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Chapter 8

The Times of the Moon


One reason Paganism has caught the imagination of so many people is its recognition of the female side of divinity. Although on the abstract theological level the Judaeo-Christian God most of us grew up with is beyond gender, in His everyday manifestations He has been exclusively male. And now a religion comes along that claims that the divine is at least equally female. The concept has been transformative for many women and not a few men.

Neo-Pagans revere a multitude of female deities. The one that is most worshipped by Wiccans is the Goddess, the Mother of All. She is just what her title says; the mother of phenomena, living or not, and mother in all its meanings. She is the giver of birth, the nourisher, the teacher, and the one who disciplines. Many Neo-Pagans see the other Goddesses worshipped throughout the world as her different faces, and so she is simply called "the Goddess." Others choose to see other Goddesses as existent but in some sense lesser, while still others do not even worship an overreaching Goddess. (Trying to pin down Paganism is like trying to herd cats.) Wiccans, though, who form a majority of Neo-Pagans, worship a Goddess in some form. This chapter will therefore by mostly directed at them.

Although "Mother Earth" is one of her most common titles, the moon is equally her symbol, and Wiccans give it special reverence. She shines down on everyone in the world, always changing, always the same. Even when she cannot be seen her presence is felt. Even when apparently gone she sends us blessings and teaching. As Queen of the Night, she is the guardian of secrets. Because of the connection between the lengths of the menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle she is the patroness of women's mysteries. She rules the seas and our bodies in the tides. And her affect on lovers is well known.

As she changes above, the moon shows us the different faces of the Goddess. When the moon is waxing, she is the Maiden. She is the young and developing woman, the dancer and singer. When the moon is full, she is the Mother. It is she who holds us safe in her arms, and on whom we can call for help. And when she is dark, she is the Crone. She is the wise woman who teaches us her wisdom; she holds nothing back if we have the strength to learn it, but it is she who will call us to her in the end.

The moon taught people to measure time. Day and night are a flickering of light, and the year passes slowly, but the moon is our clock in the sky. The word "month" obviously is related to "moon," and the roots of words for measurement, though not related, are similar. The earliest measurements that have been discovered are scratches on bone and stone that may have recorded the moon's phases.

It is the Dark Moon and the Full Moon that are most commonly celebrated by Wiccans, the opposing points of Mother and Crone, the cusps on which the changes take place. The return of the moon is also a fitting day for celebration, though. She has not died, she has been changed, and life goes on. Indeed, this is a monthly reminder that life continues, even after seeming death.

It is for this reason that some say it was the moon's cycle that taught us about rebirth. It is certain that it holds deep mysteries: of change without death, of growth, of womanhood. Knowledge of these comes with maturity and practice. They are taught in covens and the women's lodges, and are granted to those who meditate on the moon. In their fullness they are not dealt with easily in a family context.

But very young children can follow the moon's phases. They can be taught their names, shapes, and times of rising. They can also add to this knowledge with ritual awareness.

The mysteries of the changing of the moon will come to children in time. They are taught by myth, example, ritual and experience. The family ritual, though, should be less heavy-handed. It is enough to observe three of the moon's points: the dark, the return, and the full. Time and the Goddess will do the rest.

Since the Bible forbids kissing one's hand to the moon (Job 31:26-7) it's a pretty good bet this was a Pagan custom. Form the horned hand (see figure 7) with your main hand, by making a fist and extending your index and little fingers. Kiss it, and then extend your arm towards the moon so you can see the moon cradled between the horns. Greet the moon this way each night when you see her for the first time, especially on the New Moon.

Figure 7

Decorations: Mirrors, crystals, white and silver ribbons. Or make a moon hanging: braid three ribbons or cords together. Use white, silver, and light blue, or white, light blue, and dark blue, or white, red, and black. These last three are used by some Pagans to symbolize the three phases of the moon. Braid only part of it and leave the rest hanging. Attach the braid end to the back of a round mirror, a silver metal disk, or a wooden disk painted silver, and hang it on the wall.

These rituals require a Moon candle. This is a large white or silver candle, preferably unscented. Keep it in your shrine, a companion to your sun candle. On moon festivals put it on the table. Its base may be decorated. Designs may be cut into it with a hot knife.


Full Moon


The Full Moon comes about every four weeks. The exact time is given in almanacs and on many calendars. Be careful to know the proper night. For example, if the moon is full on Tuesday at 3:30 AM, the night of the Full Moon is Monday. Calendars will frequently give the day as Tuesday, so you have to know the time as well as the day.

