Is It or Isn’t It . . . ?

. . . a Full Moon, that is. Here are a few more thoughts on the subject of Lunar Phases.

I am aware of at least one web-site out there that purports to define one’s “lunar personality” according to the phase of the Moon under which birth occurred. It appears to apply the current “scientific” thinking on the lunation cycle: the New, Quarterly and Full phases aren’t actually broad spans of time but rather instantaneous “points” with no range (or “orb”) of influence. In contrast, the four intermediary sub-phases comprise everything in between as either “waxing” (increasing) or “waning” (decreasing) indicators. In this model, in order to be a New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon or Last Quarter personality type, the native would have to be born exactly at the moment of transiting “perfection,” with the interstitial periods describing a process of “becoming” rather than “being.”  This seems to fly in the face of both the traditional and modern astrological concept of “arc of separation” or “orb,” under which an influence either grows or shrinks in power according to whether an aspect between two bodies is coming into focus (the faster-moving planet is overtaking or “applying to” the slower one) or moving farther apart (faster planet departing or “separating from” the contact). Since, in practical terms, a lunar phase is nothing more than an expression of the angular relationship (or “aspect”) between the Sun and the Moon at a particular point in time, I can see no reason why these principles shouldn’t apply.

When Dane Rudhyar wrote The Lunation Cycle, he partitioned the monthly progress of the Moon through the zodiac into eight tidy compartments of approximately 3.5 days each; this was further emphasized by Marc Robertson in Cosmopsychology, The Engine of Destiny. The obvious assumption is that there are exact points of zodiacal demarcation between each sub-phase that can be used to distinguish one personality type from another. This looked good on the surface but it doesn’t really stand up to “real-world” scrutiny since the physical reality is both more complex and more subtle. Also, without  using logarithmic equations and an astrological ephemeris to figure out the precise degree and minute of a phase change, these points can be difficult to “eyeball.”

In fact, there is such a definitive model, but it is based more on the percentage of visibility for the lunar disk than on a precise degree of angular separation between the Moon and the Sun. For example, the lunar phases reach “perfection” at the following intervals: New Moon – 0% visibility; Waxing Crescent – 25% visibility; First Quarter – 50% visibility; Gibbous (Waxing Gibbous) – 75% visibility; Full Moon – 100% visibility; Disseminating (Waning Gibbous) – 75% visibility; Last Quarter – 50% visibility; and Balsamic (Waning Crescent) – 25% visibility. Since – according to Rudhyar – the effect of the Moon’s position on the personality at birth is primarily a psychological (and more than a little mystical) approximation based on the amount of light being reflected by its visible surface, all that remains is to deduce how much latitude should be allowed in the phase-change scenario to encompass the segue of one phase into the next. After all, a “phase” typically describes a gradually evolving transition, not an abrupt metamorphosis of one thing into another.

I’ve noticed from this lunar cycle calendar ( that the Full Moon is still 98% visible 24 hours after it reaches perfection, and the Waning Gibbous Moon becomes exact at 75% visibility approximately 4 days later. This has me thinking that 24 hours on either side of the precise time of exactness would be a good working hypothesis. The roughly 1.5 days in between could be considered “applying” and “separating” sub-sub-phases, thus creating twelve rather than eight “compartments.” The brief in-between periods could be construed as partaking of elements of both the preceding and succeeding sub-phases, producing a kind of hybrid personality that exhibits character traits of both. (On a side note, this design squares nicely with the arrangement of the natal horoscope into Angular, Succedent and Cadent houses.)

My point in all of this is that it isn’t mandatory for astrology to slavishly adopt astronomical conventions, definitions and terminology; there are perfectly sound interpretive techniques going all the way back to classical times. Unless (and until) our quantitative measurements and empirical data-gathering become far more sophisticated and precise, astrology itself will never become rigidly prescriptive and will remain more an art than a science. Personally, I hope it never does. All of the validation I require can be found in my own experience.

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