I just finally got around to reading “The Book of the Moon: Discovering Astrology’s Lost Dimension” by Steven Forrest. In his poem “East Coker,” T.S. Eliot intoned, “Old men ought to be explorers . . . . We must be still and still moving into another intensity . . . .” At age sixty-one, in 2010, Steven Forrest set out to explore the moon and reports back to us in his “The Book of the Moon” with a deeper, more profound and freshly inspired perspective on how to interpret the moon in our astrological charts. He introduces his narrative with the simple statement, “The Moon shocks us.” The moon is faint, or bright; it pops up unexpectedly in the sky during the middle of the day. Its shape varies. We can turn a corner one evening and find a full glistening ball resting on the horizon, and then the next time we think to search the night sky for the moon, it has vanished. Astrologers typically ascribe emotions as moon’s province, with the fluctuations of our emotions being reminiscent of the moon’s shape shifting. Astrologers delineate how we feel about things by looking at the moon’s sign, house position, and its aspects to other planets. What Steven Forrest sets out to do, he claims, takes “a certain audacity.” He is “acutely aware of making bold claims, dismissing some existing work, and then stepping into territory that is significantly uncharted.” He believes that we can best understand the role the moon plays in our charts by looking at not just its sign, house placement and aspects, but by identifying its speed, declination, and, most important, its lunar phase. This is where the future lies in our interpretation of the moon, Forrest tells us, and with his “The Book of the Moon,” we have an invaluable guide on this journey.
First, Steven Forrest takes us beyond understanding the moon as simply an indicator of “emotions.” While our feelings of anger, joy, self-pity, humility are part of the lunar experience, we “are also capable of ‘getting feelings’ about the weird ways the spirit world penetrates this material one.” And these sensations, too, are reflected by the moon. “This gorgeous giant crystal circling our planetary home not only transmutes vibrations from the universe to us on far more wavelengths than mere reason – but also on more wavelengths than those that convey our laughter and our tears.” The moon describes where a greater, more transcendent reality can break into our inner world, shaping our perspective of the outer world. “We take in the world through the lens of the heart,” Forrest tells us. And “heart” is the word he chooses to most accurately define the Moon. It is what balances out our reason, the perceptions we take on through the head. Forrest also builds on Noel Tyl’s definition of the Moon as “the reigning need,” and something which can become lost in the life of reason. If we can understand and meet the moon’s “reigning need,” he tells us, we can discover our path to happiness. Sometimes, we only need to follow our “whimsy,” dropping everything to seize an opportunity which appears in the moment. A Taurus Moon stops her car as she drives past a blooming garden to spend a few happy moments drinking in the beauty of spring flowers. A bored Sagittarius Moon in his cubicle at work spends his lunch hour on travel websites and books a trip. A Libra Moon suddenly thinks of an old school friend, and instead of spending the day doing chores, calls her to meet up for coffee and a long chat. Be willing to follow these Moon inspired impulses, Forrest believes, is “one of the arts of living well.” It is also a key to healing, helping us to bounce back from life’s harsh experiences and to develop the resiliency we need to care for ourselves and others and to remain hopeful about our life’s path.
To best “read” the Moon in our charts, Forrest believes, we need to broaden our study of the Moon. Part of the Moon’s variability is its speed, moving between 11.6 degrees and 14.8 degrees per day. Tracking this will indicate whether the native tends to process quickly and impulsively or slowly and deliberately, with the shades of grey being considered for those who trend more toward the middle. Further, the Moon can vary in its declination, or how far above or below the celestial equator it travels. When a Moon’s declination exceeds 23 degrees 28 minutes North or South, it is considered “Out of Bounds.” An Out of Bounds Moon adds a whole new dimension to the interpretation of a native’s Moon. Because the Moon is no longer “anchored” by the Sun, it is “spontaneous, emancipated, liberated, released on its own recognizance, and utterly on its own.” Those with an Out of Bounds Moons can be revolutionaries, geniuses, or even criminals. They are a law onto themselves and can harness this creative, almost Uranian energy for the greater good or for harm. They feel like outsiders, leading to resentment, alienation, or to tremendous creativity. Some, such as Henry David Thoreau, break out of society and give us a new vision of how to live, and others, like Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, break previously existing modes of thought. A conventional banker with a solid Capricorn Moon in his eighth house, for example, may seem to be living an unremarkable life. But if this Moon is moving at 13.5 degrees per day, he could be taking greater risks with the bank’s investments and quickly turning over profits and losses to the concern of his superiors. If this Moon is Out of Bounds, he could be living for the day when he can retire at 50, and may even be cooking the books to make this happen sooner rather than later. Or he could identify the antiquated way the bank is managed as a money drain and tirelessly badger his superiors about a better way to do business – until he one day suddenly quits in frustration and opens up his own hedge fund. Our understanding of the role of the Out of Bound Moon is increased, Forrest adds, once we trace the declination of the Moon in the native’s progressed chart. The years when the Moon is approaching “its extremes of declination” are “colorful, groundbreaking times.”
