Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Lunation Cycle in natal charts

After completing the 30 days of the Moon journaling project, I wanted to get back to a question I was asked concerning what the phase of the Moon under which you were born has to do with the spiritual lessons you're challenged to meet in this lifetime. I've seen two models for this. One is Dane Rudhyar's, which refines the Lunar cycle into 8 phases, and the other is a more Eastern one that divides the cycle into 28 mansions, one for each day. Both can be useful, although I'm more familiar with Rudhyar's version, and will use it here.

The Lunar cycle starts at New Moon, when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction. Since the Moon moves roughly 12.5 degrees per day, we usually treat the day before the actual conjunction to the day after the conjunction as representing the New Moon phase. A Solar eclipse can only happen on the day when the Moon is exactly conjunct and in front of the Sun. A good ephemeris (or astrologer) can tell you if you were born under an eclipse.

After the Moon reaches 13.5 degrees ahead (counter-clockwise) of the Sun, it is in the Crescent phase. We see it in the sky after sunset, setting soon after. The Crescent grows a little wider each day, until it gets about 78 degrees ahead of the sun, which starts the First Quarter phase that peaks with a 90-degree square to the Sun, followed by another day's 13.5-degree journey onward. The Moon's brightness continues to grow through the Gibbous phase, coming closer and closer to Full, which starts when the Moon is at about 167 degrees counterclockwise from the Sun's position, peaks at 180 degrees opposite the Sun, and then wanes off the third day 13.5 degrees later.

The Full Moon rises at sunset, reaches the meridian overhead at midnight, and sets at dawn the next day. If the angles between the Moon's and Sun's orbits meet (the nodes), then a Lunar Eclipse may occur at Full Moon. On way to remember the waxing phase is that the Moon will always be up in the early part of the night, which is why it is the cycle we so often see and are aware of.

After the waxing cycle is over, the Moon begins to wane—She looses light every day, starting with Her Disseminating phase. This appears almost as a rewind of the Gibbous phase, with each day shaving off a little more of the curved, lighted face. We often view the waning phase as the Moon being behind the Sun (e.g., clockwise) to make the degree calculations easier. When the Disseminating Moon reaches 104 degrees clockwise from the Sun's position, She shifts to Last Quarter phase, which peaks when the Moon reaches 90 degrees clockwise from the Sun. Each of the waning phases rises later and later at night, with Last Quarter rising at midnight and setting around noon the next day; it and the Disseminating phase are often seen early in the morning in the western sky.

The final phase before New is the Balsamic phase, ranging from 13.5 degrees behind the Sun to 78 degrees behind, and reprises the Crescent phase in reverse. Each Balsamic crescent rises later and thinner each day in the eastern sky before dawn. It is probably the least seen phase of all because most people aren't up that early.

One of my astrological teachers told us that the Planets are our Teachers in this lifetime, while the Signs they are in are the spiritual lessons we're here to learn, and the Houses are the classrooms of life in which the lessons get taught. Aspects affect the lessons much like being in a school; easy aspects, like the trine represent smooth cooperation between the different lessons, while difficult aspects, such as squares and oppositions, can lead to conflicting lesson goals and tension to resolve.

So as a Teacher, what is the Moon standing for? She is our inner self, our intuition, dreams, wishes, emotions, needs, desires, nurturing of self and others, and a model for femininity, especially of the motherly nature. It is important that we all learn to accept and find spiritual balance with all of our Lunar issues, because we otherwise project them onto other people, and get distressed when they don't match up to our unconscious expectations. From a Karmic point of view, the phase of the Moon can help us understand the spiritual lesson we chose to learn in this lifetime, and where we are in the process of manifesting it, which can take several lifetimes.

I'm not going to go deeply into the different meanings of the planets, signs, and houses; that information is covered much more adequately elsewhere. What I propose to do here is to give an overview of what it may be like to be born under a particular lunar phase, and give an example with signs and houses to reinforce it. Except for the very last example, none of these represent any actual persons, living, dead, or otherwise, that I know of. The last one I take full responsibility for.

