Monthly Columns

Learning Lunar: Moon Magic and Mystery

First Quarter, The Waxing Half Moon



The 2023 Autumn Equinox falls late on the 22nd or early on the 23rd September, depending on exactly where you are in the world. This year, the Equinox begins while the moon is an almost perfect half, the first quarter phase. The Equinox is a time of balanced light and dark, so it feels very mystically charged to have the moon half lit and half in shadow, providing a physical and highly visible representation of this festival.


What Does First Quarter Mean?

The cycles of the moon are often referred to as quarters, with the second quarter also being the full moon, and the fourth quarter being the new moon or dark moon. The first quarter is the halfway point between the new moon and the full moon.


What Does The Moon’s First Quarter Look Like?

The first quarter of the moon occurs when the side of the moon facing the Earth is half illuminated in a waxing motion. This means that the visible curve is to the right (in the northern hemisphere) and the shape of the moon is an almost perfect semicircle. This is in contrast to the waxing gibbous moon, which occurs a couple of days later and shows a visible bulge towards the left as well as the perfect curve on the right.

The first quarter moon may also be called the waxing half moon. It rises around midday and sets around midnight, so during the Autumn Equinox, you may see it high in the sky just before sunset.


What To Do During The First Quarter

We’ve already talked a great deal about waxing moon magic, so what makes the first quarter different from the waxing crescent or gibbous moon? For me, it’s a more definite stage in the cycle. The crescents and gibbous moon can fall on many days, but the half moon is there and gone in less than 48 hours. So, if you have work planned at this time, you have to be punctual and organized—or prepared to wait another 29 days or so!

The half moon is a great check-in point if you have monthly magical or spiritual workings. For example, if you’ve planned a lunar month of meditations, the first quarter might be an ideal time to check your journal, look for patterns, or even confirm that you’re happy with the way your practice is going.

Tides are less extreme during a half moon, and it’s possible to take that as an analogy for spiritual energies: expect less extremes, but be aware that things will still move on inexorably, just perhaps not as fast or dramatically as expected.

Actions you can take at the waxing half moon:

    • Assess your goals: are they still what you really want?
    • Take time for some self-care.
    • Pause an ongoing project and try something new or indulge in something you love,
    • Check in with yourself—do you need a break from something? Do you need to talk to a friend? Are you feeling well emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually?
    • Write what’s happened during the previous week in your journal, if you keep one.
    • Identify any obstacles in your way and at least one action you could take to help bypass or remove them.

These actions can be both practical and metaphysical, so adjust them to your own practice and path.



The first quarter that coincides with the Autumn Equinox starts in Sagittarius then moves into Capricorn as the moon starts to swell to gibbous. A waxing moon in Sagittarius may mean that it’s a great time to try something new, learn a new skill, or even share your knowledge with others. It could also mean that a major event or change is on the way, perhaps a transitional stage in something or a serious adjustment that you have to allow for. The chances are this will be something beneficial, but it could still come as a surprise and require you to be adaptable to the situation. You may find yourself in a more optimistic frame of mind than usual, ready to take on the world.

Sagittarius is often associated with the area of the body around the waist, including the thighs, the sacral area, hips, and liver.

As the waxing moon moves into Capricorn for a short time, this could be the ideal moment to pause, take stock, and plan for whatever your new found optimism and ambition desires. This falls right in line with the energy of the Equinox—a moment of peace, preparation, and planning, before the darker nights move in. Embracing the vibes of both these energetic prompts could empower you to make major changes (or maintain steady improvement on an existing project) as you move into the darker portion of the year.

Capricorn is linked to numerous body parts including the spine, the spleen, and even the hair. There is some fear of being ignored here, so trust your drive, your values, and don’t wait for approval from others before taking action on something that’s important to you.



Moon magic, by its nature, moves in cycles. First quarter moon magic can be about reflection and looking inward, considering what’s important to you, or even planning a ritual for later in the moon cycle, such as a full moon ritual.

You could also use this moon phase, in conjunction with the Equinox, to prepare your sacred space or even your home for a winter packed with things you need. This can be as practical or not as you like! For example, you could have a ritual cleanse of your space, decluttering and sweeping out negative energies. You could donate a load of unused books and clothes to charity/goodwill. Alternatively, you could clear a new meditation space and plan a series of weekly meditations to help bolster your mindset during the colder months.

The key points here are: What do you need to be your best self between now and Samhain, and what magic will help you achieve it?


The Moon And The Autumn Equinox

It’s common to associate September and the Autumn Equinox with the Harvest Moon. This is a fairly reasonable connection to make, as in many traditions, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox. In 2023, this will be the full moon of the 29th September, roughly a week after the first quarter and Equinox.

If you’re lucky enough to have clear skies on this date, please try and get outside to see the full moon as it’s going to be yet another Super Moon! Super Moons in 2023 include July 3rd, August 1st, August 31st (a blue moon by many definitions), and this Harvest Moon on the 29th September. A Super Moon means the moon is at its perigee, or the closest distance to the Earth. This makes it appear larger and more dominant in the sky, a visual treat for any star gazers. The reverse of this is when the moon is at its apogee, or as far away from the Earth as it currently gets.

Expect high tides to be very high around this time, as the perigee combined with the full moon causes a perigean spring tide. Just as the waters become extreme, so can the magical lunar energy, so be wary of this and don’t bite off more than you can chew!

How do you work with the moon during an Equinox? Do you notice a different energy during the half moon? Come and tell us all about it on our socials!


*Image credits

Half moon in daytime behind trees photo by Quinton Coetzee on Unsplash

Journal and laptop photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Moon cycles/eclipse photo by Anderson Rian 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.