I'd been too busy for any metaphysical life, but it was the night of the Full Moon, so I forced myself onto the balcony for a brief ceremony. It was the first time in days I'd sat quietly with myself. I was surprised to discover how peaceful the night was. A veil of blue-white moonlight fell gently over the patio. A faint odor of lemon blossoms played somewhat coyly with my senses. I locked my gaze onto the Moon and breathed in deeply. I felt my barriers dissolve. My etheric body seemed to merge with the night, as though I'd been drawn into an invisible current of Full Moon tide... until... Until I could push it away no longer. Three balconies away, a dog was yapping. Nonstop.
It was one of those tiny dogs, the kind with a bark so piercing, it goes straight to the center of your forehead like a small, well-placed hatchet. Possessing the stamina of long distance runners, dogs like this can go on for hours. My mood swung precariously... watching the Moon... trying to ignore the yips and yaps... when my desire for peace suddenly jumped off its end of the teeter totter and I fell headlong into a whine of persecution, "All I wanted was to honor the Moon, my life is so harried, can't I have just these few brief moments in peace... poor me, poor..."
And then I got it. The message was as clear as the great round Moon above: Nothing was in my way. The dog was not my opponent, but an ally, bringing enlightenment. He was a mirror, reflecting the jittering, complaining, insecure, lonely state I'd been denying in myself for weeks. That night I was illuminated: There could be no outer peace in my life until first there was an inner one.
"Part of insights' mystique is their seemingly sudden and random appearance. Why do insights come when they do? We might be stumbling in the dark for days, desperate for illumination, yet nothing comes. According to Eastern traditions, the explanation may lie with the Moon."
Likely I saw this once on a bumper sticker. Or read it in one of those daily meditation books. But on this Full Moon it arrived as an insight, meaning I no longer heard the barking dog once I got it. That sound dissolved. Insights have a power that ideas do not. Ideas are cheap, easy to find. They swirl around us like dust devils. Insights, however, are sharp and penetrating. They go to the center of situations, illumine our stuck places, propel us toward new actions and perspectives. Insights pop. They're liberating. And their intensity can nourish us long after the moment they show up.
Part of insights' mystique is their seemingly sudden and random appearance. Why do insights come when they do? We might be stumbling in the dark for days, desperate for illumination, yet nothing comes. According to Eastern traditions, the explanation may lie with the Moon. My barking-dog insight appeared on the night of the Full Moon. The Full Moon period itself straddles both day and night - it's not necessary to make reference to the night here. Tibetan lamas and Hindu sages believe that at certain moments in the lunar cycle, especially at New and Full Moons, energetic doorways can open and receiving insights is easier.
"Lunar gaps" is, what astrologer Michael Erlewine calls them, "regular opportunities, joints in the nick of time, when insights are somehow more possible than at other times." Lest we start imagining a dramatic tear in the fabric of space/time, where insights rain down like a special effect in some sci fi movie, Erlewine is quick to point out that the gap he describes is actually a gap "in our particular set of obscurations, our own cloudiness."
The gap opens in our own (normally muddled) mind. It's the Eastern belief that insights appear at certain Moon times because there's a greater likelihood for mental clarity then. This is why many Eastern religions routinely set these days aside for fasting, meditation, and worship. One of the most auspicious of these lunar times is the Full Moon.
Years ago when I got the notion to start honoring the Full Moon, I went searching for a vaguely imagined pagan something-or-other, like dancing naked around a purple lunar maypole. Not surprisingly I never found (even in Southern California!) anywhere this was done. I settled for arranging my crystals in a medicine wheel in my backyard, lighting incense, sage or candles, and circumambulating it all, maybe holding a positive visualization, something lofty like world peace. But over the years my rituals acquired a greater and greater simplicity. I now honor the Full Moon with a quiet sit. I head out after sundown and wait for the Moon to come peeking over the mountains. I sit there watching till the Moon is fully above the mountains.
This slows me down nicely. I head back into the house with a calmer mind, but I don't always bring enlightenment back inside. When I need an insight at the Full Moon, however, I do what Erlewine advises: I observe. Writes Erlewine, "The word 'observe' is a lot closer to what happens during these lunar gaps. OBSERVE the nature of the day. OBSERVE your mind at that time. (...) It is while being present - observing these seed times - that the so-called lunar gap can show itself."
