The Moon has two major cycles: the sidereal period of about 271/2 days. The synodic cycle of the Moon is usually broken down into phases, or quarters.
The phases of the Moon refer to the solar-lunar relationship from the Earth's perspective. The solar-lunar pattern is a wave rhythm beginning a new with the conjunction (the New Moon) and cresting at the opposition (the Full Moon).
From New to Full, the Moon is said to be waxing, or increasing in light. These are the first and second quarters. (NOTE: the term "first Quarter" is used to signify the Moon square Sun aspect, which ends the first quarter and begins the second quarter.) This period of increasing light is traditionally the time for new beginnings, for new projects and ideas, for growth. The waxing Moon is a time of spontaneous and instinctual action.
Should your new ideas or projects come to an impasse, this might be broken at the Full Moon. The waning Moon, from one Full Moon to the next New Moon, is a time for conscious growth as the Moon dissipates its collected solar potential. The time of the waxing Moon is in many traditions concerned more with mundane outer matters, whereas the period of the waning Moon deals with subconscious enlightenment leading to the clarification of conscious values. The waxing Moon brings instinctual growth. The waning Moon brings a conscious process of creative release.
The New Moon begins a new cycle. it is the seed of the beginning lunar cycle. The cart of the New Moon is the key to influences in the coming lunar month.
The First Quarter, when the Moon is square the Sun, is the beginning of the second phase. Beginning with the seed of the New Moon, growth in consciousness might be impeded by obstacles from the past. Ideally, obstacles from the past will be overcome by the First Quarter. This must happen if the energy released with the coming Full Moon is to be utilized. The First Quarter denotes a point of focus which illustrates the necessity for change. If rejection of the shackles from the past is not clear or complete, and if growth is lethargic, then the illumination and growth offered during this cycle cannot be fully integrated. It may even sour. Patterns set at the First Quarter, whether growth oriented or old entanglements, will continue to develop throughout that lunar cycle.
The Full Moon illuminates the seed and potential of the New Moon. if a positive attitude of growth has developed and if the restrictions of the past were thrown off during the waxing Moon, then the Full Moon can now bring fulfillment. If a negative attitude has dominated the period of increasing light (the waxing Moon), then the Full Moon might bring serious mental conflicts, possibly even affecting the physical body.
The third quarter, Full Moon through Last Quarter, ideally brings illumination to the influences of the entire lunar cycle. The fourth quarter, called the "Last Quarter," is from the Moon square Sun aspect through the next New Moon. It can bring a crisis in consciousness. This cycle's experiences have culminated and one must now prepare for rebirth.
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