The Weekend Tarot Reading: The Moon

Editor’s Note: If you want to experiment with tarot cards and don’t have any, we provide a free tarot spread generator using the Celtic Wings spread, which is based on the traditional Celtic Cross spread. This article tells you how to use the spread. You can visit Sarah’s website here. –efc

By Sarah Taylor

I think I’m going to have to employ my son, Noah, as my official ‘Weekend Tarot Reading Card-Puller’. He obviously has a certain knack. Today, when he saw me shuffling the deck in preparation for writing this article, he asked me if he could choose the card, so I fanned the pack in front of him, and he pulled The Moon. On the day that we have a Full Moon. Perfect.

The Moon - RWS Tarot deck.
The Moon from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot deck. The Moon is the eighteenth card of the tarot's major arcana.

There is a certain ‘slipperiness’ to The Moon. It is as if the world that it portrays, and the mood that emanates from that, are off kilter — somewhat awry — which I find entirely in keeping with what the card symbolises.

Picture yourself in an unpopulated, rural landscape on a night when the Moon is full in a cloudless sky. Perhaps you’ve been in just that situation, in which case you will know what I mean when I say that the light that the Moon emits is deceptive. Contrasted with those nights when the Moon is absent, a Full Moon can seem unusually bright. The landscape stands out in relief. Trees and rocks throw shadows. The light catches the back of a passing owl or mouse.

When I am in the heart of the South African bushveld far away from towns that throw their light into the sky, a Full Moon is exciting because I am able to experience my surroundings in a different light, so to speak. Things look unfamiliar, and the lines between objects are more fluid than they are in daylight. Ask me to get up and walk off into the long grass as I would do during the day, however, and that sense of wonder is replaced with wariness and some trepidation.

And that’s the thing with a Full Moon: you can see things you wouldn’t ordinarily see most nights, but it’s not what you would see during the day either. Much of the world is still cast into shadow… and in fact the contrast between what is light and what isn’t adds a certain confusion rather than a clarity.

The Moon — the eighteenth card of the major arcana — is concerned with that space in the psyche where things are not immediately discernible; where reality segues into another, less concrete, dimension; and where fear can lurk in the shadows. The ‘true’ light of the Sun (and The Sun card) doesn’t exist here, because with The Moon, the light is reflected. The source of the light is hidden from view, while the Moon takes it and projects it. So the light we are seeing is at one remove from source. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. What it does mean is that our perceptions are more easily influenced by other factors.

In the case of The Moon, that influence is from our primal nature — embodied in the wolf, the dog and the lobster. When The Moon is at play, both our rational and our intuitive natures fly at half-mast, and the instinctual life takes over. Instinct can be very helpful. It protects us from danger and can assist us especially when we are in survival mode. It can, though, also cause us to imagine things that aren’t there, and to retreat into a state where it paralyses both our intuition and our power of reasoning. We can then become slaves to it, rather than it serving us when we most need it.

The Moon itself in this card interests me. Wikipedia states definitively that the face in the Moon “is frowning, reflecting displeasure.” I disagree. Yes, I can see that it could be interpreted that the face is looking down displeasingly on the howling dog and wolf. However, I have always felt that the celestial bodies depicted in the tarot have no specific need to be judgemental about life on the Earth, and how it conducts itself. They are disinterested (as opposed to uninterested) witnesses to our lives. For me, the face is bowed in focussed concentration, captured in the act of doing what she does, which is to share her light. Fragments of it rain down on the animals below her. To see her as expressing displeasure is to make the same mistake as to believe that it is the Moon herself who is at fault for our inability to see clearly.

We are simply not meant to see things in the same way that we do when our world is illuminated by the light from the Sun. It is our projections into the world around us that cause us to fear, and it is we who take our own lives into our hands when we choose to navigate a landscape that is not fully known to us, at a time when our instinctual nature is at its most activated. When it is, objects like the two towers at each edge of the picture can lose their perspective: their bases sit in a part of the landscape that is indistinct, and it is difficult to see how big they really are.

Do you take the pathway that they flank; or do you stick it out with the creatures and wait until dawn? Which feels more compelling to you?

