Tag Archives: Moondark

‘Dancing on the Edge’ as the Aries New Moon dawns…

‘Dancing on the Edge’. That’s what it feels like at present. Astrologers have a double-edged tool: access to the ever-shifting energy patterns of our tiny corner of the cosmos via an ancient symbolic art which has long drawn meaning, both collective and personal, from those patterns. Double-edged especially in times of crisis, ie NOW.

These times are volatile, unstable, dangerous. We can examine the horoscopes eg of Trump, Putin, Assad in relation to the latest escalation of the dreadful events in Syria. We can scare ourselves and our readers, students and clients witless if we choose to do so. The Web is full of  fevered speculation regarding what the upcoming 16.4.18 Aries New Moon, with its dramatic, tempestuous pattern, could bring to our troubled world. It feels at present as though we are ‘dancing on the edge’(i). Of what, no-one knows…

Aries New Moon 2018

Aries New Moon 2018

As I write today, uk time, Mercury has just turned direct at 4 degrees Aries. Monday’s Aries New Moon at 26 Aries triggers off the Eris/Uranus conjunction, square Pluto. Mars is on the Saturn/Pluto midpoint in Capricorn. On Tuesday Chiron enters Aries for the first time since 1968 – think Vietnam War protests, students rioting in the streets of Paris – and Saturn turns retrograde. As though all of that weren’t more than enough, Pluto also turns retrograde on Sunday next.

Looks like it’s going to be quite a week!

However, I will leave those more inclined and probably more knowledgeable than I am to get on with the speculating, and go off on a different tack.

Having been born in Moondark, ie the very end of the monthly Sun/Moon cycle, I am very sensitive to the need periodically to retreat, contemplate, take stock – a fundamental aspect of human experience which has increasingly been squeezed out by the 24/7 freneticism of contemporary living, to the increasing detriment of our collective mental and physical wellbeing.

We tend to think of the annual 20th March equinox, the day the Sun enters Aries, as the symbolic beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. But you could argue that the true beginning takes place with a New Moon in that sign. This year we have been in Moondark since the 27 Pisces New Moon on the 17th March – anticipating the fresh energy upsurge of the 26 Aries New Moon on 16th April 2018.

Today, at the very end not only of the lunar month’s Moondark, but also the whole zodiacal year’s Moondark, I am in a deeply withdrawn, sensitive, pensive state, feeling very open to our collective vulnerability and suffering as fragile creatures on a tiny planet.

I’m very aware that Chiron, the planetoid which concerns both our suffering and our healing, is at 29 degrees 53 minutes of Pisces, about to move into 0 degrees Aries after his seven year sojourn in that sign of the zodiac which most concerns our unity with the One, the Ground of our being.  Liz Greene points out re the centaur Chiron’s unhealable wound, that “….the wound exists in the collective and is ancestral..” (ii) With Chiron poised at the edge of Pisces, along with so many of us right now I am feeling deeply connected to our world’s pain, and wondering what his shift to fiery, Mars-ruled Aries may mean.

Will it be more brutality towards the vulnerable and the innocent, orchestrated by powerful men whose humanity has become debased? Or will it signify a new generation arising, whose values are not rooted in accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of our mother planet? Thankfully, we are seeing evidence of the latter option arising already…

The Big Why?

The Big Why?

In contemplative moments such as this, poised in the stillness of a whole year’s Moondark, being temperamentally inclined to brood on questions most sensible folk prefer to avoid much of the time, I tend to return to The Big Why, and its attendant questions: Why are we here at all? What does it all mean? What am I to do with my small life?

It would appear from numerous surveys one tends to come across both in print and social media, that despite conventional religions losing ground, most people are just as inclined as they have ever been toward some sort of faith, some belief that despite its painful, turbulent dimensions life has meaning.

In times of suffering and turbulence, one of the great offerings of astrological knowledge, despite its being a double-edged gift with just as much capacity to scare us as to offer enlightenment, is a pointing through its symbols to something both collectively and personally meaningful going on. Looking through an astrological lens reveals patterns, not randomness.

Astrology is not a religion or a belief system – but it offers a clear lens through which to look out at the vastness of Mystery in which we exist, inviting us toward some form of belief that there is a Bigger Picture of  which we are all part, however small. Personally, I have found that lens to have been a vitally important tool on my own journey toward a deep faith that we are all part of the One, and that even the dreadful things in life which afflict us both collectively and individually at times are woven into a tapestry of meaning, at some level which we are too ill-equipped to comprehend.

