Mysteries of the Dark, Power of the Light: Major Arcana 18, The Moon
Yesterday I presented Major Arcana 18, the Moon, as part of the Spiritual Path of Tarot Telesummit.
Here are some of the thoughts I expressed during that presentation.
I have always been fascinated with the ambivalence tarotists have toward the Moon. Some readers and tarot authors see the Moon as a card of treachery, confusion and insanity. Others see it as a card of intuition and spiritual guidance.
Two common key words that cover this card from both sides are “confusion” and “mystery”. That’s no surprise – the Moon itself is a confusing and mysterious card.
Over the past twenty-something years I have probably written about the Moon more than any other single card.
My own spiritual practice honors the Moon in the sky as a source of inspiration and power, and a symbol of the feminine divine. To me Major Arcana 18, the Moon, carries that same significance.
The Moon expresses the confusion we feel when we are called to our spiritual path. The Moon reminds us that sometimes intuition and instinct will guide us more surely than dogma and doctrine.
The Moon reminds us to claim our feminine power- our yin energy, our receptive and reflective self.
Today I invite you to see the Moon as I do; as a conduit to help us connect with the feminine divine.
What is the feminine divine? Regardless of your age, gender or religious beliefs, it is Important to understand divine energy as feminine, as well as masculine. Feminine divine energy is the power to be intuitive, the courage to be introspective and the wisdom to trust what you can’t always see with your eyes.
In the light of the moon nothing is as it appears in the daylight. Shadows dance and play, ready to trick us into taking a false step. Therein is the danger we see in the Moon card, but we should not shy away from walking that path.
Unlike some other tarot cards, Major Arcana 18 directly references something with which we all have daily experience and that has inherent spiritual significance worldwide – the moon in the sky.
Traditionally in poetry, myth and legend the Moon is feminine, and associated with feminine spirituality. In the time the tarot first emerged in renaissance Italy feminine spiritual power was feared as witchcraft. Psychic work, herbology and healing were done primarily by women, and at great peril. Witchcraft was considered evil, dangerous and treacherous. Except of course, when the services of a witch needed to be sought in secret as a last resort. In many ways this is still true today. There are many who would never publicly associate themselves with a tarot reader but seek our wisdom clandestinely. Perhaps that is one reason the concept of secrecy is associated with Major Arcana 18 today.
A dogmatic, church-run patriarchy frightened of feminine spiritual power may have seen the Moon as a force of evil. The moon has mysterious control of our behaviors. Even the word “lunacy,” meaning insanity, has “luna” at its root, a reference to the moon.
And so at the time tarot emerged the moon itself was seen as a source of evil and insanity, perhaps in part because of its feminine spiritual power. It is no wonder that the tarot card bearing the name and image of the moon would earn the same reputation.
Now that we live in a somewhat more enlightened time the powers associated with the moon in the sky and the Moon tarot card don’t seem so scary.
But, even in our modern times fear and hatred of feminine power still exist, and harm us all. The Moon in the tarot offers us an opportunity to heal and claim our power.
All of us – male and female, young and old, from every culture and spiritual path - are wounded by this inherent distrust and disrespect of feminine power.
Men are told they should not share their more receptive side. They should not show emotion, and should never trust their intuition.
Women are disempowered in many ways at each stage of life – as young women, as mothers and as crones.
We are all told to trust dogma over intuition and to follow a path laid out for us rather than seeking our own path.
The Moon offer us an alternative.
The Moon card encourages men to nurture their receptive energy and to honor their emotions.
The Moon card instructs women to own their spiritual power.
The Moon card invites us all to experience higher power as nurturer, rather than simply as the maker of rules.
Now let’s look at the Moon’s placement in the Major Arcana.
I like to see the tarot, and the Major Arcana in specific, as the Fool’s Journey. The Fool represents each one of us on our journey through life. The other seventy-seven cards represent the lessons, themes and characters we will experience along the way.
The term “Major Arcana” means Greater Secrets. The Major Arcana cards represent the greatest spiritual secrets of the universe.
I like to divide the Major Arcana into three groups of seven. The first group, Magician through Chariot are lessons associated with life in the material world. The second group, Strength through Temperance, represent lessons of emotional healing. The final group, Devil through World, are the lessons of spiritual enlightenment. The Moon appears after the process of releasing what no longer serves, with the Devil and the Tower, and healing from that process with the Star. To consider that the lesson found in the Moon would be simply a warning against confusion and treachery with no deeper meaning doesn’t make sense. To see the Moon as a guide to help us solve the deeper spiritual mysteries does.
In some ways I see the Moon as a natural companion to the High Priestess and the Hermit. These three cards have in common the search for spiritual truth. As the highest numbered card in the group the path of the Moon can be more treacherous and more rewarding. What we learned from the High Priestess and the Hermit gives us the strength and wisdom to embark on this important quest.
The Moon is situated directly between the Star and the Sun – three celestial bodies. While the Star and the Sun deliver their own light, the Moon is receptive and reflective.
The Moon teaches us to be receptive. The Moon asks us to listen to our guidance, ignoring the louder voices that would steer us wrong.
The Moon teaches us to be reflective. To consider the things we learn and share that light with others.
The Moon is associated with Pisces. When we think of Pisces we think of intuition, idealism and deep thought- exactly the attributes we need on our path to the enlightenment offered by the Moon. In astrology, the Moon itself is instinctual, much like the animals pictured on the card. Perhaps we, like those animals, are instinctively drawn to the light of the moon.
The Moon’s number is 18. In numerology that would make it a 9, just like the Hermit. For me, 9 indicates spiritual and magickal power, as well as a sense of purpose and a sense of completion. The number 9 has many unique mathematical properties, reflecting the unique and special nature of the Moon.