Because the Full Moon comes so often, it is best to have a variety of prayers for it. The outline of the ritual can stay the same from month to month, while the parts change. The unchanging element is the lighting of the Moon candle and its blessing, followed by a prayer.

Use your best dishes and prepare a meal of lunar food (almonds, cucumbers, seafood (especially shellfish or crustaceans), croissants, pita bread, white wine, milk, honey, water). Make a batch of mooncakes. These can be just about any kind of light colored cookie, although almond is a traditional flavoring.

Here's one recipe:

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 oz. milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Cream the first three ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients and blend with a wooden spoon. Roll 1/8" thick on floured board and cut. Use a round cookie cutter. A small glass does a good job. Use the cutter to mark a crescent on them. Bake 8-9 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets in a 350 degree oven. Remove from the cookie sheets promptly and cool.

Adult women present should wear moon crowns. Since this is a mark of the identification between women and the moon, at least in part through their monthly cycles, girls should not wear them until they have come of age. Beautiful crowns made of silver or copper may be bought in occult shops, or one can be made from cloth. Cut two pieces of white felt in the shape shown in figure 8. On one, outline the moon shapes with silver liquid embroidery. Cut two small vertical slits in the middle of the other about 1/2" apart. These may be reinforced with glue. Thread a long blue or silver ribbon through them (after the glue is dry). It should be long enough to be tied around the head with plenty left over to hang down the back. Even out the ends of the ribbon and glue the two felt pieces together. To wear, tie the ends of the ribbon together behind the head and let the rest dangle.



Figure 8

Ritual:

Put your Moon candle in the middle of the table in a bowl, preferably of clear or blue glass, filled with water. Use your best dishes. When the meal is ready, establish sacred time and say a mealtime prayer. (See chapter 6.) Then one child says:

Why is tonight special?

An adult answers:

Tonight is the Full Moon.

The child (or another one) says:

Why is that a special time?

An adult answers:

The Full Moon is the Mother Time,
time to be with family and friends,
to celebrate all the wonderful things the Earth gives birth to.

or

The Full Moon is our Mother
Who wraps Her arms around us.
She guards us and loves us
and tonight we return that love.

Another way to do this is for the adults to ask the children the questions and let them answer in their own words. As they grow their understanding of the day will change and there will be a regular opportunity to express it. Either way, allowing the child to take the usual adult role is one way to mark a coming of age.

The mother then lights the Moon candle. She holds it above the table and everyone says:

The Full Moon is shining, high in the sky

.She returns it to the bowl of water and everyone says:

The Full Moon is shining, here in our home.

Everyone crosses their hands on their breasts and says:

The Full Moon is shining, deep in our hearts.

Then have your dinner. At the end, clear away the dinner things. Leave your glasses and the Moon candle. Set the table again with cakes and drinks. Then an adult says:

We share the gifts of the Full Moon with her and each other
on the night when she rides high in the sky.

Pass the cakes around. While you do, one parent says:

Mother of us all,
Watch over us.
Hug us
Hold us
Wrap us round with your loving arms
and keep us safe until the Moon is full again.

After the cakes are eaten, blow out the moon candle. Then pour the melted wax from it into the water. It will cool quickly. Use it to divine from, to see what the next month will bring. For young children, this is a game of "What does it look like?"

As the children go to bed, anoint them with the water, saying:

May the Moon send you good dreams.

The moon water can also be used for sprinklings, offerings, or watering plants.

These are some alternative prayers that can be used either after the candle lighting or while the cakes are passed out:

Mother Moon
Watch over us
Mother Moon
Keep us safe
Mother Moon
Wrap us in your arms
Mother Moon
Shine brightly on our way.

Mother of All, worthy of great honor,
watch over us as the month goes by
and bring us to the next Full Moon
safe and healthy and happy.

Traditions to raid: Chinese Moon Festival (Chung Chiu).

New Moon


"New Moon" can mean different things to different people. To some it is the dark time, the three days of moonless nights when the moon changes from waxing to waning. Or it can mean the first sliver of the waxing moon that shows itself just after sunset and disappears soon after.

When most Wiccans say it they mean the dark time. This is a time of great mystery, when deep changes take place in the souls of women and men who are in tune with it. These are personal mysteries, private changes, and are especially appropriate for adolescents, who are undergoing their own mysterious changes. For younger children, don't play too heavily on the deep changes. Their time will come, all too soon.

