The Esbats: Working With The Moon Phases
In the world of Pagan Metaphysics, we call the observance of the Moon, Esbat days, or Ritual days. These phases are where we combine the energy of the Divine Goddess, in this case in the form of Grandmother Moon, with your own energy, for magikal working.
Every magikal practitioner should know which days to work with the Moon and which days to take off. Which Moon phases are best for what kind of casting and which are for rest.
These guidelines are not cast in stone and certainly if you have a friend in dire need of healing, you don’t need to wait until the next Waxing Moon to conduct a ritual. But for some of the best results, here are a few guidelines, interesting tid-bits, and helpful hints to keep in mind.
Picture the movement of the moon in terms of a clock whose hands are moving backward. The moon rests on the clock’s hour hand, Earth sits at the clock’s center. While the sun shines far off in the direction of 12 o’clock. As the moon orbits counterclockwise around Earth, its position relative to the sun and Earth changes, giving us the varied phases of the moon. Each phase of the moon lasts approximately 5 days.
Not everyone observes all 5 days as Magikal Working days. Some cultures recognize 3 days, the day before the pinnacle of the phase, the day of pinnacle and the day after. In other words, the day before a Full Moon, the day of the Full Moon and the day after. While other culture only recognize the day of the event. I’m partial to the 3 day concept. It lines up with the idea that magik is practiced in whole, as a union between the physical world and spiritual world. A better way to think of this would be in the Divine Conscious state of Mind, Body and Spirit.
The Lunar Phases
Let’s start with a little science and the astronomical phases of the Moon. Most people know the 4 phases of the Moon.
1. New Moon
The first phase in the lunar cycle is the new moon. The moon is positioned between the sun and Earth at 12 o’clock. From Earth, the sun and moon appear to be in the same part of the sky and will rise and set together. The side of the moon that receives the sun’s light is facing away from Earth, so no moon is visible to us on Earth’s surface. On a very clear night, you might be able to make out a faint gray outlined view of the moon. This comes from the light of the sun being refracted off the Earth and back out to the moon.
One day after the new moon, a faint sliver outline can be seen low on the western horizon at sunset. The moon has moved from new to a waxing crescent phase. As the moon continues in its counterclockwise orbit, the crescent grows larger, or waxes. One week later, the moon reaches its second primary phase, the first quarter moon. Accordingly, the moon has moved one quarter of the way around Earth.
2. 1st Quarter Moon or Waxing Moon
At the first quarter, the moon sits at 9 o’clock. The sun, Earth, and moon form a right triangle on the left side of the clock. Here only half of the moon’s disk is illuminated. At first quarter, the moon rises 6 hours after the sun – at about noon. It reaches its highest point at sundown and sets around midnight. That means the moon can be seen during daylight hours in the afternoon.
For several days after first quarter, the moon continues to wax but it is in a waxing gibbous phase instead of a waxing crescent. A gibbous moon is more than a quarter moon but less than a full moon. During this phase, the moon moves from 9 o’clock to 6 o’clock on the dial, and the sun-Earth-moon angle is getting larger – just like the moon’s phase.
3. Full Moon
When the moon reaches its 6 o’clock position, the phase is full. The side of the moon that faces Earth is fully illuminated – that large circle of light a certain two-year-old child (my son) called the moon ball. On the clock, the sun, Earth, and moon form a straight line. From Earth, the sun and moon appear to be at opposite ends of the sky. So as the sun sets, the moon rises. The full moon is now visible all night.
Once it’s past full, the moon moves from 6 o’clock to 3 o’clock and the sun-Earth-moon angle begins to shrink. The moon’s phase is also getting smaller. It’s moving from waning gibbous to its third or last-quarter phase.
4. Last Quarter Moon or Waning Moon
This third-quarter moon sits at 3 o’clock on the phase dial, where the sun-Earth-moon angle is once again 90°, but this time it’s on the right side of the clock. From Earth, we see half of the moon’s disk illuminated – the side opposite as the one illuminated at first quarter. A third-quarter moon rises about six hours after the sun sets, reaches its highest point in the southern sky at dawn, and sets at about noon.
As the moon orbits Earth (the inner circle) its position relative to the sun and Earth changes. This causes the lunar phases we see in our sky (the outer circle). In the week after the third quarter, the moon moves through its waning crescent phase to its dark phase.
In Magik practices there’s a 5th Moon phase.
5. The Dark Moon or what we call Void of Course.
The Dark Moon period occurs 3 days prior to the New Moon and it’s the shortest ‘phase’ of the moon. This is the time when you can’t see the moon in any phase. The Void of Course moon is not recognized through astronomical means, it’s purely a nature based observance and/or astrological phase.
