The phases of the Moon can be seen to reflect the aspects of the Triple Goddess. In Witchcraft there are Esbat rituals to celebrate the Lunar changes in relation to the Goddess and to utilize the distinctive energy that accompanies each phase. Most Practitioners are familiar with the Esbats performed at the Full Moon, honoring the Goddess as Mother, and at the New Moon, honoring the Goddess as Crone. In my books, Green Witchcraft and Green Witchcraft II, I present sample Esbat rituals for these phases, and in my Grimoire for the Green Witch, I additionally include rituals for the Dark Moon and the Sidhe (or Faerie) Moon, which is the second Dark Moon in the same solar month. The question of just what exactly constitutes a New Moon has turned up in various places, including Internet websites and discussion groups, workshops at Pagan Gatherings, and conversations with Seekers. The New Moon appears to be a subjective term, with many people being unable to pinpoint just when it is that this phase occurs. Is the New Moon the same as the Dark Moon? Or is it that thin sliver of Moon just before becoming totally Dark, or the thin sliver of Moon just after being totally Dark? If the New Moon and the Dark Moon are the same, then why have two terms for this one phase of the Moon?
I see no reason why the New Moon cannot have two definitions depending on a person's intuition and preference. It can be that last sliver of light before a Dark Moon, when it represents the Crone Goddess as the Teacher of the Mysteries and Ancient Wisdoms. The Dark Moon that follows this has no light showing in the night sky, and to me represents the Hidden Face of the Goddess, when She is honored as Queen of the Underworld, Queen of Faerie, and Queen of Witches. The New Moon can also be that first sliver of light after the Dark Moon when it represents the Maiden Goddess as the Initiator of new beginnings and the impetus of regeneration. Strangely, the Maiden Goddess is rarely addressed by an Esbat ritual in most Traditions. Instead, the main Esbats tend to be those of the Full and New Moon (whatever that may be in a particular Tradition). Since the phases of the Moon are used in magical practice to determine what type of spells to conduct as well as which aspect of the Goddess to honor, every aspect may be honored in ritual in whatever form that ritual takes. It is simply a matter of personal perspective.
During my childhood, my family lived the Craft more than celebrating it with organized and detailed rituals. Sometimes the rituals we celebrate feel so normal and routine that it is easy to assume there is no ritual at all being expressed, but this is not entirely true. Lighting incense and candles and setting out a bowl of milk or cup of wine for the Fairies on the night of the Full Moon is a ritual. Gazing at the Moon and noting Her many faces and phases is a ritual. Holding up a cup to the Moon in blessing and pouring some of the contents on the ground as a libation, then drinking the rest, is a ritual. Creating impromptu songs, poems, or music sung to the Moon, performed and released with blessing to the Goddess, is a ritual. These are all rituals done without ringing bells, setting up altars, or putting on ritual robes. These are the rituals of every day living, when the magic of each moment is savored and released so that the energy of living flows unhindered to be carried in harmony with the tides of Nature and the Universe.
Over time, I elaborated on my family rituals, and I enjoy that subtle sense of community brought by knowing that there are also others around the planet celebrating the cycles of the Old Religion. But when attending and participating in public rituals and Open Circles, my personal sense of lunar timing is tailored to accommodate that of other people. The public forum generally focuses on eight Sabbats and on Full Moon Esbats, where Open Circles are used for training newcomers, doing group energy work, and performing healings. The New Moon is usually considered to be the Dark Moon in public ritual, but to me the Dark Moon is not the same. In more recent times, Open Circle Esbats that honor the New (Dark) Moon are becoming more common, and these are generally used for a sense of community, for meditation, and for spiritual journey work. But Esbats are also a focus for activities involving spell work and divination, and the energy of the lunar phase is important. The sliver of light both prior to and after the Dark Moon are times of specific energies, and unless addressing a group goal, most magical workings are actually done in private by the Practitioner, and using the correct phase of the Moon is critical to success.
