The Full Moon is for letting things go. The New Moon is for asking things to come. Twice a month, we are offered the perfect moment to pause, to look skyward and inward and reflect on where we are, and where we want to go.
I have celebrated the full moon, and now new moon, in various iterations. Two days ago, a group of friends old and new gathered at my new home in downtown Tucson. We prepared a bonfire pit in the backyard, laid out the drawing materials, had a few drinks and munchies, and welcomed the departure from our normal to honor something a little more holy.
Some of my favorite full moon iterations, from sweat-lodge temazcal ceremonies in Ecuador to cacao ceremonies in Mexico to home-dug fire pits in backyards in Arizona, all have a few common themes. There is much to be learned when communing with others in lunar celebration, and carving out time for yourself and loved ones to honor the pull the moon has on our lives is like giving your soul room to breathe.
Building the Fire
A fire is both a catalyst and a destroyer; it brings and it takes, and it can help heighten a lunar celebration in any capacity. In Ecuador, we began our full moon ceremonies by piling 28 stones, called las abuelitas — the grandmothers — into a pile. Large and small sticks surrounded the rocks, creating a pyre for the flames to climb. As we lit the wood, each person brought their own stick–one they’d found in the brush– into the dancing flames and offered a wish, a prayer, to the fire.
As the fire raged, we would honor the flames. Saluting each of the directions– the east for fire, the south for water, the west for earth, the north for wind–invites the fire to be part of something bigger, something more than just heat. The fires in Ecuador were almost ten feet tall, and they warmed the soul in the body. But these fires aren’t always feasible, especially in a city in the States.
In the case you cannot build a giant fire around 28 stones, you can also create a small bonfire pit just by digging in a burn-safe area. In the desert, this can be tricky, but after clearing shrubs, dried plants, and brush from the area, and making sure there are no tree branches up above, you can typically find a way to make a space for little flames. If you’re in an apartment, or in an more urban area, perhaps even using a grill, a chiminea, a fireplace, or even just a circle of candles arranged in a living room could all suffice. The ceremony comes in communing with the flame–watching it dance uninhibited–while honoring the moonlight above.
Prepare Some Tunes
Not everyone is a musician, but everyone can sing. As someone who has struggled with singing in public my whole life, whether through karaoke or school performances, this hurdle is not easy for me to overcome. And yet, I’m working on it. I’ve met a handful of amazing choral leaders over the last year, folks who lead chants and songs in their communities. These folks have taught me their own chants, inherited from other people or places, and these chants have become part of my small repertoire of songs to lead others in. When preparing a song, it’s important to learn the story of the song. Who created it, what was it made for. Knowing this brings an intentionality to the words. Here is a beautiful website with call and response chants for practice.
If you are not sure about practicing chants, you can also just remind yourself of some of the lyrics of your most loved songs. Most of us have a few…but some work better than others. “Every Night in My Dreams” might not shine best in this moment. But, “Black Bird” or “The Wind” by Yusuf Stevens or “Jack A Roe” by the Grateful Dead are all beautiful songs, with repeating choruses, that can be taught and sung around a fire. Try to memorize a song or two, or at least have the lyrics on your phone or a paper. Music brings people together, and voices raised together in a howl toward the moon build a ladder of sound from us up through the atmosphere.
If possible, try to gather a few instruments. A drum like a jimbe, or even just a hand drum, can add a great backbeat. I don’t yet know how to play the guitar, but will be adding a song or two to my own practice on that instrument shortly. Triangles, pots and pans, two pieces of wood. Your sister’s boyfriend’s random didgeridoo…you never know what instruments people may have lying around, and what they can actually play may surprise and delight you.
Bring out the Colors
Finally, let your crafty side run free. Paper, pens, markers, stickers. These lunar phases are moments to tap into intentions and to actively reflect. For the New Moon, the intentions for each moon, no matter the sign, come with their own guiding principles. Most recently, the New Moon in Pisces in early March was good for imagination, inner happiness, psychic sensitivity, trust/mystic awareness, spiritual healing, and compassion. There are various websites that can give you more details about the particular moon and what to focus on.
Take time to draw, visualize, note the things that you want to bring to you. Create a visual in your mind and on paper. Be as concrete as possible. When with others, you can share these intentions out loud, or simply keep them confined to the paper to burn. As you approach the bonfire, release the paper into the flames, and watch the intentions crumple and crisp. Let them be listened to by the universe.
For the Full Moon, it is a time to release that which does not serve. This most recent Full Moon two days ago, in Libra, was also a Super Moon, meaning that it holds a certain extra weight of power. It was the third super moon in a series of them this year. This particular moon was a time to ask for answers to doubts, to be charged by the Libra balances and harmony, and to not hide from the parts of yourself that have been creeping in the shadows. Let the shadows see the light. In writing down that which does not serve, and sending it the fire to burn, there is a release, emotional and physical, that the moon can hold.
Your Turn: New Moon April 5th
It may seem daunting to play a New or Full Moon party. You might feel like you’re not ___ enough: hippie enough, earthy enough, musical enough, artsy enough, blah enough. A secret: None of us is enough, and therefore we’re all enough, at the same time. I’ve been with folks who have led moon ceremonies for years, and still they stumble through meditations, laugh in off-key songs, and don’t know how to get people to draw their fears. It’s all in the trying, the organizing, the creating of the space for this time to feel sacred. April 5th brings the next New Moon, that time to ask for what’s new to come to you. It’s a particularly strong time to reevaluate our relationship with ourselves, to dive deep into what we actually want, vs. what we’ve been telling ourselves, and others, we want. Use this time. Call some friends. Prepare some flames. Gather the papers. And sing to the moon.
If you want a lovely playlist for background music, check out Women of the Moon on Spotify.