star material

How to Understand Your Moon Sign

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty Images

The moon is a moody luminary, endlessly pregnant. In myths across continents, she embodies the divine mother: as the Greek goddess, Selene, with 50 daughters; as Luna, her Roman counterpart; as Abuk, the Dinka goddess of women and gardens; as Ala, an Odinani alusi that shrouds dead souls inside her sacred womb.

Motherhood is way too loaded for me to warmly embrace this moon metaphor. My relationship with my birth mother is complicated. Pregnancy scares me, and I dread my painful menstrual period, even as it stays perfectly synced along lunar cycles. But that is why I take such comfort in Jungian astrology. The cosmos is too big for us to privately contain — beyond comfort or description — yet this web of connected symbols mutates and persists through memory and culture in the collective unconscious. The moon embodies a maternal archetype beyond my experience, or anyone else’s.

When we discuss the sun in astrology, we consider the archetypal masculine. He’s purposeful, outwardly directed, the Freudian ego. But the moon is our id. She rules our inner child: how we feel safe, how we feel protected, and how we protect ourselves under duress. The moon predicts our immediate reactions in desperate moments and how we feel soothed when we’re most at home. She is gut impulse and repressed memory, metaphorical fertility — possibility and rebirth — in all its illuminating wonder and sacral terror.

The moon is also one of the fastest-moving bodies on an astrology chart. She changes signs every few days, and runs through the whole zodiac wheel every month. She’s one of the reasons astrologers and natal-chart calculators fixate on exact birth times: A few hours can make a dramatic difference between a moon in Pisces or a moon in Aries.

Knowing your sun sign might provide a generalized guide to your personality, but understanding your moon placement allows you to unlock a perception of your emotions from instant to instant. (If you haven’t done so already, you can find out your moon sign on a chart calculator like Cafe Astrology.)

An Aries Moon is trigger-happy, reacting with a particularly impulsive intensity when challenged directly. They hate any perception of weakness, and tend to overcompensate with rage and aggression when feeling attacked. They are quick to anger but just as fast to forgive.

A Taurus Moon returns to earthly desires in moments of insecurity. They are prone to accumulating material possessions and luxury goods to feel safe and protected. They find masturbation exceedingly self-soothing. They are generally mellow and occasionally lazy.

A Gemini Moon has difficulty identifying just how they’re feeling under duress. They like being told how they feel, and then deciding if it’s how they actually do feel. They tend toward a baseline that is anxious and high-strung, but they thrive in moments of change and uncertainty.

A Cancer Moon is highly sensitive and prone to emotional outbursts. They often see themselves as “empaths,” and treat their deep capacity for feeling as a magical power. Cancer is the sign ruled by the moon, and Cancer placements are the most susceptible to the influence of fast-changing lunar transits. They mother others to feel safe and secure themselves.

A Leo Moon is overly self-involved and narcissistic under stress. Unevolved Leo Moons are overly prideful and slow to apologize. Evolved Leo Moons use all that time thinking about themselves to become overly self-aware of their emotional patterns, priding themselves in “doing the work” to regulate their feelings.

A Virgo Moon responds to stress by seeking control. They are easily irritated by even minute adjustments to their routines, and tend toward criticizing their loved ones when they’re personally stressed. They feel the most soothed when told they’re right, or in the satisfaction of completing a scheduled task.

A Libra Moon tends to be overly compromising, with a tendency toward self-abnegation. They are sweet, gentle, and codependent. They are so afraid of losing others that they tend to stuff down emotions they perceive as undesirable. They make it hard for others to help them.

A Scorpio Moon feels deeply and resents feeling deeply. They are deliberately secretive about expressing their emotions, but they rarely approach a zenlike state of nonattachment. Instead, they brood hard and explode harder. They have excellent hate-sex.

A Sagittarius Moon feels the most unsafe when they feel trapped. They need the freedom to walk out of jobs, relationships, and weird parties in order to thrive. They tend to have many acquaintances and a high tolerance for others’ wild and unpredictable behavior, but few close confidants.

A Capricorn Moon finds their emotions, their id, and their subconscious fears disturbing and debilitating. They are professional compartmentalizers. They tend to react to stress by launching projects, setting ambitious goals and expectations, and pretending feelings aren’t happening.

An Aquarius Moon is eccentric and hard to read. They are beautifully disconnected from social norms surrounding happiness and emotional security, but struggle to make themselves emotionally available to others. They don’t understand that vulnerability is a strength. They will ghost you without even realizing it.

A Pisces Moon is dreamy, artsy, and imaginative. Their safe space is their vast internal landscape. They make compassionate allies but lack healthy boundaries. Their tendency for escapism under duress could land anywhere from a Netflix coma to a debauched, weeklong bender.

There’s a really good book called Mothers Who Can’t Love, written by Dr. Susan Forward, for daughters whose mothers can’t love. Maybe you aren’t a daughter, and I hope that your mother can love, but I recommend it anyway. The solution to a mother who can’t love is mothering yourself. Prevent your inner child from dictating your dumbest mistakes by actively self-parenting, by making yourself feel safe and protected, by soothing yourself in your darkest moments. Soothe your own moon before it comes for you.