But our interpretation of the Moon is best enriched if we consider its lunar phase, or the distance of the native’s Moon from the Sun, creating a new, full, quarter or something in between phase. Forrest asks, “Why is the lunar phase astrology’s lost dimension?” He references the many astrologers who have explored this aspect of the chart, but whose contributions to this study have never become part of mainstream chart interpretation. One source of confusion may be the differing numbers of lunar phases astrologers have assigned to the Sun Moon cycle. Forrest looks at them all and then, from his own observation of client charts, found people tended to fall into one the eight phases laid out by Dane Rudhyar in The Lunation Cycle, published in 1967. Forrest felt this was right, but that something about Rudhyar’s descriptions of each phase were too brief and left him “hungry.” Always gentle, Steven Forrest addressed Dane Rudyhar’s somewhat obscure prose by stating, “Let’s focus this idea more precisely.” He first sought to understand the meaning behind the eight-phase structure, and turned for enlightenment to the pagan calendar originated by the Celts. Their holidays, reflecting the natural rhythm of life, fell at each solstice and equinox, and then again at the midpoint between each holiday, totaling eight:
1) The New Moon (the Moon 0º to 45º ahead of the Sun) is reflected in the pagan holiday Yule, at the Winter Solstice. This native is called “The Legend,” one who undertakes vision quests, impelled to bring treasures from the inner world to light. The secret of happiness if this is your phase is to “find something that ignites the fire in your soul and hurl your life into it.”
2) The Waxing Crescent (the Moon 45º to 90º ahead of the Sun) reflects the pagan holiday Imbolc/Candlemas, found early in February. This native is “The Extremist,” one with a “mood of outrushing intensity, an urge towards manifestation.” The secret of happiness in this phase is having something bigger than one’s self to give shape, purpose, and direction to one’s life.”
3) The First Quarter (the Moon 90º to 135º ahead of the Sun) is symbolized by the pagan holiday Ostara, celebrated at the Spring Equinox. We have left the dark phases of the Moon’s cycle and have entered the bright phases. We find here “The Crusader,” who feels compelling urgency to fight for justice but often confronts restraint. The secret of happiness “lies in successfully bringing an important principle into manifestation,” to “win one.”
4) The Waxing Gibbous (the Moon 135º to 180º ahead of the Sun) mirrors the pagan holiday Beltane, held at May Day, the first of May. This native is called “The Helper” or “The Lover,” someone fully committed to the world and totally enmeshed in human relationships. The secret of happiness “is very much connected with lively, surprising and meaningful relationships.”
5) The Full Moon (the Moon 180º to 225º ahead of the Sun) reflects the pagan holiday Midsummer, held at the Summer Solstice. Forrest calls this native “The Human Being,” someone who is “at maximum extension into the world.” He explains further, “The urge to leave tangible evidence of our inner lives in the hands of the world is compelling at this phase.” The secret of happiness “lies in a sense of jumping whole heartedly into life – and not being intimidated by it.”
6) The Waning Gibbous (the Moon 225º to 270º ahead of the Sun) is symbolized by the pagan holiday Lammas, celebrated in early August as the fruits of harvest are being brought to market. This native is called “The Shaman,” someone still in the bright phases of the Moon but heading towards the dark, seeking “communion with kindred souls.” Forrest instructs, “the secret of happiness in a nutshell is to live every day as if it were your last day on earth.”
7) The Last Quarter (the Moon 270º to 315º ahead of the Sun) reflects the pagan holiday Mabon, held at the Autumn Equinox. This native is “The Pilgrim,” one who has entered the dark phases of the cycle, heading towards the “province of the inner world,” embodying a “wisdom that is at ease with this quality of impermanence.” The secret to happiness lies in “a deep attention to the present moment, coupled with an acceptance that ‘all things must pass.’”
8) The Waning Crescent (the Moon 315º to 360º ahead of the Moon) is symbolized by the pagan holiday Samhain, celebrated today as Halloween, when we gently and playfully interact with the spirit world. This native is “The Mystic Wanderer,” one who senses another world beneath the constructs of everyday life, whose “ego-wall” can dissolve and allow “a tremendous surge of creative imagination.” The secret to happiness is found in a “rich, active kind of solitude,” and “true spiritual practice,” knowing that we will become “ghosts” in the world and “practicing that perspective every day.”
And the simple beauty of these phases is that all of us experience them every month as the Moon and Sun aspect each other by transit, and we go through each of these phases more profoundly in the progressed lunar cycle. We can also enrich our understanding of a chart by applying these phases to the interaction of any two planets or lunar nodes in our chart, which Forrest demonstrates by describing the Venus-Mars, Jupiter-Saturn, and Uranus-Neptune cycles.
Finally, Steven Forrest explores the Moon and memory, how over time we lose track of facts but retain our emotional memory. “What survives is the internal, lunar distillation of all the experience we have truly digested.” What we gather up in this emotional, deeply resonating, inner lunar life, he believes, is what we carry with us as we exit this world and enter into the next incarnation.