10 - Moon Magic and Solar Cycles
The Moon holds a special place in magickal lore She is the only astral body which encircles the Earth, the planets proper orbit the Sun, while the Sun itself orbits the Galactic Centre There is thus an especially intimate relationship built up between the Moon and the Earth The occult teaching is that the Moon acts as the transmitter for all the other planetary forces, receiving their several influences and relaying them to our planet.
(Tony Willis Magick And The Tarot)
The power of the sun and the moon have always been considered potent influences on the activities of mankind. Today we have all sorts of scientific explanations as to the effect of sunlight on plants, or of the moon's position and the state of the tides of the sea, but to our ancestors there was a great deal more to these Lights in the Sky, and the effects they had on the world below.
On one hand, both the sun and the moon were seen as being either gods and goddesses actually flying through the heavens, or, more frequently, as symbols of such luminous deities. The Druids had a concept of the Son behind the Sun, a great power hidden by the sheer brilliance of sunlight. They did not worship the actual star, which we now know forms the central axle of our solar system, but the energy, the force that great light represented.
This is the most important aspect of all magical arts. What every spell, ritual or practical working is doing is manipulating the power which is so often referred to as the Light. Today we understand that light itself is energy, transformed from fuel by heat, as in a candle flame, or by making a thin filament incandescent as in an electric bulb, but there is an inner meaning to the concept of light.
This also turns up in many religions; for example, Jesus is called 'The Light of the World' and angels are described as 'The Shining Ones'. But there is more to it than a philosophical argument about the meaning of words. We may see the Moon Goddess in her guise as the moon in the sky, in one other of her phases; we may comprehend and worship a Sun God, especially at sunrise or midsummer, but beneath that ritual act there should be an awareness of a greater idea. Light is a symbol of growth, it is eternal, for the light of the first spark is still travelling outwards through the universe, at the speed of light. It is a symbol of illumination, of 'seeing the light' or receiving a 'flash of inspiration'. We seek 'enlightenment' which means more than simply driving out darkness from our rooms after nightfall.
Lights in the sky, by day or night, have always attracted the attention of the curious and though today we may scoff at the idea of the actual planets having any possible influence on our lives, because they are so far away, we still may consult our horoscopes before making an important decision, or just look at the 'Stars' in the newspaper for the day's predictions. Again scientists, who scoffed harder than most, have begun to discover statistical correlations between the positions of certain planets in a person's horoscope and his skill as a writer or athlete, for instance. Michel Gauqueline has written several books based on such evidence, and he started out extremely sceptical about the value of astrology.
The earliest calendars, some dating back to the Stone Age carved on the walls of caves, seem to represent the phases of the moon. There is a fascinating relief carving of a fat, female goddess figure holding up a curved horn or moon-shaped object marked into segments, perhaps indicating the days of change from new moon to full.
Pieces of deer antler have been similarly marked by very ancient and supposedly primitive people. Many of the earliest constructions on a grand scale of human endeavour, the vast earthworks, the rings and ellipses of standing stones, the long avenues, the great mile-long dikes, seem to point to alignments of the rising or setting sun, or moon. Stonehenge, through all the hundreds of years of its construction, through each of its changed layouts and refinements, always seems to have been aligned to the sunrises at the equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices. From the most ancient arrangements of poles of wood to the interlinked flattened circle of trilithons, the elaborate constructions of antiquity have always bound the patterns of sky and earth together.
All round the world the ancient peoples watched the changing specks of light in the night sky, seeing, without any magnifying equipment, patterns, animals, gods and goddesses, heroes and mythological creatures. From the farthest East to the farthest West, there is an understanding about what the stars are trying to tell us. On the most basic level the constellations of the Zodiac, for example, are simply mnemonics by which the passing seasons can be noted, so that when the ancient Egyptians saw the bright green star Sirius rising over the horizon in what is now called July, they knew that the waters of the Nile would begin to rise in the annual flood, which brought the black and fertile soil down from the mountains.
Sirius is part of the constellation of the Great Dog close on the heels of Orion, the mighty hunter with his starry belt and shining sword which, after the Great Bear or Plough, is one of the easiest constellations to recognise in the winter sky.
What those scattered patterns of points of light traversing the dark heavens may have meant to our ancestors, we cannot now be sure. All round the world similar legends exist, where great human heroes or heroines have been taken up and become stars because of their exploits on earth, or where the Great Gods live out their own lives in the starry deeps of the firmament.
We know that there is an ancient tradition of wisdom coming from the stars, that they have things to teach us and powers to impart. Somehow this concept has been corrupted by the mechanically minded seekers of the last few decades, and the idea of aliens from space arriving in flying saucers has taken over from a simpler and purer idea from long ago.
