Do you do Moondark? Maybe you should…

The web is full of articles about the upcoming Leo New Moon. New Moons always attract our attention,which indeed they merit. However – the Balsamic lunar phase, where we are now, does not attract nearly as much upfront focus. It should, in my view…and I am not alone here! 

The Sun/Moon Month

The Sun/Moon Month

That fine, poetic astrological writer Dana Gerhardt has this to say: ‘As the final phase in the lunation cycle, the Balsamic Moon is the monthly “sleep time”. During the three to four days of this phase, vitality and spirit are replenished, fueling your start at the next New Moon….if you could observe just one Moon phase per cycle, this should be the one… ‘ (my emphasis)

Our increasingly frenetic 24/7 culture, revved up in recent years as it has been by the arrival and increasing dominance of social media, does not encourage us to build a few days of rest and recovery into each month. Can you imagine the average boss’s reaction to the statement “I’m having retreat time now. It’s Moondark. Bye!!”  And yet: we all know what happens if we run ourselves too hard without adequate rest, for too long. For some of us – and I speak from hard personal experience here, folks! – the price can be very high.

So – what is this Balsamic lunar phase, and what is Moondark? Why should we pay it attention? As can be seen from the above image, there are eight key phases in the monthly lunar cycle, flowing from the New to the Balsamic Moon. A good summary of each and what they mean can be found HERE.

The Balsamic lunar phase begins with the waning Sun/Moon semi-square. The Moon is a slim Crescent, forty-five degrees behind the Sun –  that beautiful, fragile, slender waning crescent moon which we may see each month if the skies are clear. Then it disappears. We are in Moondark now, the latter part of the Balsamic phase, the last couple of days of the dying energy of the previous month’s Cancer New Moon.

waning crescent Moon

waning crescent Moon

My aim in this short post is to give you a flavour of three key facets pertaining to the Balsamic phase, and Moondark in particular. Hopefully that will stimulate you enough to do your own reflection/research. Those facets are:  the Balsamic phase of each monthly lunar cycle throughout the year; those people born on the Balsamic Moon; and the thirty-year progressed Sun/Moon cycle, where the final, Balsamic phase lasts 3-4 years.

The Monthly cycle – Balsamic phase

Having been born in the Balsamic phase, in Moondark just before a Leo New Moon, I have long been aware of the few days before any New Moon as a special time, a contemplative time: a time to take stock both collectively and personally. Those of us who wish and need to retreat regularly to preserve our balance and well-being tend to be regarded as odd by mainstream society, where ‘time out’ is increasingly hard to find, and is not supported by the culture as a whole.

But humans have always benefited from times of quiet contemplation, in whatever way suits them best: listening to music, doing yoga/meditation, praying to whatever Higher Power sustains them, making or contemplating art, walking in Nature –especially by the sea, that great universal symbol of dissolution and emergence.

Even half an hour a day of retreat time on a regular basis is nourishing for the spirit. In ancient times, women used to retreat together monthly during menstruation time which was seen as a period of potency, and hidden power – a liminal time to link through dreams and ritual to worlds unseen.

It would be good if individually we could get into the habit of using the Balsamic moon time to find some retreat space in whatever way suited us. I certainly find myself feeling more ‘scratchy’ and irritable than usual during Balsamic times, if Life demands that I put myself under more pressure than my spirit wants or needs. It would be interesting to know if other folk feel like this too, at the end of the lunar cycle, before New Moon energy comes in and takes form.

Born on the Balsamic Moon

I have found both from my own life and the lives of clients and students with whom I have worked over the years, that being born in the Balsamic moon phase, and especially during Moondark, the very end of the old cycle, brings with it a contemplative nature, an ‘inner’ orientation, a need to give oneself more space and retreat than most people seem to need. Whilst doing some reading around this topic today, I found this quote which certainly spoke to me, and which may speak to some of you who were born in the Balsamic phase:

‘…This time is essentially one of transition, a chance to contemplate what has passed, tie up loose ends, journey inwards, and prepare for new beginnings ahead.  You have inherited the meditative and introspective characteristics of this phase and yours is a dreamy, contemplative personality. Intuitive and far-sighted, you have innate wisdom and a mystical understanding of the workings of Mother Nature and of the human condition.  For you, activity is spiritual and intellectual rather than physical.  Your experiences involve endings and passings, so you are likely to live through many changes.  Later life, rather than the earlier years, holds the key to your happiness and success...’

TransAngeles – thanks for this sensitive and perceptive comment!

The 30-year Progressed Sun/Moon cycle

I use this cycle as a very helpful guide to the stage of their life phase clients are in when they come for a consultation. When a cycle is coming to an end, when the 3-4 year Balsamic period of life is upon us, then the wisest course to take is that of stepping back, turning inwards, taking stock…and waiting – until the Progressed New Moon arrives, and forward motion, the gradual taking shape of a new life phase, gradually begins. Just as farmers do not plant new crops in winter, so we are wise not to begin a new project during the Balsamic moon phase or its end phase, Moondark.

Here is Dana Gerhardt again, with her words of wisdom:

“When will it end?” is everybody’s first question on learning they’ve entered a progressed Balsamic phase. No matter how colorfully I paint its virtues, they peer beyond to a bleaker landscape, to a three-to-four-year sentence of all loss and no gain. I can see it in their eyes…. I tell them this is the richest spiritual time. I tell them when my own progressed Balsamic phase was over, I had nostalgia for it. I cheer: “You will too!” But it’s a tough sell….”

I would certainly endorse this from my own experience of beginning a new journey when I was approaching the end of a whole 30-year cycle. The result was a long period of enforced retreat until the Progressed New Moon told me it was time to emerge and begin again. It was an enriching and deepening time. But very tough whilst it was happening. I should have taken astrology’s advice, not that of my own ego!

