The moon is perhaps the most magical draw to the path of Witchcraft. By its silvery light, the world is changed, is made mysterious and beautiful with darkness around its edges. The moon is utterly enchanting, as we watch it move through its phases, from dark to full and back to dark again. Within the cycle of the moon, we can see the cycle of our lives.

Yet, like all things on this planet, the moon does not operate independently. Its light is a reflection of the sun, and it is held in place by the earth’s gravitational pull. The moon pulls as well, causing the high and low tides, and swelling the world’s seas and oceans with its magnetic draw. So too are we pulled by the energy of the moon, from high to low, from dark to light, dancing in its energy.

Witches have always been associated with the moon. They were said to gather under the light of the full moon for their Sabbaths, or honour moon goddesses with devotional rites. The play of darkness and light with the moon’s energy appeals to many a Witch, who honours both the light and the dark in her or his life. There are many deities associated with the moon, and many cycles from various cultures around the world follow a lunar-based schedule, whether it is for planting or reaping crops, or creating a calendar that honours each of the 13 moons in a year’s cycle.

The moon’s monthly cycle is roughly 28 days, waxing from dark to full and back to dark moon again. As well, the moon takes around 27 days to rotate on its own axis, which is why we don’t see the moon spinning and hence why we never see the dark side of the moon. The dark moon is when the moon is closest to the sun during the day, and therefore we cannot see it at all. The new moon, which occurs three days after the dark moon, is the barest slip of a crescent that appears in the evening sky in the west shortly after sunset. The moon waxes to the first quarter, about a week after the dark moon, and then to the half, when the horns of the crescent (which in the waxing phase point to the left) disappear. From the half moon the moon waxes still to the full point, and in this phase it is called a waxing gibbous moon. Gibbous is from the Latin, gibbus, which means hump, and we can clearly see this growing bulge on the left-hand side of the  moon. The moon then reaches full, riding at its highest point in that cycle, and rises in conjunction with the sunset. We then see the waning phase of the moon’s cycle, from waning gibbous, where the bulge is decreasing from the right-hand side, to the waning half-moon and then the waning crescent moon. The dark moon comes once again, where the moon seems to disappear from the night sky for three days. A blue moon is when there are two full moons appearing in an astrological sign. Nowadays, people often refer to a blue moon as the second full moon in a calendar month, but this is technically incorrect.

If we observe the moon’s rising and setting, we will note that it rises and sets at a different point each day, just as the sun does on the horizon. The moon’s cycle is much quicker and more dramatic, travelling eastwards around thirteen degrees every day, and rising approximately 50 minutes later each night. As the sun and moon are in a constant dance with each other, we see the cycles of the sun in the moon, and the moon in the sun. Where the full moon rises at the Winter Solstice, is where the sun rises at the Summer Solstice, for the longest night is then swapped with the longest day, and the monthly moon cycle literally reflects that phenomenon. This event is swapped six months later. At each point where the full moon rises, in six months’ time that is where the sun will rise.

The rising and setting of the moon performs a dance with the sun. When the moon is dark it rises and sets with the sun. In the first quarter, when the moon is half, it rises at noon and sets at midnight. At the full moon, it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. At the fourth quarter, the waning half-moon, it rises at midnight and sets at noon.

Eclipses are yet another dance of the sun and moon with the earth. The dark moon blocks out the light of the sun during a solar eclipse. A partial or full lunar eclipse is when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow, cast by the sun, which can only occur when the moon is full, as the sun is on the opposite side of the earth then for this phenomenon to happen.

As previously mentioned, the moon affects the tides, especially at the full and dark moons. When it is times with the full or dark moon, we have what is known as Spring Tides, which are very high tides which, when combined with the weather, can create devastating storm surges. A neap tide is the tide just after the first or third quarters of the moon when there is the least difference between high and low water.

Some work their Craft according to astrological timings with the moon, following what sign the moon is in, and knowing that the sun is in the opposite sign. The moon is in each astrological sign for approximately 2.5 days, and when the moon is moving from one sign to another, it is termed “void of course”. This is a phenomenon that can last a few hours, to a day or more. Some Witches will not do spellcraft or other work when the moon is void of course, others do not follow astrological tides at all. It is purely your choice as to how you wish to honour the lunar cycles in your own Craft.

To be continued...


Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid, Witch and a best-selling author. She has been working in Pagan traditions for over 20 years. She is the Director of Druid College UK, helping to re-weave the connection to the land and teaching a modern interpretation of the ancient Celtic religion.