For those born at New Moon, you are truly in a spiritual mode of great transition, as the previous lesson falls away and your spirit awakens reborn to pursue the new lesson it has chosen. If the New Moon is eclipsed, that may either represent challenges you will have to overcome in getting to the start of your lesson, or a need to work inwardly rather than outwardly to find your path. Think about this phase as the moment of setting out on a long journey, determining what you will need to take with you, and what challenges you will meet to get there. Your Sun and Moon are generally in the same Sign, so your outward ego expression (Sun) and conscious self is directed toward learning the same lesson as the Moon, which can help you find your way.

So, let's say you have New Moon in Capricorn in the 7th house. The 7th house is the classroom of relationships with others, both romantic and everyday. At least part of your spiritual journey this time is to learn how to get your needs met through relationships with others while respecting their needs as individuals. The sign of Capricorn is a difficult teacher here, as Capricorns tend to emphasize tradition, order, and control; part of your lesson may be to learn how to let the other person in the relationship have needs of their own, and to express them without fear of you dismissing or taking them over. You would want to particularly focus on your needs for nurturing and images of the archetypal mother figure to clearly define them to yourself, so that you do not try to force the other person to fit your unconscious model—which is unlikely to be theirs!

For those born during the waxing Crescent phase, this is a time when you begin to define and refine what you plan to do on this current spiritual journey. While the New Moon is like the beginning of an idea taking shape, people born in the Crescent phase begin to make the idea manifest. But whatever the spiritual creation, idea, lesson, or path, it is still a time of innocence and experimentation, a time to play around with new concepts to see what fits. Just as the Crescent appears to gain light each night after sunset, so do Crescent people gain definition in this phase of their spiritual journey.

For example, say that in your natal chart you have a Crescent Moon in Pisces in the 5th house. Pisces, ruled by Neptune, can be very compatible with the Moon's intuitive, emotional nature, and can drive great creativity, which the 5th house of children, luck, gambling, and vice can help or hinder. The energy of Pisces thrives at the boundaries of the physical world and the Otherworld, bringing images, intuitions, dreams, and insights to people. Someone with a Crescent Moon in Pisces will find these images fascinating, like watching clouds or soap bubbles, and want to play further with them; however, the downside of Pisces can be a drift toward nightmare, drugs, and dropping out. Much depends on the other planets in the chart, and the individual's desire to apply a degree of discipline to what he or she chooses to do. A Crescent Moon in Pisces reflects a Sun in either Pisces, Aquarius, or possibly Capricorn, each of which bring their own vibes to the journey, and can reinforce or counter some of the positive traits of the Moon in this sign. One may find oneself surviving a few "lucky" scrapes, only to grow a bit wiser and more attentive in the next lesson!

The First Quarter Moon phase brings a powerful challenge to the spiritual creation and growth begun during a Crescent Moon phase lifetime. Here, the Moon is caught halfway between New and Full, roughly 90 degrees forward of the Sun. It's as though the Sun and Moon are pulling a person in different directions! Think of it as though your body is just getting into Summer in June, while your emotions are busy watching leaves drop in the Fall—a bit confusing to say the least. But this phase gives you chances to reflect on your spiritual path so far, and to make changes, amendments, or deletions as needed. Seize the chance and let go of anything that isn't working well.

For someone with First Quarter Moon in Taurus in the 2nd house, your lunar nature seeks to put down roots, make things steady and stable, and most of all, to go slow. The second house is about personal possessions, property, money, and needs, and you may find yourself challenged not to cling to things. Just because that threadbare, ratty old shirt makes you feel comfortable and you've worn it since you were in high school doesn't mean that it's not ready for the rag bin! Since your Sun is likely to be in Aquarius, your ego nature is often so focused on the future and things to come that you get into a tug of war with your need to nest. The spiritual challenge here is to find a balance between running headlong into new things and hanging on to every old thing you've ever encountered. Spiritually, this could manifest in a desire to change one's religion, or to examine a more earth-centered spirituality.

People born during the Gibbous Moon phase, when the light is increasing toward Full shine very brightly, and often work very hard polishing the last edges off of their spiritual creation they began a while back. But there may be a bit of a feeling of pushing for final exams, because your efforts are not yet completely there yet! You may choose to be careful and considerate in making any large or small changes at this stage because your spiritual lesson feels just about right, but a little reflection and judicious reworking can make ordinary artwork into a masterpiece.

