Approximately 250,000 miles from Earth, the Moon circles our planet in an elliptical orbit that takes 27 days, 7 hours and 11.5 seconds to complete. On its counter-clockwise journey around the Earth, the face of the Moon is lit by the rays of the Sun which are reflected back to Earth. The placement of the Moon and degree to which it appears lit determine the phases of the Moon, and the 12 constellations that it passes by as it tours the zodiac signify the astrological signs of the Moon. The Moon changes signs approximately every 2 and a half days and completes 13 orbits per year.

The Lunar cycle begins with the dark New Moon when its position is between the Earth and the Sun. During the Moon’s journey over the next two week waxing phase it begins to show more reflected light from the Sun. First appearing as the thin “C” shaped Waxing Crescent Moon, the Moon’s light builds to the half-lit First Quarter Moon, then ¾ lit Gibbous Moon to the fully lit Full Moon as the Moon reaches its halfway point around the Earth in alignment with the Sun. The Full Moon marks the beginning of the two week waning phase of decreasing light progressing to the ¾ lit Waning Gibbous Moon, half-lit Third Quarter Moon, Waning Crescent Moon and the Balsamic Moon shortly before New Moon.

In this vast electromagnetic field in which we live, we are affected by the energies of the Sun, Moon and planets in our solar system and the cosmic energies of the universe. Everything that occurs in this field has an effect on everything else within it. So it is with the Moon, which acts as a transformer of energies from the cosmos and relays them to Earth. The Moon’s gravitational pull exerts an enormous influence on Earth. It controls the tides and affects the biology and behavior of plants, animals and humans. The Moon in a person’s astrological chart reveals effects of the early home environment, subconscious and emotional responses, and the capacity to give and receive nurturing.

For thousands of years, humans have looked to the heavens for keys to the mysteries of the universe. Unlike the modern Gregorian calendar, ancient civilizations followed calendars that were synchronized with the natural lunar cycles. The Mayans, Incas, Druids, Egyptians, Polynesians and American Indians kept a 13 moon/month calendar. Their keen observations of nature’s response to the phases and signs of the Moon enabled them to successfully plant and harvest abundant crops of superior taste and nutrition, pick herbs at their highest potency, administer healing therapies that ensured quick recovery, build strong enduring homes, and begin projects and partnerships at auspicious times.

Before the modern era, astronomers and physicians were also practicing astrologers. They understood the tremendous force that the Sun, Moon and planets had on Earth, and through meticulous study determined how to best use the cosmic energies. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the father of modern medicine said, “Anyone who practices medicine without taking into account the movement of the stars is a fool”.

Perhaps the most obvious effect of lunar cycles on humans is a woman’s 28 day reproductive cycle. The word menstruation is derived from the Greek menus meaning moon and power and men meaning month. Studies show that women who spend most of their time outdoors cycle with the Moon, menstruating on the New Moon with increasing sexual desire and ovulation occurring on the Full Moon. Native American Moon Lodges were structures where menstruating women would go to rest and attune to spirit. It is said that the Hopi prophecies were presented by menstruating women. An Italian study of 1,200 births over a three year period found that 70% of births occurred on a Full Moon.  Animal research has also shown the lunar effect on the reproductive cycles of sea scallops, grunions, sea worms, mussels, algae, insects, jelly fish, rodents, and lemurs to name a few.

In astrology, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and ancient Greek, Roman and pagan cultures, the Moon is associated with the feminine or yin principle, while the Sun represents the male or yang principle. Moon Goddess religions associated with priestesses and matriarchies dominated history until around 1500 BC when the patriarchal Sun God religions and male priesthoods came into power and virtually wiped out the feminine Moon based cultures.

Fortunately, lunar wisdom can still be accessed today. Llewellyn’s annually published “Moon Sign Book” is a valuable resource for detailed information on the lunar cycles and how they can be utilized each day of the year to facilitate optimum health and success in every aspect of life.

Noting the phase and sign of the Moon each day helps us to attune to nature and our inner rhythms as we experience the ebbs and flows of life. The New Moon is a good day to begin planning new undertakings. On this day our body’s ability to detoxify is greater than on any other day, so this is an excellent day to fast, have a colonic, or do a liver flush which can rejuvenate the body and help to prevent illness. It is also a good starting point for letting go of bad habits and addictions such as smoking, alcohol, coffee and sugar. It tends to be a quiet time which is ideal for meditation and spiritual pursuits.

The two week waxing Moon phase is a time of regenerating and building. During this period the body readily assimilates foods, vitamins, minerals and restorative herbs. Toxins are also more easily absorbed, and weight gain and water retention are more common. Detoxification is also more difficult. Surgeries are less effective during the waxing moon and can result in more scar tissue, complications and slower recovery than during the following waning phase. If possible, surgery should also be avoided when the Moon is in the sign that rules the part of the body being operated upon, and should not be scheduled within 3 days before or after the Full Moon when hemorrhaging is more likely to occur. Projects and relationships begun during the waxing moon have staying power, and this is the best time for marriage.

The Full Moon is a peak time of activity when plans are put into action. People can become “loony” as emotions reach their peak. Researchers at Leeds University in the U.K. found many patients had complaints of anxiety and depression at the Full Moon. Hospital emergency rooms and midwives are also busiest on Full Moon days. A recent study found that on Full Moons there is a rise in the number of patients seeking treatment for medically unexplained stroke symptoms. A 2005 hospital study in the U.K. showed that admissions for patients with bladder problems peaked just after a Full Moon.   A study of eating habits of 700 adults by psychologists at Georgia State University found that meal sizes increased when there was a Full Moon. Another study found that appointments at thyroid clinics surged after a Full Moon. Research in Slovakia showed increased gout episodes during this time. Animal visits to veterinary clinics increase on the Full Moon and animal bites are also more common. Scientists theorize that perhaps it is the Moon’s gravitational pull that upsets the balance of the body’s cellular fluid in much the same way it causes the seas to rise. Astrologers note that water accumulates more quickly in the body on this day and connective tissue becomes weaker. The Full Moon is the least favorable time for surgical procedures, exposure to toxic chemicals, vaccinations, strenuous work or any potentially dangerous activity. It’s a good time to party and to sell something for the highest price.