When looking at magical work, the Moon phases for moving energy are those of Waxing—when the Moon is growing bright, Full—when the Moon is at its brightest, Waning—as the light diminishes, and Dark—as the Moon becomes virtually invisible in the night sky. The Half Moon—when the light and dark are equal—is a time of stasis and rarely used in magic except for maintaining balance or restoring it. To me, the New Moon cannot be the same as the Dark Moon because the energies used for magical work are different between the last sliver of light, the total darkness, and the first sliver of light. It feels more appropriate to use the last sliver of light for the magic of endings, and the first sliver of light for the magic of beginnings, with the darkness as a time for shadow work and communion with spirits and the entities of other worlds.
The initiatory energy of the New Moon of the Maiden Goddess is a good time to start new projects, move in new directions, and open new doors. The lunar energy grows to fulfillment with the coming of the Full Moon, when the strength of the lunar tides affects the Earth the strongest in the tides of the sea and the motion of energy. Spells done at the Full Moon push a desired result into happening and the goal is envisioned as attained.
The second Full Moon in the same solar month is called a Blue Moon, when spiritual power is increased and fills the Practitioner with a stronger energy for the realization of goals. When the Full Moon is a russet or wine color, it is called the Blood Moon. While some people use this as name for the Moon particularly in October during hunting season, I only use the term only when the Moon actually appears reddish and the lunar energy is augmented with a dynamic power that could easily spill into aggressiveness. This is a good Moon to use in spells needing an extra jolt of energy to get a difficult task accomplished or for speeding up what needs to be done.
The Full Moon is the time for creating charged water that can be used for rituals and spell casting, for cleansing and purifying, for anointing and consecrating. To create the charged water, hold or position a bowl of spring water so that the reflection of the Full Moon is cast upon it. Then call upon the Goddess to bring the energy of the Moon into the water, so that just as the Moon affects the tides of the sea, the charged water will draw upon the lunar power to affect the energy of spells and materials consecrated with it, pulling intentions into reality. The rose water may be added to charged water for purity and love, a crystal can be added to enhance the transmitting energy, and the bowl can be rotated three or nine times in the moonlight to bind the energy. Above all else, personal intuition will determine what goes into the making of charged water. The power of the Full Moon can be felt two days prior to and after the actual Full Moon, depending on how it looks. If the Moon appears lopsided on the second night after the actual time of fullness, then its completion energy has ended and the Moon has entered into the time of waning energy.
From Full, the Moon progresses through the Waning Phase, becoming gradually darker. This is a time for spells of decrease (such as reducing debt), removing of obstacles (such as clearing the way for a desired change), and banishing unwanted issues (such as illness or emotional distress). When the Moon darkens to the point where there is only a sliver of light left, this is a time for honoring the Goddess as Crone, for doing banishing spell work that sees the removal as completed, and for cleansings, magical studies, and divinations.
The Dark Moon shows no light, and is called the Hidden Face of the Goddess. With the Goddess in Her Shadow aspect, this Esbat is not a time for spell casting or magical workings, but for journeying to the Underworld, to the Otherworld, and to the Astral Planes. It is also a time for gaining knowledge and understanding through meditation, for communing with the spirits and entities around us, and for seeking an otherworldly companion. In the latter case, the best time for a Companion Quest (found in Grimoire for the Green Witch) is during the Sidhe Moon when the Dark Moon offers an increase of intuitive power and psychic energy so that occult wisdom may be accessed with greater ease. The Dark Moon facilitates the opening of doors between the worlds—but the Practitioner must remember to close what is opened before concluding the ritual.
Here is an Esbat ritual for the Maiden Goddess that can be performed at the first sliver of moonlight after the Dark Moon. After the Circle is cast and the Quarters are called, chant the name of the Goddess as Maiden (such as Selene or Cynthia, Diana or Artemis, Elaine, Rhiannon, Brigid, Nimue, Delia, Kore, Persephone, Phoebe, Athena, Anatha, or Gerd). With open arms raised, say:
Read something inspirational with the energy of fresh starts and new hope; sing; meditate on the joy and optimism brought through a new beginning; or perform spell work that initiates a new project or goal, perhaps with the intent of accomplishment by the time the Moon is Full. When finished, raise open arms and say:
Proceed to the Simple Feast, having a bit of food and beverage after blessing these in the names of the God and the Goddess, then farewell the Quarters and open the Circle.