Bill Jarosin Presents: Moon-Phase Astrology at Tree of Life

The Wolf Moon
 January 4 – February 2, 2011

The first full moon after the winter solstice is called the Wolf Moon or, depending on the tradition involved, any number of other names: Moon after Yule, Winter Moon, Old Moon (which in some traditions can refer to the previous moon), Ice Moon, or Cold Moon (which can refer to the moon before or after this one). Annette Hinshaw in Earthtime Moontime calls it the Milk, or Nursing, Moon.

The underlying idea in northern-hemisphere cultures is “heart of winter, ” the time when wolf packs howling in the dark once reminded us of the depths of winter—and of our own inky recesses. It is a time to pull back “blood” from our surface selves to nurture the beating heart within, to hole up in our dens and “work” the private world.

However, unlike the previous cycle, the Moon before Yule, we are not now greeting the dark for the first time, not first time in knowing that by letting go of light, we insure in faith its eventual return. Here, we grow accustomed to the ways of silence, skilled at listening to intuition, whisper, and hush. And in this, we perceive the first hints of a coming spring; the experience of surviving the dark by “going dark” (as Wendell Berry says in his famous poem, To Know the Dark). In talking to the quiet essence of our own being, we nurture life; therefore we nurture “fetal” light—its growth, blossom (birth), and song.

Wherever one is on the globe, however, one engages, under the Wolf Moon, in hunting out nurture and self-definition. (Again, I thank Annette Hinshaw, in Earthtime Moontime, for the inception of this idea.) It is a time to seek sustenance for the basic processes of body and soul, and (particularly below the equator, or in warmer northern latitudes) to apply inner foundational understandings of our human self to the particular definitions of our unique destiny. This means to form, as the “smithies of our souls, ” acceptance of basic needs, the inception of plans for growth, and intentions towards personal application of new or re-claimed values. One takes oneself in hand, and like a child in arm, both hushes fears and encourages aspirations.

The Phases

As mentioned in the introduction, the four quarter phases are discussed here. They are 1. new (in the heart of the dark moon, though some argue that “new” should refer to the first sign of the crescent sliver), 2. first quarter, 3 full, 4. last quarter—and 5. the dark moon. The crescent phases are incorporated, where noteworthy, into the quarter information.

A note on names: they may seem odd. The first quarter actually begins the second of four quarter phases; visually, it is half of the full moon. And the “full” moon is actually only half of the full cycle. Further, the new moon, though usually considered (as it is here) to begin in the heart of the dark moon phase (when the moon is exactly “conjunct” —as if together with the sun in the sky), begins as “new” for some people only when that moon is actually first seen as a slender crescent of light.

As to general meanings, the waxing phase, when the moon is growing towards full in new and first quarter moons, indicates a time for imagining, planning, and expansion. The waning phase, when the moon appears to diminish in the sky (full and last quarter moons), suggests the harvesting of one’s actions and the dispersing of one’s endeavors. More specifically, the new moon is a time for vision, listening, planning. The first quarter is for action, when the seed sprouts, resistances are overcome, or (to change analogies) when the plane takes off. The full moon is the time of greatest interaction with the world, the manifestation of one’s intentions, the ripples of one’s decisions riding out in a circle. The last quarter is a time to refine, to consolidate. And the dark moon is the fallow ground, a letting go, the days and nights of rest. All of this, however, being of the moon, emphasizes the inner dimension, or emotional tone, of one’s actions—the purpose behind the act, the heart within the word.

Dates given below are for the “height” of each phase, based on angle to the sun. Exact times on the 24-hour clock are given for GMT (Greenwich Mean Time: London), EST (Eastern Standard Time: New York), and PST (Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles). In practical terms, though, there is no precise delineation from one phase to the next. Expect about one day either side of the date for a “coming into” that phase and a “passing onto” the next. Allow two days either side for the full moon.

January 4
New Moon in Capricorn (14°)
09:03 GMT, 04:03 EST, 01:03 PST
(Partial solar eclipse above the equator in some parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, January 4)

New moons cannot be seen; they are “held inside” the sun—conjunct, in astrological jargon. From the Earth’s viewpoint, the sun and moon are aligned (though usually not precisely with the Earth; that would be a solar eclipse). The day before and for about a day afterwards here (January 3 – 5), a New Moon is more specifically called the Dark Moon, a time to retrench, rest, re-imagine, and get ready. This is not primarily physical, except as our spirit and emotions are carried in energetic patterns within the body. It is a time for introspection, a retrospective upon the previous cycle. Should you actually stop the day and withdraw? No. This phase is a time or remembrance, a time to include reflection in (and on) one’s daily activities.

