A time for retreat, contemplation: the Dark of the Moon

I was born in the very last hours of Moondark…and find that it’s best to note Moondark periods in my new diary each year. At these times, each month, I find that I need even more time than usual (having several 12th House planets anyway) to retreat, be in silence, drift, and dream…let my mind wander.

This is what I am able to do today, on the last day of Moondark. I’d be interested in others’ experiences of this phenomenon – and its impact especially at those times which happen to us all, when LIFE requires us to engage, to be busy, to stay focused. What are you doing today as you wait for the Cancer New Moon tomorrow?

Having googled “Writing about Moondark”, I found this fine article, a compilation of others’ writings by  astrologer  Molly Hall. (see full attribution at the end.) It is well written and informative. I do hope you enjoy the read – and please do leave a comment especially if your experiences resonate in any way, either with what I have said or  in response to this article. You can also read an article I wrote last year about Moondark on  Writing from the Twelfth House .

When is the Dark Moon?:

Also known as the “dead” Moon, this is the time when there is no solar reflection, leaving the lunar face in darkness. The dark lasts about three days before the new crescent appears.

Is this the same as the New Moon?:

For many, the new Moon begins at the moment of the Sun-Moon conjunction, but for others it remains the dark Moon until that crescent is in view. As the Moon wanes toward those final days of darkness, there’s often a turn inward.

In those contemplative moments, the inner reality is presented through dreams and waking visions. It’s fertile ground for the new Moon intentions to be conjured.

How does the Dark Moon differ from the New Moon?:

The dark of the Moon is the most powerful time psychically. It seems to lure us toward the deepest self, the longings of the soul, and restful listening is a great way to receive these messages. It’s been compared to the dormant seed under the winter snow, or the cocoon holding the butterfly. You might feel tired, or crave quiet solitude. It’s important to make space for the unfolding of the spirit at this time. Like death itself, it’s preparation for the new beginning that begins with the crescent.

The Dark Moon and Women’s Cycles:

You’ve probably heard about the “menstruation hut” of matriarchal and so-called primitve cultures. The dark of the Moon was one of those times when women gathered together to draw wisdom from the powerful psychic energy afoot. Often there was a merging of women’s cycles — as there is now when women live in close quarters — and this created an amped up collective power.

In the hut, women could share visions, divine messages and open to higher wisdom.

The Dark Moon and grief:

Whenever we experience a deep loss, we are changed profoundly, which is a kind of death. This is considered a dark Moon phase, and lasts as long as it takes to fully integrate the experience. Sometimes others are made uneasy by our personal confusion, melancholy, soul angst, etc, and try to prevent us from fully dwelling in the dark. But taking a cue from nature, we can see that everything dies for a time, before coming alive again in a new form. Just like that, there are times when we die to our old self and are reborn to a new life.

The Dark Moon and the Seasons:

During the Winter Solstice, when the days are short (in the Northern Hemisphere), it’s an inward time with a cozy intimate feeling. It’s always a surprise to see the green things come to life again after being stripped to such a bare state. The growth at this time is underground, hidden, but powerful because it’s often the base, the roots.

The Dark Moon and Growing Older, Dying:

In our own lives, there’s a dark Moon phase toward the end as we prepare to enter the mystery of death. Often there is a convergence of memories, making time seem to run together. So many traditions believe the spirit carries on, but to where? This is the great unknown, and a dark Moon period that is taken on faith, with the hope of new life to come. The dark Moon is associated with the underworld, a seperate plane where the dead and almost born are together.

Are we living in a Dark Moon phase?:

In her book, Mysteries of the Dark Moon, Demetra George presented this concept. We live on a dying planet in the sense that her form is changing, from the rainforest floor to the air encircling her. Part of the dark Moon is a break-down of old systems, and letting go, and there’s some review going on of how we’ve been living, what we believe, our relationship with the natural world. The new seeds are being planted, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty and fear — darkness. Seeing this time as a dark Moon period can put it in a broader perspective, with hope for a new beginning.

The Power of the Dark:

The dark Moon is private, intimate, richly renewing and full of depth. The waning Moon is a time of letting go, and as you’re stripped of what you’ve known, there’s a moment of standing naked, not knowing who you are. This might be what dying is like, an awesome mystery that makes us feel fully awake at that final moment. What comes next, we wonder?

I’ve found the dark Moon to be the most powerful time for organically unfolding soul-searching. The inner Self starts to grow in power, and make its presence known. Ideally, you can listen, integrate, and set intentions that will bring you into harmony with yourself during the waxing Moon.

Stillness is the key word for the dark Moon. Restful, rich solitude gives you the chance to hear that inner voice. With the lunar face hidden, the intuitive-psychic self takes over. Make space for a clearing of the mind and spirit, so that you can be ready to recieve.

