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THE LUNATION CYCLE

Leyla Raël

A lunation cycle establishes a period of approximately thirty days during which the relationship between the Sun and the Moon passes through a cycle of changes (aspects), and the Moon undergoes a series of transformations which we witness as the phases of the moon. Diagram A illustrates the structure and names of the phases. Diagram B illustrates the fact that these phases are not a result of the moon's motion alone, but of the changing relationship between the sun and moon as seen from the earth. The earth is a very important factor in relation to the lunation cycle because it is the observer's position; it symbolizes the need of organisms and persons on earth for the new cycle of growth and development the lunation cycle represents.

What we actually see from earth is that when the sun and moon come together for their conjunction (new moon), the moon is in the sky all day with the sun. The sun's brilliance obscures the lesser light of the moon, so it is not seen by day. Neither is it present in the night sky, for at night it is below the plane of the horizon with the sun. When the moon moves far enough away from the sun to be seen at night, it appears as a thin silver crescent in the western sky after sunset. Each evening the moon appears a little further east of the western horizon toward the middle of the sky, and a little larger. It waxes as it reflects more and more of the Sun's light to earth.

When the moon has moved far enough away from the sun to appear directly overhead at sunset, its shape has become what we call the first quarter moon, indicating that its relationship with the sun spans one quarter of the sky. It appears somewhat like the capital letter D — a semicircle with a straight edge, somewhat like a scythe, cutting across the night sky. After the first quarter, the shape of the moon becomes convex instead of concave. During the gibbous phase the moon continues to appear a little further toward the eastern horizon each night, until the full face of the moon rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west. The sun and moon are now on opposite sides of the earth. The moon reflects maximum sunlight to earth, and the moon is as far away from the sun as it can get. This phase is appropriately called the full moon. When the alignment between the sun, moon and earth is exact, a lunar eclipse occurs because the light of the sun casts the shadow of the earth across the face of the moon.

After the full moon, the moon wanes as it passes through its disseminating phase, and reflects less and less of the Sun's light to earth. Each night after sunset it appears at the eastern horizon a little later and a little smaller. When it rises at the eastern horizon at midnight, its shape has again become like a capital D, but the shape of this last quarter moon is oriented in the opposite direction from the first quarter moon. The sun now appears to be chasing the moon, for the moon is above the horizon at dawn, and is banished from view by the Sun’s brilliance at sunrise.

Eventually, a thin silver crescent (turned in the opposite direction from the crescent-phase moon) rises just ahead of the Sun. This balsamic phase closes the cycle, for when the small crescent appears at dawn it is almost immediately outshone by the rising sun. Finally the moon no longer appears before the sun and does not appear at night.            

Several days later at sunset, the moon appears again as a thin sliver over the western horizon. One cycle has ended and another begun. This new moon, however, does not take place in the same place in the sky or the zodiac as the previous new moon. It occurs about 30° — one zodiacal sign — away.

The symbolism of the lunation cycle is so graphic that it has been interpreted since the beginning of time. In ancient times the sun and moon — the two Lights — were the supreme sources or agents through which life energy flowed to earth, and they were worshipped as god and goddess. The sun's radiant energy was active, constant, and so forceful that no mortal could behold its countenance directly and escape blindness. Just as the Sun could not be looked at directly, neither could its life-giving energy be directly assimilated by earthly creatures. The Moon, on the other hand, was considered passive and reflective. It was thought to distribute the energy of the sun in assimilable doses, in increments usable by organisms on earth.

All ancient symbolism was essentially a generalization and sanctification of natural, biological activities and processes. The new moon was held to be a sacred time when the god and goddess cohabited. The moon was caught in the passionate embrace of the sun, and she became charged with his life-sustaining power. As the moon waxed, she gradually distributed the sun's light to earth, making a gift of it to earthly creatures. At full moon, she became the equal of the sun, releasing to earth the full strength of the sun's revelation to her. Then, as if because of her gift to earth, she began to wane, yearning for the embrace of the sun in which she would again be filled with his potency. While the moon waxed, the creatures of earth imbibed the solar radiance; the earth was fertile and living things grew. While the moon waned, vitality was gradually withdrawn; living things had patiently to wait to be once more renewed by the god and goddess's gift.

Today we interpret the soli-lunar cycle in less poetic terms. For us, it basically symbolizes the characteristic pattern whereby undifferentiated solar power is distributed throughout our sphere as life energy. It represents the rhythm whereby life energy circulates through and within all organic entities, be they plants, animals, persons, or even sociocultural entities such as business firms or nations.

The conjunction of the sun and moon at new moon symbolizes a new impulse for growth. The new cycle, however, does not usually start out with a 'bang.' Relief from the previous month's pressures may be felt at new moon, but what will develop in the coming month emerges gradually through the three days following new moon. During this period of 'infancy,' what seeks to develop is not yet an actual fact, but only a possibility which must be nurtured to fruition over the coming weeks. Moreover, the beginning of a new cycle is always surrounded by the 'ghosts' — the unfinished business or toxic remains — of the past. The zodiacal sign in which a new moon occurs represents both the quality or type of the new impulse for growth, and the antidote or creative solution for dealing with the leftovers of the previous cycle.

