The Moon holds a special place in the cosmological and astrological imagination. It may seem cliched to write that even our prehistoric ancestors had a special relationship with the Moon, but it’s true: from the caves of Lascaux to carvings on animal bone, humankind has recognized the significance of the lunar body and tried to work with its cycles.
One of the first upgrades astrology students make is moving beyond the Sun sign. The realization that the rising sign and its ruler are the most important factors in the natal chart comes with additional a-ha moments. Each glyph scattered around the wheel (or square!) holds symbolic mysteries waiting to be deciphered. The Moon is just one of these symbols, and yet, from astronomers and astrologers as far back as Claudius Ptolemy in the second century CE, the Moon’s position in the chart, aspects that it forms to other planets, and even prenatal syzygys all contribute to a complex understanding of a native’s environment, body, emotional and mental health and quality of the soul in this lifetime.
Lunar Cycle Archetypes are Just One Tool
In traditional astrology, the Moon has a weighty role in chart delineation, and not just in nativities. In his 146 Considerations Before Judgement, the thirteenth-century astrologer Guido Bonatti lists seventeen conditions under which the Moon is “ill-affected”, indicating that these principles apply in “all Questions, Nativities, Elections, and actions” (consideration #5). While much of humanistic and psychological astrology has overlaid conceptions of personal growth, development, relationships and spirituality onto the lunar phases, even traditional astrologers, potentially harking back to the original Babylonians, recognized certain powers behind the angles that the moon makes with the sun.
In what follows, I’ll focus more on a couple of additional approaches to delineating the Moon — specifically, I’ll focus on the New Moon, leaving the Full and other phases for later posts. While I will weave in some of the lunar cycle’s archetypal principles, these are but one factor I consider after looking at the Moon’s condition by house and sign placement, as well as aspects that other planets make to it. I won’t be going phase by phase — for this I think the internet is replete with articles about what a First Quarter or a Disseminating Moon can signify — but I am first and foremost a student of traditional astrology and so my tools are often of a different sort.
New Moons: Problem or Potential?
New Moons have been amplified in New Age circles so much so that whole tomes have been written about manifesting with the lunation cycle. I won’t offer my opinions on these since I’m a big believer in everyone taking away what resonates, but a straightforward approach equating New Moons with new life and therefore positivity may be an oversimplification.
When thinking about Mesopotamian astronomers, a planet’s visibility was as important as its invisibility and being able to see astronomical movements has historically had an impact on the quality of portent it provides. As Bonatti and others have written, a New Moon — that is, a conjunction between the two luminaries — can be powerful when within seventeen minutes of exactitude, but the Moon, like other planets, suffers when under the beams of the Sun (i.e., within fifteen degrees).
The rays of the Sun can have a malefic or disempowering effect — that’s what makes the Sun “accidentially malefic,” weakening another planet’s natural significations. Interpretations of this debility can sometimes point to a hidden matter, an emotional and home environment somehow afflicted, or adverse bodily or health matters, just to name a few. In more modern interpretations, New Moons are contrasted by their powerful significations of seed potential, hope and optimism.
I have seen some postulate that the Moon can never be afflicted by combustion. Vettius Valens wrote that, “The new moon is indicative of rank and power, of kingly and despotic dispositions, of all public business concerning cities, of parents, marriages, religion, and of all universal, cosmic matters” (The Anthologies, Book II, p. 46). I’m not going to argue with Valens, except to say that, I think everything in a nativity is relative to its placement and to myriad other factors that modify a planet. In the chart that follows — that of the late William, Duke of Gloucester — the condition of the New Moon may not have been the easiest in his lifetime.
Prince William, Duke of Gloucester — Moon Interpretation
Before we look at his chart, it might be helpful for those less familiar with traditional astrology to understand the myriad significations of the Moon. In more modern circles, the Moon can signify the places we go for nurturing, comfort or emotional security, but in traditional astrology, the range of lunar significations is much broader. The body, the quality of the soul (when assessed with Mercury), wandering, journeys, travel, property, the mother, things that befall the native from the mother, writing and watery places all belong to the Moon. That’s one of the complexities of astrology: delineating based on a veritable cornucopia of astrological possibilities.
The first observation we should make is that the Moon is the ruler of William’s ascendant. Cancer is on the first house cusp and the ruler is in a difficult house — cadent, in aversion to the ascendant (meaning that it can’t “see” the first house and therefore can’t support it meaningfully — you should check out my IG reel on aversion, BTW) and lacking any essential or minor dignities to give it strength. What might we say about this? The Moon signifying travel in a house that Bonatti also attributed to moving from place to place might signify a home environment where travel and movement was part and parcel. Given the proximity to the Sun, this travel might have been owing to the father and, in the sixth house, potentially work-related — something we can verify based on the Wikipedia entry noting that William’s family moved from Northamptonshire to Australia, where his father served as Governor General for two years.
