What does the New Moon tell us - traditions, beliefs, and more

September 14, 2023

When the moon and the sun line up in the sky once a month, it is called a "new moon." This starts a new round of light. When the moon is new, we cannot see it from Earth. Slowly, though, it starts to show up as a thin disc of light. Even though the energy of a new moon lasts for about three days before and after it, the moon is officially only new for a moment, when the sun and moon are directly aligned in the sky.

The word "Super Moon" is often used to describe a Full Moon that is closer to Earth and looks bigger and brighter in the sky. There will be a Super Moon in the sign of Pisces this year. The exact date can be a little different based on where you live, but it is likely to happen on September 17, 2023. During this event, the Full Moon will be in the zodiac sign of Pisces, which is linked to emotions, intuition, and imagination.

In the Irish tradition, the new moon is frequently associated with regeneration and new beginnings. It is seen as a time for making resolutions, making wishes, and embarking on new endeavours. 

The National Folklore Schools collection contains several fascinating descriptions of New Moon customs. People in Loughatorick, Co Galway, are said to bless themselves when they first view a new moon, while in Gallagh, the same county, 'it is a practise in this territory when the new Moon is seen to go down on your knees and to make the sign of the cross' (NFCS 0078:158). According to page 74 of volume 0142 of the NFCS, it is also customary to "Bless yourself when you see the new moon, and for women to turn their aprons and wish."

The new moon is also associated with a lot of weather lore in Ireland, and these are two accounts from the NFCS. The first is from Volume 0094, Page 321 Ballycarra Co. Mayo

  • If there is a ring around the new moon it is the sign of rain.
    If you see two long horns out of the moon it is the sign of rain or if you see it sitting on its back it is the sign of rain. 
  • If you put down a clutch of eggs and new moon to be when they would be coming out it would kill them all.
    If you see the new moon through glass, you will have bad luck. 
  • If the new moon was on Saturday, there would be bad weather until the next Saturday. If the new moon was clouded there would be rain for the first g'quarter

The second is from Volume 0125, Page 428

If the new moon is on its back that is a sign that there will be wet weather but if the new moon is standing upright or like the handle of a cup that is a sign that there will be good fine weather. Sometimes the corners or horns of the moon are very sharp that is a sign that there will be cold sharp dry weather.

Turning to other traditions we know the new moon's significance endures as a cultural and symbolic marker for new beginnings and natural cycles. In the Jewish tradition, the lunar calendar is used to determine the dates of numerous Jewish holidays, and Rosh Chodesh marks the start of each Jewish month. Its appearance is observed by a number of ceremonies and observances. 

1. Prayer and Blessings: It is usual for Jewish communities to gather on the evening of the new moon for a special prayer service that includes blessings over the moon. This ceremony is usually held in synagogues or communal gatherings. The prayers express gratitude for the renewal of the lunar cycle and honour the Jewish calendar's shifting months.

2. Women's Observance: According to some Jewish traditions, Rosh Chodesh is especially important for women. Women meet for communal gatherings, study sessions, and reflection during this period. This practise stems from the belief that women have a special relationship with the moon and its cycles.

3. Special Readings: In some Jewish communities, particular Torah and Prophetic readings are associated with Rosh Chodesh. These readings are frequently chosen for their thematic relevance to the new moon's symbolism of regeneration and transformation.

4. Work Restrictions: Rosh Chodesh was historically marked as a minor holiday, with some restrictions on work comparable to those on major holidays. These restrictions, however, are becoming less widespread in current times.

Needless to say, the significance of Rosh Chodesh differs throughout Jewish groups and localities. Some may emphasise certain ceremonies and observances more than others.

It is also worth remembering that Easter in the Christian tradition also follows the lunar calendar but, in this instance, it is the full moon that determines its date.

Turning to India, the new moon is known as "Amavasya," and is significant in many religious and cultural traditions. The following are some common rites and practises related with the new moon in India.

Fasting: On the day of Amavasya, many people maintain a fast. Some people fast from dawn to sunset, while others just eat one meal during the day. Fasting is frequently used to cleanse the body and psyche.

