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The Mountain Astrologer

Why Your "Bad Moon" May Actually Be Your Best Friend: Taking a Closer Look at Hard Lunar Aspects

by Ray Grasse

CemetryWhile talking with a fellow (very young) astrologer not long ago, I heard her refer in passing to the "bad Moon" in her chart. When I asked her why she called it that, she went on to cite the litany of horrors this celestial body had inflicted across her entire life. I suspect the "bad" part of that description stemmed from her exposure to the type of simplistic descriptions found in some of the older texts, or even in some quarters of the astrological community today. Whatever the source, I always find it a bit unsettling to hear these sorts of thumbnail descriptions still being bandied about in our discussions of astrology and horoscopes.

There's no denying that emotional problems and frustrations can be part and parcel of this heavenly body's challenges. But as someone who has struggled for the better part of his life with a bad — I mean, challenged — Moon (old habits die hard!), I've come to see a different side to those lunar struggles. I've been watching their effects not only in my own life but also in the lives of artists, humanitarians, and spiritual teachers who've made their mark on the world — and who, it turned out, also had the dreaded "bad Moon." As for why this might be, I'd suggest a few possibilities.

  • It's true that a challenged Moon can often indicate insecurity, hypersensitivity, or emotional dysfunction in someone's life, especially in childhood. But in some cases, that may be precisely what it takes to compel someone to jump through all the hoops necessary for becoming successful, established, creative, or simply adored by the public. People who are perfectly content in their emotional life will rarely feel driven to put out the energy needed to become successful or even famous. By way of comparison, those with strong Leo energy in their chart or with Venus on their Ascendant might be vain, sure, but unless there are other compelling factors in the horoscope, these individuals are not likely to propel that energy into any high-profile achievements.
  • Along with this, the sheer backlog of pent-up frustrations and insecurities accompanying a challenged Moon can serve as high-octane "fuel" for one's ambitions later in life. To use an analogy, if you push down hard on a coiled spring, this creates an enormous amount of stored-up energy that, when released, can pack a serious punch. Likewise, hard aspects to the Moon can have the effect of compressing one's emotions so powerfully that a person will feel compelled to find an outlet for them — either constructively or destructively (perhaps both) — when he or she is older.
    True, any hard aspect in the horoscope can be a source of emotional frustration, and in turn a stimulus to creative achievement, but there seems to be something particularly important about the role of lunar aspects. Why? Because the Moon symbolizes the emotional core of an entire chart, or what astrologer Noel Tyl calls "the reigning need." All planetary energies represent various "needs," of course, but as Tyl notes, the Moon is the reigning one: It underlies all the others. As a result, aspects to the Moon drive the personality in fundamental ways that influence all one's other emotional impulses.
  • In a very subtle way, the struggle or suffering that arises from a difficult Moon can lead to a development of "soul," which confers an awareness of feelings or emotional depths that might otherwise go unnoticed. For example, if I happen to meet someone who I hear has lost a child due to some tragedy, I find myself automatically assuming that there's a dimension of depth and sensitivity in this person, which is often absent from those who've led comparatively tragedy-free lives. Sure, this individual might have his or her fair share of character flaws, but shallowness won't likely be one of them! And in the hands of a creative or spiritual temperament, that sense of depth or emotional complexity can become the basis for empathy, creative nuance, or (ideally) wisdom.

Think of how songwriting geniuses Neil Young and Joni Mitchell suffered from polio while young and were confined to bed indoors for long spans of time; it's hard to imagine that they would have gone on to compose such musical masterworks as "Heart of Gold" or "Both Sides Now" had they grown up under more carefree circumstances. Similarly, some of the most insightful psychologists and therapists I've known suffered from their own serious challenges early on in life. I strongly suspect that these challenges contributed in important ways to their own later brilliance as therapists, in a way that recalls the "wounded healer" syndrome described in shamanistic studies, where people develop a gift for healing as a result of their own health crises.

To give some idea of how pervasive this pattern can be in horoscopes, I've compiled a list of notable figures born with hard aspects to their Moons, drawing mainly but not exclusively from the creative arts. Easy aspects like the trine or sextile could be included as well, but they tend not to be as common among such notables, likely due to the fact that these aspects involve far less energy. I've allowed for a 10° orb in some cases, although the majority of these examples involve far tighter orbs. I think you'll agree that the list is impressive. I'll start with aspects involving Saturn and, from there, look at other examples involving Pluto and Neptune. As you'll notice, some of these individuals fall into more than one category, meaning that they possess more than one of these aspects at the same time in their charts.

Moon–Saturn Aspects

MoonHard contacts between these two bodies can produce depression, insecurity, or even feelings of inferiority, especially early in life. But aside from motivating a person to compensate for those perceived failings by excelling in some area, Moon–Saturn aspects can also confer an element of depth or gravitas that moves the person's work out of the shallows and into far deeper waters. Think about it: Could Bob Dylan have written weighty songs like "Blowing in the Wind" or "Girl from the North Country" at the age of 21 without a tight Moon–Saturn conjunction? Not likely.

