It’s the word “dark” that does it. Often when I tell people they’re in a dark moon period, they’re triggered. Instantly they revert to a childhood bedroom, when the dark meant being alone and vulnerable to unseen dangers, when monsters could leap out from the dresser or under the bed. We are creatures who love the light. Dark suggests something dismal, gloomy, even ignorant (as in, “she’s in the dark”).
Magicians know that nature often hides her best jewels in forbidding places. Teach your eyes to see the jewels in this phase and it will quickly become your favorite, bringing the most nourishing days of your month. Dark moons signal the end of each cycle, coming 3 to 4 before each New Moon. This is the optimum time to reset yourself and come back into harmony with nature. The Moon’s cycle is an organic, supporting rhythm, pre-wired inside all things living on earth.
Dark moon nights are moonless. The sky is indeed darker—which actually makes the canopy of stars more visible. Likewise we can now see the inner worlds of body and mind more clearly. We get a keener view of our own mysteries. So important is it to take our seat in this darkened theater, that our body slows us down to do it—at least once a month—and for longer stretches, at key moments throughout our lives. During dark moons we’re naturally tired. Trusting this fatigue is key to our continued wellbeing.
This Moon phase is sometimes called “Balsamic” for the way it can distill us into our essence. Balsam, the nourishing resin that can form on trees and plants is related to the word balm, a fragrant concoction made to soothe and heal.
Eight Gifts of the Dark Moon
1. You get celestial permission to do the one thing you’re often longing to do—which is absolutely nothing! In this go-go-go world, we need the balancing nectar of lazy, unstructured time. Netflix time. Staring-at-the-wall time. Doing less now is more.
2. Out of nothing you’re conjuring new creativity, energy and inspiration. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn for good reason. Dark periods clear space. They hollow you out. This acts as a powerful vacuum that draws in new ideas, vitality and opportunities.
3. You’re restoring your entire body/mind system. Just as sleep takes us offline to recover from the work of the day, so the dark moon takes us offline. We stop in order to get free from whatever tensions we’ve been holding onto for the past month. We let go of whatever stories we’ve been telling ourselves.
4. A resting body has more energy to repair and renew itself. You don’t have to direct this healing. Your body already knows. It’s ruled by the Moon and this is Moon knowing. Listening inwardly, you learn to trust your innate feminine wisdom.
5. In your dark moon pause, you learn how to listen to your needs. You discover how to tend to your feelings. You become more skilled in the arts of self-care. Over time you become a better mother to your inner child.
6. With your silence and ceasing, priorities fall into place. You remember who you are and what truly matters. Your new intimacy with yourself is like a chiropractic “snap” for your psyche.
7. Going forward, you tend to value yourself more. This makes it easier to keep healthier boundaries. It’s easier to say no to what you don’t want to do—ie., what’s out of alignment with your spirit and soul.
8. Over time, this practice anchors you in the present moment. You discover the magic of genuine presence—what people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get at spiritual workshops.
What the Moon herself teaches about this time
The moon is a visual teacher. The play of light and dark is perhaps the Moon’s most reliable method of teaching. Light is a universal emblem for consciousness, awareness, the active thinking mind. Without light, the Moon is saying we need very little “mind” at this time. The power in this period derives from all that’s implied by the orb that’s dark. The dark is symbolic of our unconscious forces.
Look for the outer Moon in the east, at the end of her cycle, when she rises in the hours just before dawn. Appearing so close to sunrise means she won’t be visible in the nighttime sky. For thousands of years, this fact kept our ancestors wisely indoors. Even now, these are not the best nights for a big party or gathering of any kind.
Dark moon nights favor solitude and an early bedtime. This makes it easier to get up before dawn and see meet this Moon’s thin crescent of light yourself. Look for her three mornings in a row and you’ll watch how this crescent gets thinner and thinner, until it eventually disappears. That tells us the New Moon is just around the corner.
What the Body teaches about this time
We find the potency of this Moon phase not in the mind, but in the body—the unconscious intelligence that operates below the neck. It’s from this place we need to proceed. The body is not an extensive conversationalist. At this time of the lunar month, it’s concerned primarily with the physics of resting.
The body has a thumbs up/thumbs down language. During the Dark Moon, if you wonder, Should you go here or there? Should you do this or that thing?–just ask the question. Then tune in below the neck. Does your body respond with “ugh” or “yay” ? The “ugh” tells you not to waste your energy. The “yay” tells you this is in tune with the new thing that’s coming.
Your magnificent body knows how to build energy from the activity of resting. How wonderful! Support your body’s work by keeping a light schedule. By slowing down and doing less, you draw new juice into your cells–and your future.
What if you’re just too busy to rest?
Of course that means you need this pause more than most! But you can choose your resting times wisely. You don’t have to be idle the whole period.
For me dark moons are like the signal flag sailors raise to indicate tricky weather or race track officials use to slow speeding cars after an accident. My dark moon flag says something like “Watch out. Go slow. Don’t push yourself.” And then I watch for the ideal invitation to surrender into the nothing that is everything.
Practically speaking, this falls somewhere between actually planning it and waiting to be called. When intention and opportunity converge, I stop. I drop in. I can sense my body and spirit drinking, thoroughly enjoying the delicious nectar in the Nada of the moment. May you discover this pleasure yourself!
Your other monthly dark moon
The monthly dark moon is universal. But there’s another dark moon that’s personal. This one comes when the transiting Moon occupies the 12th House of your astrology chart, where it remains for about two and a half days. The 12th is the house of hospitals, prisons, monasteries, mental institutions, and the unconscious. These aren’t your typically happy places! When the energy goes to this house, most people tend to feel pretty vulnerable. When the Moon is in my 12th, if I ignore my 12th house sensitivities—this is the house of hidden things—my vulnerabilities tend to grow. Eventually I find myself feeling resentful and overwhelmed.
I’ve learned, during my 12th house moon time each month, to watch for opportunities to safely “collapse.” Then I treat myself like the “baby” that somewhere deep inside I still am. Again, I don’t stay indoors with the shades drawn the whole time. I just pay attention. Each month it’s a little different—but babying myself in some way on these days tends to strengthen me for the whole cycle.
Good endings make good beginnings
Dark moons mentor us in the art of good endings. We typically like to hurry into beginnings and away from endings. Among humans, endings are an acquired taste. Yet in the natural world, endings are the meal supreme. What is old breaks down. This becomes fuel for the new thing, waiting in the wings.
As with all things astrological, I encourage you to be skeptical—prove to yourself what’s true. The value of slowing down at the dark moon is easily tested. The next dark moon phase occurs from March 20 to March 24. Mark your calendar. And then, when these days arrive, observe. Are you wired and ready to go? Or is there a genuine desire to slow down, stop, and unwind?
What sign is on your 12th house? Were you born during a Dark Moon—and if so, what does that mean? Get your free chart and moon phase report here.
In addition to the monthly Dark Moons, over the course of our lives there we get several extended dark moon periods that can last three to four years each. One such period is the “progressed Balsamic” phase. You’ll find the years for yours (along with many other Moon goodies) in my Moonprints report. Order here.
Too wired to rest during the Dark Moon? My Moon Bliss practice will help!
And always, you’re welcome to join my monthly Moon Workshop–enroll here!