The ritual includes a strong symbol of the moon hidden away and an emphasis on dreams. These will plant the seed, which is what we want most for our children when they are young.

The Dark of the Moon


Again use your best plates and serve lunar foods. This time use darker food and drink, such as red wine or iced tea. For cakes use something dark, hermits or oatmeal or chocolate cookies, or gingerbread, for instance, or something else made with molasses or brown sugar. Put the Moon candle in the center of the table. Don't light any candles. In front of one of the children's plates put a square or circle of black or dark blue cloth. (If you have more than one child, take turns.) A dark cloth napkin will do. Establish sacred time, but without lighting any candles.

Ritual 1:

At a sign from one of the adults, one of the children says:

Why is tonight special?

An adult answers:

Tonight is the Dark Moon.

The child (or another one) says:

Why is this a special time?

An adult answers:

The Dark Moon is the Alone Time,
time to be by yourself in quiet,
to dream of the changes you are going through
and to honor the changes you have made
since the last time the Moon was dark.

As with the Full Moon, the questions can be asked by the adults and the answers given by the children.

The child who has the cloth in front of her picks it up, holds it over the Moon candle, and drops it. She arranges it so that it completely covers the candle. Then the mother holds her hands over the candle and says:

The sky is dark with no Moon to be seen.
She is hidden in secret to make Herself new.
The Moon is dark tonight as She passes from light to light.

Ritual 2:

With everything arranged as before, one of the adults says:

Shh.
It is dark tonight, with no moon to light our way.
Shh.

A child covers the candle. One of the parents says:

The sky will be dark tonight, with no moon to light our way.
She is hidden in the dark to make herself new
and then return young and bright and dancing in the sky.

After the ritual, eat your meal. After that, no matter which ritual is used, one adult says:

Dark time
Quiet time
Sleep time
Dream time
Time of change.
Sleep well tonight
with wonderful dreams.

Then put the candle back in the shrine, still wrapped in the cloth. One of the children can do this. Alternatively, it can be kept on the table as a reminder of the dark time. Or it can be kept in the shrine and moved to the table for meals.

The Reappearance of the Moon


The reappearance of the moon was celebrated by ancient Pagans more than the dark time. Sometimes contests would be held among villagers, the winner being the one who saw the moon first. Carmina Gadelica, (see references) gives a number of beautiful Gaelic prayers for this day. It is a day well suited for family celebration, especially if you have a clear view of where the moon will appear. If you can't find the moon on its first night because of intervening objects or bad weather, try on subsequent nights until you can see it.

Go outside right before sunset. In a city you can use a balcony or a roof, or even an open window. (It is considered bad luck to seek the moon first through glass.) Bring with you the wrapped Moon candle. If you have the moon ribbon braid suggested above bring it and attach it to a stick. Otherwise use another stick, decorated with mirrors, silver jewelry, and white, silver, and blue ribbons. Face west and watch for the sun to set and the moon to appear. (Don't look straight at the sun!) As the light fades, the moon will become visible above where the sun set. The first one who sees it gets to take the stick and point to the moon. She then takes the Moon candle, unwraps it, holds it up to the moon, and says:

She's back!
Welcome back, Moon.
Thank you for returning to us.

Putting both stick and candle down, she kisses her hand to the moon. Then everyone else does. The candle and stick are brought inside and put on the table. If she is an adult (anyone who has come of age) she lights it. If not, the mother lights it. While it is being lit, the one who saw the moon says:

The Moon is back
and a New Moon begins.
New things will happen.

The mother then says:

What new things do you want to happen in the New Moon?
What new things will you make happen in the New Moon?

The members of the family can then either say what they plan for the New Moon or not as they wish. (Remember the embarrassment factor.) This is a good time for vows. For instance, "I will meditate daily for this month."

If there are other Pagan families near you, gather together and have a contest for seeing the moon first. The winning family keeps the moon braid for the month. For a less complicated New Moon observance, after everyone is at the table for dinner that night, one of the adults asks:

Has anyone seen the Moon tonight?

If no one has, then everyone can go out to look. If more than one person has, you can compare times to see who saw it first. (This can become quite a competition.) Whoever sees it first gets to put the Moon candle on the table and uncover it. If the child is old enough he then lights it; if not, the mother does. The same person also gets to blow the candle out at the end of the meal. For either ritual, have a small bowl of oil, scented or olive, on the table. Hold it over the lit candle for a few seconds and then anoint each others' foreheads with it, saying:

May She be with you this month
and smile on you every day.