Learning Luna: Moon Magic and Mystery
Welcome to Learning Luna, the new column exploring the moon, its mysteries, magic, folklore and other associations. The moon is revered in numerous cultures and spiritual practices, and is an important part of many Pagan paths. This column will take a look at the different phases of the moon and ways each phase may affect you, your magical or spiritual practice, or even the world around you.
As Spring Equinox 2023 falls on a dark moon, this is the phase I’ve decided to explore in this issue. The equinox is March 20th 21:24 UTC, so check your own time zone for variations.
Dark Moon versus New Moon
This can be a tricky point as the terms “dark moon” and “new moon” are often used interchangeably. For me, the dark moon is when you can’t see the moon at all, or the waning crescent is at its absolute narrowest before the moon starts waxing again. The moon is as concealed as it can be. The new moon, however, is the tiniest sliver of a waxing crescent.
The 21st March 2023 is listed as the new moon on many moon cycle calendars, but I consider this phase the dark moon. However, many people class the new moon as the moon completely in darkness. And, if that’s you, that’s fine! The dark of the moon highlights the start of a fresh lunar cycle, so there’s nothing “wrong” with considering this the new moon. Astronomically, the New Moon is the moment just after the sun and moon are in conjunction. In other words, the sun is shining completely on the other side of the moon from the earth so we can only “see” the dark side. Cue Pink Floyd music, please!
The time between the moon becoming virtually invisible and reappearing can be considered the dark moon. It may last 2 or 3 days, and in March 2023, this includes the equinox on the 20th as well as the 21st, the “official” new (but actually dark!) moon.
I like to differentiate between the dark moon and the new moon, because there is a different energy to the two phases even though they are very close together. Some religious and spiritual events are based solely around one or the other. For example, Hekate’s Deipnon, Her monthly supper, is very specifically on a dark moon. Conversely Noumenia, the Hellenic celebration of a new month, is held when the first crescent is visible.
What To Do on a Dark Moon
There are any number of books on dark moon magic, so use your discernment and check reviews before buying. Some magic practitioners abstain from magic at all at the dark moon, while others will utilise the very specific energy this phase brings.
The dark moon is a time for reflection and introspection in many traditions. Combine this with the energy of the equinox and you have a time for pausing, preparing before action, and gathering your strength and resources before forging ahead with your plans for the year. You may find yourself considering balance and how you can achieve that in many aspects of your life.
Scrying and divination may have more impact at the dark moon, as the darkness prompts introspection and reflection, and you may find deeper answers from within yourself or from your guides, deities, or the universe itself.
This 2023 March dark moon is in Aries, so those that follow astrology may wish to consider that fact when planning ritual or other spiritual endeavours. Aries is linked to the element of fire, and all the various associations connected to that: Passion, creativity, love, plus there are characteristics linked to Aries such as stubbornness, spontaneity, boldness, confidence, and arrogance. This could be a great time to work on reducing an inflated ego, or becoming less impulsive.
Some astrologists are noting this dark moon as the beginning of a Black Moon cycle. This is where there are 4 dark moons within a single season – in this instance, spring. For this calendar, spring runs between the equinox and first dark moon to the summer solstice in June. The third dark moon of the season in May will be considered a black moon.
If you celebrate at the new moon, you could spend the dark moon preparing for this. This may involve ritual cleansing of tools or yourself, clearing sacred spaces or altars, or meditation.
In Wicca and other paths that venerate the “Maid, Mother, Crone” triplicity of deity, the dark moon is sometimes linked to the crone aspect.
Shadow work or working on your inner self is easier for some at the dark moon. The darkness allows you to travel more deeply into your spirit or mind and work on aspects of yourself you might not be so keen on. It’s also an ideal time for thinking of that which you want to reduce in your life and working to get rid of it, even in small steps. This could be a toxic relationship or friendship, a draining job, or a bad habit. Use this time to set intentions for the coming lunar cycle.
The dark moon is an ideal time to be alone, for many. Solo practice and magic may feel more natural at this time. However, group work can also be fantastic, especially for anyone who feels lonely or glum during the dark moon. Some people note a drop in energy at this time. If you want to know how the phases of the moon affect you physically and mentally, keep a moon journal for a minimum of three months and use it to discover any patterns.
In the next issue, we’ll be exploring the new moon and the energies and associations connected to it.
How does the dark moon impact you? Do you have activities you do every dark moon? Come and tell us on our socials!
(Dark moon image is a screenshot from “The Moon” app on iPhone. Crystal ball photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash)
About the Author:
Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist and content creator. She’s a nature-based witch, obsessed with Irish and British Paganism and Folklore, plus she’s a massive plant nerd. She’s also a long-time Hekate devotee and a newbie Lokean. She works extensively with the UK Pagan Federation, including editing their bi-annual children’s magazine. Mabh is a passionate environmentalist and an advocate for inclusiveness and positive social transformation.
Mabh is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors, Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways, and most recently, Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Planet Friendly Living. Search “Mabh Savage” on Spotify and @Mabherick on all socials.