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Welcome to Dark Moon Musings #07.

Today I am going to share with you an easy way to tell whether the moon is waxing or waning. 

A while back I read an article in an Australian magazine about how to recognise the phases of the moon. The author (and the editor and whoever else proofread the article) failed to realise that the orientation of the moon when waxing (illuminated area growing) and waning (illuminated area decreasing) differs between the hemispheres. 

It was a magazine published in the southern hemisphere but described the phases as seen in the northern hemisphere. 

That a women’s publication could get it so wrong saddened me, particularly when you consider the first line from Anne Kent Rush’s book Moon, Moon (still in print after almost fifty years): 

“The position of the moon in a culture is the same as the position of women in that culture; our fates are inexorably shared. Knowledge and attitudes about the moon have paralleled those about women and the female principle down through recorded time.” Anne Kent Rush. 

Hmmm. That we are so disconnected from the moon these days doesn't reflect well on our culture’s perception of the value of women or feminine energies. 

So let’s fix that…

Let’s start by increasing our knowledge of the moon by looking up at the sky, rather than relying on words or an app. 

Below I share tips for how to tell if the moon is waxing or waning and where and when to see the moon in the sky.

In a few days, a new lunar cycle will begin (1st April southern hemisphere and 2nd April northern hemisphere). I challenge you to look for the moon each day over the entire lunar cycle :-). 

With love,
p.s. Continue below for links to recent conversations I've had with others about cyclical living and nature connection. 

p.p.s The first of my next series of  Inside Time Outside retreats (focusing on stepping into winter) has sold out. There are still tickets available for the 29th May. The early bird rate of $80 is available for only a few more days (until the end of March).

Register for an Inside Time Outside retreat

How to tell if the moon is waxing or waning

The illuminated area of the moon changes throughout a lunar cycle (due to changes in the relative positions of the earth, sun and moon).

Over the course of 29 days, the illuminated area gradually increases (waxes) to being fully illuminated (full moon) then decreases (wanes) back to being absent (dark moon). 

Have you looked up at the sky and seen a thin crescent moon and wondered whether it was waxing or waning? 

Or seen a gibbous moon (more than half illuminated) and wondered whether it was growing towards a full moon or retreating towards the dark moon? 

The answer depends on whether you are in the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere. 

We see the same phase on more or less the same day across the hemispheres. For example, if it is a first quarter moon in the southern hemisphere, it is a first quarter moon in the northern hemisphere, but the orientation of the illuminated side of the moon varies. 

In the southern hemisphere, the illuminated area of the moon increases (waxes) from the left and decreases (wanes) to the right.

Whereas in the northern hemisphere, the moon waxes from the right and decreases (wanes) to the left.

Sounds confusing? Let's look at some tricks to help you remember when looking up at the sky: 

The location and timing of the moon in the sky can also tell you whether it is waxing or waning, but I'll expand on that after outlining where and when to see the moon....

Where and when to see the moon

Just like the sun, the moon rises in the east and sets in the west. 

The moon travels across the sky along a similar path to the sun, so if you know where to look for the sun, you know where to look for the moon. 

At the start of a lunar cycle, the moon rises and sets with the sun, although you can’t see a new moon because it isn’t illuminated by the sun. 

A thin waxing crescent moon is visible in the sky a few days into the lunar cycle. She’ll rise a little after sunrise and set a little after sunset. 

The moon rises (and hence sets), on average, about 50 minutes later each day. 

The graphic below illustrates what that means for where and when you can see the moon….

We can see that at the start of a lunar cycle the new moon rises and sets with the sun. A waxing first quarter moon rises around midday and sets at around midnight. A full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise. A waning last quarter moon rises around midnight and sets around midday. And a waning crescent moon rises in the early hours of the morning before sunrise and sets before noon. 

If you know approximately what phase the moon is in, or how old it is, then you know where and when to look for it.

For example, if we are only one week into the lunar cycle (i.e. a first quarter moon), we know the moon is visible (assuming there are no clouds) after midday in the east and will travel across the sky until around midnight when it sets in the west. 

We can also use this knowledge to be able to look at the moon in the sky and be able to tell whether it is waxing or waning.

For example, if we see a crescent moon in the east in the morning (i.e. a rising moon) we know it is waxing. Whereas, if we see a crescent moon in the west in the morning (i.e. setting) we know it is waning.

I recently spoke to Brooke from the Slow Home podcast about cyclical living.

Nature does a beautiful job of reminding us when to rest; the nature around us and the nature within us.

Nature’s cycles, be it the rhythm of the day, the earth’s seasons, the phases of the moon, the menstrual cycle, or our life cycle—they all remind us when to retreat.

Listen here

In the current issue of Earth Garden magazine Brydie Piaff and I chat about the highlights of living in a tiny home and the benefits of deepening our connection with nature.

"Our comfortable, convenient domesticated lives don't suit us. We are designed to be far more entwined with the natural environment."

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I acknowledge the Wonnarua people—the Traditional Custodians of the land on which I live and write. I recognise their ongoing connection to this land and its stories, and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

Copyright © 2022 Tricia D. Walker, All rights reserved.

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