I find it supportive and comforting to centre myself in that faith when times are tough for the world – as they certainly are right now – and for those to whom I am personally connected with bonds of friendship and of love.

I’ve spent this morning reading a contemplative book by one of my favourite writers, Richard Holloway, in which he considers the challenging question of faith from the perspective of those, like himself, who are ‘dancing on the edge’.

I leave him with the last word:

“…the persistence of belief…could be a valid response to reality.That is why it is important to offer faith the compliment of a respectful hearing and to afford it the status of a reasonable response to the mystery of life…even if we ourselves find it personally elusive …”

Endnotes:

(i) Richard Holloway Dancing on the Edge, 1997, Fount Paperbacks, p12

(ii) Liz Greene ‘Wounding and the will to live’ in Issue 3 of Apollon, the Journal of Psychological Astrology (1999). This article is now available on Astrodienst, and I would strongly suggest that any readers interested in exploring Chiron’s meaning at profound depth should read it.

Zodiac

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

110 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2018

Reflecting on Chiron as the Pisces New Moon dawns…

What does Chiron mean to you? Have you experienced his symbolic energy as healing? Wounding? As the ‘inconvenient benefic’, kicking open doors to places you’d never have thought to go? Does he simply not register as any kind of recognisable influence in your life or those around you? Or have you simply not given him much thought as you work with your horoscope in relation to your life?

Lots of questions. In this meditative 12th house time just before the Pisces New Moon tomorrow, I am very much engaged with them, being all too aware of Chiron’s approaching the end of his long 2010-18 sojourn in Pisces.

A liminal time

Any time just before an important heavenly body shifts from one sign to another is a liminal time – a threshold time, a 12th house time of final dissolution of the old cycle  without the energies of the new yet being clearly evident. Chiron moves into Aries on 17th April 2018, dipping back into Pisces for a few months in the autumn of that year, settling into his journey through Aries on February 18th 2019, remaining there until 2026/7 when he shifts into Taurus.

Chiron’s orbit is very irregular, and if you’d like to go into the detail of this, Cafe Astrology is the place to go for some very clear tables. However, his return cycle is a steady 50 years: we all have a Chiron Return at that age. This return is especially significant since it represents the end of a whole 50 year period from 1968/9 when Chiron was last in Aries. A cycle is completing at the present time, and the shift from Pisces the last sign of the zodiac to Aries the first is always more radical than any other – and fierier, more disruptive and far-reaching at a collective level.

Chiron in Aries – 20th Century

50 years back from 1968/9 takes us to 1918/19 and the turbulent aftermath of the First World War. Some of us still vividly remember 1968/9 with the student riots in Europe, the protests in the USA against the Vietnam war, and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King against the turbulent backdrop of the Civil Rights movement. We also remember that wonderfully pioneering event of the Moon landing, a stunning example of humanity’s kicking open a door to a place no-one throughout our whole history until that moment thought we would go.

…and 21st…

Early on in Chiron’s transit through Aries, ruled by the red planet Mars, preparations for the first human mission there envisaged for the 2030s are well under way. The upcoming Mars 2020 rover will study the availability of Martian resources, including oxygen. This is a major step forward in the preparation process. Some of us baby-boomers, if we live a long life, may well see the first blast-off taking humans in Shakespeare’s famous words about death, to “…The undiscovered country from whose bournNo traveler returns…” 1   The Mars explorers know they will not return to their home planet…

No doubt there will be much more speculation across our various media outlets regarding what this shift may mean both collectively and individually. It has already begun, as a quick google search will testify!

Back to first principles

However, I have found my reflections returning me to contemplation of first principles: the questions at the start of this post are in fact my own interrogations both of my experience of Chiron’s symbolic energies in my personal life and my professional practice.

In response to those questions, on looking back I can say that I have seen Chiron, in his  popular ‘wounded healer’ mode, most notably in colleagues and acquaintances with Chiron prominent in their charts eg 2nd, 6th or 10th Houses and/or strongly linked with planets, Nodes and Angles. They have found their way into caring, alternative healing or medical/nursing contexts, usually propelled there by family and/or personal wounding they were consciously or unconsciously seeking to assuage.

I have also seen situations where the wounding dimension was well to the fore and people struggled to see any healing in what they were experiencing – quite often at the Chiron Return point, when the whole horoscope’s Chiron aspects are triggered. This is where as an astrologer it is so vital to tread carefully in seeking to offer a context to deep pain and suffering which may offer some comfort and hope without raising unrealistic expectations – and to know when we are coming up against our own limitations eg in lack of specific expertise in dealing with questions of health and healing.

