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Moon Goddess - Gemini

Moon Goddess - Gemini

Best evening for ritual: December 11 (Thursday)

Theme: Finding the Vital Alternative

This Moon is charged with tension. The change we desire seems impossible or impractical, and thinking through the pros and cons leaves us even more confused. Saturn’s determination to keep us grounded and focused on the result seems like harsh and arbitrary interference.

Out of this tension and confusion, a new alternative must be created. Instead of doing what you desire, or doing what you feel obliged to do, do what is to be done. Something not thought of yet, that acknowledges the diverging choices we face, but replaces them with something new, something that answers all the questions at once.

Use this Moon to make yourself willing and open to a new approach. Trust that it will manifest and speak clearly after you have completed your magical work tonight.

Affirmations for this Moon:
A new answer is waiting for me.
I can see the invisible path.
My hand finds the secret door.
I create unforseen possibilities.

For more on upcoming full moons and dark moons, see Moon Magic at Starweaver’s Gems from Earth and Sky.

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Moon Goddess - Capricorn

Moon Goddess - Capricorn

Although your calendar may show the Full Moon on Friday, the best evening for ritual is July 17 (Thursday), as this is the night when the Moon is actually closest to full.

Tthe theme for this Moon is “The Call of Perfection”. You may have had some nasty run-ins with perfectionism lately, thanks to Mars and Saturn being conjunct in Virgo…perhaps a run-in with law enforcement, or a humorless petty bureaucrat making you life miserable. With positive intentions and a little luck, the Full Moon in Capricorn can help you process the uncomrfortable aspects of perfectionism into something productive and rewarding.

This Full Moon is heavily colored by the Mars-Saturn conjunction in Virgo, as well as Jupiter’s proximity to the Moon in Capricorn. These energies draw us of out of our domestic sanctuary and encourage us to make something of importance in the world outside. There is a sense that everything will open up and bear fruit, if only we can put the pieces together without lapsing into error or mishap. It’s a good time for magic directed toward your vocation or avocation, to bring an important project to birth. Get as much pragmatic groundwork as possible done before the Moon, and then use her energy to seal it and manifest it.

Affirmations for this Moon:
I create perfection.
Careful work earns lasting rewards.
I am ready for the test.
Today’s opportunity is tomorrow’s foundation.

For more on upcoming full moons and dark moons, see Moon Magic at Starweaver’s Gems from Earth and Sky.

Mabon (detail)

When I first discovered Wicca and Neopaganism, I was somewhat confused by the attention given to the Horned God as consort of the Goddess. I had grown up with classical mythology, so I knew Pan as a rustic minor deity of the Greeks, but I had never before encountered the idea that pre-Christian Pagans had worshipped a God/Goddess pair, with the God connected with the hunt and with wild animals, such as the stag.

Where did this come from? Yes, there is the famous illustration of the horned figure on the Gundestrup Cauldron (usually identified as Cernunnos, although that is conjecture). References to Cernunnos himself are scant, as are references to Celtic deities generally. Alas, there is no Celtic analog of the Norse sagas or the written Greek myths to give us a clear sense of the Celtic pantheon, if indeed there was such a thing. (It has been suggested, for example, that the deities of the Celts were mostly spirits of particular localities, with no unified pan-Celtic family of great gods.) References to the Horned God by other names associated with him in Wicca, such as Herne, are even more dubious. In any case, a figure such as Lugh would seem more central to Celtic belief than Cernunnos.

The answer goes back to a cluster of quasi-Anthropological ideas that were in vogue early in the 20th century. In 1921, Margaret Murray published her influential monograph The Witch Cult in Western Europe, which interpreted the records of the witchcraft trials of the 1600s in terms of a surviving Pagan fertility cult. Modern Pagans who are not familiar with Murray’s work first-hand may be surprised to know that Murray’s original picture of the “witch cult” had very little to do with goddess worship. In Murray’s conception, the object of the witches’ worship was a Horned God. Murray’s work carries little credence among anthropologists today, but she left a lasting imprint on the development of Wicca.

Why did Murray posit a Pagan religion with the Horned God as a central figure, when the historical evidence concerning European paganism suggests that the horned gods in the various pagan societies were minor deities at best? The answer is two-fold.

Murray was interpreting witch trial documents that were written by Christian zealots determined to condemn the accused persons of devil-worship. The medieval Christian image of the devil had acquired some details (horns and hooves) from the Greek god Pan. (This was likely an early attempt to associate Pagan worship with evil. The goat-like Pan made a good target, since he represented the “animal nature” the church was so determined to condemn. Furthermore, even the pagan Greeks regarded Pan with more than a little apprehension – he was not a character you wanted to meet walking through the woods at night.) What Murray did, essentially, was to recast a bit of nightmarish Christian mythology – witches consorting with the devil – in pagan garb.

So a Horned God lined up with the Christian devil-worship ideas that dominated the witchcraft persecutions of the 1600s. But there is another source behind Murray’s ideas: Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Frazer’s thesis was that there was a recurring theme in Pagan mythology and practice, the idea of a king or god who must be sacrificed to ensure the fertility of the land, and who would be resurrected again in a symbolic echo of the seasonal cycles of the agricultural year. Frazer’s point was not to extol the virtues of a paganism attuned with nature, but rather to undermine the status of Christianity by identifying a pagan basis for the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Modern scholarship thinks little more of Frazer than it does of Murray. Although he may have found an interesting thread of symbolism that recurs from time to time in different cultures, there is no reason to see the motif of the dying and resurrecting god as the central tenet of a pan-European of pan-Mediterranean pagan religion. Nevertheless, Frazer’s ideas made Murray’s interpretation of the witch trials plausible on the surface.