This is a fine formula for making the most of the Full Moon: Tune into whatever is happening. By devoting quiet attention to the outer and inner worlds, your mind can settle and clear. A gap will open in the chatter of conditioned thinking. An insight pops. You see into your situation with new and greater precision. Just as the Moon is made full with the opposing Sun's light, so you will be illuminated too.
Mist covers the landscape. A Full Moon peers ominously through the clouds. In the distance, a wolf howls. Alone in his room, a man grabs his face in horror. Wolf hair sprouts from his hands and face, and quickly covers his whole body. His agonized screams convert to throaty growls. Racing into the night on all fours, teeth bared, he's ready to kill. This was a familiar scene in the horror films I grew up on. Of course I never met a real werewolf. But I often heard it said: the Full Moon drives people crazy.
Why is it that the Full Moon brings greater clarity to the East, but in the West on Full Moon nights, nurses and cocktail waitresses steel themselves for a wild and challenging time? In the West it's widely reported that murders, arson, and suicides increase at the Full Moon; also, traffic accidents, domestic violence, fights at hockey games and prisons; calls to poison centers and admissions to psychiatric hospitals soar. At least that's what people say, although most scientific research has failed to prove them right. That doesn't deter the believers, who chalk it up to a conspiracy among scientists to deny the obvious, that the Full Moon makes us nuts.
There are a few empirical studies that have successfully proven this belief. They're widely quoted. They're also criticized for lacking proper research controls (one covered a period where a high percentage of Full Moons fell on weekends, days that also show a high correlation with the reported behaviors). Bottom line, the Full-Moon-makes-us-crazy statistics can't be replicated. What's more, they often contradict each other, with some studies confirming that Quarter Moons bring the greater tension. Nonetheless, in a study among students at universities in Florida, Canada, and Hawaii, when queried about the Moon, half agreed that people are strange when the Moon is full.
Why does the belief in full-Moon crazies persist? Scientists point to the believers. The human mind is irrational and easy to fool, they say. It likes solutions, but rarely wants to work at them. When something odd occurs it's easy enough to look up and finger the giant lone culprit in the sky. Who can miss the Full Moon - although when wild, wacky events occur at other times, few seem to notice its absence.
Cognition studies have shown the mind typically seeks to confirm its beliefs and conveniently ignores or discredits contrary evidence. In other words, we believe what we want to believe. "People don't realize how much trouble they invoke by their own expectations," says psychiatrist Melvin G. Goldzband. "When people take something like Friday the thirteenth or a Full Moon seriously, and they begin to dread what will happen on those days, trouble results. If you expect trouble to come, it'll come."
"What's empirically true shows up in research reports. Imaginative truth comes out in rumors, myths and stories. Scientific truths happen to a statistically significant portion of us. Imaginative truths can capture an equally significant percentage, even though the literal event happened to just a handful of people, or never even happened at all. Imagination responds more to image than literal incident. And its force can shudder through millions at once."
After years of watching Full Moons, I'm inclined to side with the scientists. Blaming the Moon for bad behavior seems generally unfair. Many Full Moons are positively lovely. Nor have I killed anyone, gone into a hospital, or even gotten into an accident when the Moon was full. But I'm intrigued by the persistence of the lunacy rumor. Unlike a scientist, I can allow there are two different kinds of truth: the empirical and the imaginative.
What's empirically true shows up in research reports. Imaginative truth comes out in rumors, myths and stories. Scientific truths happen to a statistically significant portion of us. Imaginative truths can capture an equally significant percentage, even though the literal event happened to just a handful of people, or never even happened at all. Imagination responds more to image than literal incident. And its force can shudder through millions at once. Empirical facts we can count, but of imaginative ones, we need to ask: What does this story serve? What is it trying to tell us?
According to folklore, if you sleep outdoors under a Full Moon, you'll either be attacked by a werewolf or become one. Werewolf stories have appeared everywhere, in cultures diverse as England, Bavaria, Navajo, and Babylon. Why? A common thread seems to be the human one. As image, werewolves do describe an essential human conflict - from wild nature we emerged, but into societies we go. What do we do with our wild instincts? How do we quell them to abide peacefully with our fellows? How do we cope with those who don't? Like the opposing forces of Sun and Moon at Full Moon time, the werewolf evokes at once our desire for the wild and its repression.