Underneath this myth there is the seed of a great Mystery, concerning the awakening of consciousness on this planet. It is not possible to explain in words what this concept implies, but if you meditate upon the known symbolism of the stars you may uncover your own revelation. The Tarot Star card, for example, usually means 'Hope'.
The stars may be used for guidance, not only in marine navigation; they may be 'wished upon', they personify the goal on which many aspiring actors and actresses set their hearts. Having 'stars in your eyes' may be a sign of love, or of ecstasy or joy. These common sayings may seem to bring us a long way from the entry of divine and starry wisdom into the Earth plane, but they retain the inner implications of a very great matter.
Even in our humblest little rites we use light, for it is most common to light a candle before an indoor meditation, or perhaps a nightlight in a jar for safety's sake, out of doors. A tiny point of living flame forms a sphere of illumination and it is the unconsidered symbolism of this which helps direct, protect and enhance our magics. The great lights in the sky often appear to modern people as useful rather than magical; the sun brings daylight and the moon, if we notice her at all, changes shape and position through the month.
We can become aware that each of these heavenly bodies gives out forces which, on the one hand, are easily detected and on the other show more mysterious energies, which magicians and witches through the long ages have made use of in their workings. We know the sun gives out heat; we bask, conditions permitting, in the warmth, and seek out sunlight as part of most holidays.
We know about the light of the sun for it illumines our world, and through its action everything takes on bright colours. We know about the power of the sun being used in solar heating, yet we may forget that every living thing draws on the sun for life. Green plants exist and grow because sunlight assists their internal chemistry to transmute water and minerals into greenery, flowers and fruit.
The moon, reflecting the light of the sun from her pale surface, draws up the tides by her monthly gravitational pull. She rises far more erratically, sometimes seeming at the sky's zenith, sometimes low on the horizon. We don't usually notice such strange behaviour, finding it sufficient to cope with the phases of waxing, full and waning, which even modern witches take into consideration in their Goddess-based rites. Because the human body contains about 65% water we too are drawn by the lunar tides, but in a different way.
Often, towards the full or the dark of the moon (as people differ), our dreams become more vivid or contain stronger images, more lasting impressions than at other times. Those who keep dream diaries will soon discover such a pattern emerging, and this nocturnal awareness can be enhanced to make use of our innate predictive abilities so that we can teach ourselves, over many months, to dream true and gain glimpses of the future.
The moon's powers have nearly always been associated with psychic matters, and though old pagan meetings usually took place at the full moon, this was a purely practical matter. In the days before street lighting or the use of calendars, most people calculated time by the phases of the moon, and if gatherings were to be held, the light from the moon would not only fix the date but guide the travellers to their secret destination, assuming that the sky was clear or that it wasn't raining!
The real magical work was, and still is, normally done in the days leading up to both the full and new moons. If you want to increase your personal psychic powers, try experiments in the days before the new moon, when she is dark, for then her magical forces work on our inner levels. See how much more structured and controlled your meditations are then, how much easier it is to concentrate on occult work. This applies to divination with the Tarot, and the psychic aspects of healing.
Just before the full moon, work outgoing magic, so that her astral light can shine upon your healing spell, your vegetable patch or herb garden. Try to get out of doors at night and sense the power in the air and the earth under your feet. Talk to your tree and see how the moon blesses the growing things with a muted light yet an inner tidal power of growth. Learn to plant flowering plants, herbs and vegetables which are picked above the ground when the moon is waxing, and root vegetables, tubers and bulbs when she is waning, as the Wise Ones of old used to do.
You can try blessing things with moon power, by taking a glass goblet or bowl of spring water and a shiny glass mirror out during a clear night of a waxing moon. When the moon is fairly low on the horizon, newly risen or just setting, catch her light in the water, so that you can see her reflection in it. This moon-blessed water can be used to scry in, placed in a clear vessel on a dark background, perhaps contained within the circle of candle light just as the old witches used to scry in their seething cauldrons.
Focus your inner sight on the depths of the water when it has become still, and then relax with your eyes closed. Ask the moon to bless your vision, and gently open your eyes, gazing steadily but without strain into the water. See what you notice, but do it in a calm way, allowing any changes to occur without breaking your detached mode of thought.
Nothing may happen the first time you try, but if you persist you will begin to see a milkiness in the water, vague patterns of colour, points of light, and over a few sessions, these will grow clearer and eventually become pictures, symbols, numbers, words, figures, or simply voices in your head, telling you things. Keep the water in a dark glass bottle, keep it clean and you may drink a sip as a token of kinship with the powers of the moon, or sprinkle it over your head. It can be used to bless the room, lunar talismans and so on.
