Over my years as a Pagan, the difference between the New and Dark Moons has been a source of confusion. It was a question I often pondered, but could never seem to find a satisfactory answer to. A few years ago, I found this post, which made a lot of sense to me, and supported what I intuitively felt about the Dark versus New Moon question. Today, while doing some research for this post, I also found this article which provides more information. I definitely recommend reading these two posts, because they go into more detail than I will here about astronomical versus astrological/magical phases of the moon.
The gist of the matter is that I have come to see that the date marked on most calendars as the New Moon, is actually the Dark Moon. It is the point at which none of the illuminated face of the moon is visible from earth, the moment when the moon is neither waning or waxing. The moon is also rising and setting with the sun on the day of the Dark Moon, which is why the Dark Moon is in the same astrological sign as the Sun (remember, what I’m referring to as the Dark Moon is what is most commonly referred to as the New Moon). In contrast, the New Moon is when the first waxing crescent is visible in the sky right after sunset, which is usually 2-3 days after the Dark Moon.
Why does it matter? Part of what always bothered me was the lack of symmetry to the way we generally see the lunar phases. Traditionally there is the Full Moon, which is the moon at its peak of light and power, and then two weeks later what is commonly called the New Moon, where we again are focusing on planting new seeds and making plans. There is no honoring of the Dark Moon, the phase of rest and retreat, a time to pause and take a breath before moving again into the waxing phase of the moon. To me, it makes so much more sense to honor the active power and energy of the Full Moon, and then to honor the dark, quiet mysteries of the Dark Moon at its opposite point in the lunar cycle.
In our culture we tend to value action and productivity above all things. Pausing, resting, and regrouping are not honored. In fact, we tend not to respect most of the things associated with the Dark Moon—the elderly, intuition, the unseen, death and dissolution. And yet, it is from the darkness, from the void that new things are created. We take form in the darkness of our mothers’ wombs. In many creation stories from cultures around the globe, the world is created out of darkness, out of the void. Seeds sprout in the darkness beneath the soil. Psychologically, it has been shown that boredom actually leads to greater creativity. It is only when we stop doing for a while that we can listen to our inner voice of creativity. We need to take periodic breaks, we need to do nothing occasionally and let our minds wander. Honoring the Dark Moon each month reminds us of this.
The energy of the Dark Moon is quiet and introspective. It is a time for being instead of doing. It is a great time for meditation, path-working, divination, journaling, and creating art intuitively. Magic workers may not work any magic at all, or work banishing spells to rid themselves of unwanted energy or conditions. I generally do my monthly wrap-up writing in my moon calendar on the day of the Dark Moon, and I don’t start writing down goals and plans for the new lunar cycle until at least the day after the Dark Moon, and sometimes two or three days after, when I start to feel the energy of the moon waxing again. My Dark Moon ceremonies are centered around quiet meditation, getting in touch with the fertile power of the darkness, and possibly doing some divination if I feel the need.
I realize this may be a bit mind-blowing or confusing if you’ve never considered it before. But I encourage you to do what I did a few years ago—sit down on the night of what is marked as the “New Moon” on your calendar, get quiet and still, and meditate on the energy you feel around you. Reach out to connect with the lunar energy. How does it feel to you? You may find that you are sensing Dark Moon energy—quiet, still, introspective. If you do, maybe you’ll want to join me in celebrating the Dark Moon every month.
I love the energy of the Dark Moon phase of the lunar cycle. I love being reminded to rest, breathe, and pause. For me, today is not the New Moon, it is the Dark Moon. In a couple of days I will see the waxing crescent in the sky, and I will welcome that energy, but for today I honor the dark.
To understand how the moon is always 50% illuminated, but we only see a portion of the illuminated section, I found this video helpful.