The lunar memory palace: A visionary exercise
Start observing how the Moon affects you personally by keeping a daily journal, taking notes of where the Moon is transiting in the zodiac
Words Elodie St-Onge-Aubut
Imagine yourself walking into a vast circle where the space retains the impressions of everything that ever was. You enter this space of primordial knowing through your body, the vehicle of your senses. Ancestors and spirits caught in perpetual dialogues rise to greet you as you cross the boundary of the night illuminated by the Moon. Hearing their chatter, it informs you of the landscape and colours of the past and future. There may be unresolved needs and demands made at the conjuncture of significant points in time that are imprinted into the space. Things may have to be sacrificed and sanctified, as promises were made and broken. Lands were conquered, while lust, love, power and death dictated the memories of generations beyond the grave and into the gold of eternity.
A flicker of light tricks your eyes into seeing dancing shadows reflected in the watery expanse, stretching beyond your vision and into your body as sensations. The sounds and smells inside the circle initiate your being into saturated convulsions, coupling you to the space illuminated by time. Inside your eyes, you get a glimpse of fur from an unbound animal caught in its own seasonal dance and merge with it. The land inhabited by secrets witnesses the motions in and out of the void like a garland of life, death and everything that exists in-between.
Sections of the circle feel intimate. You recognise the relief and acknowledge the familiarity. You can somehow fit your body perfectly in the space, as if it were made for you, or you were born from it — like a tide that conforms to the polished hollow inside a rock where she has crashed a million times before. Pressing on the edges with your hands, you leave an imprint for future reference. You recall a memory through a feeling and birth it into a shape that will inform your future. You move around the circle guided by a knowing that has its own erotic logic. Headless, you find your way into the space with the inner pull of your instinctive sight.
In the familiar space, you meet others born of the same place at different times. What allows you to communicate is what binds you to particular sections of this circle. You cross paths in a complex network of dialogues like parts of the same sky embodied, weaving parallel stories into shapes.
Locating yourself in the various sections contained within, other impressions wash over you and the original narrative is lost. The knowing is empty and full, bright and dark, familiar and unknown. Reason escapes you as you enter the night that breathes all the knowing into the rhythmic pulse of your blood, offering direct access to what came from and before you, from the womb of inception that animates the night sky.
The past, like water, carries a charge. It changes vessels while remaining essentially the same. Shifting, you move in and out of darkness night after night, where you have been and always will be. Dreamtime is a place where the future emerges out of memories. A mnemonic oracle triggered by the ever-changing light of the Moon, which reveals information drawn from your personal well of sensations. While this information exists outside of you, it gets clarified through your own personal archetypal language. Opening the space, getting a hold of a thread triggers synchronicities that allows for the making of your life. Receptivity is your ability and willingness to take the information into yourself without striving, without judgment, and reflect it back into the world.
Ancient lunar calendars
When astrology sceptics make remarks about the validity of astrology, I often remind them that humankind has been using the movement of the planets to contextualise their existence on Earth since the dawn of time. When early humans started to keep track of time by engraving bones with 28 and 29 notches, which is the number of days contained in a synodic month (from New Moon to New Moon), they were essentially doing astrology. The earliest artifact found of potential evidence that humans were tracking the movement of the Moon is from an animal bone found in Bilzingsleben, Germany, containing 28 notches, believed to have been carved around 350,000-300,000 BCE. These calendar bones have been found all over Europe, Western Asia, Australia and Africa, suggesting we are clearly dealing with a universal phenomenon.
We find even more evidence of the important role time-keeping tools played through calendar bones, carvings and cave paintings once Europe entered the Upper Palaeolithic period. One of the most famous examples of these lunar calendars is from a bas-relief of a female figure discovered in France dating from around 20,000 BCE, named the Venus of Laussel. The figure is of a woman standing with one hand on her belly, suggesting pregnancy or fertility. In her other hand she is holding a crescent shaped object, most likely a horn, which is marked with thirteen clear notches. The relic was entirely covered in red ochre. The colour and the number of notches on the horn is thought to represent the number of moons, the number of menstrual cycles in one year, or the number of days from menstruation to ovulation.
We can speculate that these lunar calendars not only served as simple time-keeping devices, they were likely also part of a wider framework. The Moon’s gravitational pull has a powerful influence on the Earth’s biology, including its inhabitants. The tides of the ocean are regulated by the Moon, exerting their own power over the lifecycles of marine and terrestrial creatures living in coastal areas. The Moon also influences life with her light and, for ancient people, the difference between a Full Moon and a New Moon could have easily meant the difference between life and death.
The meaning of the Moon in astrology
The Moon in astrology is primarily interpreted as being receptive. This may be due to the fact that she receives the light of the Sun and reflects it back to us. In Electional, Magical, Horary and Mundane forms of astrology, the Moon is seen as boosting the signal of the other planetary bodies she comes into contact with through aspects. The Moon tends to serve as a mediator between the slower moving planets and the Earth, which is sometimes conceptualised as the sublunar world.