Because both the sun and the moon dictate the cycles of our lives, giving us days and nights, months, times of inwardness and bright periods of outer growth, so these forces can be invoked to help with rituals. Again, this is an exercise which needs to be practised slowly, step by step, becoming familiar with every part, and then you will discover that you can perform the whole thing, mentally, quickly and effectively.
Sit quietly in your favourite place, best of all out of doors under a great tree, and on the first occasion bring a notebook. In this you will need to write a list of concepts and instructions, and as you go through the ritual, if you are doing it right, you will be given a set of short poems, invocations, sayings, call them what you will, to make your very own personal space-blessing ceremony.
This simple exercise is known as 'Calling the Light' and is a very ancient way of building a magical sphere about you, to enhance your magic, bring you peace of mind or as a protection from the scurrying vibes of the everyday world. It should only be seen as a temporary measure, to cope with a brief problem, not a suit of incorruptible armour to be worn all the time.
Begin by looking to the East. Think of the sun at sunrise. See the sky is already light, but over the dark rim of the horizon a point, then a bar of brilliant light is appearing, until the great circle of the golden sun can be seen rolling upwards into the sky. See this clearly and acknowledge the dawn with a small poem or saying. Next look to the South and see banks of bright red, orange and yellow flowers vibrant with sunlight, warmth and energy. Visualise it until you can feel the heat, smell the flowers, hear the bees busy in the blossoms.
Write another poem or invocation to the sun at noon. Perceive everything flooded with light. Next look to the West, and the setting sun in the apricot and azure sky of evening. Feel the power sinking into the Earth or the Western ocean. Sense the coolness descending, and awaken peace and contentment and satisfaction within your heart. Write words of farewell to the light, and welcome to the enfolding darkness. To complete this circle, look to the North and see a rocky landscape at night under a sky studded with millions of bright and multicoloured stars.
Call upon the powers of those stars to inspire and awaken your inner wisdom. Feel the entire energy of the universe slowly turning about you, and write star-spangled words of longing for your galactic home, your Cosmic Mother and Sky Father. See the blackness and brightness, live in that sky.
Next, look to your right, and in the imagined darkness of night, see the pale crescent of the new moon rising. Call her sister, lover or friend and ask that her light will shine on your dreams and awaken your mystical powers. See her rise up among the singing stars, and write words to speak of that experience. Next look to your left and there see the old moon setting, again a pale crescent, mirror image of the new moon. See faintly against the dark night sky the starlit filament of curving light which traces the new moon in the old moon's arms, as they sink silently into the West.
Ask for inner strength when things are difficult, patience, endurance and persistence so that no matter how dark events may look, you will always know that a light will shine upon you, and a new and brighter day will dawn. Next look up, and there at the zenith of heaven is the round face of the full moon, high and poised above you. She can offer you words of illumination, of wine-bright inspiration and cold logic, even when this is least expected. Her words may sound hard in your ears for what is seen by moonlight is never the same as things seen in the light of the sun.
Next, look down. Here there seems to be no light, just utter blackness of the deep and fertile Earth. Yet here is foundation, security, the springboard from which your wildest dreams can be launched, the home to which you will eventually return at the end of all your wanderings, through this world and many others. See darkness as solid, firm and strong, feel its support. Then when light has seeped away entirely, perceive with inner sight a minute point of light, a tiny star concealed like a diamond hidden in an ebon velvet mantle. Discover the relief of that inner spark, and see all other lights of Earth being lit from such a tiny flame until they blaze and twinkle all round. Write words of blessing and thanksgiving for the all-embracing Earth.
Lastly, look within your own heart. See there too is a flame of light, the divine, eternal spark which has been part of your own essence since you came into being, and learn how that is part of the Creator, and through this all your magical power can be extended. If you become aware that you are connected to the source of energy which powers the entire universe you will see that you can do anything your true will requires. It is by this slender link that whatever powers of magic you learn to control flow into the realm of Earth and take effect, making cures, moving mountains or aiding humanity on its long road of evolution.
If that link is clear and well-established you will never be tired by your magic, for you cannot exhaust the power of the universe! You should always draw from that divine spark within, to refresh yourself and be full of joy and peace at the end of any working. Write a final line praising this hidden light within that it may come to shine as a beacon of love and truth and honour among living beings of Earth.