Here, it is important to have a network of  reputable and experienced practitioners in various healing modalities who might be able to offer some support which builds on what one has hopefully been able to clarify for the client.

Inconvenient…but beneficial

It was the late astrologer A.L. Morrison who coined the term ‘inconvenient benefic’ as a facet of Chiron’s actions – I can see on considering the placement of Chiron in our solar system, his source for this interpretation. Chiron appeared in 1977 between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. He can be seen as the one who unlocked the door between the safe boundaries of the known system contained by Saturn, lord of form and structure, security and stability and the outer planetary realm of Uranus –lord of misrule, breaker of custom, known code and convention. It is very threatening to be kicked out of safe territory into the unpredictable and unknown. But often it is just what we need although we don’t appreciate it at the time.

I have certainly seen this Chironian dimension in action by transit or progression with clients who turn up for readings after a long process where life has given them a good kicking (sound familiar, anyone?!) but who emerge out the other end realising that the kicking was necessary to get them to move in a direction they would not have been brave (or foolish!) enough to see held considerable positive benefits for them.

An amusing (in retrospect…) and quite significant example of this ‘inconvenient benefic’ aspect of Chiron in action can be offered from my own life a long time ago. My husband developed mumps, and had such a sore throat for several days that he could neither speak nor eat anything that wasn’t liquidised, and certainly could not bear to smoke. Chiron was then transiting his Gemini Midheaven. He quit for good… 

Chiron’s Return at Midlife

It makes sense that Chiron doesn’t feature very strongly in a person’s life if not prominent by horoscope placement or by aspect. However, even in such cases, if Chiron directly transits any of the personal planets or Angles, it is very unusual for there to be a ‘dumb note’ struck. It also seems to me that the Chiron Return at age 50 registers with everyone, but especially strongly when Chiron is a powerfully placed and aspected symbol.

A long time ago – I no longer have the chart or notes for reference but still remember the situation – a woman with Chiron conjunct her Moon consulted me not long after her 50th birthday. Chiron had recently returned to that natal conjunction. I recall that Saturn by transit was also probably involved. I asked her whether there was a difficult issue currently involving a key female in her life, and she said yes, that her mother-in-law to whom she had been very close had recently died and she was having difficulty getting over this loss; her deep grief seemed to her to be out of proportion.

I then asked if she had had a similar loss in the first year of her life. It turned out that her own mother had died when she was less than a year old, and that she had felt bereft of mothering until her mother-in -law came into her life, hence her great difficulty with the current situation. Both the client and I were deeply moved by how powerfully the Moon/Chiron symbolism had spoken on Chiron’s return to its natal position. But realising this also helped the client to make more sense of the depth of her grief, and hopefully to process it more consciously.

Chiron and our deep ancestral wound…

In approaching what Chiron’s symbolic action may bring in our own and clients’ horoscopes, it seems to me to make sense to hold those several facets I have described in this post in mind as we reflect.

However, there is a deep layer which has meant more to me than any other, which I first came across in an article by Liz Greene called ‘Wounding and the will to live’ in Issue 3 of Apollon, the Journal of Psychological Astrology (1999). This article is now available on Astrodienst, and I would strongly suggest that any readers interested in exploring Chiron’s meaning at profound depth should read it.

Here, Liz Greene points out re the centaur Chiron’s unhealable wound, that “….the wound exists in the collective and is ancestral..”

My understanding of what she is saying is that where Chiron appears in our birth charts represents our ‘chip’ of the accumulated woundedness of humanity over the ages. It is not our fault that we have this particular ‘chip’ allocated to us, any more than it was the centaur Chiron’s fault to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the centaurs’ battle with the Lapiths during which he was grazed in the thigh by a poisoned arrow which would not heal because it was dipped in the blood of the Hydra. 

We are not directly responsible for our personal share of humanity’s wounding. But if we can work with as much honesty and humility, and as little bitterness as possible with that share as indicated by Chiron’s placement in our natal chart, then we can begin to transform that woundedness into something which can be offered for the healing of others. This process can ultimately help us to grow enough for our personal wound to become an increasingly smaller part of who it is we are able to become.