In Aristotelian physics, which greatly influenced classical astronomy and the practice of astrology, it was believed that only what lived under the Moon from an earthly perspective was susceptible to change and decay. The cycle of the Moon is so quick that she came to be associated with the ever-changing natural world here on Earth, regulating generations and the corruption of matter. The region above the Moon, where the other six visible planets are located, was thought to be regular and unchanging.
Much of the modern interpretations for the Moon used in astrology today come from the same principles. The Moon being sponge-like, absorbing the influences around her, regulates or deregulates our bodies and behaviours, depending on circumstances. If the Sun is linked to the objective and clarifying light of reason, the Moon is associated with subjectivity, arising from our immediate instinctual and emotional responses to our physical environment. We may try very hard to approach our lives with the ideal solar principles of rationality but, ultimately, we cannot remove our subjective filters. Our early years, our upbringing, and the ways in which we experienced nurturing as a child are often seen through the Moon placement in our birth chart, describing what we require emotionally and physically to regulate ourselves. It is therefore no surprise that the Moon finds her home in the sign of Cancer, which is also connected to memory, legacy, ancestry and the genetic and environmental factors that make us who we are. The stories that are imprinted in our genes and in our memories from lived experience have a powerful influence in shaping our behaviour, long after the events have come to pass. The Moon with her retentive qualities has the ability to hold onto and reflect back to us much more than just the light of the Sun. She is an amplifier, a storyteller, an archivist, a guide illuminating the dancing forms that can only be seen after sunset. The diffused and muddling light of the Moon sharpens all the senses, while the imagination tries to complete the darkening landscape. Then and only then, can we start to weave the stories revealed to us through our senses, access our animal bodies and the insights that reside at the bottom of our intuitive well.
If we imagine everything living under the Moon as basking in a connective web that links bodies, subjective experiences and stories together, it also means that we are in a constant dialogue with our environment, whether we are aware of it or not. We cannot objectively remove ourselves from experiencing our body through our senses. The unconscious receives information and stores it away until it is ready to be retrieved under circumstances that allow for better engagement with the material. It is through subjective modalities that we get to dialogue with the unconscious, the invisible and the information that lays dormant under our awareness. This material will often filter through our dreams, our creativity, our emotions, intuition, and sometimes through our bodies as symptoms. This is also why engaging with our unconscious is an important part of being human. It can give us access to critical information about the state of our being and how the environment and people around us affects our lives, through subtle reactions that often bypass our logic. For this to be possible, the mind and body must be in a receptive mode. Just like the Moon receives the light of the Sun and mirrors it back to us, it becomes easier to access the unconscious realm when we empty ourselves and let our mind be like a reflective lake, or like a cup waiting to be filled.
Dreaming: A lunar modality
The state of receptivity needed to communicate with the unconscious, whether it be individual or collective, is most often accessed while dreaming. From a psychological perspective, dreaming can help regulate our moods and negative emotions by consolidating memories and processing problems from our waking life. Physiologically, deep sleep supports healing through the release of hormones that helps the body repair itself. In many ancient cultures the dream-state played a significant role and was thought to carry imperative knowledge. One of the most common methods in the ancient world was the method of dream incubation, where the seeker slept in a holy place to receive a cure for their ailments in a dream. Oracles delivered through incubation were thought to come from underworld powers. These practices have been known to humankind for at least 5000 years, according to written records.
Unfortunately, the purpose of night time is underrated in the modern world. It is becoming increasingly difficult to acknowledge the natural rhythms of our body, which are closely connected to the cycle of the Sun and the Moon. Computers, televisions and telephone screens have hijacked our world as the momentum of modern living demands more productivity, more work, while consumerism and material success stand above all else. Thanks to artificial light, we now have the ability to keep going day and night in an attempt to transcend the cyclical order of nature, reaching some kind of immortal state. Natural light has been replaced by the light of our screens and directly affects our circadian rhythms, putting many of us in a permanent state of anxiety.
You can avoid the effects of artificial light on your circadian cycle by unplugging from your screens an hour before bed. Actively engaging with lunar modalities begins by acknowledging the natural cycles of light and darkness. Creating an atmosphere that is auspicious for sleeping and relaxation will increase your ability to dream, to heal and to more extensively hear what your body and your unconscious is wanting to communicate to you.
Another thing to consider as we contemplate the realities of the subjective realm we live in, is how the rhythms of the Moon moving through her cycle influence the type of information our emotional, psychic and physical bodies have access to at any given time. Does the Moon have the same effect on everyone or are there more subtle fluctuations depending on our personal birth chart? Are there sections of sky where the Moon travels that are more aligned with you? What happens when you start engaging with particular sections of the sky via the Moon’s monthly cycle?
