Lunar Phases – Cycles Within Cycles

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

This is an older research project that I presented
circa 2008 as “Faces of Evil: Shades of Gray” 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Introduction:           Initially, the lunar phases can help you understand the Sun / Moon relationship within any chart. Beyond that, the Sun / Moon phase cycle sets the stage for all aspects between the bodies and the points studied within a chart, not just that of the Sun and Moon. Using the Sun / Moon phases for all aspect pairings provides another layer to the understanding of aspects because the phases are basic to all combinations of bodies and points. From the New Moon to the next New Moon is one complete cycle: from birth, to culmination, to death. This full cycle is divided into eight equal “phases”, or 45˚ sections of a 360˚ wheel. The structure of a phase wheel is based on hard aspects (conjunction, semi-square, square, sesqui-square, and opposition), so the overall text illustrates ongoing challenges to the native. We will make great use of metaphor to translate what is physical (science) to what is experiential (astrology).

The dynamic Sun / Moon (soli-lunar or solunar) phase relationship is the astrological archetype of all cycles of relationships (aspects). The term “relationship” is not singular, so it implies experience and change. All processes begin from singularity (“at-one-ment”) and evolve through a series of progressive changes to culmination (full realization), and eventual conclusion and disintegration – evolution, through culmination, through devolution. Then the process begins again – layers of experience.

  • The macrocosm is represented by Earth’s yearly rotation through the zodiac of signs.
  • The microcosm is represented by Earth’s daily rotation, the astrological circle of houses.

As described, the Lunation Cycle is initially a study of the Sun / Moon phase relationship, but it eventually becomes the basis of all cycles of relationships and all aspects contained within those cycles. The phase relationship travels full circle and returns to its beginning to start a new round of experience. There are two standard cycles to consider:

  • The Sidereal cycle representing the return to a fixed point such as 00˚00’ in 27.3 days.
  • The Synodic cycle representing the return to a specific relationship, such as New Moon to New Moon, in 29.5 days. Why? Because as the Moon completes the circle to its initial position, the Earth / Sun relationship has moved a full degree forward causing the Moon to have to orbit the Earth an extra two days to realign as the New Moon phase.

Phase wheels are based on the Synodic, the return to a specific relationship.


It is never physically possible to view the Sun directly. To avoid destruction of our eyesight, we must view the Sun by reflection, or by seeing its power in viewable bits (metaphor: ego / self-identity). At the conjunction (New Moon, the conjoining of the Lights), the Sun as the father principle was described by the ancients to seed the womb of the Mother (Moon) principle.  Conjunction in this instance equals celestial conception by “The Lights”. The ancients saw this as the Cosmic Marriage, with humanity’s marriage rituals as reflections of that cosmic principle (again, a metaphor).

The moment of the joining itself determines the nature of the seed and defines the whole of the cycle to follow. The seed carries with it not only the characteristics of that Sun / Moon conjunction, but all the other planetary relationships contained in the energy of that moment as well. Each is a unique seed. At this stage of the description, it may not be easy to comprehend the meaning or to incorporate it into our delineations. At this moment, it is enough to know that such an involved energy even exists. We will eventually grow into such knowledge as we practice.

Invisible equals unconscious       Such seeding is invisible at the moment of seeding. Just as the farmer pushes a seed deep into the Earth and covers it over with the dirt (earth) in which it will grow, the actual moment of conception is darkened and not visible. While not usually described as a part of the process, the Earth must be automatically included in this scenario. Why?

