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The practice of observing the full Moon and discerning its meaning dates back to ancient times, before traditions were passed down in the written form. Lately, the rhythms and cycles of the Moon have seen a resurgence in interest—and sometimes even reverence—within mainstream culture.
When it comes to understanding the relevance of the full Moon in our lives and why it affects our moods and mental states, there tends to be a lot of mystique. Knowing the basics about what to expect during a full Moon can help you better understand why you experience it the way you do—and how, with a little more knowledge and understanding, you can show up a little differently the next full Moon.
The Moon and its cycles
In astrological terms, a full Moon occurs when the Sun is in opposition to the Moon, which means the Sun is straight across from the Moon with the Earth in between. Because the Moon reflects light from the Sun, this creates the visual effect of a full Moon from our vantage.
Conversely, the new Moon lies in between the Sun and Moon and cannot reflect light to us. As such, the Moon is not able to be seen by us at all. It is said to be in full shadow.
As the Moon goes through its phases, it increases in light. Once we make it to the full Moon, the shadows are no more and the Moon’s luminosity shines down, an invitation to become aware of what is occurring.
The symbolism of the full Moon
On a symbolic level, the Sun represents spirit (or insert your preferred word of choice, whether divinity or universe or fill-in-the-blank). The Moon represents the physical as well as the emotional body. The full Moon is a time to be receptive, to take the light and awareness of spirit into your emotional and physical body.
On an energetic level, during the new Moon, what is going on is often taking place unconsciously, in the dark of shadow, and is not yet ready to be illuminated. By the time you reach the full Moon, it raises your awareness and your ability to receive insights that have been approaching you. This happens in the same time that the Moon has been approaching fullness. This awareness can open you to clarity—and awe—around what is happening in your life and when.
The full Moon is not a moment in time or a single-day happening. It is a phase of the Moon that is active for at least three days. Letting yourself really be with the Moon during the full phase and whatever presents itself to you can become a practice of emotional mastery, especially during the lead-up to the lunar event.
Note what comes up for you in your emotional body. What is being illuminated? What behaviors or thoughts can no longer hide in the shadows? What darkness can no longer withstand the light? Specifically, what unhelpful mental patterns, self-destructive habits, or unhealthy communication styles need attention? Perhaps you can find the strength to incur change or to find help at this time.
Whether you sob, find inspiration, or experience revelatory insights during your dreams, know that you are being spoken to. You are being shown the emotional and psychological nature of a truth that was not fully visible at the new Moon but is now within reach. It is a continual progression.
See also: Learn to Listen to Your Emotions
Why each full Moon is different
All full Moons share the attributes explained above, yet each has a different feeling. This is because each lunar cycle coexists with a different configuration of planetary forces. With each full Moon, stay mindful of the zodiac sign that is affecting the Moon, as well as the other planetary influences.
For example, the most recent new Moon in November 2021 was in Scorpio. This is a sign that makes us feel emotional stings. The next full Moon will be in Taurus, a sign that asks us to find something to focus on with consistent effort. So the sting of Scorpio at the new Moon made way for what couldn’t be seen at the time. The illumination of the full Moon will show what was worth putting effort into that is not stinging us. Quite the contrary.
Consider tracking the lunar cycle and take heed as the full Moon approaches. Note how you show up to your emotions, mental, and situational challenges and relationships.
How the full Moon affects your tides…
One of the first things that made me realize how powerful astrology was is the relationship of the tides of the ocean to the Moon. The Moon literally draws the ocean to it by exerting a “tidal force” on the ocean through its gravitational pull, causing the water to flow highest at the precise times when the Moon is directly overhead and directly beneath. This results in high tide twice a day.
This is reflected in the lunar phases. The full Moon exerts a stronger pull on the water, causing the waves to flow higher than during any other phase of the Moon. This is a scientific fact.
The full Moon represents high tides from a symbolic lens as well. High tide is a time when the ocean’s waters can reach much further onto the shore. During the full Moon, our emotional states do the same. If the Moon’s tidal force is affecting the ocean, and as a human you are approximately 70 percent water, then the full Moon will get your tides moving! This will inevitably affect your attempts at being practical, rational, and linear.
…but no, you can’t “blame the Moon”
The tendency toward emotionality is reflected in the human notion of lunacy. When translated from the late Latin definition, “lunacy” means “moonstruck.” I have heard countless nurses, mental health workers, and astrologers speak about the effects of the full Moon and how this phase is experienced as a “high tide” for many people.
However, you can’t scapegoat your behaviors by blaming the full Moon. The full Moon pulls up energy that is already present. It is necessary to acknowledge that whatever comes up for us during a full Moon is our own to bear. We can be challenged during this time because of what the planets and their relationship to the Moon reveal, but it’s never an excuse for our behavior.
A famous alchemist, Paracelsus, once said, “…a wise man rules over the stars, but this does not mean that he rules over the influences which come from the stars in the sky. It means that he rules over the powers which exist in his own constitution.” This quote has always stayed with me, a reminder to never blame the planets for things that are my own doing.
This is important to know because I personally have experienced many Moons when, if I did not have awareness of what was causing emotional surgery, I could have easily slipped into unconscious behavioral patterns. Instead, I allowed the Moon to illuminate the pattern and draw out of me what I needed to let go. I remained aware rather than becoming reactive.
Why you might not sleep well before a full Moon
The full Moon is said to have an effect on our physiological and our emotional health. During full Moons, people have a tendency to be awakened at night, find more difficulty sleeping, and/or have heightened experiences during the dream state. There is scientific research to support the correlation between less sleep and full Moons, although there is not a clear scientific reason as to why. Perhaps the lack of sleep also contributed to the Latin naming of “moonstruck” for this phase of the lunar cycle.
Rest assured. after the full Moon phase, the Moon begins losing its light and can bring more ease in the process of letting go.
What should you do on a full Moon?
You have heard the admonition that you should “let go” during the full Moon. But what exactly does that mean?
You can support your release of the old and unnecessary with anything that helps you release energy. Practice Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutations) or dance out in the moonlight to honor the Moon in her fullness. Take a bath to help cleanse and release what is no longer necessary.
From another perspective, the full Moon represents the feminine and allows you to tap into the fullness of the goddess that is often repressed and demonized in our culture. When the feminine is understood and the expression of receiving and giving nourishment is allowed, it brings you into communion with the Moon. It is in these states that we let go of our minds to attune to the cosmic flow and receive wisdom from the goddess. In times and spaces where intuition is not appreciated or cultivated, these experiences are the moments that ground you.
Stay mindful that every full Moon brings with it different energies. Our monthly astrological forecasts key into what is to come so you can continue to tap in and release your resistance to whatever is happening.
About our contributor
Cameron Allen began his path to understanding mind-body awareness with a degree in health and sports science and psychology. Beyond the colonized education system, he began seeking understanding through direct experience with nature, Astrology, herbalism, rootwork, yoga, and other indigenous technologies. Cameron is a herbalist, astrologer, and writer. Cameron is a student of life and continues to deepen his studies of ancient wisdom and apply it to modern life.