The crescent phase begins when the sun and moon are 45' apart, an aspect called a semisquare. The crescent moon often appears as a bright silver sliver surrounded by a dim outline promising the full moon to come. This foreshadowing of fullness is not merely sunlight reflected by the moon. It is 'earth-shine' - light from the sun reflected by the earth onto the moon and back to earth. The crescent moon thus symbolizes our urge to actively participate in the unfolding process of soli-lunar development, to mobilize and organize our energies toward some kind of fulfillment. As we move in a future-oriented direction, however, whatever has been left as unfinished business from the previous cycle may 'haunt' us until we definitely come to terms with it. A sextile between the sun and moon occurs during this crescent phase, when the distance between the sun and moon reaches sixty degrees. What we earlier felt as mere relief from old pressures or as a vague possibility may become clearer now, as we organize our endeavors and establish a momentum toward full moon fulfillment.

At the first quarter, the sun and moon are in square, 90' apart. The momentum we established during the crescent phase is tested. By the time of first quarter, whatever is developing in us or in our lives needs to be definitely established in a clearly delineated direction. This may mean making clear choices between possibilities. If the new direction is to continue to develop and eventually prosper, old forms of behavior, thinking and/or feeling may need to be abandoned. At this phase in the soli-lunar cycle, the moon moves outside the orbit of the earth toward the orbit of Mars. The first quarter moon is thus a symbol of emergence, of growing independence and commitment. During this first quarter phase a trine forms between the sun and moon when the moon reaches 120° ahead of the sun. It may mark a time of harmonious expression, if we are decidedly committed to what we are doing.

The gibbous phase follows first quarter. It begins when the sun and moon are 135° apart, an aspect called a sesquiquadrate. During this phase, whatever was decided at first quarter must be lived with. The new impulse released at new moon should now be definitely established as a direction which must be intensely pursued, stabilized and adjusted. Inner or outer obstacles may be encountered, and they must be overcome. We may be required to exhibit a great deal of perseverance during this phase.

The full moon is the soli-lunar opposition. (It represents the culmination of the cycle. Whatever was made possible at new moon and established at first quarter now reaches the apex of its outer development. For better or worse, success or failure, we see it for what it is in the stark light of the full moon, which brings illumination. This clear, objective realization represents the end of the kind of spontaneous growth characterizing the first half of the lunation cycle, and it marks the beginning of another process. On one hand, a process of assimilating and understanding the experiences of the first half of the cycle begins. On the other, if what developed during the first half of the cycle is something that could be made generally useful, it can, during the second half, be shared with others, evolved, refined, and adapted to function within a broader context. If, however, what was developed during the waxing moon was of temporary value (which does not mean it was unnecessary), the waning moon may challenge us to let go of situations, relationships or things that have become obsolete. By doing so, we make way for new growth and development in the following cycle.

The disseminating phase begins when the Sun and Moon are again 135° — a sesquiquadrate — apart. During this period, we may feel a desire to be more socially or mentally active, to share with others what has been happening for us since new moon. In the telling or thinking, we may become aware of what the month's activities have meant for us, how we feel about them, and what we think our next step is. If we encounter obstacles during this phase, they would most likely be the resistance of others (or ourselves) to our new points of view, which may challenge more familiar ways of thinking, feeling, and doing. During this phase, another trine forms between the Sun and Moon when the moon is 120° behind the Sun. This may be a time of mutual understanding and harmonious cooperation with others.

At last quarter the Sun and Moon are in square (90° aspect) again. The moon moves back within the orbit of the Earth. Having moved toward the orbit of Mars at first quarter, the Moon returns toward the orbit of Venus, bearing results which must be assimilated and integrated within. The harvest we reap at last quarter is ideally one of insight. If we have been open and attentive, the results of the cycle since new moon have changed us. Our capacities enhanced, our experience enriched, we are challenged to grow and change. Whatever does not harmonize with our growth and insight must now be left behind. By questioning previous assumptions, we may open ourselves to new ideas and ideals. These may be opportunely presented to or deeply understood by us when the Sun and Moon are again in sextile (60° aspect apart) toward the end of this phase.

The balsamic phase is marked by the inverted crescent. It begins when the sun and moon are 45° apart again, in semi-square. As the final phase in the cycle, it is a transition or 'seed-period' between the cycle now ending and the next yet to begin. During this closing phase the results of the entire cycle are essentialized, concentrated to become the foundation for the future cycle. Our consciousness expectantly and introspectively now turns toward the next new Moon.   

The Shambhala Astrological Calendar 1982 was written by Leyla Raël and designed by Antony Milner, with the assistance of Ricia Doren, Kathleen Fitzgerald, Sandra Maitri, and the inspiration of Dane Rudhyar.

 

Used with the kind permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill.

 

Mindfire