The Moon and Tarot
Since human beings first started gazing up at the sky, the moon has held a powerful place in our minds. Cultures and belief systems around the world have used the moon to do everything from explain natural phenomena, to count time. Even today, the Chinese still use a lunar calendar for cultural purposes. The calendars of two major world religions, Islam and Judaism, are also lunar (or for the latter, partially lunar). Pagans and some Native American tribes still worship and honour this celestial body.
The moon has also become a pop culture icon. One of the first famous silent films is Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, whose scene of a pie-like moon being hit in the mustachioed “face” with a rocket ship is still easily recognized and appreciated by movie buffs today. And of course, a full moon is practically a horror movie staple, whether it’s playing catalyst to a werewolf’s frightening transformation, or hanging ominously in the sky behind a haunted house.
But does the moon really have any ‘power’? In recent centuries, with the development of more scientific ways of thought, some moon myths have been debunked – or almost: Most of us have at least a tiny voice inside that believes that the moon has an influence on human bodies and behaviours. According to several studies, this belief is also held by a significant number of medical doctors, mental health specialists, emergency room workers, veterinarians, and other people in the healthcare field.
Another belief that has some scientific backing, but seems to also be very much about instinct, is that of the tie between the moon and fertility. A woman’s menstrual cycle is about the same number of days as a lunar cycle, and scientists have long been trying to figure out if there really is some kind of connection. Many studies, including one published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica in 2011, have found that a significant number of women have their periods on or around the full moon. Because it could affect menstruation, knowing the moon’s cycle can be a powerful strategy for women hoping to conceive a child. One theory about this connection is ‘Lunaception’, developed by Louise Lacey in the early 1970’s. Lacey and her followers believe that because humans were originally exposed only to moonlight at night (as opposed to electric or artificial lighting), and then only significantly during the full moon, we’ve now thrown off our cycles. Her book Lunaception is an intriguing read.
One thing everyone can agree on is that the moon certainly affects the tides. While the sun also draws Earth’s water towards its gravitational pull, the moon is even more powerful. It may sound strange since the sun is so much larger than the moon, but the moon’s advantage here is distance: the closer an object is to another, the greater influence it will have when it comes to gravity. Without the moon, our world, with its tumultuous oceans and the cycles of high and low tide, would be a very different place!
Not only does the moon affect the oceans; it also has a pull on groundwater levels. And so, rather cleverly, in addition to worshipping the moon, many ancient cultures also adapted their knowledge of the lunar cycle and used it to judge when to plant crops. Although it’s not as widespread today, lunar gardening has continued through the millennia, down to the present. In addition to the moon’s effect on groundwater, some lunar gardeners also believe that moonlight itself can affect how crops grow. It turns out there’s science behind this idea, too: a study showed that planting by moonlight may cause weeds to stop growing as much – although researcher Keith Kohler points out that this could mean any similar kind of light. Still, it shows that moon gardeners have a point. And, as with the human behaviour issue, even if there weren’t a scientific basis to this horticultural tradition, countless gardeners swear by it.
Gardeners, astronomers, and seafarers aren’t the only ones paying attention to the moon. Attuned to nature, modern pagan religions are among those that closely observe and follow the lunar cycles. In a calendar year, there are 13 full moons — better known in the world of magick as 13 Esbats (remember, thirteen is a lucky number). Here’s my list of the most notable of these moons – and some advice for what to do when they’re in the sky:
The New Moon
This is the time to begin new projects. It is also the time to ask for help to create something new in your life or to draw someone or something to you.
The Waxing Moon
This is a time of energy building up. Do rituals now that involve increasing.
The Full Moon
The time of harvest and fruition. If you did a drawing ritual at the new moon you will have the results of that now at the time of the full moon so, give thanks.
The Waning Moon
Energy is decreasing now. It is like autumn in the seasons of the year. Watch your energy levels and now is the time for ‘casting away’ getting rid of things, ideas, outmoded beliefs or even giving up the fags!
As a Tarot reader and teacher, the moon means even more to me than all of this. Important as this celestial body is, it’s not surprising that The Moon is one of the Major Arcana cards in the Tarot deck.
The Moon card connects us to the ancient Goddess Hecate who rules the moon, magic and enchantment. It’s all about cycles, dreams, mystery, meditation and psychic activity. Taking the time to just be, and going with the flow.
The moon bridges the gap between the conscious and the unconscious mind, she reflects back to us the mystery of who we are. In the softness of the moonlight, we begin to see ourselves as we move through the various chapters and the changing circumstances in our lives. The Moon card provides an opportunity to reflect on where we have come from and a time in which we can see how we have indeed been supported by life.
In a reading, The Moon can represent:
- deep-seated fears, both personal and collective. eg: fear of abandonment, fear of failure.
- feelings or memories from the past, usually childhood, but sometimes previous lives.
- a time of reflection.
- a warning not to rely on your sixth sense right now, as fear may cloud you.
Words that are associated with The Moon card are: ‘flow’, ‘stillness,’ ‘rebirth,’ ‘the past,’ ‘mental,’ ‘gratitude,’ ‘unclear,’ ‘soft,’ ‘dreams,’ ‘dreaminess,’ ‘surfacing,’ ‘journey,’ ‘fullness,’ ‘cycles.’ And the Moon affirmation is ‘I go with the flow.’
The moon and its role in the Tarot have fascinated me for years. Recently, I had the pleasure to create my own major arcana deck, called the Tarot Oil Tarot (the TOT Deck), with illustrations by the talented artist Dima Blue. In front of a full moon are images of a wolf and a howling dog. The dog, although normally domesticated, has given himself over to the pull of the moon and is embracing it! This prompts a question does it not? Does the full moons pull de-stabilise our usual emotional calm, or does it show the distance between our true wild nature and what we have forced ourselves to become? In the TOT version of The Moon tarot card you’ll also see images of clary sage, Peru balsam, and marjoram, the essential oils that when combined, correspond to this card. If you’re interested in learning more about aromatics and the tarot, please feel free to read my Tarot & Aromatherapy ebook. And if the TOT deck intrigues you, as I hope it does, you can learn more about it or order a copy here.
Both the moon and The Moon Tarot card can stir or evoke feelings that can be conflicted and troubling. I often encourage people who’ve had The Moon in their reading to do something like practice yoga – especially a Moon Salutation – to help them get rid of any anxiety or fears and help them better ‘go with the flow’.
The moon is a fascinating, mysterious celestial body that governs the tides, can influence plant growth, and very likely has a powerful influence on human moods and behaviours, too. The next time you see a full moon, try to celebrate. Have you ever wanted to get your gear off and go ‘moon bathing’? Believe me it feels absolutely deliciously naughty! If you practice a pagan religion, think about making yourself a special dress (white of course) that you only wear during moon rituals.
And the next time you draw The Moon in a Tarot reading, take time to reflect on what is surfacing for you regardless of whether it is important musings, memories or even fears. Getting through these things, and then practicing a calming activity afterwards, will help you flow more peacefully down the moonlit river of life.
Wild Woman Tarot