Our planet has only one natural satellite: the moon. The moon has a cycle of approximately 27.3 days to revolve completely around our Earth, during which it travels an average distance of about 384,000 kilometres. This is known as a Lunar Month. During this Lunar Month, the moon waxes and wanes, from dark to full and back to dark again; a cycle of birth, growth, transformation and death to be reborn again. There are approximately 13 Lunar Months in a calendar (or Solar) year.
According to the moon phase the moon rises at certain times, and as a general rule the New Moon rises at sunrise, the First Quarter (waxing) at noon. The Full Moon rises at sunset and the Last Quarter rises at around midnight. Thus, if the moon is up in the sky with the sun, it is waxing, or getting larger.
Moonrise takes place approximately 51 minutes later on each subsequent day during each cycle. The dark moon cannot be seen because the illuminated side faces away from the earth, occurring when the Moon is in line, sandwiched as it were between the Earth and the Sun.
Throughout time all living creatures have been under the spell of the Moon. During the ages men and women from all cultures have recognized and venerated the mesmerising silvery sphere hanging in the velvet sky, which has always been seen as female in essence. The mysterious and literal pull she has upon the Earth and her children has not lessened today.
There is a rapidly growing number of people disillusioned by our manufactured modernity, who look once more to our roots, the things that made us tick and the rhythms of nature for their answers and guidance. This is unsurprising when you consider that she does indeed have a pull on our lives and the earth that we live upon in the literal sense. But to walk her moonlit path, it is prudent to remind ourselves of this fact and reacquaint ourselves with her presence. We must synchronise ourselves with her rhythms and faces and become aware of how these cycles reflect upon our planet and us.
Every phase of the moon has it’s own unique energy for each cycle. We all know that the moon affect the tides of the seas and oceans, yet we underestimate the ways in which she affects us. However, when you consider that we ourselves are mostly fluid, it is no coincidence that we too wax and wane in mood, energy and (sadly for the women especially) weight! The moon is a feminine, cool, silver energy that washes over the earth and rules the waters - rains, tides, dew- as well as the menstrual cycles of women and other bodily fluids. She rules all emotional responses. Understanding these energies can help us immensely in our daily lives, and also our meditations and magickal lives. To attune to the Moon rhythms and open your spirits to the Moon’s energy is very empowering. Because focused emotion enhances magic, many Pagans, Wiccans and Solitary Witches work in conjunction with the phases of the moon, especially that of the Full Moon, and these are known as Esbats.
Esbats are celebrations of the Full (and also the New) Moon and are considered to many as important as the Sabbats. An Esbat is a time in the main to honour the Goddess –a natural connection considering the female manifestation of the Moon, although the God can of course, be honoured as well. It is a time of gathering, outside if possible to allow the Moon to drench you with her cooling, soothing and inspiring rays, but inside as well; a wonderful time to share our powers with each other and the universe. During an Esbat we honour the Goddess, whatever form she may take, in our rituals. We thank her for her presence in our lives and for all the guidance she provides us with. To some, it is also a time to perform rituals and cast spells according to the phase of the moon.
The Full Moon is the time in the lunar cycle when the moon is complete – a perfect full circle – she is bright and the whole of her face is illuminated. This happens for three days in succession – the day before the astrological Full Moon, the astrological Full Moon itself, and the day after the astrological Full Moon. It is now that all the magickal qualities of the Moon are at their strongest… the time of greatest power. A common practice during the Esbat is to “draw down the moon”. This can be done as a group or as an individual. When we draw down the moon, we call upon the moon’s magical powers and we keep them inside us, and fill ourselves up with her power and inspiration. This energy is then used either in spells or used to send out healing into the cosmos, and is then conveyed into Mother Earth afterwards.
Thus an Esbat is a celebration and utilisation of the Full Moon in all her glory. Traditionally, witches now work magick for healing, abundance, and direction. The wholeness of the moon means that Esbats are a wonderful time to work on your own personal growth and enlightenment. There are thirteen Esbat celebrations in a year, based upon the thirteen moons. To each Lunar month our ancestors assigned a name in accordance with the nature of the activity that took place at that time. Depending upon the path we follow, these names may differ. The Moon is named by many cultures, and can be known by tree names, astrological names, American Indian names – the list is endless.
