Understanding Moon Cycles

Although you may not be used to thinking of the planetary cycles of, say, Jupiter and how it impacts on our lives, everyone knows about the cycles of the moon.

How could we not when we see them up in the sky every night of the year?

That silvery crescent high up in the sky through the windshield of your car, blindly rummaging for your keys in your bag outside on a dark new moon night, holding your breath in awe when a bright round moon inches up over the horizon, taking over the sky, we have all experienced these phases in one form or another.

We all know the moon pulls the tides and, when full, can bring sleepless nights when strange things happen and emotions run high.

But what do lunar cycles really mean?

Instead of explaining things in abstract terms, I’d like you to imagine a seed. You’re holding this seed in your hand and it’s tear-drop shaped, dark brown, small smooth and hard.

One night you let it slip from your hand on to the ground where it falls on fertile soil and germinates. A root like a ghostly tail breaks free from the hard shell and darts into the ground; two tender leaves emerge from the Earth and spread out like the wings of butterfly.

The young plants grows quickly into a sturdy sapling. It grows and grows, it’s bark becoming thicker until buds form between the leaves.

Flowers spring open; pollinated, they swell until the tree bears fruit, ready to be harvested.

The process is complete.

Photo by Nathan Hulsey on Unsplash

The ripe fruit grows heavy on the branches. Soon it drops to the ground where it ferments and rots; that which is not eaten returns to the Earth.

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

Fall comes. The tree slowly loses its leaves until it falls into a dark winter slumber. The cycle can begin again, the seeds scattered on the ground the new promise.

This cycle perfectly illustrates the meaning of the lunar cycle:

  • The seed planted=New Moon

  • The seed germinates, takes root and starts to grow=(Waxing) Crescent Moon

  • A sturdier sapling has appeared=First (waxing) Quarter Moon

  • The tree continues to grow and flower=Waxing Gibbous

  • The apples appear (culmination of what was planted)=Full Moon

  • The apples grow too heavy and are released from the mother tree=Disseminating (Waning Gibbous)

  • Fall comes, the tree sheds its leaves=Waning, Third or Last Quarter Moon

  • The leaves are gone, the tree is bare and draped in the stillness between endings and new beginnings=Balsamic or Dark Moon

However, it’s important to mention that the seeds planted during the new moon are not necessarily something which will bear fruit as sweet and wholesome as Fujis, Pink Ladies or Granny Smiths. The seeds planted can range from cream puffs to apples (both mealy and fragrant) to hand grenades. I say this because the next new moon on January 13 is a fraught and intense one.

Later this week I’ll post a new podcast about the new moon on the 13th as well as a few other aspects worth mentioning next week.


On Monday (the day ruled by the moon) I’ll publish another text with some ideas about what this moon cycle might mean for your personally and some suggestions for how you might use it to set intentions in your life.

Further reading

If you want to read more about lunar cycles before my next posts, I suggest checking out the article New and Full Moon Rhythms and the Eight Moon Phases as Personality Types, both by the astrologer Kelly Surtees.