The two week waning Moon phase that follows the Full Moon is the best time to bring plans to fruition and completion. This is an auspicious time to cleanse the body of toxins accumulated during the absorptive waxing Moon phase. A spring detox during the waning moon has a strong purifying effect that can prevent illness with benefits that last the whole year, while the same measures during the waxing phase may not be as effective. Surgical operations and dental work have a greater chance of success with fewer complications and shorter recovery. This is a great time for cleaning the house and discarding old items and beliefs that are no longer serving you. It is also a good time to let go of dysfunctional relationships that have outlived their purpose. Strenuous tasks are best done during the waning Moon, and this is the time to get a haircut if you want your hair to grow back slowly. The Balsamic Moon just before the New Moon is a good time for going within and becoming clear on what you want.

The Moon’s astrological element and sign on a given day have a distinct imprint on the quality of energy, the weather, health issues, and activities that will be most successful on those days. When the Moon is in the fire signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, the air is drier and perhaps warmer than usual, and we may feel lively and assertive. On air Moon sign days Gemini, Libra and Aquarius, the atmosphere may be lighter and brighter. We may be more communicative, mentally active and rational. In water Moon signs Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, the tendency for precipitation is greater and we may be more emotional. Earthy Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn Moon days can be cooler and practical concerns may dominate.

Health regimens can be greatly aided by knowing the parts of the body ruled by the Moon signs, especially when scheduling surgery. It is interesting to note that the embryo grows in phases that follow the Moon signs through the zodiac beginning with the head. Parts of the body are most vulnerable and more receptive to healing therapies on Moon days that rule them. Here are the qualities of the Moon signs:

Aries: Masculine, dry, barren, fiery, impulsive, assertive. Good for initiating activities. The pace is quick and people may be restless and accident prone. Rules the head and face. Taurus: Feminine, semi-fruitful, earthy, patient, resists change. Good for farming and creating things that last. Rules the neck, throat and voice. Gemini: Masculine, dry, barren, airy, intellectual, changeable, talkative. Good for socializing and mental activities. Rules shoulders, arms, hands, lungs and nervous system. Cancer: Feminine, fruitful, moist, strong, nurturing, sensitive, emotional. The most fertile sign. Good for growing plants and income, cooking and mothering. The Moon is strongest here. Rules chest, breasts, stomach.

Leo: Masculine, hot, dry, fiery, barren, proud, playful, confident. Good for entertaining, performing, and fundraising. Can be self-centered. Rules the heart and upper back. Virgo: Feminine, dry, barren, earthy, precise, analytical, health- conscious. Good for tasks that require detailed attention and exactness, bargain hunting, agricultural matters, caring for animals. Rules abdomen and intestines. Libra: Masculine, semi-fruitful, airy, social, intellectual, relationship-oriented. Good for negotiation, agreements, partnerships, parties, decorating and shopping. Rules lower back, kidneys and buttocks. Scorpio: Feminine, fruitful, cold, moist, intense, sexual, obsessive, intuitive, loyal. Good for passionate encounters, research, and thoroughly ending connections. Rules reproductive organs, genitals, groin and pelvis.

Sagittarius: Masculine, dry, barren, fiery, confident, philosophical, adventurous, opinionated. Good for dealing with the law, publishing, teaching, and foreign travel. Rules thighs and hips. Capricorn: Feminine, semi-fruitful, earthy, disciplined, organized, practical. Good for setting goals, planning for the future, and business matters. Not a good time for seeking favors from authorities. Rules bones, skin and knees. Aquarius: Masculine, dry, barren, airy, intellectual, nonconformist, humanitarian, inventive, impersonal. Good for gathering of groups for social networking and issues of reform. Rules calves and ankles. Pisces: Feminine, fruitful, cool, watery, spiritual, psychic, dreamy, compassionate, idealistic, illusionary. Good day for meditation, a movie, music, art, beach vacation, helping others. Be careful around drugs and alcohol. Rules the feet and lymphatic system.

The Farmer’s Almanac reports, farmers and some scientists agree that the best Moon times for planting are in the fruitful and semi-fruitful Moon signs. For optimum growth and nutrition, plant annuals that produce their yield above the ground during the waxing Moon and biennials, perennials, bulbs and root plants during the waning Moon.

Moon signs also provide a key to fertility. According to a study by Prague psychiatrist and gynecologist Eugen Jonas, women are most fertile when the Moon phase is the same as when they were born. If conception occurs during the feminine earth or water Moon signs there is a greater chance the child will be a girl, and if conception occurs during the masculine fire and air signs, the child tends to be a boy.

A Void of Course Moon is the period of hours when the Moon is between signs and energy is vague and unclear. This is not a good time to start something new or make important decisions as judgment may be poor. Action taken now may yield unexpected results or nothing may come of it. This time is best spent in spiritual pursuits.

A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up exactly between the Sun and the Moon. Thoughts and actions on these days have a powerful effect that can last several weeks.

By utilizing the Moon as a guide for perfect timing, we can achieve greater health and success in all of our endeavors.