The moon is the closest heavenly body to earth, and what a wonderful sight she is. I don’t think there are many people who can say they’re not entranced by this beautiful orb. Even if you don’t hold any particular spiritual belief the moon holds sway over all of us in many more ways than you can imagine. The moon is our night-time light, just as the sun is our day-time light, and both have been lighting humanities way for thousands of years. The moon you see at night is the very same moon our ancestors gazed upon in wonder – that’s an amazing thought isn’t it? There are all kinds of fascinating legends and myths associated with the moon and its cycles.
For instance did you know that the word lunatic comes from the Latin luna, because it was believed that people were more likely to exhibit ‘odd’ behaviour during a Full Moon. Although no conclusive studies have shown this it is true that there seem to be more visits to emergency rooms and accidents during a Full Moon phase. Not only does the Full Moon seem to affect people it also affects animals too – studies have shown that hamsters spin on their wheels more aggressively during this phase of the moon, and in the wild, deer and other herbivores tend to ovulate at this time. Actually I can attest to this last one because the Full Moon is the time when I ovulate and my hormones become all upsy-downsy at this time. An interesting little experiment for us women would be to keep a moon diary for a year and mark on it the times when we menstruate and when we ovulate and see just how near to the Full Moon (or New Moon) these times occur. And of course we all know just how much influence the moon has on the tides due to its gravitational pull.
There is a British legend that if Christmas fell on the day of a dark Moon, the following year’s harvest would be a bountiful one. Some parts of the British Isles believed that a waxing moon on Christmas meant a good crop the next fall, but a waning moon indicated a bad one would come. In some countries, a halo around the moon means bad weather is coming.
Many cultures and pagan traditions associate certain deities to the Moon. In the legends of the Inuit peoples, Alignak is the god of both the moon and weather. He controls the tides, and presides over both earthquakes and eclipses. In some stories, he is also responsible for returning the souls of the dead to earth so that they may be reborn. Alignak may appear in harbours to protect fishermen from Sedna, the wrathful sea goddess. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt. Because her twin brother, Apollo, was associated with the Sun, Artemis gradually became connected to the moon in the post-Classical world. During the ancient Greek period, although Artemis was represented as a lunar goddess, she was never portrayed as the moon itself. Typically, in post-Classical artwork, she is depicted beside a crescent moon. She is often associated with the Roman Diana as well. Cerridwen is, in Celtic mythology, the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge. She is the giver of wisdom and inspiration, and as such is often associated with the moon and the intuitive process. As a goddess of the Underworld, Cerridwen is often symbolized by a white sow, which represents both her fecundity and fertility and her strength as a mother. She is both Mother and Crone; many modern Pagans honour Cerridwen for her close association to the full moon. In Chinese mythology, Chang’e was married to the king Hou Yi. Although he was once known as a great archer, later Hou Yi became a tyrannical king, who spread death and destruction wherever he went. The people starved and were brutally treated. Hou Yi greatly feared death, so a healer gave him a special elixir that would allow him to live forever. Chang’e knew that for Hou Yi to live forever would be a terrible thing, so one night while he slept, Chang’e stole the potion. When he saw her and demanded she return the potion, she immediately drank the elixir and flew up into the sky as the moon, where she remains to this day. In some Chinese stories, this is the perfect example of someone making a sacrifice to save others. In Aztec stories, Coyolxauhqui was the sister of the god Huitzilopochtli. She died when her brother leapt from their mother’s womb and killed all of his siblings. Huitzilopochtli cut off Coyolxauhqui’s head and threw it up into the sky, where it remains today as the moon. She is typically depicted as a young and beautiful woman, adorned with bells and decorated with lunar symbols. Much like the Greek Artemis, Diana began as a goddess of the hunt who later evolved into a lunar goddess. In Charles Leland’s Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, he pays homage to Diana Lucifera (Diana of the light) in her aspect as a light-bearing goddess of the moon. Hecate was venerated as a mother goddess, and during the Ptolemaic period in Alexandria was elevated to her position as goddess of ghosts and the spirit world. Many contemporary Pagans and Wiccans honour Hecate in her guise as a Dark Goddess, although it would be incorrect to refer to her as an aspect of the Crone, because of her connection to childbirth and maidenhood. It’s more likely that her role as “dark goddess” comes from her connection to the spirit world, ghosts, the dark moon, and magic. Selene was the sister of Helios, the Greek sun god. Tribute was paid to her on the days of the full moon. Like many Greek goddesses, she had a number of different aspects. At one point she was worshipped as Phoebe, the huntress, and later was identified with Artemis. Her lover was a young shepherd prince named Endymion, who was granted immortality by Zeus – however, he was also granted eternal slumber, so all that immortality and eternal youth was wasted on Endymion. The shepherd was doomed to sleeping in a cave forever, so Selene descended from the sky every night to sleep beside him. Unlike most other lunar goddesses of Greece, Selene is the only one who is actually portrayed as the moon incarnate by the early classical poets. These are just a few deities who are attributed to the moon, although there are many more.