Prayers and Worship: During Amavasya, devotees visit temples and perform special prayers and rituals dedicated to their deities. Flowers, incense, and lamps are sacrificed.

Pitru Tarpan: Amavasya is also a time when people practise ancestor rituals. This is referred to as "Pitru Tarpan." Water and food offerings are made to pacify the souls of departed ancestors.

Giving to the needy is regarded extremely good during Amavasya. Many people perform charitable activities and donate to the impoverished and destitute.

Meditation and Spiritual Practises: Some people use the new moon's energy to practise meditation and spiritual practises. It is thought that the mind is more open to inward exploration at this time.

Amavasya is considered a potent time for contemplation and making intentions for the future moon cycle in astrology. During this time, astrologers frequently provide advice and predictions.

Homa or Yagna: During Amavasya, some regions execute fire ceremonies known as "Homa" or "Yagna" to seek blessings and purification.

Cleaning and purifying: Cleaning and purifying rituals are frequent in families during the new moon. Cleaning the house, taking a ceremonial bath, and maintaining personal hygiene are all part of this.

Turning to farming, farmers who follow the biodynamic methods consult the lunar calendar to determine the best times to plant and sow seeds. With its low level of light, the new moon is associated with a period of rest and root formation in plants. Because the energy is concentrated in the root system, this is an excellent time to seed or transplant root crops and other plants that yield edible roots.

It is thought that during the new moon phase, plant energy is drawn downward into the earth, stimulating vigorous root development. During this phase, biodynamic practitioners may concentrate on chores involving root crops such as carrots, potatoes, or beets to maximise root growth and productivity.

Biodynamic farming includes the use of certain herbal and compost preparations that are applied to the soil and plants at specified times in the lunar calendar, such as the new moon. These preparations are supposed to improve soil fertility and plant vitality, and their use under the new moon is regarded to be especially helpful at stimulating root growth.

Biodynamic farming emphasises watching and cooperating with natural cycles and cosmic forces. The lunar calendar is only one component of this comprehensive methodology, which also considers celestial bodies, seasons, and other environmental elements.

Biodynamic farmers can use the lunar calendar to plan their farming activities and design planting calendars that correspond to lunar phases. This method aims to improve plant growth, health, and production while reducing the requirement for synthetic inputs.

Farmers that practise biodynamic farming think that working in accordance with lunar phases and other natural rhythms benefits the farm ecosystem's general health as well as the quality of the produce. 

There is a general belief that the moon phases affect our health but there is little scientific proof to support this. However, there is an interesting study from Kyoto in Japan that examined the influence of the gravitation of the Moon on the frequency of births in Kyoto, Japan.

A retrospective cohort analysis of 1007 consecutive births without the use of the induction agents was conducted on a population of births in a private midwife hospital from January 1966 to December 2000. There was a significant increase in the cases of births, when the gravitation of the Moon to the Earth was less than 31.5 N. Results of this study suggest that the gravitation of the Moon has an influence on the frequency of births.

The idea that the moon's gravity affects human health comes from the fact that the human body is mostly water and that the moon has a noticeable effect on the oceans. People who do not agree with this idea say that the moon's pull-on humans is very small as researchers tell us that the effect of moon tides on a person is less than a millionth of the size of an atom.

The moon's pull-on Earth is also about the same when it is full and when it is not. So, it is thought that changes in sleep during one phase of the moon are not likely to be caused by changes by gravity alone but that does not mean that the moon does not influence our sleep. A study involving 852 people in Uppsala, Sweden concentrating on the waxing and waning moon periods suggested that the effects of the lunar cycle on human sleep are more pronounced among men as sleep duration for all participants was shorter on nights during the waxing period as compared to waning period. But men, but not women, exhibited lower sleep efficiency and were longer awake after sleep onset on nights during the waxing period.

While viewing the new moon this week it is perhaps an opportune time to decide on how to use the new lunar cycle to cultivate well-being and health. 

Learn more about healing traditions in the Irish culture and how it enhances your life here.

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