One of the best ways to start observing how the Moon affects you personally is to keep a daily journal, taking notes of where the Moon is transiting in the zodiac, writing down your dreams and noting your emotional and physical state for that day. After a few months of Moon journaling, you may start to see patterns emerging in connection with your emotions, your habits and your cravings, helping you to understand your own cyclical nature. The Moon, being the fastest moving planet from our perspective, means she is the easiest one to utilise as an astrological time-keeping device. Her significations being related to our body, our emotions and our overall subjective experience, means that understanding her cycle is a simple way to understand and work with astrology.
Since we are dealing with lunar consciousness and the realm of the unconscious, other types of subjective engagements could also be explored in order to connect with the imaginal and the surrounding ecology. Trance states are particularly conducive to access more primal spaces, spirit realms and the unconscious. A trance state is an altered form of awareness in which one is neither fully awake nor fully asleep. The trance state involves traveling between the world of the conscious and unconscious mind. Entering a trance state can help you bypass your critical mind in order to access deeper forms of knowing. Once you have entered this in-between place, you can engage more easily with various creative practices, helping you tease out information without your ego getting involved. Automatic writing, drawing, painting on large pieces of paper, movement, dance or astral travelling are all particularly easy to do under a mild trance state.
There are many techniques used to enter alternate states of consciousness, such as breathwork, self-hypnosis, rhythmic sounds, movements, prayers, meditation, visualisation, or certain smells or incense. Requesting the support of powers like Mene, Selene or Hecate, who are associated with the Moon, can also help you transition from a normal state of consciousness into a liminal one. In ancient Greece, Hecate was associated with crossroads, and by extension with realms outside or beyond the world of the living. She is frequently characterised as being an “in-between” goddess and is closely connected to the New Moon, which is the darkest time of the month.
Creating a ritual space can be a simple way to structure your practice of engaging with the Moon. A well-constructed ritual often encompasses some, if not most, of the components needed to transition from mundane to liminal reality. You can start with a very simple set-up that includes two candles and a ritual prayer to Mene, which can be found in the Greek Magical Papyri and goes as follows:
“I call upon you who have all forms and many names, double-horned goddess Mene, whose form no one knows except him who made the entire world, ΙΑO, the one who shaped you into the twenty-eight shapes of the world so that they might complete every figure and distribute breath to every animal and plant, that it might flourish, you who wax from obscurity into light and wane from light into darkness.
“And the first companion of your name is silence,
the second a popping sound,
the third groaning,
the fourth hissing,
the fifth a cry of joy,
the sixth moaning,
the seventh barking,
the eighth bellowing,
the ninth neighing,
the tenth a musical sound,
the eleventh a sounding wind,
the twelfth a wind-creating sound,
the thirteenth a coercive sound,
the fourteenth a coercive emanation from perfection.
“Ox, vulture, bull, beetle, falcon, crab, dog,
wolf, serpent, horse, she-goat, asp, ibex, he-goat,
baboon, cat, lion, leopard, fieldmouse, deer, multiform,
virgin, torch, lightning, garland, a herald’s wand, child, key.
“I have said your signs and symbols of your name so that you might hear me, because I pray to you, mistress of the whole world! Hear me, the stable one, the mighty one.”
Once you have called on the powers of the Moon, you can make a small offering of mugwort, or any other type of lunar plant that is ethically harvested, and engage with your practice, whether it be drawing, writing, movement or journeying. Ideally, you’ll want to have a way to record your experience either during or after your session so that you can utilise the material later and remember what came through.
The Moon had a huge influence in shaping our world and societies around the globe. Ancient people saw the Moon as the source of all fertility. Cultures and traditions were built around her cycle, from the simple wisdom of the Farmers’ Almanac to the more complex calendrical structures of the soli-lunar calendars. As matriarchal societies were replaced by patriarchal ones, Moon worship got eclipsed. However, far from being lost, the wisdom surrounding the influence of the Moon on human affairs is constantly available to us through observation and receptivity.
The Moon’s gravitational pull affecting the tides and women’s menstrual cycles are simply a few significant examples of the power she exerts on our physical world. The more subtle manifestations of her influence can be deciphered through observing and engaging with her cycle. More extensively, returning to more primary human activities like growing food or being in nature can help you reconnect to her rhythms and gain a new understanding of the interconnectedness of life.
The benefits of familiarising yourself with subjective and lunar modalities are manifold, including learning to sharpen your senses and intuition while more consciously integrating your needs and desires, creating more space for your personal rhythm. Subjective engagement, whether it be through dream recall or working with the Moon through more complex rituals, means learning to communicate with your instinct and with the ecology and the spirit world around you while weaving your own personal mythology. It also means acknowledging the natural cycle of night and day and paying attention to the ebb and flow of your body. In a society that over emphasises the solar principles of productivity and success, the more passive lunar modalities can serve to re-establish a greater sense of equilibrium and satisfaction in your life.