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New Moons: A Time of Darkness, Mystery, and Possibility

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

Once upon a time, I had a date on a new moon. I suffered the usual meaningless, meticulous preparations. I melted my hair down with keratin and resurfaced my skin at a Chinatown salon. I scrubbed my grout with Pine-Sol and Florida Water. I hydrated. But nothing could satisfy my vague existential dread. Whatever intuition had led me to that moment refused to push me any further. I could just as easily have been crossing the taiga for all my impotent ignorance.

I thought that asking around my tight clique of professional mystics might abate some of my anticipatory anxiety. Usually, they can find some positive spin on even the worst-timed cosmic adventures. No dice.

“Could you postpone it?” they asked. Of course I couldn’t.

“It’s the new moon,” they warned me, over and over. Nobody could predict anything, good or bad, because nobody could predict anything at all.

I was desperate to cancel. My romance lives on good omens and supernatural instincts. But the same girlfriends who told me to reschedule refused to let me do so. Maybe this date would be a total shit show, but maybe it could also be the beginning of something beautiful, beyond my imagination, that I shouldn’t avoid.

If full moons are periods of total illumination, wild parties boiling over with an untamable rhythm, new moons are a vacuum. The absolute silence of unbroken night. A black weighted blanket smothering your intuition. But that total unknown is also home to infinite potential and vast possibilities.

In the beginning, there was silence, an absence that precedes existence. New moons are monthly silences that veil untold beginnings. Perhaps there are suggestions of sounds — you can maybe hear the fuzz of an idle amplifier, or faint coughs and whispers at the end of intermissions, or the echo of footfall in an empty parking lot. The softest resonances. The noise of a new moon barely ever betrays what is to come, but rest assured, something will. A show is about to start. A brand-new lunar cycle is about to begin.

A full moon sits directly opposite the sun in the sky: The two look directly at each other; they’re obvious to one another. A new moon, however, is conjunct the sun. In a conjunction, two celestial bodies nestle so closely together that it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. All the planets can connect like this, but when the sun and the moon attach, the moon is entirely cast into shadow. This shadow induces something fresh and unknown. If your sun sign and your moon sign are the same, you’re a new moon baby — born at the start of a lunar cycle, bursting with a childlike naïveté, a lack of self-awareness, and an unencumbered curiosity to explore the world.

The moon in astrology symbolizes our gut impulses and intuition. The new moon drenches those survival skills in darkness. When our instincts and emotions are masked by shadow, getting in touch with our real feelings can feel impossible. You can’t vibe-check a void.

Contrary to popular #girlboss millennial wisdom, new moons are not the time to set intentions, manifest, or draft vision boards. There just isn’t enough luminary energy to draw upon. We want to launch projects and hustle the cosmos when we’re in touch with our intuition — not when we’re literally stuck in the dark. There is no harm in taking a break from future trips for a dozen days out of the year and embracing silence instead, maybe even turning off technology and tuning out the world entirely.

New moons are great for one thing: throwing shit away. What better place to shove the stuff you never want to see again than the deep void of a moonless night?

When the new moon is taking place in a fire sign (Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius), light it on fire. But don’t go overboard and risk setting your apartment ablaze; burning a Post-it note is fine. Below an earth-sign new moon (Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorn), bury what you’d like to get rid of. This is a great way to get rid of your ex’s worn flannel or the remnants of older spells, like candle wax or incense resin. During a water-sign new moon (Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces), you can flush it or toss it into the sea (as long as it’s biodegradable and won’t suffocate a dolphin somewhere). And during an air-sign new moon (Gemini, Libra, or Aquarius), you can speak it aloud, in the hollow of a tree or a therapist’s office, somewhere words go to die. All these rituals should conclude before the moon is completely ensconced in shadow; wait any longer, and risk triggering the budding of unknown beginnings.

I really wanted to back out of my new moon date, for all those reasons. I hate uncertainty. But I didn’t; I surrendered to darkness and allowed something unpredictable to start. The rawest beginnings can require embracing the dangerous unknown. New moons demand vulnerability to shadows.

Imagine the sky as a giant clock face with the Earth at its center. It’s divided into 12 segments — one for each zodiac sign — and each celestial body travels through at its own rate. When the moon is full, the sun and moon are in opposite segments; during a new moon, they’re in the same one.
New Moons: A Time of Darkness, Mystery, and Possibility