The moon has long been associated with mystery and the unknown, and its presence in tarot is no exception. To get the moon card in a reading is to be made aware of things that are occurring below the surface. It calls us to listen to our intuition and dreams, and warns that everything may not be as they seem. In astrology, the undercurrent nature of the moon is also seen as it influences our emotions and intuition.
In the chaos of daily life it can be easy to forget about the moon and her cycles. It’s easy for us to get overwhelmed by our responsibilities and lose touch with our inner selves as we try to balance our energy across everything that’s happening on the surface, like work and socialising. Although all these surface happenings are important and not to be neglected, we often find ourselves neglecting everything below it, especially emotions. The consequence of this can be a growing sense of unease that can build up to a burnout if we don’t take care to manage it.
Just as the moon influences the ebb and flow of the tides, so too are our energies affected by it. By paying attention to the moon cycles, and incorporating them into the tarot practice, we can become more aware of our inner selves and the nature of our energies, and align our daily routines to these patterns. Through doing this, we can not only train our own self-awareness, but also move through the cycles of life smoothly without getting trapped in them. So, how does it work?
Firstly, it’s important to understand what each phase of the moon means. According to lunar astrologers, there are 8 phases in a moon cycle: new moon, waxing crescent, waxing quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, disseminating moon, waning quarter, and balsamic moon. The new and full moons tend to be the most powerful influencers, but each phase does have its own purpose. To quote Kathleen Sears in her book, here’s a brief rundown of each lunar phase:
NEW MOON: When the moon is hidden from our sight but still harbours potential; a time of new plans and beginnings.
WAXING CRESCENT: In this phase we are pushed forward down our path, sometimes out of our comfort zones.
WAXING QUARTER: A time for overcoming challenges and making decisions, sometime difficult ones.
GIBBOUS MOON: The response to the waxing quarter’s challenges. Energy is directed into the struggle to resolve the crisis.
FULL MOON: Plans and work come to fruition; a time of fulfillment.
DISSEMINATING MOON: A growing insecurity from the contentment of the full moon.
WANING QUARTER: External conflict (as opposed to the first half’s inner conflict) presents new challenges and tensions with goals.
BALSAMIC MOON: The last phase before the new moon and cycle; a time for winding down.
The MOON app by Charlie Deets is a great way to find out what phase the moon is in on the go.
From understanding the moon phases, we can come one step closer to getting in touch with the patterns and cycles of everyday life. However, sometimes things can still get muddled and confusing (especially during retrogrades!). For this, tarot becomes a useful tool for directing intentions and bringing forth intuition to make sense of situations. Although some do readings for every moon phase, the new and full moons are the main guides for readers who read according to the moon as the turning points in the ebb and flow pattern.
As mentioned above, the new moon is the beginning of the flow part of the cycle. New projects, goals, and intentions are best set at the new moon. When doing a reading, it’s good to focus questions on what you have let go off in the previous cycle and what you want to gain in the next. Biddy Tarot gives a good spread to use during this phase of the moon.
Meanwhile, the full moon is the opposite; it is the ebb of the cycle, and marks a time when we start letting go and settling things. This is a good time to reflect on what you have manifested since the new moon, and what you have to let go of to move on to a new cycle. Here’s another example of a moon-based spread by Labyrinthos.
If you want a more involved and guided approach to utilising the moon cycles into your tarot practice, the Luminous Spirit app is a great place to do so. The app helps you set intentions every new cycle and guides you through specific spreads designed for each phase of the moon cycle.
As a final note to bring us back to earth, Michael Shermer has said that “Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” Personally, the importance of whether the pattern in something exists or not was never as important to me as the pattern itself. We are creatures of habit after all, and finding our own personal structure and patterns we can follow in a world that can seem infinitely messy and tangled can be vital in helping us stay balanced and content in our lives.