How Bright is your Moon?

This February started with a beautiful Full Moon in the sign of Cancer (see sidereal chart below). This was no ordinary Full Moon: in addition to its alluring fullness, it was sitting comfortably in its own home of Cancer, in an intimate tête-à-tête with its dear friend Jupiter, while overtly exchanging glances with Mercury – to be found across the road, at his current Capricorn address. Not bad for the Moon! And pretty good for our collective psyche, since none of the “bad boys” of Vedic Astrology – Mars, Saturn, Rahu or Ketu – was throwing darts in its direction at this time.

Both Jupiter and Mercury are considered natural benefics – planets that exert a positive influence on whatever they aspect or conjoin, stabilizing, balancing and strengthening. Natural malefics do quite the opposite.

Sidereal chart for 3 February 2015, 16:08, Boulder, Colorado – in North Indian and Western form

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Two days ago some close friends of ours announced that their baby is on its way. At hearing the news, I felt drawn to have a closer look at what was happening in the sky. And so I realized that the beautiful Moon that we’ve seen this month is not a very common occurrence. Sure, the Moon becomes Full in Cancer once a year. But Jupiter can be found in Cancer only once every 12 years. In Vedic Astrology Jupiter is considered to be exalted in the sign of Cancer, making Cancer the place of maximum strength for Jupiter. This lends some extra punch to its positive influence on the Moon.

Anyone in the Indian subcontinent could tell you what a great blessing it is to be born at the time of a strong bright Moon! These people tend to enjoy more sukha in life. Sukha is the sanskrit term for happiness and contentment, translating more accurately as “good space”. They are also more likely to be healthy and successful.

In Vedic Astrology the Moon represents the manas – the emotional mind. It represents our emotions, our capacity to experience contentment, peace of mind and our ability to give and receive nurturance and support. It is the part of us that yearns for deep connection and gets attached to people or things that satisfy that need. On a physical level it represents our ability to digest food and be nourished by it.

This is why a strong natal Moon is a powerful indicator for happiness and health throughout life (‘though not the only factor at play). To put it simply: a strong natal Moon increases our capacity to overcome life’s challenges and struggles.

But what exactly makes the Moon “strong” according to Vedic Astrology?

A primary factor is the brilliance of the Moon – how dark or bright the Moon was at the time of birth. The Moon achieves maximum brilliance (and therefore strength) when it is full. The Moon is considered full for about 5 days around the exact Full Moon time (in the chart – 30 degrees on either side of the Full Moon). The exact Full Moon happens when the Moon is in direct opposition to the Sun. To exemplify, if the Sun is at 20 degrees of Capricorn, an exact Full Moon takes place when the Moon is at 20 degrees of Cancer.

The Moon is considered weakest at the New Moon (5 days around a New Moon). In between the Full Moon and the New Moon, the Moon is considered bright – which is good (especially if the Moon is waxing at the time), but not as powerful as the Full Moon.

If the Moon represents the mind, the Sun represents spirit. When the mind (Moon) is fully illumined by the light of the Spirit (Sun), we feel happier and more connected to everything around us.

Another factor that contributes to the strength of the Moon is the sign in which it resides at birth. The Moon rules the sign of Cancer. In Cancer, the Moon can express its qualities fully and in a balanced manner. It is the best sign for the Moon, according to Vedic Astrology. Here the Moon is said to be sva – at home. Other signs offer a less than ideal habitat to the Moon (their energies and the Moon’s energy do not blend perfectly well together), ranging from the downright terrible (Scorpio) to the “too much of a good thing can be bad for you” (Taurus).

In Vedic Astrology, the Moon is said to be debilitated in Scorpio – this means the Moon is very weak here and is unable to express its qualities in an easy, fluid manner.

Scorpio is a fixed water sign. Fixity and water are antithetical in nature and do not blend well together. Scorpio rules swamps and sewers – places where water stagnates. For us to experience emotional well-being, our emotions need to be able to flow easily. When emotions stagnate, they tend to fester and “go bad”, just like stagnant water does. Scorpio is also a sign of great intensity and depth. The Moon in Scorpio can lead to great intensity of emotion and excessive sensitivity which can make enjoying life more difficult.

At the opposite side of the spectrum from debilitation is exaltation.

The Moon is said to be exalted in Taurus. This makes a natal Moon in Taurus extra strong – which is good overall, but can also be a bit destabilizing (a “too much of a good thing” situation). This is why, ultimately, a Moon in its own sign of Cancer is preferable to a Moon exalted in Taurus.

Taurus is a fixed earth sign. Fixity and earth blend well together and a quality of great stability ensues. Our emotional mind craves stability and predictability. The unpredictable nature of life generates a deep sense of vulnerability and fear in it. A lot of us spend most our lives trying to insulate ourselves from this sense of vulnerability. Through everything we do we try to connect, belong and secure our future some way or another. We want to feel safe.

Taurus is a sign of material life and material attachments, in constant search of comfort and security. It can provide a solid ground to our innately unstable emotional minds.

As the mind attaches securely to various things or people, it becomes more stable and therefore happier. However, as various scriptures warn us – “attachment is the root cause of all suffering”. Nothing in this world lasts forever. The stronger the attachments, the bigger the suffering. Whenever attachments get broken, suffering automatically ensues and our minds can become severely destabilised. This is why the exaltation of the Moon in Taurus (while great in some ways) can turn out to be quite destabilising for the native at times.

When Moon and Jupiter combine in certain ways, a yoga is formed. Yogas are planetary combinations for success in the material world (though a few yogas for spirituality also exist). Right now the Moon and Jupiter form a very powerful Gaja Kesari yoga in the sky (since both planets involved are very strong). The more powerful a yoga the more likely it is to give the expected results.

Gaja Kesari (Elephant-Lion) yoga makes the native very popular and a real networker. The native has a natural ability to relate to people from all walks of life with ease and grace.

This blog might have left you wondering about the state of your natal Moon. Is it Full? Is it New? This is easily found online by doing a quick search in Google for “Moon phases” followed by entering your day of birth.

If you find the Moon was New or New-ish at the time of your birth – do not despair! The state of the Moon determines only one third of our potential for happiness in life. The other two thirds are determined by analyzing the fourth house of the chart and of the planet ruling the sign in that house – a topic I will discuss some other time. Vedic Astrology is nothing if not complex indeed!

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