June 12, 2022

Thoughts On Moon Rituals From An Exvangelical

This post is an introduction to a 4 part meditation series I will release about working with the energy of the moon in my spiritual practice.

Thoughts On Moon Rituals From An Exvangelical

Prefer to listen? Click to hear this as a 13-minute recorded talk on Insight Timer.

“The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4.

Over the next several months I’m planning to share 4 meditations based around the 4 primary phases of the moon cycle. First I wanted to share this talk giving a bit of a Biblical foundation for how I work with the moon cycles in my personal spiritual practice.

Why bring the Bible into this?

You may wonder why I would bring the Bible into this. Well, I often say that Christianity is my native language of spirituality, and the Bible is the sacred text that was handed to me from birth. For years I fought against this spiritual inheritance because of all the harm done in the name of Christianity. Now, although I am influenced and inspired by many spiritual traditions, I acknowledge that the Christian tradition is the lens through which I tend to engage in spirituality. Much of my work focuses on bringing redemption to passages of scripture that have been used to condemn people.

I grew up being told that Astrology is demonic. Reading my horoscope felt dangerous, even though when I did read it, it seemed as innocuous as a message you’d find inside a fortune cookie. Much of this view can be traced back to Augustine, a very influential Christian figure in the fourth century. Augustine saw astrology as a way humans would try and blame God or the celestial bodies for sin. He seemed to believe that if people thought their lives were predetermined by the stars, then they could let themselves off the hook for their behavior.

How we are impacted by the moon and the sun

Historically, astrology was not just about horoscopes and zodiac signs. It was a branch of natural philosophy dealing with the physical influence of the cosmos on the earth. Of course we have the entire field of astronomy to help us see and study the celestial bodies. It is clear that the sun and the moon both have a significant impact on our earthly lives.

In fact, we live by a solar calendar. Our modern calendar gives a date based on the position of the sun in relation to the stars behind it. The seasons are based on the equinoxes. We mark the summer solstice as the day when we have the most hours of daylight and the winter solstice, when we have the fewest hours of daylight.

In contrast, many ancient and indigenous cultures used a lunar calendar, because it was a visible way to mark the passing of time on a consistent basis, by observing the phases of the moon. A lunar month starts at the new moon.

Psalm 104:19 says, “You made the moon to mark the seasons.”

In the Hebrew scriptures, we see the importance of Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon festival. Many significant events are recorded as happening during the new moon. We also see in many traditions the ways in which the moon plays a role, like Lunar New Year in East and South Asian countries, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins at a New Moon, and in Jewish tradition, the festival of Passover begins on a Full Moon. If you’ve ever wondered why the date of Easter varies so widely from year to year, it’s because Easter is set to occur on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox. So even the holiest day of Christian tradition is linked to the Moon cycle.

My current view of zodiac signs

Now, my personal practice of moon cycle observation doesn’t really incorporate the zodiac signs, but there is an obvious intersection, as we each new moon does fall under a specific sign depending on the month.

My personal view on zodiac signs is as a personality test of sorts, like the Meyers Briggs or Enneagram. It can help to paint a picture of our personality, strengths, and talents. I see it as descriptive, not prescriptive. I always knew I was a Pisces based on my birth date, but since discovering that I’m a Cancer Moon and Cancer Rising I’m like, oh wow, that makes so much sense! Similarly with how I work with the Enneagram, self knowledge is helpful to understand your tendencies, but it shouldn’t stop there. We should use our self-awareness to help us grow  and become more balanced instead of using it as an excuse for our behavior.

Because of my upbringing, I understand how deeply uncomfortable Christians are with astrology and the zodiac signs. I also have a very limited knowledge of astrology and am not advocating for anyone to get interested in it; this is just my current perspective on it. I also am aware that many associate moon rituals with pagan practices and witchcraft, which is why Christians tend to fear these practices. However, I believe there’s a way to incorporate the moon cycle into a spiritual practice without worshiping the moon, and there’s a way to let zodiac signs guide your intentions without using them for “fortune-telling.”

Bible references about celestial bodies

Now, when I started searching the Bible for references about the celestial bodies, I was surprised by how many references there are. In Genesis 1:14-14, God says, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years...” Job 9:9 describes God making the constellations. In Ezekiel 47:1 we learn that the Temple in Jerusalem faced the East, the direction of the rising sun. As a side note, this tradition continues to this day, where many churches are built to face the east. In early Christianity, Christians prayed facing east, seeing in the rising sun a symbol of the risen Christ. Jesus refers to himself as the light of the world.

It is clear in the Hebrew scriptures that God does condemn divination, and there are multiple stories where people seeking God for wisdom beat out those who are praying to false gods and seeking signs in the sky. However, in Matthew 2:1-12, we see that the Magi follow the signs in the stars to lead them to Jesus.

In Luke 21:25, Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem saying, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

We see in the New Testament that Jewish Christ-followers continued to observe the new moons even after Jesus’s ascent into heaven (Col. 2:16). Lastly, in the final book of the Bible, we see strange visions that include the celestial bodies.

Revelation 12:1 says, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet...”

So it does feel a bit contradictory that in some instances, it’s okay to look for signs in the heavens, and that God might even send signs.

How I (and my body!) currently work with the moon cycle

Whew, okay that’s a lot. I wanted to lay out that foundation in case you are a person listening who has been taught to fear any focus on the meanings found in the night sky. For me, paying attention to the moon cycles and marking the new moon with a communal ritual with other women is a way for me to mark time intentionally. Each new moon we gather and reflect, and we set intentions for the next four weeks. It helps me to feel grounded to something larger than myself and provides a framework to see growth and allow myself time to experiment with new intentions.

I also have done a lot of learning around the meaning behind each of the 4 phases of the moon which are new moon, waxing moon, full moon, and waning moon. The moon shows up differently every day of the month, sometimes with more brightness, and sometimes less. In our culture, productivity tends to be valued above all. Our days are marked in 24 hour increments, and there can be a pressure to perform equally every single day. Interestingly enough, male hormones operate on a 24-hour cycle. This means that testosterone levels are highest in the morning and lowest in the night. In a patriarchal society, it makes sense that the standard workday would align for what works for men. They are energetic throughout the day and hormones start to drop in the afternoon and then in the evening, when energy wanes, it’s time to go to bed.

The female hormonal cycle, however, is typically spread out over 28 days, or 4 weeks, and in 4 phases. Although these 4 phases don’t perfectly align for each woman each month, we can see a corollary between the 4 moon phases and the 4 hormonal phases. As a person who has a monthly cycle, I notice the ways in which my energy levels wax and wane throughout the month in a predictable pattern.  Noticing the shifting phases of the moon gives me a sense of permission to not have to show up at full force every single day.

I will leave the scientific exploration for you to do on your own but as I create a meditation based around each of the 4 moon phases I will bring some of this information in. Of course, not every female-identifying person cycles through the hormonal phases, and I want to be inclusive of anyone who wants to draw inspiration and permission from the moon. If you are someone who doesn’t currently experience a monthly cycle, you can choose to start your monthly cycle or rhythm with the new moon and go from there.

I believe that the moon can be a vital tool in spiritual practice. In my spiritual practice, this does not include direct worship of the moon, rather it offers a reminder that I can look up and be reminded that God has placed this feminine guide in the sky. I’m excited to explore more specifically in the upcoming meditations how I work with each of the moon cycles. I will end with a short excerpt from the Canticle of the Sun by St Francis.

“Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful."

Thanks for listening, and I’d love to hear your feedback in the form of a review.