Monthly Columns

Learning Lunar

Moon Magic and Mystery


The Waning Gibbous Moon

Welcome back to Learning Lunar, our regular column looking at different phases of the moon and how you can work them into your spiritual practice. For this Samhain edition of PaganPagesOrg, we’re looking at a waning phase of the moon for the first time: The Waning Gibbous Moon.

What Does Waning Gibbous Mean?

A waning moon is one that appears to be getting smaller each night, eventually culminating in a dark moon or new moon. As soon as the moon becomes full, the days beyond this are considered the time of the waning moon. A waning gibbous moon falls between the full moon and the third quarter, also known as the waning half-moon. To be completely technical, the waning gibbous moon refers to when the moon is anything between 99.9% and 50.1% visible while waning.


What Does a Waning Gibbous Moon Look Like?

In the northern hemisphere, the moon wanes from right to left. In other words, the right-hand side of the moon shrinks inwards while the left-hand side remains perfectly round. A waning gibbous moon looks like a full moon that has had the right-hand edge darkened; an oval that’s fat on the left and shrunken on the right.

In the southern hemisphere, the moon wanes the other way, and looks like a waxing gibbous moon does in the northern hemisphere.

In the day or two directly after the full moon, the shape is barely noticeably less round than a perfect circle. While technically a waning gibbous, this phase is also called the disseminating moon, and some magical practitioners find this “just off full” waning moon to have its own particular power, which we’ll look at in a future issue.


What To Do During a Waning Gibbous Moon

The waning moon is often seen as a time of banishment, so it’s a great time to consider working on giving up bad habits or cutting something out of your life that’s causing you problems. Get rid of some clutter, and not just so you can buy a load of new stuff! Tidy the garden, or your windowsills, and make space to view the moon—especially at this time approaching Samhain, as the evenings get longer and darker.

As the moon shrinks, you could decrease your reliance on certain things in your life. Perhaps you’ll cut out how much alcohol you drink each day, or walk to work instead of relying on your car. It could be something that actually connects to long-term growth, such as trying to recall your Spanish lessons without relying on the dictionary, or making a family-favourite dish without a recipe book. There are many positive ways to incorporate a decrease or reduction of something into your everyday life.

Many people also find that the waning moon is a great time for inward reflection or even just spending some time alone. I find that it’s a great time to recharge my batteries and focus on “me” time, remembering things that fulfill me and incorporating those into my daily routine.



Samhain falls on October 31st-November 1st 2023. October 31st is a Tuesday, a day ruled by the planet Mars, and often linked to the Roman god Mars and his Greek counterpart, Aries. Despite the common associations with war and conflict, these deities may also help ward off hostility, offer protection—particularly for agricultural purposes—and encourage virility and growth, both of a personal nature and of plants. Working outside in an allotment or herb garden could be potent this Samhain, particularly if you have a few items still left to harvest before the really cold weather sets in.

On the 31st, the moon moves into Gemini. This could prompt you to feel more spontaneous than usual, and you might be more able to speak your mind. Just remember to temper what you say with compassion! If you find that you’re upsetting people by being too blunt or miscommunicating, consider spending time together doing activities that don’t require too much talking, such as shared hobbies, watching a movie, or listening to music.

Despite the possibility of impulsive behaviour, the moon in Gemini can also help you keep calm in a crisis. Try not to get wrapped up in the drama though, and remember to consider the feelings of those around you when making plans or mitigating problems. Your motor skills may be affected during this moon sign, so you could be clumsier than normal. This may especially affect your hands, arms, and shoulders.



Rachel Patterson has a lot to say about waning moon magic in her book Pagan Portals: Moon Magic. She points out that it’s a great time for scrying and meditation, something practised at the time of the darkening moon in many traditions. Less external illumination can lead to deeper internal insights. In a coven I used to be a part of, we often used the darker times of the moon to use a magic mirror, or a cauldron filled with water that would seem completely black. Many of our group would get answers from gazing into its surface.

This is also a great time for spell work that aims to release stress, negativity, and other burdensome energies. Rachel Patterson gives a candle magic spell in her Moon Magic book, but you could also use knot magic, crystal or rock work, or magical herbalism. I just found a holey stone on the beach at Saltburn-by-the-Sea in the summer, and recently read Icelandic Plant Magic by Albert Björn. He mentions using a holey stone, or hag stone, to cleanse herbs before magical use, so I think I’ll incorporate that into my moon magic this Samhain.


The Moon and Samhain

Samhain is an Irish festival, mentioned in texts that go back to the 9th century CE (common era). It was also practised in Scotland and on the Isle of Man, and today, of course, it’s celebrated in different ways all over the world. In Spain, for example, Galicia has its own Samhain celebrations, although there it is called Samaín.

Historically and in Irish lore, there’s not a ton of evidence that the moon had any special significance at Samhain. In the 18th century, O’Halloran states that Samhain is connected to the moon in his General History of Ireland, but doesn’t cite a source for this. This doesn’t mean you can’t combine what you know about the moon into this special time of year. Samhain is often celebrated over three days, so you could incorporate the energy of the continuously waning moon to power your workings or meditations. If you celebrate solely on the 31st of October or the 1st of November, you could pick the energy of the moon phase on that particular day. Or, weather permitting, you could simply do some of your magical work outside, under the light of the moon that looks much the same now as it did to your ancestors and their communities throughout the millennia—including any communities you work with today!

How do you work with the moon at Samhain, and how does the waning moon affect you?


*Image credits

Waning gibbous moon just before the first quarter phase, close up photo by NASA on Unsplash (copyright free)

Multiple grey hag stones on a white background photo by Allie Feeley on Pexels (copyright free)



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.