There’s a historic pattern of fearing the dark, and denying death. But it’s a fact of nature, and if embraced, can be met as the winding down before the next new beginning. The Moon is associated with women, and many Goddesses like Hecate, Kali, Lilith, represent her dark aspect. The dark Moon reminds us of nature’s cycles of death and rebirth. The grave and the womb become the same place, a transition when you’re held in the mystery beyond physical existence.

Each dark Moon is a chance to be renewed, to experience unknowing, and to gain timeless wisdom. The dark Moon opens a door to the past, and it reaches back far into the collective memory. Make it a sacred time for yourself each month, a time to connect to the great mystery of life.

Attribution: This piece was authored by astrologer Molly Hall, who listed her sources thus:  “This is original writing, the foundation of which came from the works of Vicki Noble, Demetra George, Judy Grahn, Starhawk and Elinor Gadon, to name a few…”  and appeared  on the About Religion site which has a section on astrology. I stripped out all the extraneous material, ads etc, so that you could read it without distraction.




1250 words copyright Anne Whitaker/ Molly Hall  2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

10 responses to “A time for retreat, contemplation: the Dark of the Moon

  1. Reblogged this on Sophia's Children and commented:
    Greetings, fellow Sophians.

    Another lovely and timely musing from Anne Whitaker from her Writing From the 12th House blog, with a mention of another kindred spirit sister, Molly Hall. Double the insight and good!

    And it’s perfect for this Dark Moon, or Moondark, time that we’re in (and since it comes each month, and in any other Deep Yin time (meditation, night, etc.), it’s always a good time for this insight).

    Big Love and Happy Moondark,


  2. Hello Anne,
    I was born in the balsamic moon, too and found your questions and answers very resonant. I think it is an extremely significant factor to consider when looking at a chart. I can sense these people when I meet them. I’m so glad you are one of them too.


  3. The mention of Starhawk reminds me that I saw her once. She and friends were dining in the same restaurant as I was, in the Virgin Islands. I recall that they were there for some ceremony or other, up at an old sugar mill. Now that I think about it, I wonder if it had to do with moondark. The only reason I would think that is that we were in a particularly beautiful anchorage, and a little bummed that there wouldn’t be a gorgeous rising moon.

    I went to Houston Hobby airport last night to pick up a friend. Circumstances got me there a full hour before her flight arrived, and I decided to park and go in rather than waiting in the cell phone lot. It was an interesting hour. I’ve always loved airports, but last night it felt unbearably chaotic. Perhaps it was the contrast between my earthly circumstances and the celestial moondark.


  4. That’s most interesting, Linda. I was travelling through airports on the way home from France on Monday night and found the whole experience much more oppressive than I usually do…I have noticed that I more thin-skinned and antisocial at Moondark than at other times.


  5. I am a balsamic moon too, and honor dark moon retreats, as I am so physically exhausted and need to tap into my ‘inner reality’. When I had major operations on my feet when I was 23, and took 4 years to walk again, and that period was very much a dark moon experience! I went heavily into inner realms and altered states, having many OBE’s, and 3 NDE’s, experiencing matrix, fractal light patterns and the most amazingly bright and flowing light and colour that embraced me, feeling my body breathe in many dimensions, experiencing pure love and light as well as its opposite darkness and no love, as well as darkness gestation leading to rebirth, recollection of many past lives ( that were pertinent to what I was learning or needed to let go of) talking with beings from other planes, dead ancestors, living the dream hologram, having out of worldly experiences with beings that worked through animals, …changing my DNA light pattern etc. This is what occurred through my isolation, dream work, healing and pain, not through psychedelics! I also did a sweat lodge during this period to ascertain my spirit animal, but already knew just by asking! I found that fasting, sleep deprivation and sweating in a lodge did nothing to improve my ‘ inner sight’! I guess that initiation from the past, is not relevant to me, yet I know it was relevant for many who participated, as they benefited from it :). This tao vision quest and darkness retreat may be beneficial to those wanting a more infinite experience: https://superconsciousness.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/darkness-retreat-ancient-technology-for-spiritual-alchemy/


  6. Grrrrrrrrrrrreat post! As I read it just now, I wondered how/why I missed it when you first published it.. Then I recalled I was recovering from dengue/chikungunya and had just gone to the cloud forest to help my friends so that ‘he’ could go to the usa to stand by his wife while she fought cancer. (she’s doing really well now.)
    I am here to pass a discreet ‘thanks’ for so many times that I see one, two – or today I think there’s a third post of mine under ‘Posts I like.”

    Thank you, Anne; as always, I am touched and honored.

    Hope you are 100 percent better now!


    • Hi Lisa – yes, I remember reading about that really tough time of yours. It is so good to hear that your friend is doing well. The great thing about getting older is that you realise that things do not stay the same – and sometimes they even get better! Your thanks is appreciated – I love your blog. So full of life, defiance, and creativity!!! I am pretty much ok. But I still hate February in the West of Scotland, wetness capital of the Scottish North …Glad you like this post. I’m a Moondark PR representative…


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