On top of these phases of the Moon, we also recognize 5 Lunar events in astronomy and astrology.
1. The Lunar Eclipse
A Lunar eclipse occurs when the entire moon passes into the Earth’s shadow. This can happen 3 times a year, or not at all. The last time the Moon graced us with 3 lunar eclipse events was in 1982.
2. The Partial Lunar Eclipse, also known as an Umbral Eclipse
A Partial Lunar Eclipse occurs when part of the Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, known as the umbral shadow. Partial Eclipse events occur more often and outnumber total eclipses, occurring about 7 to 6 times a year.
3. A Blue Moon
When a Full Moon phase appears twice in the same month, the second Full Moon is known as the Blue Moon.
4. A Black Moon
You can also observe a New Moon twice in the same month as well. When this occurs, the second New Moon is called the Black Moon.
5. A Blood Moon, also known as a Red Moon
In October, the Full Moon is known as the Hunter’s Moon or the Harvest Moon. In some regions of Europe, it may also be known as the Blood Moon. It gets its name from two sources. First, it’s a spiritual observance by Pagans to honor The Sacred King who gives his life in an effort to bring forth a bountiful harvest. Second, it is also associated with hunters who tracked and killed their prey by autumn moonlight, stockpiling food for the winter ahead. It used to be assigned to the 3 Full Moons of Autumn. Over time, that changed to occur on the Full Moon nearest the Autumn Equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere that occurs in October.
You might wonder why we don’t talk about the Prenumbral Eclipse. Primarily because they’re very hard to see with the naked eye. The ancient or early Pagans didn’t have the benefit of the Naval Observatory to help them study the skies. When they occur, the Moon simply doesn’t look as bright as it normally would. But you still the full phase that the Moon is in. During the Umbral Eclipse, you’ll notice a piece of the Moon is missing, regardless of which phase you’re observing.
Each phase of the moon brings with it a special energy for that phase of the lunar cycle. Everyone knows the moon affects the tides of the worlds oceans, but because we are mostly liquid ourselves, these phases also affect us. Understanding what these energies bring, help you to connect with and use those energies in your magikal rituals, meditations and even your daily life.
1. New Moon
The New Moon phase is best used for personal growth, healing and blessing of new projects or ventures. It’s also a good time to cleanse and consecrate new tools and objects you wish to use during rituals, ceremonies or an up coming festival.
2. Waning Moon – 1st Quarter
The Waxing moon is best used for attraction magik, inner love spells, protection for couples and healing energy for couples. What you want to attract to yourself and your path can be enhanced during this phase of the moon.
3. Full Moon
The Full Moon is best used for banishing unwanted influences in your life. Think of it as ‘shining a light’ on issues or challenges. It can also be a good time for creating protection magik and performing divination. You can use this time for releasing old patterns or issues, and open the door for healing by giving energy to positive patterns you’ll put in place.
4 Waning Moon – Last Quarter
The Waning moon is used for banishing and rejecting those things that influence us in a negative way. Negative emotions, diseases, ailments, and bad habits can all be let go and special spells for clearing negative energies from the self, home, ritual circle, tools and so on can be performed at this time. Simply remember that when you remove an energy, you want to fill the void with a more positive energy. So this is also a good time to consecrate the future with what you want it to be as you move forward.
5. Dark Moon
The Dark Moon period occurs 3 days prior to the New Moon and it’s the shortest ‘phase’ of the moon. This is the time when you can’t see the moon in any phase. Typically no magik is performed during this time. This is the time to give yourself a break, to turn to self and pamper or replenish your own energies. Vision quests and deep meditations are called for at this time to focus on personal matters, questions and answers.
6. Lunar Eclipse
An eclipse only lasts for only a few hours, so you need to plan your rituals well in advance. A lunar eclipse on a full moon is perfect for all purposes. Simply plan your spells to coordinate with the passing shadow. When the moon is in full eclipse, treat those few moments as if the moon were in its Dark phase. Some practitioners forgo magik work all together and use this time to honor the GrandMother Moon or the Crone Goddess in a special ritual.
7. Partial Lunar Eclipse
Again an eclipse only lasts for only a few hours, so plan carefully. This is the perfect night to honor the magik of the GrandMother Moon or the Crone Goddess. No work or casting, just thankfulness and gratitude.
Remember than in the Spiritual Universe and especially in Paganism, we believe that all things are connected and intertwined. When conducting rituals, we go out of our way to use the right energy with and for the right purpose. But this is not a law, nor is it set in stone. Where you are in the world, what supporting tools you want to use, such as color, candles, objects all have their own variation. Even cultural meaning or observances can influence a ritual. Do what feels right to you and be cognoscente of your personal intent and you’ll be fine.
© 2018 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.