The “Old Moon” and Divination

In her generally excellent (but now slightly dated) 1984 book The Secrets of the Tarot: Origins, History and Symbolism, Barbara Walker describes the colors of the Hindu Gunas as white, red and black, and also relates those colors to the three primary faces of the Moon goddess: waxing New Moon is white; effulgent Full Moon is red; and waning Old Moon is black as it closes in on the “Dark of the Moon.” She quotes:

“The New Moon is the white goddess of birth and growth; the Full Moon, the red goddess of love and battle; the Old Moon, the black goddess of death and divination.”

The sense I get from these analogies is that the post-Full (technically, past syzygy) “Old Moon” is increasingly free from the Sun’s glare, such that working psychically (or in the “spirit vision”) is both more fluid and more profound at that time since it partakes of the shadowy wisdom of the Crone and not that of the patriarchal solar gods or the virginal White Goddess. (I know Aleister Crowley pointed out that the Thoth Moon is waning, but he was just proposing “madness” and not “death” with his divination.) I’m talking strictly about the “rays” of the Sun upon the Moon here, not their astronomical interplay. There was very little hard science in pagan cosmology; it was more about observable phenomena. They thought the Moon went into some kind of dark “netherworld” when it hid its face, similar to the Sun retreating to the far South in Winter (the solar gods’ “death and rebirth” cycle).

The typical “alpha male” is completely mystified (if not viscerally repelled) by this arcane phenomenon, which doesn’t fit comfortably into his simple worldview alongside football, cars, beer and sex. To perform divination with a degree of panache, one must be in tune with the more mystical, intuitive (traditionally feminine and symbolically “Lunar”) side of the personality, which for the alpha male is a deeply-repressed “shadow.” This attunement isn’t vital to the doing of it since a thorough knowledge-based background and plenty of experience will suffice, but I think it is absolutely essential if one wants to look good (that is, be utterly convincing) while doing it. It also helps to have a storyteller’s narrative flair for “painting word-pictures” and a fiction writers expansive command of language. Sensitivity and finesse in delivering all kinds of messages are other valuable “soft” assets, since nobody wants to be hit over the head with bad news.

I’m not a confirmed alpha male by any stretch, but I had a typical 1950s post-War heterosexual upbringing and it has stayed with me for all of my 70+ years. I have a fine appreciation for women (and a particular fondness for fine women in both allure and intelligence), although at my age it is closer to admiration than anything more, shall we say, enthusiastic. As a one-time New Age graphic artist and aspiring poet, I’ve always possessed a strong affinity for visionary experiences, very few of them drug-induced (I only recently realized that the Thoth Queen of Cups displays a more accurate, gender-neutral depiction of my personality than my long-time Significator, the Knight of Cups.) Once I discovered esoteric studies in 1972, the practice of divination kind of “came with the territory” and I jumped right in at the deep end with my love of all things metaphysical.

When I returned to tarot practice in 2011 after a long break, I discovered the online tarot community. My first impression on joining the forums was that over 90% of tarot enthusiasts are biological females (remember when we didn’t have to specify?) with varying degrees of intuitive acuity, maybe 5% are similarly-disposed gay men, a couple of percent are “other” and 1% or less are straight males (who may be more interested in preying on the first group than actually working with divination; I’ve seen that before in the mid-20th-Century astrological counterculture, where at one time roughly 25% of practicing astrologers and more than half of the top writers were male, predatory or otherwise). As one of the latter in the female-dominated modern tarot world, I feel like something of an alien (although a respected one as far as I can tell, assuming it isn’t just fear of my curmudgeonly attitude and “fire-breathing” rhetoric). In fact, I recently received a little “woo-woo cred” from my forum-mates for an abbreviated version of this essay.

Which brings me back to the subject of the title. My take-away from Walker’s observations is that it may be best when contemplating any important divination to wait until culmination of the “Old Moon” (astronomically, the last 3.5 days of the Lunar Cycle, between the Waning Crescent and the “Dark” phase). A Lunar Phases calendar helps with this determination: If that is cutting it too close for comfort, any time during the last seven days of the cycle (from the Third Quarter on) would be my second choice. Other considerations are whether the Moon is “Void of Course” (making no aspects to other planets before it leaves is current sign; here you will need an astrological ephemeris, readily available online) and whether Mercury is retrograde (same ephemeris). But these are just subtleties of timing that can be safely ignored if you so choose. If there is in fact a “best time” for performing any kind of critical divination, the Old Moon may be it.

2 thoughts on “The “Old Moon” and Divination

  1. I really liked this, as a “new-moon’er” myself, currently experiencing the progressed Full Moon, it certainly is a time of pondering over these two meaningful life cycles 😉 TY!


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