The Dark Moon holds an interesting place within witchcraft. Far more poetic and filled with mystery, just the name alone conjures thoughts of the unknown and makes it seem more plausible that truly nefarious acts are being done beneath its shadow than at any other point in the Lunar cycle. After all, just the name Dark Moon means that this night belongs to those of a more misunderstood bent, those who more comfortably dwell in night, alone, with naught but starlight and candle flame to light their way, right?
Not so much. While it may seem tempting to buy into ideas that dark and light have some sort of actual meaning within witchcraft, they don’t. Especially when you look at witchcraft from a historical and/or modern Pagan approach. Dark and light with any sort of implied connotation of good and evil is childish at best, and purposely ignorant at worst. The Dark Moon is just one of eight points within the Lunar cycle and there is nothing intrinsically good, bad, or adhering to a misunderstood teenage witchcraft aesthetic about it or any other Lunar phase.
But, Dark Moon magick is a different sort of beast than that of Full Moon magick. The energy of the Dark Moon has a different effect upon us, pulling us deep within ourselves. And what lays inside can be scary.
For that reason, use of the Dark Moon in witchcraft tends to fall within the following categories. This isn’t due to any sort of association because they seem like a better fit, rather this is what experience has taught us, what countless witches have learned from living in tune with the Moon and working Her tides for decades. Each phase of the Lunar cycle -Dark, Waxing Crescent, Waxing Gibbous, Full, Waning Gibbous, Waning Crescent- has a distinct feel to it, differentiating it from the other points of the cycle, and making it more effectively suited to specific magickal application.*
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At the most basic, divination is any system that provides the diviner with a snapshot of the energetic currents surrounding an issue and/or situation. The information provided (the snapshot) is then interpreted to provide insight and guidance. This information may focus upon outside factors, such as events and people, or it may focus upon inside factors, such as fears and motivations.
The tools of that system can be any variety of things, such as reading Tarot cards, drawing runes, throwing the bones, scrying, or deliberately seeking portents and signs. What tool, if any, is used is not important for it is simply that -a tool- a means for the witch to more accurately focus their power to attain that snapshot and then interpret it. The system one uses for any tool is also irrelevant. It could be traditional; a unique system the witch develops or adopts; or the witch may work purely off of intuition, allowing the tool to speak as it will in that moment to the question asked of it. None of these systems is better. The only thing that matters is that, whichever tool and system for that tool you use, you are effective. If you’re not effective, then you must change something. That may mean trying a different system, a different tool, or it may even mean taking a step back and focusing your efforts on building your skill. That, too, the building of divinatory ability and skill, is very much appropriate beneath a Dark Moon.
Travelling is but one of many names applied to this technique. Other names include: astral travel, crossing the hedge, soul journeying, soul flight, and sending the fetch.** Regardless of name, the process is essentially the same: one detangles their consciousness from their body and sends it elsewhere. That “elsewhere” typically is the Otherworld (also called the spirit world and the astral plane.) However, one can also travel about the physical plane and, should the travelling occur while asleep, one may travel throughout the dream world (which is commonly called lucid dreaming; note that travelling to the Otherworld while asleep is very much possible and while it does happen, it is not the explanation for the weird dreams you have. Those are just dreams and they’re all on you.)
How one goes about travelling is complicated in that it is a process one learns by doing. The exact steps cannot be put into words, yet there are numerous visualizations that can help with the detangling process. Essentially, any visualization where you calm yourself, enter a trance, and then visualize yourself embarking on a journey (such as by opening a door and heading down a very long flight of stairs, or by climbing an impossibly large tree, or by jumping into a body of water and swimming through to the other side) will suffice. You can also enlist the aid of any spirit familiars you have that, on the archetypal level, are psychopomps. Various birds, such as sparrows or ravens would be appropriate, as would, too, be various water-loving creatures, such as turtles and dolphins, or land creatures such as dogs and horses.
Considering that though there is a stronger spiritual rather than physical focus, the intrinsic focus of the Dark Moon is inward so you may experience greater insight and objectivity as to who you are as a person and your own motivation. This is why this is such a great time for shadow work, though if such is undertaken at this time, advice follows to attempt to make as much progress analyzing and deciphering your inner being as the Full Moon may force you to wrap up that Work quickly -with heightened emotions to help wash away debris and clear the way for you to continue forward.
Recently, this term has been tossed about too loosely to refer to any sort of self-care. Considering that most of the time, shadow work involves you curled up in a ball and sobbing, this truly isn’t accurate. Within witchcraft, shadow most commonly*** refers to an inner aspect of oneself. This aspect is comprised of the parts of our personality and experiences from our past that we must face in order to move forward. These personality traits and experiences are ones that hinder ourselves, that make like needlessly difficult, and that, in facing, we become stronger and better able to meet the other challenges that life has thrown our way. It is very important to note that one does not (and cannot) defeat their shadow. Rather, one confronts their shadow, facing it, seeing it for what it is, seeing themselves for who they are, and then accepts the wisdom gained in doing so. This is a means of joining pieces of one’s soul, of reclaiming bits oneself that may have been lost due to trauma or fear. It is messy work, but it is crucial work. At the very least, shadow work is necessary because it makes you a better witch. It makes the power course through you more strongly and allows you to send it forth with greater accuracy.
* The specific feel and magickal application of each point of the Lunar cycle is further focused based upon what astrological sign the Moon is currently in. However, understanding that each phase is different and is most effectively used to different ends is a sufficient base for beginning to more effectively use Lunar energy and timing within your witchcraft practice.
**Note that “sending the fetch” also has other meanings, depending upon what it is that the witch refers to as their fetch.
***Shadow may also refer to the sort of collective consciousness that the Land holds, it’s memory, so to speak. That memory is added to with everything placed into the ground and by everything it sees, and may be accessed through plants (which may each be more acutely attuned to certain components of shadow than others.)
Throwing the Bones
Whether you're struggling with something spiritually or in everyday life, bone divination can highlight areas where focus is needed and identify alternative ways forward.