The Oak Moon Esbat
The significance of each of the Esbats draws its influence from the changes in the earth around us. At this point in the wheel of the year, we have seen and accepted the demise in nature. We are taught as we look around the barren and frozen earth, that nothing dies that is not then reborn. We know implicitly that lying just beneath the surface, life waits to spring up around us anew. However, before this can happen the earth must rejuvenate to resurface refreshed and renewed with purpose and energy. The Moon Goddess at this time is heavy with child – the Sun God, who shall be born at Yule. But before we celebrate the beginning of the return of the light at Yule, or the Winter Solstice (21st December), we celebrate the Oak Moon Esbat (15th December). It is now that we must take our lessons from the earth, accepting we all must rest before a new cycle begins, preparing to grow anew ourselves.
During the Oak Moon, a transition occurs, we move in this moon from death to birth, life renewed at the time of the Winter Solstice. With this in mind, it is a lovely idea to keep a candle burning from the Esbat to the Solstice, acknowledging the return of the light ahead, as the days begin once again to become longer. It is best, if you decide to keep a candle burning, to use a contained candle such as a votive, which is designed for extended (and safe) burn times, always observing safety, which is especially important if you have small children or pets. As you light the first candle, recite something akin to:
“Fire of the Sun, illuminate the Earth Bring back life with your rebirth We await your coming, until your rise To re-awake the Earth and nourish our lives”
The candle is then extinguished at the Winter Solstice, when the light returns. At the Esbat of the Oak Moon, there are many relevant rituals. To give candles as gifts at this time of year is a wonderful thing to do – symbolising our individual flames re-igniting at this powerful time of year.
An Oak Moon Ritual
A particularly appropriate aspect to focus upon at the Oak Moon Esbat is the release of negativity – something that is important for children and adults alike, asking the Goddess to bless you with strength, and a pure heart. For this ritual you will need: White candles Candleholders Frankincense incense Sun symbols (the making of which can be a fun activity beforehand!) Holly sprigs Sunflower seeds Sitting around your table, or in a circle, each person casts upon the table a sun symbol and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds (which can be used later for planting). Each person is given a candle, a holder and a sprig of holly (children first being warned of the spiked leaves!). Each person holds their candle, and focuses whatever negativity they wish to release into the candle (for example, being grumpy, lacking patience, being stuck in a rut, telling lies etc). Once this is done, place the candles into the holders, with the sprig of holly at the base. Now Mum, or other adult female, has the privilege (being female, and thus the perfect person to cast this circle celebrating the Goddess!) of walking around the circle clockwise to light the candles in turn, starting with her own saying: “I have strength of heart, and I can break free Away from unwanted negativity It has no power or no hold This is my truth and now it is told” The other adults and children, now repeat in turn, as their candles are lit. The candlelighter now returns to her place at the table or circle, and lights the incense. Allow the candles to burn down, (or snuff if the children get bored!) and when they are extinguished, throw the holly sprigs upon the fire (or burn them in the appropriate fire-proof container), observing all necessary safety precautions. Then take the ashes, and allow them to blow away in the wind, and with them the identified problems.
You can now all share moon and sun decorated biscuits and juice (wine for the adults!) and celebrate the goddesses power and blessings, and your new leases of life!
The Wolf Moon Esbat
The Wolf Moon is the moon in deepest of Winter, referring to scarcity and when the wolf came into to the villages to seek food having searched the barren lands and finding nothing to sustain itself. During January, the Sun begins to increase in strength. The Goddess, who was a new Mother at Yule, is now resting, to return as a Maiden at Imbolc bringing with her the spring. So it is now that we start to look forward, to the things that we need or wish to achieve in this, a brand new year.