Take the example of someone with Gibbous Moon in Leo in the 7th house, most likely four or five signs ahead of the Sun (which is back in Taurus or Aries). The lesson of Leo is about shining your light in the world before others, being seen and appreciated, while the 7th house tends to represent your relationships with others, both romantic and routine. Part of the challenge you may find here is in letting your partner shine his or her light also, and in learning to damp yourself down a bit so you don't overwhelm them. If your Sun is in Taurus, you may find yourself struggling stubbornly over the spotlight, or constantly needing reassurance that your partner appreciates you. If the Sun is in Aries, a fiery sign of self-creation, you may find yourself really driven into making powerful partnerships that help you climb to the top of whatever field you choose. The spiritual lesson here would be that you cannot "go it alone," but must appreciate others to gain the appreciation you seek.

The Full Moon phase is the peak of the growth cycle, when everything finally comes together and you shine the brightest of the cycle. The Moon is directly opposite the Sun, reflecting back its full glory. You could visualize the spiritual nature of this like an artist whose work is finally being presented in an important gallery, or who has gained recognition for his or her work from the critics. Although the Sun and Moon are in opposite signs, they constitute a polarity that often works extremely well together, and reinforce one another. This is not necessarily going to be an easy life, but it will be one where you achieve the goals that you set way back in your New Moon lifetime.

What might this look like? Suppose that your Moon is in Libra in the 4th house while your Sun is in Aries in the 10th. The 4th house is often associated with the mother, with the foundation of life, and sometimes those things you hide in the dark, while the 10th is the house of careers, the father, and the point where you are most out in the world. The lesson of Libra is balance and harmony; your lunar nature needs peace and for people to cooperate and work together. You may draw on the nurturing strength of your Full Moon to help mediate conflicts, bring creative harmony to the new projects your Sun tries to bring into being, or to suffer from indecision over the promptings of the Sun to be out and doing things. The spiritual goal is to bring both sides of yourself into balance so that you can achieve the greatest good out of your growth so far, but there will also be challenges that can make it difficult.

Once the Full Moon begins to wane, it enters the Disseminating phase, which mirrors the Gibbous phase in reverse. As the Moon moves away from full, the light begins to decrease—but there is still quite a bit of it to go around. For someone born during the Disseminating phase, this is often a time to teach others about the spiritual lessons you've learned so far, to pass along all the insights you've gained, and to begin to give back some of the "light" you've picked up during the waxing phases. The Moon lies 4 or 5 signs clockwise from the Sun now, bringing the challenges of maturity to your spiritual path.

Suppose that your Moon is in Gemini in the 8th house, while your Sun is in Aquarius in the 3rd. The 8th house is the opposite of the 2nd, concerned with other people's money, property, sex, death, and the occult, while the 3rd house concerns childhood friends, schooling, and general communications (Gemini's natural house). Your lunar nature will want to communicate about all these important subjects, perhaps as a political reporter or investment analyst (or a trance medium), while your Sun in Aquarius seeks new ways to reframe the old conversations and generate new buzz. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the people inventing new ways to use global communications and the Internet don't have something like this in their charts. In any case, your lunar nature craves interconnection and stimulation, while telling everyone about the things you've heard or learned.

At Last Quarter Moon, we're once again 90 degrees away from the Sun, but in a diminishing aspect rather than growing. A person born with this configuration will face challenges of letting go of things that do not serve them on their journey anymore, even though they've become dear after you created and grew with them all those lifetimes. Part of the process of spiritual growth is assessment; some things you've learned remain useful soul tools to take with you, as are some karmic attachments you've formed to people or places. But your lessons now will be to consider them carefully and let them go with grace if it is time to do so. It can feel a bit like retiring after a long career, or seeing the house empty after the kids are grown, but this lifetime can also be a time of enjoying quieter times and the strength of lessons learned.

