Imagine yourself walking on a country road at night. There is no moonlight; She is dark. You are guided only by starlight. You hear strange noises in the surrounding foliage—unfamiliar bird calls and insect chirping fills your ears. You feel the wind of flapping wings nearby; perhaps it’s a bat. How do you feel? Are you frightened?
If you are, you are not alone in your fear. People have been programmed to be fearful of the dark. It is culturally ingrained in us. Children fear the presence of monsters and adults sometimes share the same fear. The darkness can be terrifying to us; it represents the unknown. But it wasn’t always this way.
When the moon is nearly full, as it will be tonight, it feels like it could go on forever. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, to have a full moon every night, or at least one that lasted longer than three days? Sadly, we can’t, and there is a good reason (other than the usual scientific ones). The cycle of the moon from new to full and back again represents the cycle of life. All living things grow and then die. Plants drop their seeds and grow anew, while living things like birds, fish, and animals decompose and return the energy of their flesh into the earth to be reused.
Ancient people knew this, and they didn’t fear the cycles of the moon. They didn’t fear the Dark Moon. They understood that after the Full Moon came waning, light disappearing until the Dark Moon was reached. They knew that the Dark Moon gave way to the New Moon and rebirth. But as history progressed, and cultures changed, the waning of the moon came to mean something sinister and frightening. Early peoples saw in the waxing, full, and waning moon the presence of the Maiden in New Moon and Waxing Moon, the Mother at the Full Moon, and the Crone at the Waning and Dark moon. The Crone, or Dark Goddess, was originally seen as the one, like Hekate, who was “filled with compassion and understanding for the frailty of human nature.” The Dark Goddess was loved and worshiped along with the Maiden and the Mother, because ancient peoples regarded time as cyclical rather than linear. The Moon receded and left us in the dark for a while simulating death, but it returned, as did life.
As patriarchy rose, though, many things changed. The Dark Moon, and the Dark Goddess, came to be viewed as evil. Death wasn’t followed by rebirth; it was final and followed by consignment to heaven or hell. Patriarchy was able to absorb the maiden into its worldview, as well as the mother, but there was no place for the Crone, the Wise One. The Dark Moon and Dark Goddess embodied all that was wrong with womankind as the harbinger of sin. She is the woman who kills her children. She is the one who emasculates men. She is the one who tempts men out of their loving relationships. She is Snow White’s stepmother, manipulative and vain.
I reject this vision of the waning and dark moons as well as this terrible rendering of the Dark Goddess. I understand that everything has a lifecycle that the moon demonstrates monthly. I use the time of the Waning and Dark Moon for reflection (looking out at the world around us), introspection (looking inward to assess how we respond and relate to that world), and transformation (changing what we do).
As we move into the Waning Moon, where the Dark Goddess rules, we enter a time of destruction and transformation. It’s a time to dissolve, to tear apart, to rend, in order to transform and rebuild again. You set majickal intention during the New Moon, and you grow and feed that intention, making slight alterations in course, until it reaches the fullness of the Mother. As the moon wanes, you begin to examine what worked and what did not, putting aside those things that were ineffective and casting them into the cauldron for transformation in the Dark Moon.
Personal work focusing on things like cleaning and getting rid of bad habits is best done during the waning moon, so you can set an intention to continue your new behavior at the New Moon. Organizing and cleaning are good things to do during the waning moon. A detox or cleansing can also be very effective. It’s a time to let go of those things that don’t work.
New spells can be cast during the waning moon, generally focusing on pushing things away rather than pulling them toward you. It’s a good time for banishing and protection spells. Banishing simply means sending something out of your life, whether it’s a negative thought, a relationship, a behavior, or a problem. Doing a banishing spell means putting more power behind an intent than, for example, simply deciding to change a habit. An easy way to do this is to choose a candle that will burn completely by the time the New Moon arrives. Choosing a color related to your spell can help, but what really matters is your intention. Write your spell on a piece of paper and put the paper on your altar next to your candle. Burn the candle each day until the New Moon appears, repeating your spell daily as you light the candle. At the end, burn the paper in the candle. Other banishing rituals include writing the spell in water and pouring the water on the ground, writing the spell in sand and smoothing the words away, or saying the spell and blowing dust out of your hands into the air.
Working majick during the Dark Moon requires the purest of intentions. It is the best time for divination with tools like pendulums and tarot/oracle cards. It is important to keep the idea of “for my highest good” in mind and to ask wisdom of your higher self. It is also important that what you seek during this time not be intended as harm toward another as the rebound can be much more harmful to you. Journaling during the Dark Moon will reveal truth. Most importantly, the Dark Moon is a time to rest, to be alone in the dark and feel the love of the Dark Goddess, the Crone.
Are you afraid of the dark? Are you afraid of the dark inside you? There is nothing to fear. The Dark Goddesses walk with you in the Waning and Dark Moon—Hekate, Lilith, Nyx, Persephone, Baba Yaga, Kali, Aradia, Bast, Cerridwen, Mary Magdalene, and others. When we embrace the darkness as part of the natural cycle of life, we do not fear it. We know it passes, and our openness to it brings change in our lives. Blessed be the light and blessed be the dark. We live in both.
Opening image by By Haleyread23 – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64195761