What does all this say for modern Wiccans and Pagans? Should we let the Horned God slip back into the murk of medieval Christian mythology and creative Victorian speculation he grew up out of? Actually, I think not. When we work with myth and symbol, the merit of a particular concept depends on its power to speak to us, to get inside us, and to change us. It scarcely matters where the concept comes from. What matters is how it works.

For me, the Horned God is a potent symbol of the wild spirit of life, the burst of will that erupts from the Earth, joins the great dance with passion, and then returns when his time is spent, only to return in a new shape, in some new spring time. He is the freedom of a pair of deer leaping through the forest. He is the force of sexual desire that creates new life. He is the child and lover of the Earth. When we honor the Horned God, we come into intimate contact with something that is central to our own nature as human beings: the fire of being incarnate, temporal beings.

Aries Dark MoonMost Wiccans and many other modern Pagans celebrate the full moon (see Full Moon Magic) as a time for working magic. Practices surrounding the dark moon, however, are more varied. Many do not mark this time at all. One couple I know uses it to revisit the events and issues of the past month and put them behind. One of my teachers feels a strong connection with the dark moon, and uses it for active magic in preference to the full moon. My own custom is to use this time for divination and introspection.

I prefer the term “dark moon”, even though astronomers (and most calendars) note it as “new moon”. In ancient times (and in societies where astronomy is still largely a matter of visual observation), the “new moon” referred to the first sighting of the young crescent moon in the evening sky, an event which is actually about two days after the “new moon” of modern astronomy, the time at which Moon and Sun are in conjunction and the moon’s visible disk is completely dark. Hence “dark moon” seems both more atmospheric and more literally accurate.

What is the energy of this time? With no moon visible in the sky, this is the time of darkest night, when the stars shine without competition and the nocturnal landscape becomes nearly invisible. Before modern lighting, the dark moon was a time when people avoiding traveling by night or doing other outdoor activities. Hence it can be seen as a time of turning inward.

Seeing the lunar cycle in terms of the triple goddess, this is the time when the goddess as crone dissolves into the abyss of death and mystery, before re-emerging as the maiden goddess of the waxing crescent moon. It represents the darkness into which all lives lead, and out of which all lives come. Some have speculated that the three days between crucifixion and resurrection in Christian mythology reflect the three days of the lunar cycle in which the moon is dark.

Astrologically, this is the time of conjunction between Moon and Sun. Whereas the full moon finds the two luminaries in opposition, with maximum creative tension and contrast, the dark moon brings them together and fuses them into a single energy. This is the time when the boundaries between the conscious and the subconscious dissolve. This is why I see it as a time for divination, a time for bringing into the light of consciousness things that sleep in the deeps.

Tonight’s dark moon is in Aries. It is the first dark moon of the astrological year, and it brings Sun and Moon together to speak on the question of personal identity and course of action. If you’ve been feeling a little lost or unfocused lately, this is the time to seek a stronger sense of self.

The other planetary energies right now have been making it difficult for some of us to get a handle on who we are and what we should be up to. Mercury has left Venus behind and plunged into Aries, leaving our words disjointed from our feelings, however confidently we may speak. The Sun is caught between two problematic squares. Jupiter in Capricorn is opening up opportunities to become more visible and attract status and attention. Mars in Cancer is brooding, unsure whether our emotional ties are really safe and sound, but feels unable to fight effectively to protect them. Both these forces tug on our sense of identity and purpose, and just don’t seem to mesh with our core sense of purpose. (As with all transitory planetary energies, some people will experience them strongly, others weakly, and others not at all, depending on the placement of planets in one’s natal chart.)

If you are feeling a little lost and baffled about how to be yourself right now, use this dark moon to collect your self. Find a peaceful place, quiet your mind, and pull a tarot card or ask for an image of yourself as you truly are.

Libra Moon GoddessWhy is it that so many Wiccans and other Pagans celebrate the full moon? Certainly, a lot has to do with atmosphere – it just feels and looks magical and special to do ritual or celebrate at night under the light of a full moon. How many of our childhood stories involve something strange or magical happening when the moon is full? How many paintings of enchanted nocturnal scenes prominently feature a full moon?

Whenever you have need of anything,
one in the month and be it better when the moon is full,
then shall you assemble in some secret place and adore
the spirit of me, who am the Queen of all witches.

(from The Charge of the Goddess, in Charles Leland’s Aradia)

There are also energetic reasons for celebrating and working magic at this time. The Moon (which represents Goddess energy) is at the height of her brightness at this time. In the cycle of the Moon’s phases, the full moon is associated with the Mother Goddess, adundant, creative, fertile, and at the peak of her potency for manifesting change.

Astrologically, the full moon finds the Moon and Sun in opposition, at opposite points of the Zodiac. Opposites, like two poles of a battery, exist in creative tension, “fully charged”, as it were, and ready to unleash a flow of energy. This is also a sexual metaphor, with the masculine Sun and feminine Moon poised opposite each other, desire poised at the brink of procreation. When the two poles are brought together in magic, their energies combine and produce a third entity, a new reality.

Tonight’s full moon finds the Sun in Aries and the Moon in Libra. The tension along this axis is that between self (Aries) and relationship (Libra). The Libra Moon harmonizes our relationships with others, and brings forth a new, richer reality by uniting the energy of personal identity with the energy of communion with another. The potential of the Libra Moon is enhanced tonight by following so closely after the spring equinox, and also by the presence of Venus and Mercury conjunct in Pisces, which can be seen as heart and mind melting into oneness.

You might wish to use the energy of tonight’s full moon to affirm or re-create a relationship with a lover or other person you are close too. It can also be good for preparing oneself for a new relationship and perparing to welcome it. Or, you can work with it on a more symbolic level and work with the dichotomy of personal ego v. interconnectedness.

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