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O Lady Moon, your horns point toward the east;
Shine, be increased,
O Lady Moon, your horns point toward the west:
Wane, be at rest.
The moon, Queen of the Night in all her silvery splendor, reaches out to us as she glides across the black, moonlit skies. Each night she appears robed in a different garment, which hints at the mysteries surrounding both her luminous and shadowy displays. Who is this lady of the moon, and what gifts does she shine down upon earth creatures? And when, each month, she disappears altogether for several days, what does she conceal behind her dark time, her most secret time?
Mysteries of the Dark Moon will seek to uncover the secret of the moon's mysterious dark phase through exploring the mythical, psychological, and spiritual symbolism of the lunar darkness. If we are fortunate, what we discover can help us to release our fears of the dark.
The title of this book has not been arbitrarily chosen. The word "mystery" comes from the Middle English misterie or mysterie, from the Latin mysterium, and from the Greek musterion, or "secret rites"; from mustes, one initiated into secret rites. The word "moon" goes back to the Indo-European root me-, and in its extended and suffixed forms men-, men-en-, men-s-, men-ot- the meaning of month (an ancient and universal measure of time, with the celestial body that measures it). "Dark" has the connotation of muddy, clouded, or in this case, hidden.
A literal translation of this book's title could be read, "The secret rites of thehidden period of the month," which, in fact, is the essence of what this book is about: a specific aspect of life cycles, the dark period, which is symbolized here as the dark phase of the moon.
The earliest peoples understood that the power of life lay in the darkness of the moon. But after thousands of years, humanity forgot this truth and began to fear the power in the waning dark moon. Plutarch wrote, "For the waxing moon is of good intent, but the waning moon brings sickness and death." In the alternation of the moon's waxing and waning phases, later peoples saw the increasing phases of the moon's growing light as beneficial, bringing life and growth. However, they had a very different attitude about the decreasing dark moon, which they associated with death, destruction, and the forces of evil.
The moon, with its repeating cycles of waxing and waning, became a symbol to the ancients for the birth, growth, death, and renewal of all life forms. The lunar rhythm presented a creation (the new moon), followed by growth (to full moon), and a diminution and death (the three moonless nights, that is, the dark moon). Historian of religion Mircea Eliade states that it was very probably the image of eternal birth and death of the moon that helped to crystallize the earliest human intuitions about the alternation of life and death; and suggested later on the myth of the periodic creation and destruction of the world.
The moon, in her transformations, mirrors the same fluctuations of increase and decrease that take place in the human body and in the psyche. In our lives we experience these alternations of creation and destruction, growth and decay, birth and death, light and dark, conscious and unconscious. Unfortunately, in our society we have been taught to fear and resist the decreasing energies represented by the dark, by decay, death, and the unconscious. Thus we have lost our knowledge of an essential part of cyclical life processes, symbolized by the dark phase of the moon.
The purpose of the dark phase of any cycle is that of transition between the death of the old and the birth of the new. The dark time is a time of retreat, of heating, and of dreaming the future. The darkness is lit with the translucent quality of transformation; and during this essential and necessary period, life is prepared to be born.
The dark prefaces the light in the same way that gestation precedes birth and sleep allows for rejuvenation. In the human psyche we experience dark periods when we feel turned inward and nothing seems to be happening. However, in retrospect we often realize that these fallow times were germinal periods preceding outbursts of creativity and growth.
Without the time to withdraw, rest, and recuperate from the demands of the outer activities of conscious waking life, our bodies and minds cannot sustain their supply of vital energy. If we correctly understand the dark, however, we can use the cover of darkness to learn the magic of our own particular secret rites, which can lead to a revitalized and replenished life.
Unfortunately we have many confusing and negative associations with the concept of the dark. Darkness connotes that which is un, known, hidden, concealed, and evil. We have been taught to sus, pect and fear the unknown. The dark phase of the lunar cycle holds all that cannot be seen with the waking eye or understood by the rational mind. The contents of this phase of the cyclic process have been labeled "dark," perceived as threatening, and promoted as taboo. As the conscious ego rejects and denies the experiences and wisdom of the dark phase, these contents grow to embody our worst fears and assume the frightening form of the demonic "shadow" in individuals and society. Society's attitudes toward people of color, woman's sexuality, the occult, the unconscious, the psychic arts, the aged, and death itself are all manifestations of these fearful dark moon projections.
We are conditioned by our lack of night vision to experience the dark as terrifying. When we are unhappy, we say that we are going through a dark time, associating the dark with loss of love, fears of abandonment, alienation, failure, isolation, disintegration, and madness...