  • The Moon orbits the Earth, which in turn orbits the Sun. Wherever the Earth is traveling, Earth’s Moon is along for the ride. They are and are seen as a symbiotic pairing with a common center of gravity located within, but not at the exact center, of the Earth. The bodies commonly rotate around this same center and gravitationally affect one another through their individual motions.
  • If you were to be standing on the Sun at the moment of a solunar conjunction, what you would view is a Moon / Earth pairing. They cannot be separated from that outside perspective.
  • The much smaller, much closer (to Earth, our perspective) Moon moves directly in front of the much larger, much farther away Sun. Because of the discrepancy in size and distance, the Moon and Sun appear to be equal in size (illusion). Despite the size differential, the tiny Moon is able to obscure the Sun’s emitted light when viewed from the Moon / Earth perspective.
  • The actual solunar joining occurs in a momentary darkened state. The Sun is shining on the back side of the Moon. Therefore, the front side, observable from Earth, is dark.
  • Then the Moon, moving quickly (closer), and the Earth (due to orbital travel) moving more slowly, move away from the Sun following Earth’s orbital path.

Astrologically, the metaphor for this moment of beginning or seeding is the conjunction (New Moon), where the Sun and Moon are viewed as one unit (illusion) from our Earthly perspective. This moment of conception is viewed as a joining (Celestial or Cosmic Marriage) as the Father (Sun) principle provides the idea or concept, which the Mother (Moon) principle then proceeds to develop through her continuing forward motion and experience. This joining represents the initiating concept, which proceeds to unfold through a predictable cycle. It is completed and released just prior to the next conjunction, with its new seeding principle. Each seeding is a new layer of experience. Layers upon layers provide our lessons.

The evolutionary process of that seed moment (idea) is carried out by the Moon. Upon conjunction, the Sun is immediately relegated to a static position (as it is the central point of the cycles. The Sun has done its job, planted the seed, and it awaits the results. The Moon represents movement and illustrates the evolution of that seed moment. The Sun has indicated what we must do or what must happen. The Moon then shows us how to get it done. The appearance of change as the Moon progresses through the cycle is just that: appearance. The physical attributes of the Sun or Moon as singular organisms do not change. The movement of the Moon indicates change is occurring – change made visible through the process of the Sun’s light reflected on the Moon. Astrologers interpret that appearance and movement as It affects our life processes. Astronomers measure, astrologers interpret!

Successive conjunctions between the Sun and Moon never occur in exactly the same spot. Instead, each conjunction takes place approximately 30˚ later in the Zodiac. In astrological terms, the beginning conjunction of the Sun / Moon (New Moon) would be equivalent to 00 Aries. The next so-lunar conjunction would take place at the New Moon of 00 Taurus, next 00 Gemini, and so forth. Each phase wheel carries with it all the characteristics of the New Moon which identified its purpose, plus the general attributes of the Phase Wheel formula. We then can use our knowledge of signs and houses to understand the evolutionary process of the Phase Wheel.

The Zodiac of twelve signs represents a series for phases of development, behavior, and attitudes. Our Zodiac arbitrarily begins in Aries and ends in Pisces. Arbitrary? Of course. A true circle has no beginning and no end, so any beginning or ending point Is personal choice, not automatic. Humanity grows through successive experiences (signs) to develop the qualities which help in the evolutionary process. Even our solar system reflects that evolutionary process via the Changing of the Ages – the Precession of the Equinox. Reminder: Precession indicates the Ages change in reverse zodiacal order. For example, we are currently changing from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. It is not just a popular song. It is reflected in the heavenly motions.

Place the Earth directly at the center of any natal chart. This is mundane, physical reality. Arbitrarily choose the Ascendant as the beginning point for your circle of twelve houses of mundane, physical experience. The Ascendant represents any moment of birth, human or otherwise. The balance of the houses represent an orderly, progressive, mundane unfoldment; physical experience by physical experience. We could also add the concepts of hemisphere and quadrature to house readings to help us establish Phase Wheel meanings.

Where do we begin?         At the beginning – the Sun / Moon conjunction itself. This is a study of cycles (circles). So, place a mark (arbitrarily) as the Ascendant point of any circle. This represents the moment of the beginning, the conjunction itself, the New Moon. This cycle will be in effect until that cycle itself is completed. Now the arbitrarily established divisions begin.