Specifically, it’s a Capricornian darkness hoofing about. But unlike last cycle’s seemingly contradictory Sagittarian shadows (Sag is usually fire and light), here the earthy energies of the goat (Capricorn) are well-suited to ruminating upon darkness, shadow, and the nearest remaining tuft of grass. Content to stay at home in this stay-at-home time, your moon energies are encouraged to be happy with what you have, to reflect upon what has been gained, to feel the substance of your achievements and losses, and let go. Take stock of your actual emotional resources; with what have you stacked the shelves of your heart? Jellied preserves of good will? Salted hock of goodwill legacy? You may need these “nutritional” basics to weather the chill of dark fears and recurrent regrets.

But the moon moves on into Aquarius as soon as the 5th then through Pisces and into Aries. This indicates a dynamic energy of inquiry, retrenchment to reassess, and new activity by the time of the first quarter.

January 12
First Quarter Moon in Aries (22°)
11:32 GMT, 06:32 EST, 03:32 PST

Time to take action—modestly. We’re still under the Capricornian Sun, the agent of energy mobilization in its practical, no-nonsense mode. And for many of us, the winter hangs on, mid-January, burrr! Let’s hope the Hunter’s Moon self, back in October, gave thought to stocking the shelves. But we are waxing into the first quarter, the phase of overcoming obstacles—action: making soup, writing letters, tending the garden; a bit of color here and there to appease the Aries ram, who wants something to butt heads with, test itself against, and get on with it—and any “it” will do.

But on through earthy Taurus into the gibbous waxing moon (3/4 full and growing) of Gemini and Cancer (after about January 15). Time to get clear and open that heart space to new influences. The home is the heart, and the heart is where the home is. What at hand is for the wolf, the part of you that’s ravenous and wild? What can be eaten, planted, or taken back and used to line the den? Action: modestly forward in prudent use of resources to the promise of a new dawn.

January 19
Full Moon in Cancer (29°)
21:21 GMT, 16:21 EST, 13:21 PST
(Sun enters Aquarius on January 20 at 10:19 GMT)

The outer work of a quiet life, or the inner life of an active one—either way, you are lime-lighted on the stage of manifestation now. This means you reap what you sow according to your nature and actions. If you have prepared the ground for seedlings to sprout, they do so now—but not with the abundance of spring. Rather, we see the hints and glimmers of light-building: a stray seed making a false start of green between the cracks of the sidewalk, or a ray of sun shimmering on a patch of ice. But this is promise; if you’ve built it, it will come.

Particularly important, the sun, our backdrop of solar heat, the fire within, moves into Aquarius and alters the tenor of our moon-mood heartbeat. Aquarius is electric, it is tension and release, it is quick-witted interactions and a laugh that cracks the iced air between this word and the next. It wants freedom, even in winter. Fortunately, the moon acts supportively, moving on through Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio—through fire and harmonizing thought and deep concern. In the howling wolves, the heart hears song, the tune of life, the cycle of the year; again understanding that spring will come, that a self is being defined under the earth, in rootstock and weed, mushroom and the mead you set aside as spiritual anti-freeze. It is time to go with the flow, with the water beneath the solid surface, an intuition that your trust is well placed if you “bodysurf” the quiet currents of forest where the beast prowls. What is eaten was meant to serve, what lives serves to witness what is soon to come

January 26
Last Quarter Moon in Scorpio (6°)
12:57 GMT, 07:57 EST, 04:57 PST

The moon seeks rest; our hearts are replete or depleted, but the work of this short cycle is nearly done. We turn over rocks looking for weeds, for slugs, for things that move in the night to tell us winter has not conquered all. We are investigative, intent and not content to let howls in the night go unanswered. Our own soul knows that we too howl—when we sleep, when in our dreams we run in packs and there, on the next ridge, look out to the first rose of a little-understood but fully-accepted dawn lying low in the east. So, sleep, dream, rest, and recuperate. The arrow that Sagittarius shoots—that the half-wild Centaur archer-of-healing shoots, has hit your own heart, takes you out, takes the old you down as the new You rises. Help him along: meditate, salivate (form a desire!), activate (plan), and digest (burp!).

January 31 – February 2
Dark Moon in Capricorn and Aquarius
(New Moon on February 2)

We have returned full circle to Capricorn, but what was prudent planning before is now confident action. You are prepared to celebrate Imbolc (or Candlemas—or Groundhog Day!): the lighting of candles and wearing of reds to celebrate the halfway mark through winter (or the beginning in some pagan traditions of spring). If you see your shadow, well, know that you are alive, and no one is alone who moves with his heart through a dark place. Winter is barren to the fool but fallow readiness to the wise.