The Moon’s element, of course, is water. Pisces is mutable water – clouds, ever shifting and changing. That is part of the Moon’s nature, to be always in change, always moving in a cycle. As we try to pursue the moon we are often in danger of stumbling when its light is hidden by its phase, or by the clouds surrounding it.
The Moon instructs us to be aware of our own cycles without resistance, and to be able to feel its light even when we cannot see it.
Now let’s look at the card itself. The crustacean, the dog and the jackal have crawled out of the primordial ooze. They, too, are drawn by the light of the moon. Are they our partners in this journey, or do they represent a danger along the path?
We can see the winding path. To me, the path represents our journey to solve the greatest spiritual mysteries. What are those mysteries for you? For me those mysteries are about our identity and our purpose. They are about the nature of Higher Power, and our own ability to discover and use our spiritual gifts.
From the Moon droplets are raining. They signify a holy presence, spirit descending to earth. The two pillars remind us of the pillars of wisdom outside Solomon’s temple – one pillar of mercy, the other of severity. We must walk between them.
The words “confusion” and “mystery” are often associated with the moon card. Certainly, spiritual truths are a mystery we each must solve, and there can be much confusion along the way. So often in life when people seek spiritual truth they are easily confused. They stumble in the dark and are taken in by scams or cults who would use religion to control them. Yes, the path to the Moon is fraught with danger, but it is a path we must take if we are to solve those mysteries for ourselves.
The Moon card also teaches us the value of dreamtime, and to pay attention to the spiritual messages we get from our dreams. The Moon card can also speak to our waking dreams – our goals and fantasies. The energy of the Moon can help guide us to realize our goals. But if we slip into a place of dark fantasies and fear the Moon will do nothing to help us.
In a reading, my interpretation of the Moon depends a great deal on the context of the question and the surrounding cards. Sometimes the Moon simply points out a confusing or mysterious situation. You may be unclear about how you feel or you may not have all the facts in a particular situation. The Moon can remind you that all may not be as it seems; it is time to look deeper.
The Moon may come up to discuss your own spiritual path. It may ask you to examine your beliefs, or to make personal introspection a higher priority.
The Moon may tell you that those in spirit have a message for you. It may ask you to search your dreams, pay attention to omens and open your heart to messages from the spirit world.
The Moon may remind you to claim your psychic gifts and your magickal power. You have the ability to know what you need to know and to manifest what you need to manifest.
Now I would like us to journey together on the path to the Moon. If you have a tarot deck handy, look at the Moon card as we journey together.
Let’s begin by breathing together. As you exhale send your energy into the earth to form the roots that will sustain you for this journey. As you inhale breathe in the energy of the moonlight that will guide you.
Picture yourself comfortably in water – a pool, a lake, a pond, or an ocean - on a moonlit night. The water feels warm around you, caressing. In the distance you hear a wolf howl, but you feel safe as the water cradles you. For a few moments you slip into dreamtime and understand that you are a part of the water that flows around you.
You are at peace.
You are so comfortable that you would like to stay here - bathed in water and moonlight, but something is pulling at you. You look up at the moon in the sky and think you hear it calling. An almost magnetic force tugs at your heart. You know you must answer this call. You know there is something you must find. Something only you can find. You take a deep breath. It is time to leave the warm water and listen to the call of the moon.
As you approach the shore you see a lobster. You can’t help but notice its huge claws. You move quickly, hoping it doesn’t nip you. Once on the shore you see two animals – one looks like a dog or a wolf. The other might be a jackal. They are both howling at the moon.
Your heart beats faster. These animals are big and wild. They surround your path – there is no way to move forward without passing between them. For a moment you consider abandoning your search, but the Moon continues call. You take another breath. There is no choice but to continue on the path.
Slowly and carefully, you walk between the animals – so close you can feel their hot breath on your skin. They continue their loud howling. So entranced by the moon are they that they don’t even stop to look at you.
The path is overgrown in places, with rocks and sticks ready to trip you. In the light of the moon you see shadows lurking. You glance over your shoulder, wondering if you are being followed.
As you walk, the light of the moon grows stronger. You feel light droplets on your skin – not of water, exactly, but of light.
You tilt your face to the moon and realize that its light is actually raining upon you. As it does you are filled with a sense of knowledge, understanding and peace. The fear you felt on your journey is replace by the sense of calm that comes when we know truth.
What is your truth?
What do you know now that you didn’t know before?
As you stand in the moonlight, you become aware of your strength and power. You become aware of your gifts and your knowledge. And you become aware that you are held in heavenly light – cradled, nurtured and protected – by the loving presence who called you here.
Once you have heard the Moon’s call you will never be without the Moon’s guidance.
Commit yourself now to nurturing your natural spiritual gifts. Commit to trusting your instincts and your intuition. Commit to listening deeply for the quite voice that guides you.
Glory in your feminine, receptive, intuitive abilities.
Acknowledge yourself as a see-er of visions and a dreamer of dreams. Know that truth is found in your dreams and visions.
Trust that spirit cares for yours and will always guide you.
Celebrate your unique path.
The Moon, from the 78 Poems Project.
Mistress of the dark is she, and keeper of the light
Emerging from the water's depth, I stumble in the night.
Howling wolves and baying dogs echo in my ear
Behind each rock and shadow lurk treachery and fear.
Moving through the midnight land as one moves in dreams
Nothing under moonlit skies is just the way it seems.
Spirit rains in droplets that dance before in my eyes
Intuition is the enemy of treachery and lies.
Her gift is in the dreamtime, when anything may be
Her light shines down from blackened skies, and shows my path to me.