Today this dilemma is as difficult as ever. Cemented, corralled and cowed into our cubicles, or racing hither and yon, it's a wonder we don't hear more breakout werewolf rumors. But then maybe we do. With our connection to the wild so thinned, we may have simply upgraded the werewolf story, calling it "Full Moon crazies" rather than a literal turn back to the beast. The Full Moon may evoke strange behaviors when our natural spirit goes too long unrecognized - or when we're around someone else like that. The more pent up and disconnected we are, the greater our need to erupt from civilized codes.
If my theory is true, then reckless driving, domestic violence and suicide attempts can happen at anytime - not just when the Moon is full (which seems to agree with the statistics). But perhaps these events hit us more deeply when we see the Full Moon rise, evoking memories of all that we've lost, provoking our yearning to connect with the wholeness of nature again.
"So here's another formula for honoring the Full Moon: Instead of running from werewolves, become one. Mark your calendar and plan a Full Moon dropout from your regular routine. Make it a date between just you, your spirit, and the Moon. Surrender fully to your ancient wild self."
So here's another formula for honoring the Full Moon: Instead of running from werewolves, become one. Mark your calendar and plan a Full Moon dropout from your regular routine. Make it a date between just you, your spirit, and the Moon. Surrender fully to your ancient wild self. I doubt you'll really go crazy. You just might feel more sane. And if you've got the urge, know that it's quite all right to howl.
A peaceful monk or a howling werewolf: the Full Moon makes sense of them both. There may be no greater emblem for reconciliation and wholeness than the Full Moon, rising at sunset and setting at dawn, filtering the dark with light. It's the only Moon phase that shines the whole night through. That one side of the planet finds clarity in the Full Moon and the other sees lunacy simply sings of the moment's astronomy: there is an opposition between Sun and Moon.
The East, with its dharma of contemplation and greater identification with lunar impermanence, does what the Moon does: it reflects. It stills and offers itself to receive the light of awareness. Insights illumine the inner world. The West, with its dharma of action and greater identification with solar will, does what the Sun does: it projects. It finds its reflection in the outer world, staring back from a lunar mirror. Western Full Moon insights often come by way of conflict, via a meaningful meeting with someone other. Either approach might bring enlightenment. Both are routes to resolving the opposition and achieving a wider perspective on life.
"Resistance to the opposition brings conflicts, instability, resentment, blame, bad timing, stalemates, and a feeling of being pulled in two directions at once. Criticism or judgements suggest we've become overly identified with one side of the opposition. In a natal chart, one planet's expression may be easier for us than another's, so we make that other planet (or person who seems to embody it) wrong. And at the Full Moon, we may be standing too much in the Sun, full of ego, unable to relax into the necessary and more lunar dynamics of give-and-take."
If we meet an "other" on Full Moon nights (or by way of transit or opposition in our natal chart through planets separated by 180 degrees), the encounter will frequently mirror a neglected or unconscious aspect of ourselves. What we repress or deny in our personalities, what we shove into our own personal darkness, will often attract its expression in the outer world. The man who thinks he has no anger will meet someone who does. The woman who thinks she is supremely compassionate will keep finding people who aren't. An astrologer who thinks she's in tune with the lunar vibrations will suddenly hear her own nervous mind in a yapping dog three balconies away.
Against the sometimes chaotic, sometimes endlessly routine experience of life, oppositions remind us of the need for balance. Whether by natal aspect or transit, oppositions challenge us to reach compromises between our expectations and reality, to embrace our inner contradictions, to move beyond our experience of a separate self into an acknowledgement of our unity with the world.They challenge us to realize that sometimes there are two valid and distinctly opposite points of view. Because life accommodates them, we can and should learn to as well.
Resistance to the opposition brings conflicts, instability, resentment, blame, bad timing, stalemates, and a feeling of being pulled in two directions at once. Criticism or judgements suggest we've become overly identified with one side of the opposition. In a natal chart, one planet's expression may be easier for us than another's, so we make that other planet (or person who seems to embody it) wrong. And at the Full Moon, we may be standing too much in the Sun, full of ego, unable to relax into the necessary and more lunar dynamics of give-and-take. Until we allow ourselves to embrace multiple sides of an issue, there can be no experience of wholeness. Nothing resolves an opposition like acceptance.
This is a hard truth for me sometimes. Having no planetary oppositions in my chart, it's not natural for me to think this way. Ask the partners I've been with! They'll tell you that according to Dana, there is only one way to meditate, load a dishwasher or train a dog. I've got the bottom line on raising children, and if I need to do laundry, the washing machine is suddenly, quite exclusively mine. Those without oppositions tend more towards self-containment than compromise.