9 thoughts on “The Weekend Tarot Reading: The Moon”

  1. Oops, I didn’t see this post until just now. I was having a sort of rough full moon myself. I have Sun and Moon conjunct in Taurus, and this full moon was exactly conjunct on top of that. So I had a Sun opposition Sun and Moon conjunct Moon. I still have no idea what happened there, I spent the last few days in a strange feeling of tension.
    Anyway, I agree, the Moon’s facial expression isn’t one of displeasure. She has her eyes closed and is deep in thought, reaching her inner consciousness. That’s what this card is about, The Moon is about our subconscious.
    I’m not so interested in the dog and wolf howling at the moon. Oh they’re drawn so crudely, I’m not sure if that was deliberate or not. And no, that’s not a lobster, they are creatures of the deep. Waite says it’s a crayfish. They live in pools of water near the edge of land. I spent many hours as a kid trying to grab crawdads in the rocky pools on the edge of a stream in my back yard. Since the pools of water in the RWS deck are symbols of the subconscious, the crawdad represents something just barely beneath our conscious mind, trying to raise itself from the subconscious to our consciousness.
    I always like to think about the symbolism of two towers or pillars. They always represent a portal, and here again, they clearly mark a difference between the green, well lit land in front of the towers, and the bluish, watery colored hills in the background. In the foreground, the animals are awake, it represents our consciousness, amidst this card about the subconscious. No wonder the dog and wolf seem discomfited.
    There is a window in the top of each tower. They are watchtowers of a sort. I never know what to think about that, perhaps we are on guard against what our subconscious may contain, we may fear it and think we have to watch out to keep it under control. Or perhaps our subconscious is looking out towards our waking consciousness.
    The road between the towers leads directly from the pool representing our personal subconsciousness, and goes off into blue hills, perhaps distant land is the universal shared subconscious.
    I always notice the 15 yellow yods falling down from the moon, Waite describes it as “moisture of fertilizing dew in great drops.” I guess our subconscious fertilizes our lives in ways we are not aware of. I’m not sure why there are 15 of them, some people think it’s a reference to The Devil.
    Overall, I get an empty, fearful feeling from this card. There’s a long path and nobody is on it. Something is watching us from the towers overlooking the path. And the Moon looms over all of this, in a reverie of the subconscious.

  2. Amanda, those towers are ominous, aren’t they? Or at least there is a quality to them that is not quite right in terms of perspective. Very LOTR, or something from Terry Gilliam’s imagination.

    luckydriver, a great analogy. Thank you for sharing!

    Mystes – the gender of The Moon card for me has been rather feminine. Or, rather, the Moon herself. The dog and wolf, and the towers – for obvious reasons – seem masculine. The crustacean: feminine.

    rucognizant, his choice of The Moon before pulling that manoeuvre out of his hat was telling, wasn’t it?

    “Everyone is hearing the call of the wild.” That has been a prevalent theme in my life and in the objects that I keep coming across that reinforce that, Eric.

  3. Eric, dahling… Producing live cells is not the same thing as making another body.

    For the last six months I have been swimming in existential anxiety of young males. I promise you that once men turn inward and deal with the fact that women put them here — not God, not money, not Caesar– *then* they can join in the work of creation.

    Until then, it’s just perversion of a creative power they can’t even bear to face directly. Most of what men ‘create’ disrupts the ecosystem, destroys their own bodies and systematically violates the codes and rhythms that sustains the renewal of life.

    Childbirth. It’s such a tight little word, so confined to 10 lunar months. Uh, no. What we do isn’t just ‘childbirth.’ From the moment we bleed, we are involved in the transformation of woman into a creatrix. It is a huge process, with more demons and labyrinths and trapdoors and soaring views than any of us are willing to admit. Men could be our proteges in this, but honestly, women have an equal burden of acknowledging and carrying that creative power without apology.

    Back to my silence.


  4. The lobster is an ancient critter crawling up from the waters of the unconscious. It’s an arthropod — the most prolific life form on Earth, enduring from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains. The lobster is responding to the same call of the cosmos to which the domesticated dog and the wild wolf are responding. Everyone is hearing the call of the wild.

    Mysti, not sure what you’re getting at suggesting that men are not creative. If I can produce living cells on command…that’s pretty creative.

    I’ve worked closely, creatively, with women for my whole adult life. I find they’re creative once boundaries are established and a direction is set; once a purpose is focused and motivation is established. Before then, to my perception, females seem to have more of preserver energy.