  • First, we’ll divide the circle in half and place a mark on the 180˚point (halfway) on our circle. This represents the opposition point, and is the rough equivalent of the Full Moon.
  • Next, we will divide those halves themselves in half, and place points at those two 90˚ points on the circle. This is the equivalent of the 1st and Last Quarter Phases.
  • Next, we will divide those four quarters in half, giving us four more points halfway through each quarter. The points are at the 45˚ positions on each side of both the New and the Full Moons, eight  equidistant points in all.
  • We have just constructed the form of the Phase Wheel itself. Now we must attach interpretive meanings to these points.

Hemispheres            The New Moon is dark and is referred to as “the dark of the Moon”. Why? At that moment and from Earth’s perspective, the Sun is shining on the back side of the Moon. The Moon, which has no light of its own, is not reflecting the Sun’s light. The Moon is there, but it is dark. If the Sun and Moon were to line up exactly from Earth’s perspective, we would experience a Solar Eclipse.

  • The Moon then gradually increases in light as it progresses in its orbital journey around the Earth.
  • This culminates in full light at the Full Moon (Moon / Earth pairing opposed the Sun 1).
  • The Moon view gradually diminishes in light as it progresses through the last half of the cycle.
  • The Moon will again fade into the Sun’s glory as the next conjunction approaches.
  • This increase in light phase is called waxing.
  • From the Full to the next New Moon, the light decreases and it is called waning.
  • Waxing implies growth and coming to consciousness.
  • Waning implies disintegration and the return to unconsciousness.
  • We grow from the New to the Full.
  • We let go from the Full to the next New.

Another way of looking at it is that we plant a seed (New) and then do everything in our power to grow our intent until we reach full potential (Full). We then must distribute the fruits of our labor, and eventually clear the decks and prepare for the next seeding process (New). Obviously, there is a lot more to the overall process, but these are the primary stages (phases).

1If the Earth were to be between the Sun and Moon at the Full Moon stage, a Lunar Eclipse is possible.

Quadratures:           As astrologers, we know that a 90˚ square represents challenges to whatever activity or relationship is present.

  • The Waxing square (First Quarter) is a challenge to the growth or evolution (Waxing) of the originating seeding and its process.
  • The Waning square (Last Quarter) is a challenge to the distribution and the devolution (Waning) of the originating process (letting go).
  • The first quarter square is a challenge to the growth of the seed.
  • The last quarter square is a challenge to the distribution of the fruits of the process, and then clearing the decks for the beginning of a new cycle.

Eights:              A half of a square is also stressful. It is perhaps not as much so as a square, but it is stressful nonetheless, so the 45˚ positions of all four quadrants are also stressful. The semi-square’s partner is the sesqui-square, 135˚, and again is stressful.

  • Briefly, as a Minor Aspect, 45˚ represents agitation and 135˚ represents frustration.
  • 45˚ forward from the New Moon is agitation in growth (waxing).
  • 135˚ from the New Moon is emotional frustration in growth (waxing).
  • 45˚ from the Full Moon is agitation in distribution (waning).
  • 135˚ from the Full Moon is emotional frustration in distribution (waning).

Well, that looks simple, but there is more.

  • 135˚ from the New Moon is also 45˚ from the Full.
  • 135˚ from the Full Moon is also 45˚ from the upcoming New.

So, the eighth positions represent a troublesome combination of agitation / emotional frustration phases for both the growth and the distribution phases. It is not that difficult to see which phase is agitated and which phase is emotionally frustrated.

While we are concentrating on the eight phases mentioned, please realize all other aspects occur within the Phase Wheel (trines, sextiles, quintiles, quincunxes, etc.), and are either waxing or waning in nature, and naturally contribute to growth or dissemination. Additionally, that which is sextile the New is trine the Full, and so forth. Imagine possible differences in delineation once you can see the energy as it shifts  – WOW!