If your Last Quarter Moon is in Sagittarius in the 6th house, your Sun is probably in Pisces in the 9th or 10th house. The Sagittarian energy is also involved in communications, like Gemini, but often over longer distances. Your lunar nature will find fascination with foreign lands and languages, travel, and seeking new horizons, while your Sun in Pisces may be happy just to sit and watch rainbows. Or it could draw you toward a shamanic path, where you seek the Otherworld to gain new knowledge and bring it back to share with others; the point is that in the 6th house, your Moon seeks vocation and health. You want to work, to make things better, to leave the world a better place for your having been in it. Concentrate on getting your talents behind your Piscean psychism and dreaminess, and find ways to make it work for yourself and others. Or go on a spiritual quest to distant, unexplored lands and sample as many unknown psychoactive herbs as you can find! You never know; that may just be what you need to do at this point in your spiritual evolution.

Finally, there is the waning Crescent or Balsamic Phase. If you were observing the Moon on the day you were born, you would have to be up in the early hours just before dawn, since the thin sliver of Moon is only visible in the last hour or two before sunrise. This phase represents the last stage of letting go of karmic debts, of settling your spiritual accounts, and of consolidating your gains from this cycle before its end. Many of the lessons you encounter will be about endings, taking leave, and moving onward, and you may find yourself getting restless if you stay too long in one place, or with one person. (Or that could just be me, this is the phase I was born under.)

Take for instance someone born with Moon in Libra in the 9th house and Sun in Scorpio in the 10th house (me again). Having my Moon in Libra has driven me to find quiet places and peace as much as possible, despite often being in situations where there was a lot of conflict going on around me. I've moved a lot, and often felt that I never really set down roots, but those I have set down go deep. The tension I experience between my Moon and Sun is often when I feel wounded by something done to me, and my Scorpio Sun kicks up my anger, which can get ugly. It leaves my lunar side feeling terribly embarrassed by it all, and wanting to hide. But you cannot hide from yourself, you can only sit down and figure out how to do better the next time. Spiritually, I find myself drawing on many methods and ideas that come to me through reading or through past-life memories, which I try to make harmonize with the experiences I'm having this time around. All I know is that this long cycle has been an adventure, and I look forward to seeing what comes up next time around at New Moon.
Rudhyar, D. (1967). The Lunation Cycle: A key to the understanding of personality. Santa Fe, NM: Aurora Press.


  1. Michael,
    Could you please suggest a chart of the yearly moon phases for the last 75 years? I know someone has calculated all that.

  2. Lorna Cahall asked about a chart that provides yearly moon phases for the last 75 years. The best source would be an astrological ephemeris, which typically indicates the New, First Qtr, Full, and Last Qtr moon dates by month as well as the daily position of the Moon throughout each month.

    If you figure that a major Moon phase (e.g., New, Full) commences a day before and ends a day after the listed date in the ephemeris, then the intervening phases fill in the rest of the days.

    Also, any software that generates a natal chart for an individual would show the position of the Moon and Sun, and also give you the house positions of the two bodies. Here's where you need to look again at the positions of the two bodies and determine the number of degrees that separate them. You can get a crude idea based on the number of signs between them, but for computing the actual number of degrees, remember that each sign has 30 degrees.

    So, for instance, my Sun is at 8 degrees of Scorpio, and my Moon is at 13 degrees of Libra. Because the Moon is clockwise from the Sun, I would subtract 13 from 30 to get the location back into Libra and add the degrees of my Sun:

    30 - 13 + 8 = 17 + 8 = 25. This is over 13 degrees back from the Sun, so it would not be a New Moon, but must instead be in the Balsamic Crescent phase.

    New Moon occurs when the Moon and the Sun are at the same point, i.e. 0 degrees separation. So you would use a range of 13.5 degrees clockwise to 13.5 degrees counterclockwise to find a New Moon phase in the chart.

    First Quarter Moon occurs when the Moon and Sun are 90 degrees apart counterclockwise. So anything from 76.5 degrees to 103.5 degrees counterclockwise from the Sun is First Quarter. Similarly Last Quarter is 90 degrees clockwise off the Sun's position and can be checked quickly. Remembering that each sign is 30 degrees in length, Quarter Moons range from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 signs from the Sun.

    Full Moon occurs when the Sun is exactly opposite the Sun, at 180 degrees, e.g., the opposite sign. The Full Moon lunation ranges from 166.5 to 193.5 degrees from the Sun.

    If the Moon is in any other position, it's in one of the intermediate phases.

    I hope this helps, but we can continue the discussion if need be.