I have used this understanding of Chiron in many client readings now, and have found that it offers inspiration and consolation. Much of that healing flows from helping clients to accept that the wound is not our fault – but it is our responsibility to choose how we deal with it. No doubt the fact that I have found this deep message a consolation in my own work with ancestral wounding, also communicates itself to clients without my having to say a single word about my own process…

________

Endnote:

 1 Hamlet: Act 3 Scene 1

Zodiac

1800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2018

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

1800 words

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!

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

1250 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2017

 

 

 

 

 

As the Capricorn New Moon dawns: honouring the old moon’s 12th House phase…

Having been born in Moondark just before a Leo New Moon, I have long been aware of the 2-3 days before any New Moon as a special time – a 12th House time: of retreat, contemplation, a time when I have felt more fragile, more sensitive than usual, a time when peace and silence calls. Life being what it is, however, peace and silence may not be possible when one needs it! 

So, in honour of the waning Sagittarian moon’s 12th House phase, this year occurring in that liminal time after the 2016 Festive Season but before the New Year of 2017, here are some of my thoughts on the core of the 12th House, ie our connectedness with the Sacred, the numinous, that which lies beyond the ordinary compass of the everyday.

For me, when I was younger, the Sea, that other Great Universal, brought me a sense of the sacred, a sense of peace. Going to the sea was my equivalent of going to church.

photo: Anne Whitaker

I was born by the sea. The stripped-down Presbyterianism of my native Hebridean island certainly spoke eloquently to many, but did not speak to my Romantic temperament: it was a form of worship too spare and verbal for a soul whose longing for the Divine needs the engagement of all the senses.

The remote beaches of the Hebrides are perfect for communing. In some places no mark of human hand can be seen anywhere. You could be in any epoch.

The endless ebb and flow which soothes your spirit is millions of years old. With the cries of wild birds, and the sound of the wind ( no shortage of that !) the sea weaves music which carries you beyond time. The rich smell of ozone, salt and bladder-wrack is overlaid with a delicate scent of wild flowers. Sea splashes leave salt tastes on your skin. Sunlight on the sea’s surface creates diamond sparks. God/dess is right here.

Natural beauty calls to us, confirming that the Holy Spirit which we sense in nature includes us all. Sand, sea, sun and solitude evoke a sense of our infinite smallness in relation to the vastness before us. Yet there could be no sea without each drop of water, no beach without each grain of sand.

Church on the face of it is very different, being a contained space. But it is a space charged up with collective worship, where the cadences of liturgy and participatory ritual also evoke a feeling of Divinity’s vast presence in relation to our precious smallness.

The mind-calming, meditative facets of sea, and centuries-old church ritual, can lull us into peace, calming the heart and uplifting the spirit. Both sea and church in their differing ways can restore a sense of the balance and interweaving of matter and spirit – “spirit is a lighter form of matter, matter is a denser form of spirit” –  and provide a reminder that the small, limited, mundane world which we inhabit is set to the compass of Eternity.

Zodiac

Zodiac

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Aries New Moon – and the year’s Moondark…

From the depths of antiquity right through until the general advent of electric light in the early part of the twentieth century, humans have been powerfully influenced by the 29.5 day cycle of the Sun and Moon.

The Sun/Moon Cycle

The Sun/Moon Cycle

The power of the Sun/Moon cycle

They hunted in daylight, made long journeys by the light offered by the Moon as it moved to full illumination of the night sky 14-15 days into the cycle. They timed their most powerful magical/religious rituals to coincide with the Full Moon. Ancient peoples gradually came to understand, as the age of agriculture took root and developed, that the time to plant their crops was when the Moon was waxing in the early part of the 29.5 day cycle, and in the Spring, or waxing, part of the year.

Out of those practical observations of the heavenly bodies, so fundamental to survival in humanity’s early days, came the realisation so beautifully put in the Bible:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” {Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 King James Version (KJV)}

The planetary cycles, from the tiny 29.5 day Sun/Moon cycle to that powerful regulator of human affairs, the 20 year Jupiter/Saturn cycle, were recognised in antiquity as weaving all life including that of human beings into an observable rhythm which brought a context of order, structure, and some comforting predictability to the patterns of life on Earth.

But whether the cycle is huge, like the Neptune/Pluto 500 year one which was not known in antiquity, or small, like the monthly Sun/Moon one, the same basic stages apply: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new.