Credit: Wikipedia

As we describe the Phase Wheel which is based on the Sun / Moon process, realize all other bodies have the same type of phase relationship. A conjunction between Venus and Pluto has its own phases but behind that pattern is always the nature of the overall phase wheel aspects. The aspects we are attempting to read in an individual chart have been originally seeded by their conjunction phase and all it represented. Wonder why we struggle so in reading aspects? We attempt to read out of context to the seed. We attempt to delineate how an aspect affects a chart without knowing why it exists in the first place. Now let’s name and describe the phases.

Phase Wheel

  • 00˚ Conjunction, New Moon (beginning of waxing phase).
  • 45˚ Crescent, waxing semi-square New phase, also sesqui-square to Full phase.
  • 90˚ 1st Quarter, waxing square to both New and Full phases.
  • 135˚ Gibbous, waxing sesqui-square to New, also semi-square to Full phase.
  • 180˚ Full, opposition, culmination of seeding New (change-over from waxing to waning).
  • 135˚Disseminating, waning Gibbous, semi-square to Full, sesqui-square to old and upcoming New.
  • 90˚ Last Quarter, waning square to both Full and New, original and upcoming phases.
  • 45˚ Balsamic, waning sesqui-square to Full, semi-square to New, original and upcoming.

New Moon 00˚ Conjunction        This is the start of the waxing (increasing in light) phase. It is the planting of the seed itself – the idea, activity, relationship. It is the Dark of the Moon, invisible, more than likely unconscious, instinctive, subjective. You sense something has started, but may not know what it is. As the Moon moves forward at 12-15˚ per day, it gradually becomes visible (conscious), first as a sliver, and then gradually growing in visibility. That which was conceived in darkness is starting to emerge into the light. This phase also contains a Nonagon at 40˚, which gives us an earth test within the growth process.

Crescent Moon 45˚ Semi-Square           With emerging light comes visibility and conscious awareness. We have passed through the 36˚ decile, which helps with our mental conceptualization. Now that we can clearly see what has begun, there is friction and a struggle to help the seed grow and emerge. Why? Because we are usually so firmly rooted in our past and our knowns. At 80 ˚, we reach the Bi-Nonagon, another earth test.

1st Quarter 90˚ Square     This is a crisis in growth and progress, facing the challenges presented, and breaking through what has held us to the past. The 60˚ sextile of opportunity and the 72˚ quintile (mental, talent) have passed, incorporating our talents and abilities into the process. Go or no go: hang on to the past or move into the future? Either choice is possible.

Gibbous 135˚ Sesqui-Square   We have passed the 120˚ trine where we got the impression that everything was a go (payment for successfully passing the nonagon and the bi-nonagon tests) and have reached the emotional frustration stage of the process. With the increasing light, we can clearly see where we must go, and that the goal is not very far away. But we must now analyze the process and adapt as necessary for eventual success. We must discern the inherent inadequacies and fix them.

Full Moon 180˚ Opposition    The process has grown in light, visibility and productivity to its highest potential. We have achieved what is possible, so the light will now start to wane, gradually approaching invisibility. Now what? We must start letting go of the intrinsically completed process – a hard choice, but it can get harder. We must become more objective and contemplate sharing and distributing the fruits of our labor. But first we should enjoy those same fruits. It has gone as far as it can go, so appreciate your accomplishment because it is time to share the results.

Disseminating 45˚ Semi-Square from Full, Sesqui-Square to New  (also called waning Gibbous). Share? Distribute? Let go? Yes. Agitation and emotional frustration? Yes. Pain? Possible. We must open our hand, realize that what we began so long ago has served its purpose and must now be freely distributed. Letting go gets easier at the 60˚ sextile and the 72˚ quintile (mental acceptance). This sextile is actually the 120˚ trine point from the upcoming New Moon. Should we look forward to the new seed? Read the sesqui-square to the upcoming New.

Last Quarter 90˚ Square              Here is a new crisis (this time waning) – perhaps trauma in the letting go process. Decision time. At 120˚ from Full, there is an easier trine period. Any letting-go process can be painful as you prepare to clear the decks to get ready for the new seeding down the road. Re-orientation is necessary.