The Full Wolf Moon gives us the chance to ask for what we need. However, rather than this being things of solid form, for example food or money, I see this as a time to prepare ourselves and the soils of our emotions and minds so we are best placed to achieve the things we need or wish for in the Spring. The most fundamental thing we all need is love, and thus the Wolf Moon has always been seen as a time for family and friends. It is now, if there are any rifts in your family, that you should focus upon healing them.
This is a time for love and togetherness, and a wonderful thing for your children to do is to compile all those family photographs that are left in shoeboxes to grow dusty in corners and upon shelves. Let your children pick their favourites, and having given them an album, or simply a scrapbook or sheets of construction paper and glue, compile your own memory books, making notes alongside each picture – what was happening, why you like the photograph, and why it makes you happy. It’s such a great harmonising and bonding exercise! Put some of these pictures aside, make a little collage, and hang them over the fireplace, or put them in a special place as an offering of thanks to the Goddess for blessing your happy family unit.
Another lovely ritual is to make some beautiful decorations for your altar, sacred place or your home. This particular ritual is to strengthen already happy and loving bonds. For your Apple Wreaths you will need: Apples Spices such as cinnamon and cardamom Flexible wire Small Pine branches Ribbon (yellow or white)
To begin, firstly snip your wire into equal lengths, and form them into an open-ended circle, with a little left over at each end to twist to seal the circle later. Now, take an apple for each family member including yourself. Taking your wire, apples and spices, bless them, saying: “Apples sweet, pure and round Your seeds with our love we shall plant in the ground Lend me your goodness and securely renew Our family love and make it true” Now, taking each apple, slice it crosswise, (slicing for little ones, or helping older children) to expose the natural star/ pentagram. Place the apple slices on a baking sheet, and sprinkle them liberally with your sweet spices. Now bake in the oven on a low heat. Allow them to dry, and when they are done, remove them and allow them to cool. Once your apple slices have cooled, thread them onto the wire, decorating them with pine sprigs, (which symbolise eternal life and growth) and ribbon, and hang them in a prominent place in the home.
Finally, as we have mentioned above, the nature of the Wolf Moon means it is a channel that you can use to enhance relations with members of your family. A simple way to do this is as follows: While sitting in your sacred place, or simply somewhere that you feel at ease, and will not be disturbed, visualise an image of you and the family member with whom your are having difficulties, or wish to build a better relationship with. You are both happy – smiling in welcome and embracing each other. Now, imagine this picture as a puzzle, yet there is a piece of the jigsaw missing. See yourself now raising your hand. In it you hold the missing piece. Gently press the missing piece of the jigsaw into place, whilst saying: “With this piece the puzzle I complete Anger and hurt must now all fleet Sadness and distance be at an end With love and joy this puzzle I mend.” As with all Esbat celebrations and customs, finish the evening with a beautiful meal with your family around you, remembering as you do so to make a toast to the goddess, at this her special time. g
Full Moon Names
January-February Big Winter Moon, Chaste Moon, Ice Moon, Old Moon, Wolf Moon
February-March Chaste Moon, Hunger Moon, Snow Moon, Storm Moon
March-April Crow Moon, Hare Moon, Lenten Moon, Paschal Moon, Sap Moon, Seed Moon
April-May Egg Moon, Grass Moon, Hare Moon, Planting Moon, Rain Moon
May-June Dyad Moon, Flower Moon, Milk Moon
June-July Honey Moon, Rose Moon, Strawberry Moon
July-August Buck Moon, Hay Moon, Thunder Moon, Wort Moon
August-September Barley Moon, Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon
September-October Fruit Moon, Harvest Moon
October-November Blood Moon, Falling Leaf Moon, Hunter’s Moon
November-December Beaver Moon, Dark Moon, Fog Moon, Frosty Moon, Moon Before Yule, Owl Moon, Snow Moon, Storm Moon
December-January Big Winter Moon, Cold Moon, Long Night Moon, Moon After Yule, Oak Moon, Snow Moon
Amy Warburton is a designer, candle maker, hedgewitch and mother of two boys. Amy runs www.brighterblesisngs.co.uk, designing and making beautiful herbal beeswax candles, spell candles and gift sets. www.brighterblessings.co.uk