By now you know the moon, right? That over the course of its 29.5-day cycle, the moon transforms in shape and size as it reflects the sun’s vivid glow? But did you know that each distinctive phase of the moon has its own powerful connotations? Symbolizing emotions, sensitivities, and inner truths, the moon exposes how we reflect on our day-to-day experiences. (That makes perfect sense considering the moon itself is illuminated through reflection.) And as our favorite celestial satellite transitions from the darkness of the new moon to the nocturnal radiance of a full moon, its waxing and waning mirrors our own internal metamorphosis. By learning about the lunar phases, you can plan your month to optimize for the natural ebb and flow of your energy … along with any manifestations you may be setting. For instance, if you’re hoping to launch a new professional endeavor, you may want to time your next steps in accordance with the moon’s intrinsic flow. Sending out a résumé? Aim for waxing crescent, which supports action and forward motion. Looking to sign a new job contract? Try to hold out until the full moon, when you can see everything clearly.
So here’s everything you need to know about the lunar cycle’s dynamic eight phases.
New moon (also known as the dark moon)
When the sun and moon meet in the same zodiac sign, the moon enters its new-moon phase. During this phase, there is no nocturnal illumination — the moon is unlit and invisible. Our ancient ancestors embraced this period to retreat indoors, contemplate, and ideate. As there’s no light in the sky, it’s common to feel extra sleepy during the new moon. However, some of our most inspired creative thoughts emerge under this dreamy, hazy sky, making it an opportune moment to establish intentions and bring about transformative change.
In the waxing crescent phase, the moon presents itself as a delicate silver sliver. Just beginning to emerge from the darkness, the waxing crescent hints at the start of a new and exciting journey. As we navigate through the shadows, we push beyond complacency, tapping into a surge of inspiration that propels us into action. During this phase, we may experience some nervous energy as we step outside our comfort zone, but — fundamentally — this is an invitation to connect with our inner strength and motivation.
First quarter (also known as the half moon)
In the first-quarter phase, the moon reaches 50 percent illumination, marking a pivotal point in its journey. At this poetic point in the cycle, the moon sits in equal parts shadow and light. Accordingly, we’re beginning to receive new, invaluable information about our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Because significant shifts are taking place, the first-quarter moon is the moment for strategic planning and meticulous organization. Although you may get distracted by unnecessary drama, this is an excellent time to begin making decisions and advocating for your wants, needs, and expectations.
In the waxing-gibbous phase, the moon nears its complete illumination. Beneath this sky, our intentions rapidly evolve, gaining additional layers of complexity as we unpack challenges, explore contradictions, and seek deeper understanding. This moon is infused with curiosity, discovery, and adventure. Although frustration and imposter syndrome can surface during this time, the waxing gibbous inspires us to improve, perfect, and take major steps forward as we continue to self-actualize.
The climax of the lunar cycle, the full moon occurs when the sun and moon meet in direct opposition across the sky. In this phase, the moon reaches total illumination — its brightest possible glow — and the night sky comes alive with the moon’s luminosity. Illuminating everything in its path, the full moon unveils whatever has been tucked away in the shadow. During the full moon, you may find yourself overwhelmed by external stimuli, making this lunation an optimal time to release, let go, and purge what is no longer serving you.
During this phase, a slight shadow begins to tiptoe across the Moon’s vibrant surface. With so many breakthroughs and discoveries during the full-moon phase, we’re inspired to share knowledge and dissipate information under the waning gibbous’s electric glow. Fueled by fresh insights, there’s a distinctive urge to connect with our communities, unpack complex concepts, and firm up plans as we continue forward. Although we might get caught up trying to impress others or “prove” ourselves, this phase is perfect for forming powerful, strategic connections that can propel you forward.
Third quarter (also known as the last quarter)
At the third-quarter phase, the moon is almost identical to how it appears during the first quarter … only the placement of the shadow has swapped. What was once illuminated is now obscured, and what was once hidden has since been revealed. Now we have the ability to determine whether our hopes, dreams, and wishes have successfully manifested — and, if not, what blocks or obstacles are getting in the way. This phase offers a chance to assess what is and isn’t working and make any last-minute adjustments.We may be more inclined to skew toward pessimism during this phase, but the goal is to calibrate for the duality of light and shadow.
Waning crescent (also known as the balsamic moon)
Finally, the lunar cycle comes to a close with the waning crescent — a slender beam of light on a dimming moon. At this point, all the necessary work has been completed. Hopes, dreams, and wishes have come to fruition … or will be reapproached during the next lunar cycle. Beneath this dark sky, we’re invited to reflect on growth, evolution, and progress. While there is an inherent melancholy baked into this lunation (it does signify an ending, after all), this is nonetheless an optimal period for processing, contemplating, and prioritizing self-care.
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