You will see, if you draw a diagram of what has been described above, that you have created a circle about you, marking the horizon, and then a circle from your right hand, over your head and down under the ground, and within this is that divine spark at your heart centre. This is a most ancient and potent symbol, a sphere delineated in white flame, the Inner Light, the Fire of Creation, the Illuminator, the Enlightening Wisdom.
The ancient Egyptians had a whole set of prayers following the cycle of Ra, their Sun God, right through his circular progress from sunrise through the heavens to sunset, and finally through the lower regions of darkness, and all the while he was perceived to change from flying solar hawk to dark scarab-headed Lord of the Otherworld. Meditate well on each part of this progress, and you will be inspired to create your own prayers or invocations for 'Calling the Light', and it will bring a great deal of power to all the work you do.
Outwardly you should be trying to work with the monthly lunar cycles and finding ways of celebrating the actual interactions of the Sun and the Earth, the first flowers, the harvests, the time of clearing out, the tide of growth and expansion in the world. Our seasons may be changing because of the perilous effects humanity's activities have had on the ozone layer, the gases in the upper atmosphere, and pollution of earth, water and the air about us, but we must learn to keep step with Mother Nature, changing with her if necessary.
We must watch carefully for the first signs of spring, be they early or late, for the harvests in the fields or the gardens and orchards, and in our urban way, probably, celebrate the life force of Nature. And by our prayers, our rituals and celebrations, perhaps we can begin the heavy task of reversing some of the harm that has been done to our planet, from which we are born and to which we are kindred. Become aware of how you live, what you use, what you buy and what you throw away.
Every single effort at recycling, tree planting, care of the environment, the wildlife, the birds, butterflies and beetles could be the single event which reverses the worldwide trend, rebalances the planet to healing and growth. Think hard and act gently.
Throughout each week begin to align yourself to the power of the planets, those wandering stars long ago noticed by our mystical ancestors. Every Sunday give a thought to the nuclear fusions which power the sun in the sky, and the green environment below. See how the sun is a force for healing of the body, of the earth and of enlightenment of the spirit.
Light one gold or yellow candle and work for a specific healing of a friend or loved one, if they have asked for help, or for the world and all its sick children. Ask that the light of knowledge may fall upon those who can change things at national and international levels, that harvests may be adequate, that they may be fairly distributed, that sufficient rain falls to restore the rivers.
On Monday, light two silver or white candles and work on the psychic aspect of yourself, or on the feminine aspect of any male practitioner. Try to accept intuition and hunches, those subtle hints of action or inaction, which can make so much magic work. It is the moon-led certainty which encourages your abilities to divine, to read the Tarot, to find hidden water or the seat of illness. Learn to trust the inner senses and welcome their intervention in any situation. Use Mondays as a time to enhance your dreams and align yourself with inner visions.
Tuesday is governed by the red planet, Mars, god of war and conflict, yet also ruler of energy, enthusiasm and strength. His number is five, and his sword can be protective as well as aggressive. Learn to draw on his courage, his power to seek the right in any quarrel. Be willing to find that you are wrong, that you have misused information or misjudged a situation, and then become Mars-brave and apologise, often much harder than defending a wrong point of view.
Wednesday is flighty Mercury's day for all forms of travel and communication. He may be invoked with eight orange candles, to help you write well, compose music or love letters, speak clearly before a vast audience or to impress a potential new boss at a job interview. He can help you reconnect with lost friends or strangers on your wavelength and, by most mysterious ways, find out-of-print books or rare videos, and the phone numbers of long-lost uncles! He is also the pagan saint of thieves so watch out, his services might cost you something which goes missing or, in a playful mood, he could restore to you something you mislaid ages ago.
Thursday heralds the power of materialistic Jupiter, father of the gods, in his royal-blue limo with Cedarwood trimmings! He is the jolly ruler of wealth and growth of financial situations. His number is four and his power is the foursquare function of monetary stability and success at hard work. He cannot be bribed and will not gamble but he will repay all debts in due course, and can be requested to help with increasing your material position so long as you are willing to work for what you require. He helps with plans and designs and, being a very large planet, does not move swiftly but keeps his word in the end.
Green Lady Venus rules Fridays, partnerships and love affairs and looks after children and the growing things of Nature, rather than money. She brings about long-term healing, especially where there is a growth in understanding brought about by coming to terms with the illness or problem affecting our lives. Her number is seven, and she shows her power in often uncontrolled passions, of love, joy, ecstasy and even as the green-faced goddess of envy.
She will not call an unwilling partner to your bed, nor change anyone's mind against her will, but she can teach everyone to become worthy of love, and gently guide each to find an ideal partner, for work, companionship or sexual enjoyment. She too demands that we work at our relationships and will not let us find quick solutions to affinities or love affairs until we have earned such a reward by working in her gardens, making beautiful her realm.
