In light of (or lack there of) the New Moon upon us within the next few days, I though I’d touch on a topic that has always confused and frustrated me a bit, and maybe some of you too: Is there a difference between the “New Moon” and the “Dark Moon”? Now, I’ve heard the two names used interchangeably as if they were one in the same; then I’ve heard and read that they are indeed different. From my understanding, and what seems to be common knowledge among Pagans, Wiccans, Witches and those who follow the lunar cycle, the Waning Moon gives way to the Dark Moon or New Moon that brings with it the closing or end of a cycle and new beginnings. It is a time of releasing and banishing negativity. It is a time of purification, cleansing and a time of rest. It is a time of introspection, meditation and seeking knowledge and wisdom. It is a time of death and rebirth. This Moon can be intimidating for some or even thought of as dangerous by those who do not understand the power and potential that this phase of the Moon has to offer.
How now, my ever critical and nitpicking Virgo mind wonders, can one Moon symbolize both an end and a beginning? Death and rebirth? Rest and rejuvenation? Doesn’t one have to come before the other? But then, which comes first? Mustn’t you be born in order to die? Mustn’t you die in order to be reborn? Round and round we go…Therefore, I can understand how with death and rebirth being so intricately entwined and connected, this phase of the Moon could perhaps be treated or looked upon as a type of threshold or a liminal phase of the Moon – the “in-between” Moon of transition, waiting, and not knowing. In saying that, it is easy to see why there is so much confusion over this Moon, discomfort or even fear of working with and under this phase of the Moon; for it is Dark (and full of terrors…LoL! Sorry, had to throw that in there – yes, I am a hopeless Game of Thrones addict).
If we look at and consider this Moon in a sense as the liminal phase, it’s easy to see why it could be unpleasant or scary for some. It is a time of transition and change; phasing out of the “Old Moon” and in order to usher in the “New Moon”. It requires us to leave our comfort zone and head into the unknown. As mentioned earlier, it is a time of introspection and seeking the wisdom of the Dark Mother or the Crone. In making the journey and coming into contact with Her, Her demands, tasks and challenges may truly challenge preconceived notions, assumptions and narrowed perspectives; to reject all that we thought we “knew” in order to discover the new truths and the knowledge and wisdom that She has to offer…that takes trust, and that my friends can be pretty damn scary, for how can we trust what we don’t see? How can we trust when we have no idea how long we’ll be in the dark?
It can be a time to come face to face with issues that maybe hurting us or holding us back. This can be tricky, unpleasant and downright devastating and horrifying at times; for it requires us, if one is brave enough, to cross the threshold into the Dark Mother’s dark, deep and vast abyss of the unknown. Some call it the Underworld, some call it the subconscious, and it is there we learn the lessons that need to be learned.
Like Inanna, we must shed and set aside all barriers and come face to face with Ereshkigal, or our Shadow-selves – that side of us which we would prefer not to look at, deal with or choose to repress because it maybe too hurtful or frightening to face. It is here that we find and face the root cause of our habits, patterns and destructive behaviors and it is here that we must experience death; the death of those old habits and destructive behaviors no matter how painful it may be in order to rise above and be re-born. If we don’t face that death, then we get caught in a never-ending pattern or cycle and are doomed to descend again and again to face Ereshkigal (or whatever Underworld deity that your personal practice or pantheon includes) until there is a death.
(NOTE: For those of you interested in Jungian psychology and Shadow work, I HIGHLY suggest reading Descent to the Goddess by Sylvia Brinton Perera. I also HIGHLY suggest visiting Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom and reading Dr. Jean Raffa’s “A Study In Shadows: Four Principles“; “Three Steps to Discovering Your Shadow“; “Creative Interactions With the Shadow” and “The Light Shadow” – absolutely enlightening and fascinating and very appropriate I think for successful journeys during this phase of the Moon.)
Moving onto spellwork…Is there a difference between the “New Moon” and the “Dark Moon”? Some will say yes, some will say no. First, I’d like to look at the astronomical definitions. “Astronomically, [the Dark Moon] refers to the period when the Moon is not visible in the sky. This lasts between 1-3 days, depending upon your location. This is the period between the end of the Waning Moon up to and including the very start of the Waxing Moon, when the Moon is again illuminated by the Sun. Astrologically and magickally, this refers to the period when the Moon is not illuminated in any way, it is the period between the end of the Waning Moon and the start of the Waxing Moon.
Astronomically, [the New Moon] refers to the Midpoint of the Dark Moon, the time of which the Moon is exactly between phases, i.e. Waxing and Waning, as such, all times given for the New Moon on calendars, and even on the NASA website, are the Midpoint, the peak of, the Dark Moon. Astrologically and magickally, this refers to the very beginning of the Waxing Moon, when the Moon is again illuminated by the Sun; that very first Crescent of Moon in the Sky” (Lady Althaea).
To me, they are very different with their own distinctive qualities to aid spellworking and their own place in the cycle. The Dark Moon is the closing of the cycle; the end of the “Old Moon” dead and gone. It is a time for purification, a time for banishing, meditation, and rest. The New Moon is the beginning of a new cycle; the rebirth of the “New Moon” referred to as Diana’s Bow (three days after the Dark Moon, when the moon is just a crescent in the sky). It is a time of rebirth, rejuvenation, and the start of new projects.
In conclusion however, the differences in terminology, beliefs and practices boils down one’s own magical tradition and what feels right to them.
Lady Althaea. Ladyalthaea.com, “Dark Moon vs New Moon – What’s the Difference“.
Cauldronliving.com, “Dark Moon vs. New Moon“.
Everythingunderthemoon.net, “Moon Phases and Spellwork“.
Hall, Molly. Astrology.about.com, “New Moon Magic“.
Hall, Molly. Astrology.about.com, “When is the Dark Moon?”