All cycles’ 12th House phase

Moondark describes the end of any cycle – the 12th House phase – whether we are contemplating the monthly Sun/Moon one or the epoch-defining Neptune/Pluto cycle. It is the time of withdrawal and dissolution of energy think of wintertime, the stripped trees, the cold, barren earth – a time of dark power in which the old order dies at a number of different levels, so that fertile energy can emerge from the womb of the night: indeed, a time of “dying back in preparation for the new.” Thus, every year, the time from the New Moon in Pisces to the New Moon in Aries can be seen as the 12th House phase, the Moondark time, of the entire zodiacal year.

Moondark has fascinated me for a long time. I may first have encountered the concept in my twenties, through the agency of Marion Bradley’s magnificent novel “The Mists of Avalon”, set in the time of druidical Britain in the era when Christianity was sweeping through the Roman Empire and the Old Religion of the Druids was being violently challenged as a result.

The legendary King Arthur, disregarding the advice of his Druid priests, married Guinevere in a Christian ceremony – at Moondark, the very end of the Sun/Moon monthly cycle. Since Arthur was a king, getting the symbolism of his marriage right was much more important than it would be for ordinary mortals! “Woe, woe, no good will come of this!” was the view taken by the Druids. They were right. The marriage was childless; moreover, Guinevere spent much of it in love with Lancelot, one of the knights of King Arthur’s fabled Round Table.

Each year’s Moondark

We tend to think of the annual 20th March equinox, the day that the Sun enters the sign of Aries, as the symbolic beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. But you could argue that the true beginning of spring is when a New Moon takes place in the sign of Aries. In 2016, that celestial event occurs on 7th April, both Sun and Moon meeting at 18 degrees of Aries, the fiery first sign of the zodiac. The degree of their meeting varies from year to year: in 2015, it was 28 degrees Aries; in 2014, 10 degrees; in 2013, 21 degrees; in 2012, 2 degrees– on that occasion very close to the 20/3/12 spring equinox.

I find it illuminating and helpful to think of each year in those terms. Thus – as we wait for the fresh energy upsurge of the Aries New Moon this week, we are symbolically waiting in Moondark. This year’s Moondark has been especially potent; it has run from the 19 Pisces New Moon on the 9th March, which was a total solar eclipse.

Events of a collective and personal nature have been powerful, dark and traumatic this Moondark: the combination of a total solar eclipse, the following lunar eclipse at 3 degrees Libra on 23rd March, and Saturn’s station at 16 deg 24 mins Sagittarius from 23rd to 29th of March with his turning retrograde on Friday 25th – Good Friday in the Christian calendar – certainly brought us experiences of symbolic crucifixion.

Collectively, the worst of several horrors from 23-29 March 2016 were the dreadful terrorist massacres in Brussels, Belgium and Lahore, Pakistan. At a personal level, I heard many stories of deaths, and injuries. There were two murders in my home city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK during that period. We experienced a death in our extended family,  after one member’s long period of great suffering. A close friend fell and is still hospitalised. Other friends are also dealing with traumatic events which flared up during that period.

The uses of Moondark

Moondark is at its best a contemplative time: a time to take stock both collectively and personally. We live in an increasingly frenetic 24/7 society where ‘time out’ is increasingly hard to find, and is not supported by the culture as a whole. 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.

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 time from the Pisces New Moon each year to find some retreat space in whatever way suited us: to take stock of the year that was coming to an end, ponder our successes and our failures, and set some realistic intentions to pursue for the zodiacal year ahead. Will you be taking stock this week? I certainly shall…

Happy Aries New Year when it comes!

Aries New Moon 7.4.16

Aries New Moon 7.4.16

 

1150 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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.

Zodiac

Zodiac

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1250 words copyright Anne Whitaker/ Molly Hall  2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

The Sagittarius New Moon – how was it for you?

I woke early this morning to a clear sky, deep blue turning light, and a lovely sight: the bright, waning crescent of the Sagittarius New Moon, born on 22nd November, Full on 6th December, now preparing to fade into Moondark in anticipation of a new birth. The Capricorn New Moon arrives with the Winter Solstice on 22nd December this year…thus the weave of our tiny solar system  unfolds within the vastness of the Universe, challenging each of us to find our place, our sense of meaning, our purpose…

waning crescent Moon

waning crescent Moon

Cycles govern all our lives, from the vast unfolding of the life and death of stars to the tiny monthly dance of Sun and Moon with our beautiful blue planet Earth.  The same basic stages apply to all cycles: seeding, germinating, sprouting, flowering, ripening, harvesting, dying back in preparation for the new, into that three day period of seclusion the Ancients knew as Moondark. Any New Moon represents the emerging energy of possibility from Moondark’s womb. The first fragile, beautiful waxing crescent appears in the night sky 2-3 days into a new cycle, indicating that fresh potential is taking form.