Balsamic 135˚ Sesqui-Square from Full, 45˚ Semi-Square to old and upcoming New. More clearing of the decks. Let go now. The new seeding is close by. Empty your cup in order for it to be re-filled. The old process is reaching conclusion. Its cycle will be completed in order to make room for the birth seeding at the upcoming New Moon. Let go and let God! Sound like anything you’d actually like to do?

What about orb of exactitude?    Remember, there are no real dividing lines in space. Signs and aspects seem to blend and meld into one another. You could use this in your reading. If you had an aspect separated by 85˚ waxing, it is technically in the Crescent Phase, but is closely approaching the 1st Quarter square. It is waxing (growth-oriented), has passed through the 45˚ agitation / struggle point, passed through the 60˚ sextile (opportunity) and the 72˚ Quintile (mental, talent) points and is approaching close to the crisis of the 90˚ point. Crisis in what? Go or no go! The growth or termination of the seeding process. Depending on the planets involved and the houses they occupy and rule, the person will be challenged in the process of growth of the originating seed. Choice is involved.

The points where the phase switches from waxing to waning, or reverse, seem to be the critical points for exactitude. Either something is growing or something has grown to the level possible and now must be distributed and eventually let go.

Serial Killer Example

This may not be a comfortable subject for you – it’s not ever comfortable for me either. For several years, we conducted ongoing research with the charts of 94 serial killers for which we found birthtimes. It took at least a year to develop that birth information for that many charts. Since that period, we collected about twenty more charts which have been added to the overall study, but are not included in these figures. At that point, we had just gone too far to mess with the count until we were sure we were done.

The original study had been done in 3 parts: 32 in group #1, 31 each in groups #2 and #3. This was partly because of the way / time chart information was accessed, partly due to elimination of those who did not exhibit seriality, and partly due to manageability of the research. Then the groups were combined to see if the totals (94) matched the separating groupings.

With 94 charts and eight categories to examine, average distribution should be 11.75 charts per phase; (94 charts divided by 8 possibilities).  Here is what we found:

  • The New Moon had the highest count: 18 out of 94,
  • followed by Gibbous (waxing) and Full with 15 each,
  • and the 1st quarter with 14. 
  • The Crescent had the lowest count of 6,
  • followed by Disseminating / Gibbous (waning) with 8.
  • Finally were Last Quarter and Balsamic with 9 each.

If you were to plot these divisions on a full circle, you would have three contiguous phases very strong:

  • 1st Quarter 14, Gibbous 15, Full 15, representing 44 of 94 charts in three out of eight phases (46.8%).
  • The highest count New 18, would add 19.1, for a total of 65.9% for those four phases, well beyond average,
  • with only 34.9% in play for the other four phases.

We also had been attempting to determine if certain types of killers were born under specific phases and those divisions included male/ female, organized / disorganized, loner / team, psychotic / sane (we are talking about serial killers! We had not found observable distinctions at that early stage of study.

Be aware that thousands of people are born the same day a serial killer emerges and only one out of those thousands descend into such a nightmare. There was only one date that hosted two serial killer births.  

Over the years we accumulated more charts which could change these statistics, but that is still a study in progress.

Lunar Phases, 94 Serial Killer natals (2008 research)

Phase              Gp1     Gp2     Gp3     Total

New                 8          5          5          18

Crescent          2          1          3          6

1st Quarter      3          4          7          14

Gibbous           3          4          8          15

Full                  7          5          3          15

Disseminate    4          3          1          8                     

Last Quarter    0          5          4          9         

Balsamic         5          4          0          9

Totals              32        31        31        94


Google “lunar phases”, choose most reliable and recent science sources; the science changes rapidly.

Wikipedia for Lunar Phase diagrams, a terrific table, and embedded videos:

Sun, Earth, Moon animation

Sun, Earth & Moon Overview

Phases of the Moon by Marilyn Busteed and Dorothy Wergin, AFA

Dane Rudhyar’s Lunation Cycle

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.