up, absorb, and vibrate the Sun's energies at each Solar Phase to make a connection, you will very deeply and profoundly resonate with the energy of each phase.  Even if afterwards all you ever do from then on is simply gather with friends to celebrate the 8 solar festivals, you will always know *why* they are celebrated, and will always be able to teach everyone else why they are celebrated the way they are.

Oh, and for those who see the Sun as feminine.  Just change the pronouns, ok? The Sun is the Sun, male, female, or neuter.  The ritual works however you invoke Grainne. Or Ra.  Or Khepera, who has never revealed what sex it is, and I'm not about to ask it.

Solar Phases in the Southern Hemisphere

Your calendar is the reverse of that in the Northern Hemisphere, so the Balsamic Sun falls on May Eve, rather than October 31st.

Balsamic Sun: Sahmain, May Eve
New Sun: Yule, Winter Solstice, June 21st
First Crescent: Imbolc, August Eve
First Quarter: Oestre, Spring Equinox, Sept. 22nd
Gibbous: Beltane, November Eve
Full Sun: Litha, Summer Solstice, Dec. 21st
Disseminating: Lughnassadh, February Eve
Last Quarter:  Mabon, Fall Equinox, March 20th

I think I have that right relative to your calendar.  I'm pretty good at reading upside down and backwards.  <vbg> Just kidding.

So give this a try and see how it works for you.


Allan, D. S., and J. B. Delair, Cataclysm!: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 BC, Bear & Company, Santa Fe, NM, 1997.  Published as When the Earth Nearly Died in the UK in 1995.

The Astrolabe World Ephemeris: 2001-2050 at Midnight, Whitford Press, Atglen, PA, 1998.
Cunningham, Scott, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 2003.

Hickey, Isabel M. Astrology: A Cosmic Science, CRCS Publications, Sebastopol, CA, 1992.
Knight, Christopher, and Robert Lomas, Uriel’s Machine: Uncovering the Secrets of Stonehenge, Noah’s Flood, and the Dawn of Civilization, Fair Winds Press, Gloucester, MA, 1999, 2001. 

Lofthus, Myrna, A Spiritual Approach to Astrology, CRCS Publications, Sebastopol, CA, 1983.

Maynard, Jim, Celestial Guide 2006, Quicksilver Productions, Ashland, OR, 2006.

Rodriguez, Dr., Analemma diagram,

Starsheen, M. A. Universal Alchemy. Lulu Press, online, 2005;