At eight years old, my parents divorced. My Mum moved 200 miles to Plymouth, a seaside city in Devon, and my Dad remained in The Cotswolds, a beautiful segment of the British countryside and my childhood home. They had an arrangement: every two weeks my sister, my brother and I visited my Dad. They would meet halfway, exchange pleasantries and children and then get back in their car and repeat the journey but in the opposite direction. It was all very civil but I hated it. And so, when the arrangement ceased (my mum has a problem with her joints, so long car journeys are painful) I wasn’t too bothered. My dad would either drive to us or we would get the train to him. Due to escalating train fares the former became the most popular choice; meaning that, sometimes, a month or maybe two would go by without me returning to the countryside.
While adolescent me was happy to stick around in the city and drink and do shit with friends the young girl in my heart desperately missed the Cotswolds. The nature, the quiet, the vast stretches of green, twinkling night skies, the peace. And as time went by I became exponentially aware that something was missing. I would look into the sky above my city and feel nothing: no magic, no connection, no beauty…no moon.
Before moving to Plymouth, The City of Discovery (or Disco as one graffiti-joker brilliantly decided) I would lie in my garden and stare at the moon. It intrigued ten-year-old me. It’s light was so bright and yet I could look directly at it – unlike the sun. It changed shape; sometimes a circle, and other times half a circle or even just a slither. I was entranced by its beauty and presence, and to me it wasn’t just a lump of rock, it seemed alive. It brought the night-sky to life.
I started to notice how I felt in these moments and how everything around me seemed to reach a level of clarity. I could hear everything: the soft sound of bats’ wings flapping above, the chime of a cricket’s song, the rustle of straw as my rabbit ran back-and-forth in his hutch. I could feel the warm kiss of the wind on my face and the grass tickling my wrists. In the moon’s light I could see, hear, feel, smell and sense nature all around me but in a completely different way than during the day. It felt greater, more potent, magical. And I felt at peace.
In a busy town or city, the moon often hides behind thick grey clouds; or broad grey buildings; or is out-shined by tall grey street lights. And, when you’re so busy looking at the ground, it is easy to go days or weeks without seeing the moon. A city-dweller’s experience of the sky is often monopolised by the day: overwhelming sunshine, whipping winds, heavy rain that soaks you to the core, the blinding white-light of overcast skies. And at night, we take respite. We huddle under the warmth of artificial lighting, close our curtains and shut out the moon.
A year or so in, I too – sadly – started to forget about the moon. I was so distracted; I always had somewhere to go or another thing to look at (a person, a phone, my feet, the ground, the road). And so, I greatly missed my bi-weekly reuniting moments with the moon. I missed when my dad would shout me into his room, guide me to the small window at the front of the house and say “look up”. In that moment my anxieties and anger and sadness would wash away and I felt nothing but serenity. Calm would filter through my body. Peace.
Undoubtedly, this separation made my heart grow fonder. Although at around twelve years old, when I started secondary school, I started to wonder why I felt this way. No one else around me was even this enamoured with a boy, never mind an object. And so my search for a reason began.
Universally, the moon is acknowledged as a symbol of time; we are taught it controls the rhythms of the tide and represents the phases of life. Throughout history and in various cultures the moon’s meaning has shifted and still today its symbolism is subjective from group to group, belief to belief, or person to person. Among all the philosophies and theories, however, it is the notable weight of the full moon in every example that struck a chord with me.
Native American Indians were particularly perceptive of the moon’s changing phases. They assigned each monthly full moon a name and emotional attribute. In general they understood the moon’s power and cosmology’s influence over human nature but the intricate processes and formulation of the lunar calendar differed from tribe to tribe.
In traditional Chinese culture the full moon is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with a festival: the Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival. Living in myths, philosophies and fairy-tales, the moon is the conveyor of human emotion and resembles unity and family.
Buddhists entrust special religious significance to the full moon. Firstly, and notably Buddha was born on a full moon day. Following this: His renunciation, His Enlightenment, His passing away into Nibbana and the delivery of His first sermon all took place on full moon days. Consequently, Buddhists hold the full moon in high regard and celebrate accordingly through practices that require a fervent focus on spiritual development, like meditation.