Another speculation we might venture is that the Moon is under the beams of the Sun — the solar figure in William’s lifetime might have been his father or a proxy for his royal circle. Recalling Valens’ signification that the New Moon can signify rank and power, we most certainly can tick this box based on William’s standing in life, though the Moon burnt up by the Sun’s beams metaphorically could point to some emotional difficulties with the solar archetype, which consequently is tied to themes of servitude and toil.
The next delineation I might make is the quality of the Moon’s rulership over the ascendant. The Moon is in Sagittarius, a fire element, which is both hot and dry, counteracting the Moon’s natural wetness and coldness. Without psychoanalyzing the late Prince too much, an immediate question arises around his temperament: was he slightly hot-tempered? Impulsive? And, yet possibly brittle? Drawing from the more humanistic and psychological astrology realm, we know that the Moon is where we go to nurture ourselves, feel comfort, security, but also, as Steven Forrest writes, the Moon can tell us ‘what to do immediately if [we] want to be happier’ (Book of the Moon, 13). For William, was this the adventurous and expansive things that Sagittarius can represent? The quest for truth, connection to learning, wisdom and religious meaning? Could it have come from the sextile to the MC in Aquarius? Aquarius rules the airy things, including air travel and we know that the late Prince William was an aviator — was this something that brought the late Prince happiness?
The retrograde Jupiter in the twelfth in a place of debility is also worth noting since it rules the house that the Moon is in by a sign-based opposition. There are some very Saturnian undertones to the ruler of the sixth — Saturn can represent limitations, restrictions, sorrow, depression and myriad other topics. In the twelfth, Jupiter’s natural bounty and expansiveness may be hemmed in, and, when debilitated in the sign of Gemini, Jupiter’s more shadow qualities may come through — potentially pride, arrogance and an overzealousness. In the house of self-undoing, this can be a placement that might bring insights to bear on the quality of the native’s emotional well-being and relationships in the world. The retrograde nature of Jupiter makes me wonder around reversals of fortunes metaphorically, especially in sixth-house topics over the lifetime.
Another thing that strikes me about this Moon, especially as significator of the body, is that it’s in the house traditionally ascribed to illness and infirmities. Without any major dignities and the Moon in Mars’ malefic bounds, health issues could plague William. Further, the Moon under the Sun’s beams, is an additional point of weakening.
A very literal manifestation of this is that, according to Wikipedia, in 1968, William was diagnosed with porphyria after suffering from jaundice that began in 1965. His skin experienced blisters and rashes after exposure to the Sun. When I checked the Mayo Clinic’s website, this can be a hereditary illness, inherited from one or both parents, and corresponds to hemoglobin in the blood. Let’s put together a few correspondences here. The Moon, representing the body, is in the house of illness. The Moon is in the place where Mars rejoices and in Mars’ bounds — Mars rules the blood, but also acute illnesses rather than chronic ones, which is Saturn’s domain. The Moon can also represent that which befalls us from the mother, but, as the Moon is in Mars’ bounds and Mars is in the tenth, it could also have a connection to the father. The Moon’s debilitation under the Sun’s beams might have a very literal connection here to William’s blistering rashes when exposed to the Sun. And, if we add Mercury’s rulership over the skin, we get a very interesting confluence of significations that, on their own, would never lead me to say more than there may be issues surrounding illness and the native’s constitution, but it’s nevertheless interesting to play a bit of reverse detective.
Finally, let’s return to a brief delineation around the New Moon, peering at it through the lens of evolutionary astrology, from which I attribute much of this to Dane Rudhyar and Steven Forrest.
Born under a waxing moon, natives can be bold and impulsive. Forrest writes that the “soul is committed to embodied experience.” Further, quoting W.B. Yeats’ Phases of the Moon, Forrest notes that people born in this phase “[follow] whatever whim’s most difficult, among whims not impossible” (Forrest, 127).
New Moon natives are charismatic, dynamic and born leaders, but sometimes they seem to dissociate from the world around them. They suffer from “rampant subjectivity — mistaking wishes and fears for reality” (Forrest, 160). I don’t have much to corroborate this in William’s life, nor, for that matter, to corroborate any earlier inquiries into his temperament — these are all conjectural — but the Moon is nonetheless a multi-dimensional point of reference and importance in any nativity.
So, with that, I hope I’ve given additional food for thought when it comes to the Moon in a natal chart. My aim is that everyone, while using the lunar phases, might be tempted to unpack the complexities also inherent in the Moon by sign and house placement, as well as aspect. I, personally, might use the lunar phase archetypes as an entry point — broad brush strokes as to some of the key personality traits, but would never stop there. Luna is as multi-valent as her phases: let’s give her the depth of analysis she deserves!