There is a great deal more to be said about this fascinating and important life phase which lies behind the New Moon. I do hope this short post piques your interest sufficiently to devote more attention to it in future!


Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House

1250 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2017






20 responses to “Do you do Moondark? Maybe you should…

  1. Thank you for this. I’m a Balsamic Moon baby myself, born with a Leo Moon (conjunct Ascendant) almost exactly 30 degrees before my Virgo Sun (a couple of days before a Virgo New Moon I think). I guess being in Balsamic phase is another reason I’ve always had to balance out my Leo enthusiasm – thought it was just my Virgo Sun (square Saturn)! I’m also mid-way through a progressed Balsamic Moon cycle, with my progressed New Moon in Scorpio happening in just about 2 years from now. Interestingly, my progressed Venus will be conjoined with my progressed Moon and Sun same degree. Anyway, things are not so bad, but I guess it’s good that I’m not trying to start anything new right now!


    • Thanks, Leslee! This is such informative feedback. Glad you are taking astrology’s advice re this phase…and I’d be looking forward to a prog New Moon conj prog Venus, if I were you…


  2. Anne, thank you, you totally inspired me today. Your post helped pull me from a low energy state in a much higher consciousness and
    awareness of what that low energy really is calling for, what I have really been needing:


  3. Melody, this is such an affirming response, thank you. Your artwork and reflection is beautiful – I’ve shared it on Twitter, and would encourage any of my readers to go through and read your evocation.


  4. Via Facebook:
    Lindel Barker-Revell:
    Thanks so much, I absolutely agree with our need for rest and retreat. Have shared.


  5. Many thanks, Lindel!


  6. Via Facebook:
    Jen Howell:
    Excellent article! Sharing.


  7. Thanks for dropping by, Jen. Glad you liked the article.


  8. Via Facebook:
    Mads Elung-Jensen:
    Beautiful. I have a balsamic Leo Moon too, conjunct a Virgo Sun. I do cherish very much my retreats before the New Moon. This upcoming eclipse will actually happen right in the midpoint of that conjunction.


  9. Many thanks, Mads. I’m glad this post spoke to you…


  10. This is a great post Anne, very inspiring and true. I have recently been to a talk about the cycles of life and menstruation and it was really interesting to see the importance of the dark Moon related to the pre menstrual phase. That is the phase connected with the archetype of the High Priestess and also the transition to Menopause (in the larger scale of our life cycle), and the speaker said that this is the phase when we are very much getting in touch with our power and because of that also how much this is the time to take a trip inwards. That was an amazing talk actually and I have been thinking about relating it to astrology and creating a little talk myself…


  11. I’m going to have to figure out how, etymologically at least, the balsamic moon and balsamic vinegar are related. As soon as I read “balsamic,” I was overcome with desire for a salad. This requires more exploration!


    • Well, Linda, I had been wondering the same thing myself, and had thought that since the balsamic lunar phase is ideally a time of retreat, rest – balm for the spirit – then there must be some soothing/restorative qualities associated with the original use of balsamic vinegar. And it seems, according to google, that this is indeed the case, viz:

      ‘… The name “balsamic” connotes the vinegar’s original use as a tonic, or “balm.”…’
      ‘…The balsamic moon also is said to relate to healing and rest, since it is the last phase before the New Moon…’

      So there you go!!


  12. Via Facebook:
    Jamie S. Walters:
    Love the Moondark, Anne. 🙂 My natal Mars is in Leo, so it’s a bit of a homecoming and Mars return as well as New Moon. Plus the lovely upcoming trine to Uranus and Saturn in the fire signs (and my natal Venus at the G.C. as well). I’ll have to check the time of the New Moon … we still in Dark ‘o Moon just now? xoxo Happy Moondark.


  13. Thanks, Jamie, always great to hear from you…The Leo New Moon is on Sunday morning 23/7 at 9.47 am GMT here in the UK. This should be a dynamically creative New Moon for you…enjoy!


  14. Thanks for the article Anne :). I agree that many focus on the New Moon and its new beginnings, just as much of society and how it structured is focused on extroversion rather introversion, and introverts get bad rap, just as the balsamic moons do. I am also a balsamic moon a ‘monks moon’ and yes much of my life’s relationship have been about endings. For instance my first friend at school, died after we went for a run, and she fell over ( she had juvenile osteoarthritis), followed by another friend who died from pneumonia and another from a car accident, all within 5 months of me starting school.. The pattern has continued all my life! The balsamic stage is about ‘letting go’ and allowing the wisdom from all that learning to be the foundation for new beginnings that are always decades ahead of the crowd, and aren’t recognised in their own time! I also find that much of my life is that of a ‘transformer’ in that I create the pattern for the change, initiate it, am chastised for it, and then later on, other people recognise it, take up the ideas and get the recognition for it! It is not easy being a balsamic moon, yet I feel that we create and leave the seeds for the future. As Pluto is now transiting my 12th house ( seems to have been there forever) and Neptune and Uranus before that, and soon Saturn will enter too, and is there in my progressed chart too, I feel that life is giving me a double whammy of balsamic energy, and teaching me to withdraw so that I can bring my greatest creative dreams to fruition :). It however, does not make me very outwardly sociable, although I am behind the scenes.


    • Many thanks for this thoughtful, detailed feedback, Bridget. Such personal accounts really do help to build up a picture of how those theoretical lunar stages manifest in the actual reality of people’s lives…

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: ‘Dancing on the Edge’ as the Aries New Moon dawns… | Astrology: Questions and Answers

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