The phases of the Moon are very important to Wiccans. Our Sabbats, esbats, and magic workings are determined by either the phase of the Moon, or the sign in which it can currently be found. A quick lesson in terminology will help you understand what your trusty almanac is telling you about the current phase of the Moon.
Lunation cycle – This is the circuit from New Moon to Full Moon and back to New Moon. It lasts approximately 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds. This cycle is sometimes what books and fellow Pagans mean when they say “moon to moon.” However, sometimes they mean the cycle that runs from Full Moon to New Moon and back to Full Moon. It lasts exactly the same length, but just starts at a different time. Be sure to ask if you aren’t sure.
Phases – Moon phases are what you generally hear referred to, even when people actually only mean the quarters (see below). There are eight phases, each lasting approximately 3.7 days. The phases are: New Moon, Waxing Crescent Moon, First Quarter Moon, Waxing Gibbous Moon, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon, Last Quarter Moon, Waning Crescent Moon, and back to New Moon.
Quarters – There a four Moon Quarters every lunar month, and these are what magical works are usually planned in reference to. Each quarter is 7.3 days long.
First Quarter – This is also known as the New Moon. The Earth, Moon, and Sun are all lined up, giving what is called a conjunction. This is the best time to work magic involving new beginnings, especially in the areas ruled by the sign the Sun and Moon currently share. Some people believe that it is best perform any magic intend for this quarter 3° before or after the actual conjunction (approximately 6 hours on either side). This is because it is thought that the energy of the Sun may overpower the energy of your work.
Second Quarter – This stage is also referred to as a Waxing Moon. The Moon is between New and Full in this Quarter, rising around noon and setting around midnight. It is Square to the Sun, sitting at 90°. This stage is good for magic involving growth and development.
Third Quarter – This stage begins at the Full Moon, with the Moon rising at sunset and setting at dawn. The Moon is opposite the Sun, sitting at 180°. Is is the time for magic dealing with harvest, fulfillment and completion. In terms of magic use, the Full Moon is only really potent for 1.5 days, before the energy begins to shift toward the Fourth Quarter.
Fourth Quarter – This quarter is also known as the Waning Moon. The Moon rises at approximately midnight and sets at noon. It is square to the Sun, sitting at 90° (on the opposite side of the Second Quarter). This is a time for magic involving challenges and banishments.
Moon Void of Course
While the Moon phase (or quarter) are important to spells and rituals, you also need to be aware of the Moon’s void of course. During this time it is wise not to cast a spell or perform a ritual. The void of course occurs when the Moon leaves one sign and travels to another. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to almost a day.
In your almanac, the Moon void of course will be shown by the symbol for the Moon (usually a crescent) followed by v/c 5:39 am (for example). This is when the Moon becomes void of course. To determine when it enters another sign, just look for the next entry for the moon, something like the Moon symbol followed by the symbol for a Zodiac sign and a time. This time is when it enters the given sign. Always remember to check the time zone your almanac uses and your own time zone. Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac and Witches’ Datebook use Eastern Standard Time. So, if you were in PST you would subtract 3 hours, MST subtract 2 hours, and CST subtracts 1 hour. And all time zones would add 1 hour during daylight savings time.