Dark or New Moon?
In order to avoid any obscurities, in Paganism, at least that which has grown out of English-speaking countries, the term "dark moon" has become widely accepted to refer to this period when the Moon isn't visible in the sky. Dissimilarly, the term "new moon" is used solely to refer to the crescent moon (which is also called Diana's crescent since the Moon in this period is connected to the divine figure of the Maiden, and the goddess Diana is known in mythology practically as the archetype of the maiden/virgin). So, by using the phrase dark moon, any ambivalence is avoided.
Basically, the notion of the dark moon is more a Pagan term than it is an astronomical one and it refers exclusively to that time when it is not possible to see the Moon from the Earth. The night of the celebration of the dark moon is called an Esbat, as is the celebration of any other lunar phase, but just to clarify that the celebration at hand is that of precisely this lunar phase, we will be talking about the dark moon Esbat.
The Meaning of the Dark Moon in Paganism
|Hrefngast - Hecate|
|TALONABRAXAS - Night|
of the Moon
The time of the dark moon is therefore a time of worshiping the Dark Goddess and recognizing the darker sides of life. This is mainly done through meditations, introspection, asking key (often difficult) questions in order to reach necessary insight. I would like to emphasize, and this is purely a personal opinion, that insight cannot be anything but necessary. That is to say, I do not believe that a piece of insight can come at the wrong time. If something is perceived willingly (emphasis on willingly because I believe that another person's will should not manipulate ours and that such manipulation mainly has only negative consequences), then the person at hand must surely have been ready for this. They could not have comprehended this, or even have thought in this direction were they not ready.
Some believe that the dark moon is not an appropriate time to do magic because, as the Moon is not visible, its power is at its lowest. In contrast to the dark moon, the full moon represents the peak of the Moon's strength. However, this way of thinking is not equally logical for everyone. If one sees the lunar phases as equally worthy phases which correspond to equally important aspects of the Goddess, then neither lunar phase is more ore less potent than another. It's simply a matter of a change in the type of potency. For example, during the first quarter (the waxing phase) of the Moon, it is appropriate to perform magic that will invite good things into our lives. The full moon is the peak of the waxing period so relatively similar magic will be performed during it. During the last quarter (the waning phase), the appropriate kind of magic is that which drives away harmful forces from our lives. The dark moon, as the symbolical end do this waning period of the Moon, has its own energy and is appropriate for a specific type of work which is similar to that done during the last quarter. What I am referring to is that type of magic which focuses on destroying unwanted things in our lives and driving away negativity (be it in the form of relationships, traits, habits, fears and so on), and logically apotropaic and defensive magic. Some also use this time to strengthen their magical and psychic abilities and for certain types of divination. The latter is based on the belief that the full and dark moon are contrary to one another in terms of their energy (cosmic forces being at their peak during the full moon and chaotic ones during the dark moon), but that they have on thing in common. That is to say, they are both transitional points in the lunar cycle. Because of this, it is said that both nights are situated in a moment beyond time. These transitional periods are known in folklore as times when the veil between worlds is thinnest, which makes it easier to come into contact with divine forces, our ancestors etc. during this period than others. Divination is more potent then because of the same reason. Of course, depending on what you wish to find out, you will choose both the method of divination and the appropriate time. So you probably won't ask any types of questions on the night of a dark moon, but rather those that correspond to its chaotic nature.
When devotional practice is at hand, it is usually thought that evoking i.e. calling upon the Dark Goddess is much more desirable than invoking her (as in inviting into a person) considering her nature. Her extreme intensity can be too much for one person to handle, but when all this energy is shared among a group of people, or when one comes into indirect contact with it, it's as if the body determines on its own how much of this energy it is capable of soaking in at that moment. Some will prefer working in a group because of this, while others will prefer to work alone given that the insights one has tend to be personal in nature. After all, everyone will experience the energy of the dark moon in their own way.
Although dark moon Esbats are not typical Pagan celebrations; they aren't filled with dancing, celebrations, general merriment and so on, they are celebrated in their own way which has its own charm and practical value. These periods are useful for recognizing the hidden parts of the world and our own personalities. But of course, in moderate doses.
Given that the night of the dark moon is approaching as I write this post, I can only wish you a pleasurable Esbat and much productive work! I hope that you will be able to apply the information you read in this post during this or any other upcoming Esbat.
Until next time. Yours,