Where there's a void in the chart, we attract those who have what we lack. Typically I've been with men whose charts are laced with oppositions. The draw between us is powerful. Yet on the surface we can both appear pretty uncompromising. My opposition-rich partners are trying to work out a balance between opposing inner urges. They want things to be fair, but are also afraid of being swept into acquiescence or paralyzed by feelings of dependency. I take a stand, they resist it; we switch and do it the other way around. Straining and stumbling, we're trying to learn what healthy compromise really is. Perhaps the only real difference between us is that I end arguments with "I'd be fine by myself," while they conclude "I'd be fine with somebody else"!
Oppositions offer a tantalizing gift of wholeness. But like a wise teacher using skillful means, they lead us first to what stands in our way. So strong has the pressure of Saturn-and-Pluto's opposition been this past year (in 2001/2002; editor's note), few among us have escaped its confrontation of our limits and obstinacy. Where this pair of planets has straddled our charts is where our cherished beliefs, like so many World Trade Centers, have been toppled, however traumatically, so that we might more seriously begin the work toward inner and outer peace. Whatever your politics, the stalemate between the Palestinians and the Israelis, stands as a kind of global Sabian image of an opposition not worked through.
"The Full Moon can bring achievements, awards and honors too. Particularly at the progressed Full Moon. This is a three-to-four-year period occurring once every twenty-eight years, when we reap the rewards of our efforts during the preceding fourteen. Luna presides with neutrality over the following axiom: Whatever seeds we sow at the New Moon, and consciously or unconsciously tend during the waxing hemi-cycle, at the Full Moon we will see what comes of the plant."
Oppositions reveal. Just as Luna on Full Moon nights fully accepts the light of the Sun, so must we accept whatever truths shine toward us. These won't always be negative. The Full Moon can bring achievements, awards and honors too. Particularly at the progressed Full Moon. This is a three-to-four-year period occurring once every twenty-eight years, when we reap the rewards of our efforts during the preceding fourteen. Luna presides with neutrality over the following axiom: Whatever seeds we sow at the New Moon, and consciously or unconsciously tend during the waxing hemi-cycle, at the Full Moon we will see what comes of the plant.
The lunation cycle's climax can bring fulfillment or failure. Either way, life goes on. The Full Moon is also a turning point. It begins the waning hemi-cycle. After the Sun/Moon opposition, comes the Full Moon period's inconjunct - an aspect of disequilibrium. The waxing inconjunct at the Gibbous phase asks us to make last minute adjustments and refinements. The Full Moon's inconjunct reminds us that no matter what pinnacles or valleys we've reached, life doesn't stop. Perhaps it's this awareness that inspires a more philosophical tone during the waning hemi-cycle. We're drawn to build and achieve during the waxing days, but in the waning days we're moved to review, discard, and perhaps reorient ourselves. It's a more thoughtful,internal time.
Those born at the Full Moon are often pulled between these two orientations. And typically their stress is worked out through relationships. For virtually every Full Mooner I've known, relationships are a central theme in their lives. Whether it's one key relationship that seems to supply their center of gravity, or a series of traumatic relationships that gradually matures their understanding, or even a repudiation of relationships to keep themselves sane - negotiating a balance via the "other" is an important way to reconcile the special lunar energy in their chart.
Achieving wholeness is a weighty birthright. Full Moon babies may instinctively (and perhaps overwhelmingly) feel, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, that they "contain multitudes." They often have high expectations of themselves, an urge towards greatness, a desire to achieve something significant this lifetime. It's said that Buddha was born on the Full Moon. His influence has endured for thousands of years. And at the core of his teachings lies an incredible reconciliation of life's myriad oppositions: all selves, says Buddha, are one. That's a nice thing to contemplate during the next Full Moon.
TWELVE MOONS WORKSHOP
|As earth's closest celestial ally, the moon has a powerful influence on daily life, but few are tuned in. If you want to increase your sensitivity to the lunar rhythm, this is the workshop for you. Every month before the New Moon, you'll receive a 26-page workbook, personalized to your birth chart and current location. You'll learn about the astrology particulars — the new moon and solar ingress, how these influence your chart, along with moon phases, moon voids, moon signs and house transits. Throughout the cycle, you'll be guided into an ever more intimate appreciation for the moon's workings in your life|
|Twelve Moons Workshop at mooncircles.com|