    Childbirth may be something else, but so far, mammals cannot clone themselves. We depend on that balance, and even in plants that clone, the genetic pool has to be refreshed every so many generations…cannabis growers say every 100 or so, start from seed.

    Yet this is obviated by the fact that we all have Venus and Mars, Sun and Moon.

  5. Hindsight is 20/20!
    Back in 1982.( a time period MICHAEL LUTIN HAS recently BEEN REMINDING US MAY JUMP FORWARD AGAIN…….)
    I had just said yes to a proposal,& life was sweet. We went to a Halloween party as tarot cards……………….blacktights, turtle necks..& sandwich board cards we painted.
    I handed him ( a novice, so was I but didn’t recognize it at the time) the R W book to pick his card. He ( a Pisces) chose the Moon. So OF COURSE I chose the Sun! ( Taurus)
    18 months later………….with no warning, or “trouble in paradise”, 4 months before the wedding..he moved out while I was out of town on business. ( My business had taken a big upswing…) he wanted “little girl” Momma in the kitchen!
    Yup,! Youth is truly wasted on the young! Although through evolution I think the young are getting older these days!

  6. Just popping in for a sec.

    Nice work, Sarah. Have you ever seen the Moon card as male? I find Lunar energy typically masculine, i.e. created rather than creative. (Once men come to terms with that simple biological fact –don’t hold your breath– much will change.)

    Mr. Byrne chants:
    “I got wild imagination
    Talkin’ transubstantiation
    Any version will do
    I got mass communication
    I’m the human corporation
    I ate a rock from the moon
    Moon in the rock, rock in the moon
    There’s a moon in my throat
    You might think I’m wasting time
    You might laugh, but not for long
    Hey! I’m working it out…”

    ‘Hope so. . .


  7. This might seem like a weird comparison, but the Moon card always reminds me of taking a trip through the Tactile Dome at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco. For those who have never had the pleasure of experiencing the dome, it is basically a maze constructed within a geodesic dome with no light source. When you enter the dome and the darkness, you are basically navigating an obstacle course that you can not see, so your sense of touch is really the only way to progress along the walls, slopes, steps, and various physical landscapes. Obviously, navigating by touch does not allow anyone to experience the maze as a whole, so you must move along slowly, exploring the space around you moment by moment and bit by bit with the faith that you will ultimately pop out back into the light on the other end. For some people, the process is pretty fear-inducing, and they panic within minutes of entering the dome and need to exit. I think the most instructive part of the journey is recognizing how we overly rely on vision when so many other senses can guide us differently but as effectively if we suspend the fear. Plus, it’s always nice to touch!

    That’s what the Moon card is about for me though – having a period in life where we must navigate using alternative senses that will help us journey through a situation as long as we don’t let fear get the best of us. The towers in the card seem like more of a gateway to me. If we keep moving along in the moonlight through an unknown landscape while relying on some less obviously used senses to guide us, we will eventually walk through the gates to a new destination and hopefully a new understanding of ourselves and our instincts.

  8. “Lobster: Also depicted as a crab or crayfish in other deck renditions, the lobster symbol meanings deal with cycles, regeneration, and protection. These creatures are lunar symbols; they cast off their shells for new onces, and this is where the rebirth/cycling association plays its part. The protective symbolizm is evident in the hard spiney exo-skeleton found with these creatures. When the Lobster in the Moon card crawls into our consciousness we’re reminded of the cyclical nature in our lives and what protection we may need for the path on which we embark”

    Amanda – just picked that up from tarot teaching .com

    Sarah – yay! another fun informative Tarot lesson….I’ll take a looksee later today.

    Charles – I always look forward to your valuable lessons here; hope to read you later today as well!

    Thanks all and um – Happy Full Moon šŸ™‚

  9. ok, as a girl from maine — a place famous for lobster — i was immediately curious about (and stumped by) the lobster in this card.

    but then it dawned on me: maybe as a fellow crustacean, this is a somewhat-oblique reference to the cancerian crab? after all, this card is the moon, which rules cancer. it seems to have its claws raised to the moon in echo of the dog’s and wolf’s postures; some sort of gesture of reverence/surrender/invocation?

    course, it also looks poised to start up that path — not exactly a recommended move for a sea creature. or maybe it is waiting in welcome for those who come down the path to the sea?

    and does anyone else find those two blank towers, each with a single tiny window, incredibly intimidating and ominous? or have i been overly influenced by the LOTR movies?

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