For many Pagans and Wiccans, the cycles of the moon are important to magical workings. It’s believed in some traditions that the waxing moon, the full moon, the waning moon and the new moon all have their own special magical properties, and so workings should be planned accordingly. If your tradition follows these guidelines — or if you think you’d like to time your magic based upon the phase of the moon — here are some tips on what sort of magic to perform during the various lunar stages:
The Waxing Moon – is the phase during which the moon grows from dark to full, and it takes about 14 days for this to happen. This is a good time for ‘positive’ magic, increase, drawing things to you. For example, bringing love into your life, fertility or prosperity, getting a new job or home.
The Full Moon – is when we can see the whole moon in the sky (actually only an entire side of the moon as we never see the other side). For magical purposes this phase includes one day before and one day after, so a total of 3 days. It’s a good time to focus your spells or rituals on personal growth and spiritual development. For example, working with your intuition, healing, rituals that connect you closely with deity, developing magical skills, thanksgiving etc.
The Waning Moon – the phase during which the moon goes from full to dark once again, and like the waxing phase lasts for about 14 days. In many traditions of Wicca and Paganism it is the time to do ‘baneful’ magic – that which sends away, gets rid of something (or someone), that which you no longer wish to be burdened with (banishing). For example, magic to banish negative or toxic habits or people from your life, any magic to reduce things, like debt, illness etc.
The Dark Moon – this is the phase where you cannot see the moon at all in the sky, her face is dark and it comes just before the New Moon. This is a time for communing with Dark Gods and Goddesses, divination, doing shadow work etc.
The New Moon – come just after the Dark Moon and the moon will only appear as a faint sliver of light low on the horizon. It is sometimes amalgamated in with the Dark Moon because these two phases are so very near each other. It is considered a fallow period, a time of rest before the moon starts really waxing again. It is a time for rest and rejuvenation, cleansing and purifying body and mind, rituals that cleanse and purify sacred space or divination.
A wonderful way of celebrating the moon is to create a moon garden. There are lots of plants which bloom at night, or give off a wonderful fragrance during the dark hours, and cultivating a moon garden is a great way to get in touch with nature, and provides a beautiful backdrop to your moonlit rituals during the summer months.
Many night blooming plants have white or silver flowers and have a luminous appearance, just like our beautiful moon. you can also mix them with silver foliaged plants for awesome effect. Of course probably the most well known of the night bloomers is the Moon Flower, which really does bloom at night (during the day its petals are tightly closed up) and it also has a lovely lemon scent when it blooms at night. Its cousin is the Morning Glory (another beautiful plant) and both are climbers and can reach about 8 feet in height with large flowers that span from 5 to 6 inches across. Another wonderful flower for a moon garden is Evening Primrose (yes, you know it – they make a wonderful oil) but this does spread rapidly. Nevertheless, when the flowers open at dusk they release a lovely sweet aroma. Night Phlox is such a pretty little plant, with tiny star shaped flowers that open at dusk and have a gorgeous scent rather like honey or vanilla.
You can add day blooming white flowers and silver foliaged plants to your moon garden. Pick plants like Dusty Millars, Silver Thyme, Lamb’s Ears, Mugwort (Artemesia), Silver Sage, Calla Lilies and so forth. Other herbs and flowers with strong lunar connections are camphor, eucalyptus, gardenia, jasmine, moonwort, sandalwood, willow, water lily and sleepwort. With a bit of research I’m sure you can find many more.
So what can you do with a moon garden – well the possibilities are endless! With flowers that bloom under the powerful energy of a Full Moon you can harvest and dry them for talismans or charms, use them to dress candles with, use them as part of a flower bath, include them in incense to help enhance intuition and wisdom…or just sit out under a Full moon and enjoy their gorgeous scent…a gift from the Moon!