In Hinduism Chandra (or Soma) is the God of the Moon and is acclaimed as having the power to give life to creatures and spirits alike, strengthen the mind, purify the blood and is also acknowledged as a god of fertility. Justly, Hindus and in particular modern Hindus, worship Chandra with the belief he will grant them reprieve from sorrow and negativity or infliction of the mind. The practice of this worship is intensified on full moon days where it has greater strength over the mind and its stability.
From all these lunar traditions and beliefs, I absorbed one idea more-so than all others: the full moon’s ability to strongly influence the human mind, emotions and soul. The ‘sixth sense’, so to speak. I took this and ran with it. Along the way, I switched paths and looked into myth and folklore. Here, the moon is often depicted as being linked to werewolves and lunacy; as well as various other physical illnesses or bodily peculiarities, even sleep deprivation and a woman’s menstrual cycle. Reading this some people will offer a snort of derision, however the probability of these notions were not important to me for these ideas provided another lens through which to view the moon and mine’s relationship. It was all personal, not factual.
At fourteen, my mum bought me a book about my star sign and what is means to be a Cancer. I became completely obsessed with how my star sign (and my star sign alone as at this point I was far from astro-literate) influenced and guided my character and Self. One of the first things I discovered was that my ruling planet is the moon and that whatever sign, house or planet, it impact my emotions, mood and inner feels. “You’re a moonchild”, the book revealed. “Moonchild. I am a child of the moon”, I confirmed to myself.
Emotions, inner stability, women, mind, body, and now astrological-child. It was getting deep.
My (young and hormonal and wandering) mind was replete with new moon-associated information. At a time where I was unsure of who I was, who I should be; who others wanted me to be; I was concerned about whether my thoughts, body, desires, were “normal”, this knowledge of the moon and our relationship was vital. My thoughts, when they were unmoored and floating off in too many directions, could we weighted and steered. In an attempt to understand all the changes happening in my life – emotional, bodily, mentally – I would first reflect on how they linked to moon. This allowed me to feel focus, to feel grounded, to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.
For example, if I was intensely feeling anything, any emotion, I would look for meaning in the moon. If it was a full moon, or (as I became more astro-literate) the moon could was in a certain planet, my feelings would make a little more sense. They were no longer wild, or irrational, or mental, or stupid, or out of control – as many would tell me. They had reason and an end point. They were diluted and suddenly felt more manageable. The day seemed more manageable.
Likewise, during a new moon, if I was experiencing negativity or problems, I would use the lunar opportunity to connect with myself and attempt to let these feelings go or deal with them. I inherited the strength and confidence I needed from the moon. My life seemed more manageable.
By understanding the moon’s influence and power, it enabled me look inside myself and explore my feelings and mind, and also how powerful they were. Like an iceberg: the part hidden by ocean is the largest and strongest and yet ignorantly underestimated. I learned to see clearly my own powerful and dangerous side. My emotions became an opportunity for reflection, instead of a weapon to use against others or myself (and the possibility of drowning was a lot less likely, too).
Now at 22 the lens through which I see and receive the moon has broadened and astrologically deepened, which has only intensified its positive guidance in my life. The moon comforts and supports me. It makes me feel strong and reassures me. The moon is my taciturn friend. Like the sun, it reflects my light back to me. My natural mirror; it is like therapy. I talk myself through shit. I find answers. I understand myself more deeply.
Really, I always expected my soulmate to possess hands and feet and flesh and a beating heart. However, it is when bearing witness to the full flush of the moon, that I feel a deep pang inside my chest. I feel renewed, like when you have a long and soul-unveiling talk with a friend. My skin feels as if it is being hugged by an intimate other. My mind feels rested and at peace, and I can breathe more deeply. I feel loved and I feel love.
The moon is my mirror, therapist, friend, lover, muse – my soulmate.
Words by Mollie Pyne.
Illustration by Becca Fahey.