But there's another side to Saturn here, and that involves its ability to crystallize. Any chart factor that Saturn is aspecting indicates something that one is attempting to structure or materialize. If it's Mercury that Saturn is aspecting, the person will struggle to materialize ideas, whether in the form of books, blogs, or teachings; if it's Venus, then it could be artistic impulses, love, or money — and so on. In the case of the Moon, it's emotions. So, what better friend to a creative person than having a Saturn–Moon connection, if the aim is to take otherwise invisible emotions and draw them out into structured, tangible reality? Time and again, I find Saturn–Moon connections (or Saturn–Venus and Saturn–Neptune, these likewise being emotional symbols) in the horoscopes of artists, photographers, musicians, writers, or architects. Here are just a few examples specifically involving Moon–Saturn aspects:

David Bowie (conjunction)
Bob Dylan (conjunction)
Brian Eno (conjunction)
Ray Davies (conjunction)
Miles Davis (conjunction)
Woody Allen (out-of-sign conjunction)
Elvis Presley (out-of-sign conjunction)
Harper Lee (conjunction)
Gustav Holst (conjunction)
Joni Mitchell (square)
Steven Spielberg (square)
Louis Armstrong (square)
Judy Garland (square)
Stephen Sondheim (square)
Jane Austen (square)
Leonardo DiCaprio (square)
James Joyce (square)
Ray Bradbury (square)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (square)
Walt Disney (square)
Johnny Cash (square)
Tennessee Williams (square)
Iggy Pop (square)
René Magritte (square)
John Denver (square)
Brian Wilson (square)
Buddy Holly (square)
James Brown (opposition)
Bernardo Bertolucci (opposition)
Bruce Lee (opposition)
Jack Nicholson (opposition)
Dalai Lama (opposition)
Napoleon (opposition)
Lorde (opposition)
Randy Newman (opposition)
Judy Collins (opposition)

Moon–Pluto Aspects

These contacts can indicate repressed or turbulent emotions, sometimes resulting from early traumas, sexual conflicts, control issues and manipulation, or even cruelty. Yet, here as well, this linkage connects one with deep emotions or passions that can be redirected and expressed in constructive ways, or lead to powerful psychological or occult insights.

David Bowie (conjunction)
Leonardo DiCaprio (conjunction)
Mozart (conjunction)
Barbara Streisand (conjunction)
Brian Eno (conjunction)
Raven Ringo Starr (conjunction)
Groucho Marx (conjunction)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (conjunction)
Amelia Earhart (conjunction)
Fred Astaire (out-of-sign conjunction)
Barack Obama (square)
Meryl Streep (square)
Steve Martin (square)
Maya Angelou (square)
Lana Del Rey (square)
Marlon Brando (square)
George Harrison (square)
Jim Morrison (square)
Prince (opposition)
Angelina Jolie (opposition)
George Lucas (opposition)
John Lennon (opposition)
Johnny Carson (opposition)
Isadora Duncan (opposition)
Joyce Carol Oates (opposition)
Stephen Sondheim (opposition)


Though quite different in tone from Plutonian or Saturnian contacts, the Moon–Neptune combination nonetheless poses its own share of challenges, usually due to some blend of hypersensitivity, escapism, emotional confusion, or a general feeling of dissatisfaction or ennui — a sense of "Is that all there is?" But the flip side here is the enormous capacity for imagination and spiritual sensitivity that these aspects can bring as well, which can drive people toward escaping into their creativity.

Sting (conjunction)
Dalai Lama (conjunction)
Salvador Dalí (square)
Van Morrison (square)
Jimmy Page (square)
David Byrne (square)
Al Pacino (square)
Sigmund Freud (square)
Tim Burton (square)
Stevie Nicks (square)
David Letterman (square)
George Carlin (square)
Miles Davis (square)
Peter Gabriel (square)
Lord Byron (square)
Harper Lee (square)
Ron Howard (square)
William Faulkner (square)
Peter Sellers (square)
Buddy Holly (square)
Gustav Holst (square)
Ray Davies (square)
Leonard Cohen (opposition)
Robert Downey, Jr. (opposition)
James Taylor (opposition)
Marilyn Monroe (opposition)
Billie Holiday (opposition)
Stevie Wonder (opposition)
Paul Gauguin (opposition)

Final Thoughts

I should add that while I've focused my attention here on Saturn, Pluto, and Neptune, these three planets are by no means the only ones that can be involved in this dynamic. For some natives, lunar challenges may result from aspects involving Mars or Uranus, a Sun–Moon square or opposition, or a conflicted lunar placement in the 12th house, Scorpio, or Capricorn. But there does seem to be something especially pivotal about the influence of those three planets in particular — possibly due to their intrinsically "melancholic" or introspective nature. Needless to say, the best-case scenario for individuals with any of these patterns would be that they resolve whatever dysfunctional issues these energies bring while still maintaining whatever positive gifts they hold — but obviously, there's no guarantee of that either way.

Woman Which brings me to a question I've often imagined asking any of the people on this list, whether living or dead, if I had the chance. Simply, imagine you could go back in time and either soften or eliminate those problematic Moon aspects in your chart and, along with them, eliminate whatever difficult emotional challenges they caused as well — but in doing so, you'd also eliminate whatever gifts those aspects brought you, creatively, psychologically, or spiritually. Would you still do it? Or would you choose to keep that problematic Moon — warts and all?
I still haven't decided what my answer to that would be.

Chart Data and Sources were obtained from AstroDatabank (http://www.astrodatabank.com). Due to the Moon's speed, and how quickly it can move in and out of aspect, I've included only charts featuring a Rodden rating of A or AA.

Image sources:
Moon shining on cemetry: CC0 Public Domain by Mysticartdesign via pixabay.com
Raven: CC0 Public Domain by Alexas_Fotos via pixabay.com
Moon: CC0 Public Domain by LoganArt via pixabay.com

First published in: The Mountain Astrologer, Oct/Nov 2006

Ray GrasseRay Grasse is an Associate Editor of The Mountain Astrologer and author of The Waking Dream (Quest, 1996) and Under a Sacred Sky (Wessex, 2015). His website is http://www.raygrasse.com

© 2006 - Ray Grasse - published by The Mountain Astrologer

Current Planets
17-Jun-2018, 23:20 UT/GMT
Moon2425' 9"14n53
Mars844' 2"21s58
Uranus133' 4"11n31
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Chart of the moment
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