This image is especially appropriate in evoking the Sagittarian New Moon, which in the unfolding cycle of the Sun and Moon’s yearly journey through the twelve signs of the zodiac emerges from the unfathomable depths of watery Scorpio into the fiery, mutable brightness of Sagittarius, that restless seeker after wisdom, truth, and above all ultimate MEANING.

Visionary poet and painter William Blake – himself a Sagittarius Sun –  describes Sagittarius’ reckless, abundant courage, openness to experience of all kinds across all beliefs and cultures, and great capacity to distil joy and meaning from even life’s worst adventures, so well:

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”.

This most recent New Moon in Sagittarius on 22nd November 2014  carried a particularly powerful creative and exploratory ‘charge’ since the Sun and Moon met at 0 degrees 07 minutes of Sagittarius that day. Planets at zero degrees are highly potent! So – this was a great month for bathing in the abundantly rising energy of inspiration, and for working to give it form across continents and cultures…

Foreground energies : Uranus square Pluto

However, it is important to recognise that life on planet Earth is complex. Contemplating the core meaning of each month’s New Moon can only ever provide broad brush strokes. In order to form a more detailed symbolic picture of the energies of any given month, we have to take the whole planetary picture into account. For example, the 13th December 2014 saw the sixth exact square of the explosive, disruptive and tempestuous Uranus/ Pluto combination, its first major encounter since the turbulent 1960s and an increasingly dominant major planetary pattern since it began its journey towards exactitude way back in 2010/11.

Here are some of its immediate mundane effects: in Australia, a cafe siege resulting in the deaths of three people including the gunman. In USA, a family tragedy involving a deranged man shooting dead six members of his ex wife’s family. And most ghastly of all, today’s breaking news is of a revenge attack by the Pakistan Taliban on a Peshawar military school, leaving 132 youngsters and 11 of their teachers murdered. Truly horrific.

In Russia, meanwhile, tumbling oil prices are taking a devastating toll of the economy, with the rouble falling to almost half its value against the U.S. Dollar amid rising panic.

And on a brighter note my own small nation, Scotland, is once again a world leader. Today gay marriage became legal here, with the backing of an estimated 68% of the Scottish public. 

From the Big Picture to individual lives: creating meaning

The inter-relationship between the Big Picture of our collective lives and the tiny individual lives of humans, as explicated by planetary symbolism, has been a source of enduring fascination for me right from the beginning of my astrological studies. In this short article I have chosen only to focus on one planetary combination and its impact, set within the context of the Sagittarius New Moon.

There is of course Saturn preparing to move into Sagittarius, thereby beginning a year-long square to Neptune, whose ancient ruler was Jupiter – modern ruler of Sagittarius. And exuberant Jupiter himself is placed in fiery Leo, spending much of 2014/5 in a dynamic trine to the great disrupter and techno-futurist of  the zodiac, Uranus.

Jupiter in Leo

Jupiter in Leo

In sum, there is a huge charge of Jupiterian energy in our Sun/Moon/Earth system at present, both for good and ill – as is always the case. The challenge for all of us this soli-lunar month has very much been this: HOW do we take whatever inspiration has come our way and create meaning from it? What are our truths, and how do they shape our lives?

We have seen some of the appalling effects this month of deluded people living out in our world what they see as the truth  – with devastating inhumanity. In this we see Sagittarian energy’s dark and deadly shadow. We struggle with the idea that such ghastly events might have any meaning whatsoever…

So – what have we done this month, even in small ways, to bring some light and inspiration into our personal world? What positive energies have come our way, no matter how difficult things may be, to give us heart and make us feel that life is worth living? 

I do hope some of my readers will respond to this by leaving some comments with personal examples. Let me start you off by sharing some of mine. There are some dark and difficult things going on in our overall family life (Saturn is on my IC…) but I have had some great feedback over the last three weeks regarding my writing, return to teaching, and the astrological work I do.

And the inspiration for this post? A new writer and artist friend who lives in Hawaii (she contacted me, having read an article of mine in The Mountain Astrologer this summer) needed an astrological perspective on the Sagittarian New Moon. On the day of that new moon, she had embarked on an artistic venture linking writing, art and poetry with a new friend of hers – also met via the Internet. I was happy to write a short astrological piece for her. That has formed the core of this post…

“As above, so below” . How profound. how TRUE!

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Zodiac

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1100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page