How To Live By Moon Phases

New Moon

When the moon is invisible, it signals that all has been cleared, and it’s time to have a new beginning. It’s thought of as a good time to gather ideas, thoughts and plan ahead for the coming month or so.


The Names of the Phases of the Moon

There is more than one way to name the phases of the Moon. I already mentioned the four “special” phases: the New Moon, the First Quarter, the Full Moon, and the Last Quarter. One thing you should know about these is that they are associated with a particular, precise moment in time. For example, at the moment when I am writing these lines, the next New Moon is going to be on the 6th of May 2016 at 19:29 (7:29 PM) UT. This means it’s going to happen at 8:29 PM in London (British Summer Time) but at 3:29 PM in New York (Eastern Daylight Time). That’s the exact moment when the angle between the Moon and the Sun will be 0°.

There is a number of sources of information where you can find out the precise moments of the lunar phases. One such source is my Astrological Moon Calendar, which is available for many years, and for practically any location on the earth, with time zones already taken into account. Or you might like the services of

However, these special labeled phases aren’t very convenient in daily use. You might ask: which is the current phase of the Moon? And I could say: well, the degree between the luminaries is currently around 345°, but you probably won’t like such an answer. Then I might try to say that the next New Moon will be in two days, and the Last Quarter was five days ago, but again that won’t be convenient. So there are a few other ways to describe the phase of the Moon.

First of all, it can be said that the Moon is either waxing (increasing in light) or waning (decreasing in light). It is waxing from the moment of the New Moon to the moment of the Full Moon, and it is waning from the moment of the Full Moon to the moment of the next New Moon.

Also, the Moon can be crescent or gibbous. It is called crescent when less than a half of its disc is illuminated, and it is called gibbous when more than a half of its disc is illuminated. The Moon is crescent between the Last Quarter and the First Quarter (positions H and B in the diagram), and it is gibbous between the First Quarter and the next Last Quarter (positions D and F).

Gibbous Moon
Gibbous Moon

So now we have a convenient way of telling other people where the Moon is approximately in its cycle. If it is somewhere between the New Moon and the First Quarter, we’d say that the Moon is waxing crescent (position B). If between the First Quarter and the Full Moon, it is waxing gibbous (position D). Between the Full Moon and the Last Quarter, the Moon is waning gibbous (position F), and between the Last Quarter and the New Moon it is waning crescent (position H).

*Note*: The Moon remains invisible for some time before and after the moment of the New Moon. People who live with the Moon’s rhythms do not start anything until they can see the thin crescent of the Moon. As for the question how soon the Moon can become visible after being new, there is an interesting information available at . The recent record seems to be set in 1990 when the young crescent was seen with the unaided eye 15 hours and 32 minutes after the moment of the New Moon.

The thin crescent of the Moon
The thin crescent of the Moon

There is yet another, informal and somewhat vague way to name the Moon’s phases. You’ve already noticed that the synodic lunar month (the interval of time from one New Moon to the next, approximately 30 days) is split by the “labeled” phases into four distinct periods, about a week each. So some people might say that the Moon is in its “third phase”, or “third quarter”. For me, however, this sounds ambiguous. What do they mean by the “third” phase: the third of the “labeled” phases, the Full Moon, or the third week of the lunar month, when the Moon is waning gibbous?

Full Moon

  • Moon phase: primary
  • Moonrise: around sunset | Moonset: around sunrise
  • Illumination: 100%
  • Position in space: the Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides of Earth

If the Moon’s path crosses the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun (the ecliptic) while the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned at Full Moon, a lunar eclipse happens on the night side of Earth.

Full Moon: The Moon and the Sun are on opposite si

Full Moon: The Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides of Earth, and the side facing us is completely lit up.


How Do Moon Phases Work?

Half of the Moon’s surface is always illuminated by sunlight. As the Moon orbits Earth, it changes how much of the lit-up side we can see.

The Moon: Our natural satellite

Waxing Crescent (12th- 18th May)

As the sun moves closer to the New Moon, it illuminates the moon and presents a crescent, hence the name Waxing Crescent.

This week represents intention, hopes and wishes, and this is the time when you should begin to develop your desires for the month ahead and laying down the mental groundwork.

The Moon seems to change shape

The Moon changes phase because the Moon moves. As it moves, we see different light from the Sun reflecting off the Moon every second. The amount of light we can see changes every second as it moves through space around the Earth.

A fun and easy thing to watch with a telescope is to look at the Moon and see the Sun’s light casting changing shadows on the Moon.

The Moon is at First Quarter but its shape is half a moon!

This is kind of strange too: the moon looks like a “half moon” two times during the moon’s cycle. It is a half moon as it grows (waxes) and becomes a half moon again when it shrinks (wanes). The moon is clearly showing half a moon.

Confusingly, astronomers actually call the “half moon” a “quarter moon.”

Regular people call it a “half moon” even though astronomers call it a quarter moon. We should all call the first quarter moon the “waxing half moon” and the third quarter moon the “waning half moon.” But, these are not common names at all!

Actually, I’d like to call the first quarter (waxing half moon) the “Earth’s tail moon” and the third quarter (waning half moon) the “Earth’s nose moon.” These names point out a neat fact about the Moon’s orbit – it crosses the Earth’s orbit twice a month – once at first quarter, then again at third quarter.

The Waxing Crescent phase on the moon phase diagram

“Waxing” when it comes to a moon phase calendar refers to when the moon is approaching it’s full moon phase. It simply means the moon is getting bigger. The waxing crescent stage is when only a sliver of the moon is visible. From our perspective on Earth it’s the right side, even though on the moon phase diagram the sun is hitting it on the left.

5. Full Moon (Harvest)

Scientifically: A full moon occurs when the sun and the moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Because the sun is directly across from the moon, the light completely illuminates it, making the moon appear completely full on Earth.

Spiritually: Because the sun and the moon are opposing each other, they are also in opposite zodiac signs. This brings heightened tension as you fight to find balance between two extremes. Emotions can definitely run high during this period as you struggle to come to terms with everything you’re feeling. However, the full moon is also a moment of revelation, reward, and of course, change. This is when the results of all your hard work are revealed. The seed you planted on the new moon has blossomed and bloomed, making itself ready to be harvested. A powerful climax to a story that began on the new moon takes place.

The Full Moon on this moon phase diagram

The full moon is on the far side of the moon phase diagram because we’re seeing the full force of the sun’s reflection on the moon. So it has to be on the far side of the Earth, otherwise we’d be seeing shadow.

Waxing Gibbous (20th May – 25th May)

Scientifically, the Waxing Gibbous is the phase leading up to the full moon. The moon is easily seen as a large portion is illuminated by the sun. Similarly, to the First Quarter, during the Waxing Gibbous we will need to readjust, refine, and edit our goals.

Waxing Gibbous Moon

The waxing gibbous moon is there when we are close to our goals, but we need to assess their viability. Perhaps your original desire is not possible at this time, but a different version of it is.

7. Last Quarter (Release)

Scientifically: The last quarter moon is the reverse process of the first quarter. After a full moon, the moon wanes and becomes smaller. Now, the moon appears like a half-slice of lemon.

Spiritually: The themes surrounding this moon are release, letting go, and forgiveness. Like the moon gradually letting go of its size, you may be ready to let go of all the baggage you’ve been carrying. Throughout the month, you may have experienced many challenges. It’s under this moon that you will let go of things like grudges, anger, and regret. Set down anything that feels too heavy and pointless to continue carrying.

Moon Phases Simplified

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