Saturdays come under the dark thrall of black Saturn, old man of the gods, keeper of boundaries, lord of time, ruler of old age and death and the Otherworld, for he also keeps the keys to the portals between this world and the other. Unless we come with patience and speak with respect, he will not listen to our hasty pleas for help or guidance.
Like an ancient grandfather of all living he is steeped in ageless wisdom but can be crotchety and, like the dark Moon Goddess who is his magical counterpart, he can be sharp with his answers. His number is three, his metal lead, his incense myrrh. He is the generous giver of stability, the comforter of the aged, for he shows their inherited wisdom, distilled through a long life, in its bright glory.
Every planet teaches us valuable lessons, as it taught those who watched these coloured planets move through the sky aeons ago. We have to re-learn their varied wisdoms, reopen the doors they hold closed, ask as children of the universe the eternal questions, the need for help or information or specific powers to deal with individual needs. Each can be summoned with the right colours, numbers (there are variations between systems, but all work!), metals or shapes and incenses, which you will learn by book research, direct inspiration or pure guesswork.
Build up tables of correspondences so that you can make small charms with appropriate tree leaves or flowers, or complex talismans, inscribed traditionally on virgin parchment with the quill of the relevant bird, if you so wish (although new felt-tip pens of the right colour are a lot easier, especially when applied to tinted paper with a smooth finish!). Learn to combine the energies of two planets for each spell, write simple chants or elegant poetry to make your request clear, precise and reasonable.
For healing, perhaps the Sun and Venus, gold writing on green paper cut into a circle (a one-sided figure for the sun), made on a Friday and blessed and put to work on Sunday by the light of one gold (or seven green) candles. Burn frankincense for the Sun and rose-petals for Venus, so that your plea is carried aloft to the other planes where the seeds of healing may be planted.
Then forget about it, so that like a seed sown in the garden it may safely develop in secret and darkness, until it is ready to reach out into the light of our day.
By now you should have seen many of the changing phases of the sun and moon, spending mornings and evenings watching the sky, feeling their powers. You will have seen the seasons change and perhaps, in simple ways, celebrated the old feasts.
In your Book of Illumination make a list of thirteen moons, giving each one a name, like Snowdrop Moon or Oak Tree Moon, of your own choosing. Describe tasks to fit into each one, some which you have accomplished already, others which you hope to do later this year or next, when you repeat the cycle on a higher arc.
Read something about basic astrology, and draw up a diagram of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, their ruling planets, the colours, numbers and ideas you associate with them. Add incenses, flowers growing in their month, trees, animals, symbols, elements, and as many attributes as you can find. Meditate on each sign for three sessions, if you can, asking the actual stars to teach you their significance, and add that knowledge to your chart.
Make a lantern which will hold a small candle, set in plaster perhaps, or a nightlight inside a jar so that it won't blow out at outdoor meditations or rites. Find four candlesticks or make these for the four quarters. You can even try making some candles too.
Compare your dreams from the waxing half of the moon to those in the waning half. Compare the results of your meditations, looking back at the early entries in your Book.
How can you use the power of the moon through a whole month to heal one person? How would you use her light to improve your divinations?
Try making moon-blessed water, and write a short poem or prayer to the moon in all three phases to ask for her help. What is the fourth phase? What would it be good for, in magical workings?
Try moon scrying in a home-made black mirror.
Find a moon bowl of clear glass which you can paint black outside, for scrying or using moon water to bless things.
Write a short ritual to use on the night of the new moon, and one for the full moon, asking for help with the kinds of magic you would work in each fortnight. Begin it with 'Calling the Light' and practise that until you can do it from memory. Use it six times in this moon for inner journeys, imagining that you are following the sun over the horizon into the Underworld, and then the moon up into the night sky. Record the results of these very powerful journeys.
Imagine yourself going back through time to a full moon gathering of old-fashioned country folk. Seek out their 'Man in Black' or 'Maiden of the Revels' and see what happens.
Draw up a chart of the seven planets, their days and all the symbols, colours, numbers, incenses and other information you can find. Try out some simple two-planet talismans, using coloured paper and new pens. There are lots of ways you can experiment with the material here, because you will surely be guided as to what you need to know.
Here are just a few books:
Janet and Stewart Farrar, Life and Times of a Modern Witch (Hale)
Dion Fortune, The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic (both novels) (Aquarian)
Marian Green, Practical Techniques of Modern Magic (Thoth)
Michael Howard, Earth Magic (Hale)
Doreen Valiente, The Rebirth of Witchcraft (Hale)