The moon was my portal into witchcraft. Back in the early 90s, when my body began to obviously wax and wane with the monthly cycles, I knew I was syncing with something much bigger than my individual human consciousness. I felt that New Agey sentiment – that I am (and we all are) made of the same stuff as the entire universe – we are stardust. And the moon with it’s seemingly changing faces and moods is our kin.
We are related to everything in the universe, of course, but the moon is our closest companion and affects life on Earth more tangibly and immediately than the other planets and stars. This makes it (you can use she/he if you like, but it’s the 21st century so we know how problematic pronouns can be) a well-placed partner (not tool) to work with for manifesting the changes we want to see in our lives, and banishing the things we don’t want.
In this post I’m going to answer some of the most common questions I get asked about working with the full moon (and framing it as “working with” can itself be problematic, which I’ll get to) along with the reasoning behind my answers.
I’ve been in conscious relationship with the moon for almost 30 years at this point, so I am confident in the veracity of what I share here, but, as always, your personal relationship and experiences may be different, and that is fine. I will try and get around to addressing questions about the other phases in a separate post – if you have questions please leave them in the comments – but much of it can be extrapolated out from what I share here. It’s more about the way we approach our relationship with the moon than a list of dos and don’ts.
Q. How long does a full moon last?
A. Technically the moon is full when it is directly opposite the sun. The exact opposition is timed to the second (and will vary depending on your location on Earth). Unless you’re a professional astronomer you’re unlikely to be able to work this out by yourself (there’s complicated math involved) so most people use a moon calendar/ almanac/ phone app to get the exact time.
Q. But why is the exact time important? And, a related query that I see cropping up on witchy facebook groups, the full moon was last night have I left it too late to charge my crystals/ make moon water/ do a ritual? etc.
The answer I often see given is that the full moon phase lasts over three days, so it’s still fine to do those things then. And it is fine. No one is going to die because you charged your crystals under a technically waning moon that still looks full to the naked eye. But the energy has a different quality, and so the charged crystals will have a different tuning/ resonance, than if you had charged them the night before when the moon was still waxing. Which brings us to the next, and most asked question.
Q. How do I work with the energy of the full moon?
A. And, oh my goddess, I could write a whole book in answer to this question (and I might one day). But I will try and keep this blogpost scale.
Setting aside the “work with” for now, what people usually mean when they ask this question is what should I do at the full moon? I get it, witching, especially if you’re solitary, has no definitive set of activities to do at certain times, which for the newcomer is disorientating and sometimes worrying. If you do join a coven this is mitigated somewhat through mentorship, but personally I think that the disorientation and lack of an established set of practices is the perfect (only?) starting point. It forces you to examine your worldview and preconceptions, you have to really dig deep into what you know are truths about the universe and your place in it, you have to decolonise your thinking, hell, you have to think for yourself, and trust yourself and the information you receive from non-mainstream acceptable sources, and you have to do it well because you know it has huge consequences for you and for everyone/thing you love. With power comes responsibility. This is why this path is not for everyone.
All that to say that there is no one answer to how do I work with the energy for the full moon because that depends on who you are and what you are hoping to do. But there are some guidelines (phew) which can help you as you’re figuring it out.
[inserting an apology here in case you came to this post looking for a definitive set of practices and are cross because that’s not what’s here. If it’s any consolation I do have something more akin to that here]
If you’re witchy by nature then you’ll already be familiar with the moon phases having different energetics. The most commonly known phases are the full and new moon (personally I find the squares/ quarters under-loved, but hey). The new moon and full moon are opposites, the former dark with potential, the latter gloriously in your face. Obviously working with the natural energy of these phases makes more sense than working against it. But what does that mean?
At full moon the energy is hot and outward pushing. It helps to compare it with the same point in the solar cycle – the summer solstice. Everything is awake and pulsing with energy, flowers in full bloom, but not fruiting yet (generally, some fruit comes early like Lady Strawberry), the air is heavy with floral scent. This is why the general advice given for what to do at this time is not to start new things/ cycles (that’s new moon energy) but to give a burst of energy to those projects (fruit) already in motion (flowering). And that is good advice. But you can see how the exact timing of your working/ ritual/ crystal charging adds an important nuance.
If you choose the time leading up to the full moon you get more of that midsummer vibe, if you go afterwards then you’re heading into the waning autumn energy (and have less power to influence the fruit). You choose your timing according to what you want to achieve.
As well as the moon phases there is a system of lunar days, which is far less widely known. Basically, the moon rises and sets at a slightly different time each day throughout the lunar month (new moon to new moon), and each moon rise marks the start of a new lunar day. These lunar days have different energies and potentials, with some being good for some things and bad for others. If you’re into high levels of detail this system may appeal to you (hello Virgo). You can find out more about lunar days here.
Adding another layer, if you’re into astrology you will be familiar with the zodiac signs. The sign that the full moon is in will (should?) also have a bearing on what you do at this time. The full moon always falls in the sign opposite the sign that the sun currently moves in, which I find charges up that axis across the zodiacal circle, so it adds an extra solar dimension to the energy too. The full moon does have the potential to allow switches to be flipped, directions to be changed, outcomes to be impacted in seemingly incredible ways. This potential is magnified when you can go with the flow of the astrological moment. This can be at a simple level of matching your magic to the “theme” of the zodiac sign e.g. Moon in Pisces, Sun in Virgo, could be a good time to work on fears around your health. If you’re more proficient in astrology you can bring your own birth chart into the picture and use the houses where the moon and sun fall, as well as the signs, to inform your plans. (If you’d like to be more proficient in astrology I have a YouTube series Astrology for Witches).
Taking things even more niche, the moon also moves through its own circle of lunar mansions each lunation/ moonth/ month (if I’ve lost you, don’t worry – magic still works without impeccable timing – but if you’re still with me yay! this will supercharge your efforts). Similarly to the lunar days (though, sometimes confusingly in contradiction to them) each lunar mansion has its own recommended actions and taboos. For a more comprehensive explanation of this I like Ann Moura’s Mansions of the Moon, but this internet article is good for a shorter take.
Warning – this is a massive rabbit hole, not helped by the fact that there are different astrological systems with their own lunar mansions, which also sometimes correlate, but often don’t. Feel free to dive down there if you have the time and the inclination.
Q. How do I work with the energy of the full moon?
Yeah, so I realised I’m still answering this question and I’ve already written a post so long not many will get to the end, and has perhaps raised more questions than its answered, so I’ll wrap up with a short consideration of “working with“. It’s a common phrase in the magical community and one that I’ve used a lot myself, but our words are important and their meaning(s) affect our thinking, being and doing.
When we are working with something what is our relationship to that thing? Does it depend on what that thing looks like? Does it depend on whether we see that thing as alive?
I sometimes hear/ read people talking about working with the moon as if it is a tool, something humans can manipulate to accomplish a desired task. This is pretty much the opposite of what is happening when we “work with” the moon (or any other planetary force).
Think of it instead as working with a colleague, a senior colleague, or a well-loved and wise elderly relative (which is the truth of it).
Be appropriately respectful.