Witches and the Moon
Watching the moon
I knew myself completely,
no part left out.
Izumi Shikibu "The Ink Dark Moon"
So, what's the fascination that Witches have with the Moon? Well, the Moon is one of the symbols (perhaps even *the* symbol) of the Goddess, representing the feminine aspects of the divinity (as opposed to the masculine, with its Sun symbolism). Its progress through the sky, ever changing as she moves graciously through her phases (echoing the cycle of life itself), creates a sense of wonder in us as we ponder her cycles. Casting our eyes on the world around us, we see that lots of things within nature are timed around the phases of the Moon.
There are the tides that her presence causes (helping provide a cleansing of the seashores, and provide a host of creatures with a renewing habitat), and even the timing of reproduction (just look at the female fertility cycle of approximately 28 days). Add to that the sheer beauty of the Moon herself, providing a focus for meditation, a source of inspiration and the gentle and beautiful light that the Moon provides for us, renewing the world around us by night into a beautiful place that inspires all of us! (Who hasn't looked out upon a Full Moon with awe at how the scenery is made beautiful by the gentle shimmering light, much kinder than the harsh light of day!) It becomes easier to understand the veneration Witches (and so many others) have for the Moon.
People who track the moon keep a record of its phases, its location in relation to astrology, and even numerology. In trying to understand what the flow is, and work with it, many non-magickal people work with lunar energies, such as farmers, gardeners and hunters.
To Wiccans, the phases of the moon have special meaning, giving structure to the levels of energy available for magickal workings. The phases are modified by the position of the moon within the lunar and the zodiac years. With all these correspondences it may seem quite confusing as to when you can actually focus on any specific workings. As a general rule the phasing correspondences (Full, Dark, waxing, waning, etc.) are the strongest influences, followed by its placement within the lunar year, and lastly by the astrological month. I tend to think of it like the effects of three magnets upon a metallic pendulum, the Phase being the strongest magnet, followed by the Position within the Lunar Year as a smaller magnet, and the Astrological Correspondence being the weakest one still. All three have their part to play in deciding the position the pendulum will come to rest, but in lessening degrees, though when they all align together then it is portent of very strong energy for the task that is indicated.
Whenever you have need of anything,
once in a month, and better it be
when the moon is full,
you shall assemble in some secret place
and adore the spirit of Me
who is Queen of all the Wise.
~ from Aradia, Queen of the Witches
You may recognize the above lines of poetry from our Drawing Down the Moon ritual. They are attributed to the Goddess as Her words to all witches and are probably the earliest Wiccan 'proof’ of why we hold lunar rituals (as opposed to why our ancestors may have done so, for example). Although some people say that only Full Moon rituals are esbats, they are incorrect. Esbats are Rituals held at moontime, new, full or dark. They are rarely static rituals. In fact they probably should constantly change as they are primarily concerned with inner workings. Esbats are not Holidays (holy days), rather are designated times of the month where the electro-magnetic pull on the earth allows for greater power.
The Esbats are holy days marking the different phases of the moon. Covens usually meet on a specific phase and important rituals are often performed on these "special" evenings. Not every Pagan or Witch holds a formal celebration in honor of every phase of the moon-- to do so would be a bit ridiculous and leave little time for other pursuits, as the moon is always in one phase or another!
The eternal rhythm of the Moon exerts a powerful influence over Earth and all her creations. The phases of the Moon, along with the astrological signs she moves through, create a framework by which we can time our magical workings.
Some mythological associations are:
Diana- the virgin on Earth, the huntress rules the time of the New and Waxing Moons. She is the protectress of animals and children.
Selene- the mother in the sky, she is the Full Moon.
Hecate- the wise crone who resides under the earth, the Waning and Dark Moons are her domain. The dark of the Moon is her time of greatest power.
A Note About "Void Moons"
Those of us with astrological calendars have probably noted a lunar phase note commonly seen in Wiccan literature -- the void moon.
As the Moon moves through each sign of the zodiac, she makes aspects to other planets. She is called void-of-course when she has completed all the aspects she can within that sign, but has not yet entered the next. These passages can last anywhere from hours to a day or two. During a void-of-course Moon, things are in neutral so the gears can shift into the next sign, making it a time to kick back and relax. Many believe that magical workings done at this time produce false starts and error -- that you shouldn't start anything you want to have long lasting, concrete and tangible effects. However, as the void Moon is about the unconscious mind and unconscious tasks, it is a very good time for astral projection, trancework, meditation, divination and other mental workings.
Honoring and celebrating the passage of the year through each season and moon phase is an integral part of the Pagan lifestyle and spirituality. Our holy days are not based on events from the past, but on the ever-present celestial events which measure our days and are the cause of the seasons.
Sunrise, Sunset, Moonrise, Moonset, and Twilight Calculator
Earth's Seasons List (Equinoxes, Solstices, Perihelion, and Aphelion)
Phases of the Moon List