Art of The Moon

“Bamboo shadows sweep the stairs,
But no dust is stirred.
Moonlight penetrates the depths of the pool,
But no trace is left in the water.”

–Nyogen Senzaki

One of my favorite lunar tales from India is about Soma, the Moon God. He was married to King Daksha’s 27 daughters, each living within a small portion of the twelve astrological constellations in their own lunar mansions. Soma was sworn to divide his time equally between each of his brides, but he fell in love with Rohini and favored her with all his attention and care above the others. Her twenty-six sisters complained to their father about his neglect and King Daksha cursed him, condemning him to wither and die. Soma petitioned his benefactor, Lord Shiva, who granted him a favor as one of his faithful devotees::instead of withering and dying, he would crest, grow, culminate, fade, and go over the course of twenty eight days, thus we have Soma, the Moon God, waxing and waning as a result of his inconstancy, partiality, and emotional attachment where he was promised to be neutral and detached.  He may no longer be bound to Daksha’s 27 daughters, yet he must pass through each of their mansions on his orbit where he lingers a day or two longer in some than others.

That’s Chandra for you, and here is Moon: the breathing sigh, the gush of blood, the heaving breast, the excitement and romance of being alive, the drowning and discovering you’re not! Moon is the dark watery depth, sand in mouth on ocean floor; instinctively knowing which way is up. Moon feels in the dark. Moon is at her best in the dark, Lady of the Night; she shows with a muted glow what may be too harsh in the glaring light of day.  She shows in a different way:::the same Light of Sun, only shining softer, so what would be defended against, shaded with blinders, shielded or deflected may come to be absorbed and digested through Moon’s gentle beams, thus understood and grasped.  Moon is mind, mingled with emotion and intuition nudging toward or away from purpose. Moon is how we think about everything experienced; all we’ve become aware of, while under an umbrella giving respite from direct sunlight.

Moon phases are a circle to dance with, turning and returning, round and round we go, regularly. By integrating creativity with moon phases we align with lunar rhythms; applying them to deepening relationship with our selves, with our experiences, perceptions, and desires, with the cycles of nature that we are part of inwardly and outwardly. Moon calls us:: to renew ourselves, to bring something new of ourselves to our community as contribution in participation, to shine, convene, then disperse.

The Art of The Moon is a creativity practice adapted from one shared with me a few years ago, which had Hebrew months and teachings integrated into the practice. Initially me and my girls gathered and made our cards bi-monthly for a whole year in the tradition that it was taught, an enjoyable edifying experience.  The year after, we shifted to the Arabic lunar months, with which I’m familiar and found that these sync with the moon’s motion as it’s a completely lunar based time count . . . new moon to new moon, going through the solar year without fixture to solar months, just passing through at the same time.

For instance, the first month of Muharram began in September this year, but it will move with the moon and in a few years will be in July then further along in February and so on before returning to September.  As a Shia child, I remember when Muharram fell in October, my birthday would be uncelebrated as it usually was the rest of the year. This was the source of much teasing by school friends who were Sunni (Pakistan is a primarily Sunni country, so being Shia was being a minority) and thought it very peculiar when we were little.  Muharram is the first month of the lunar year for any Muslim, but Shia’s immerse in the dwelling place of darkness and shadow for a whole forty days and nights beginning with this month; commemorating the slaughter of Hussein and his family and friends at Karbala, on the banks of the Euphrates in modern day Iraq. No colors are worn other than black, white, navy blue, dark brown, and activities revolve around gathering daily or nightly to listen to cry, chant, cry, chest-beat-heart-drum, cry, sing, cry (women and men both, openly:: the sight of grown men weeping unabashedly for a month in public, annually, truly awesome to cry with!!), listen to teachings and stories, about massacre and war and greed and oppression and conflict and when it’s time for standing one’s ground, despite the odds of 80 to 10, 000 plus, even when it means certain physical death, the only other option being to live dead and soullessly, chained to what isn’t your truth . . .  anyway, that’s a whole other tale! . . .in my teens curiousity would bring friends to our majlis’s to see what this was about, by then the whole birthday thing had passed on, like the moon.

So to come back around, we practiced with the Arabic lunar calendar for a year, and since then we’ve made it our own, where it’s not tied to any particular tradition more so than synced with how we live, our way of being, and we bring those elements to it, weaving our sacred.

I invite you to enjoy it as well; either on your own or gather with a group of women and young girls and celebrate together twice a month, inhaling and exhaling with the new and full moons. The timing of it, like the moon, can fluctuate by four days here and three days there to breathe with your rhythms. At the heart of the practice is tuning toward wisdom, whether from without or within, and drawing it up, expressing it as art and word combined.

On the new moon, listen for what you desire deeply, to initiate, attract, learn about, discover, or venture toward. On one side of the moon card draw the crescent moon at the edge, then color or paint or collage an image to represent the path you’re venturing forth on. On the other side, write the date, the sign the moon is in if you know it, the phase it’s in, along with a poem, a petition, which can be to your allies, angels, deities or other helpers, or an invocation for assistance, inspiration, or illumination with your endeavors to grow into glow.

On the full moon, attend to what’s transpired, what’s been fulfilled, what you are ready to drop into the tide to carry away, where it may ripple out in release and be liberated. On one side of the moon card draw or paint an image, a symbol, a shape, or collage a representation of your intention. On the other side of the moon, write the date, the sign the moon is in if you know it, the phase it’s in, along with a song, a poem, a petition, which can be to your allies, angels, deities or other helpers, or an invocation for your endeavor in surrender, shedding, or letting go to ebb away into the ocean.

Supplies needed: enough paints and brushes, pencils, crayons, markers, glitter, fabric, glue, and circular papers to share. Watercolor paper is suitable for this activity, cut into at least 6” diameter rounds (trace a circle with a pot lid or embroidery hoop for an easy guide). Candles, crystals, music, and refreshments may enhance your gathering, as may tarot cards, runes, or tea leaves for reading after having enjoyed a cup.

When creating Moon cards, you may feel moved to name your moon, bring to it a spiritual flavor derived from your unique practices and traditions. You may choose to work with the constellation or sign of the zodiac that the moon is in at the time, as each of those present resources to tap into that may enhance and support your intention. The following is a short touchstone about the phase or season of the moon you congregate on:

New moon like Spring: a time of beginnings, planting seeds, setting intention.
Waxing moon like Summer: a time of composing, creating, growing, learning.
Full moon like Autumn: a time of completeness, wholeness, and fulfillment.
Waning moon like Winter: a time of release, shedding old patterns, making space for the new.

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