THE LUNATION CYCLE
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 Suns brilliance at sunrise.
a thin silver crescent (turned in the opposite direction from the crescent-phase
moon) rises just ahead of the Sun. This
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.
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
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.
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.
we interpret the soli-lunar cycle in less poetic terms. For us, it basically
symbolizes the characteristic pattern
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.
of the sun and moon at new
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.
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.
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
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.
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
begins when the Sun and Moon are again 135°
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.
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.
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
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.