by Arwynne O’Neill
Along with the sun and Ascendant, or rising sign, the moon is one of the most important features of the birth chart. In fact, the moon can offer even more insight than the sun itself in the charts of children. While the sun represents the core of our personality, the essence of who we are and what we become, to some degree, it is something we must “grow into.” The moon on the other hand represents a deeper part of the psyche that is evident in our behaviors and reactions from birth.
The moon also carries forward energy patterns from the past, anchoring us at the moment of birth into a specific family legacy. The ties that bind us can be forged by fate or from strands of DNA, but those intangible threads connecting one generation to the next through inheritances, personal histories and mythologies, biases and ideologies, are all represented by the astrological moon.
In Dynasty: the Astrology of Family Dynamics, Erin Sullivan explains, “The moon is a receptacle that holds memory of all gestations and births down the line. Dynastic patterns which are associated with the Moon more frequently… come down through the maternal line. The Moon shows how our mother acted as a conduit for our ancestral legacy.”
However, she cautions, the traditional parental assignment of father to sun and mother to moon, although deeply ingrained in the mythological lexicon, should not be interpreted literally. “Astrology is not gender-biased,” she says. “The sun and moon are our parents in the most archetypal sense, [representing] the archetypal marriage. How we marry ourselves within ourselves [and] how we mediate polarities within our psyche and mind is represented in the soli-lunar relationship.”
Of course, not all children with the same two parents have the same sun and moon signs. The birth chart reflects each child’s unique experience of childhood while the sun and the moon represent the parents not as individuals but as they exist in the minds of their children. In the symbolic language of astrology, the sun and moon represent our internalized archetypes of Mother and Father.
Erin Sullivan continues:
“Just as our stories about our parents are going to be different than our sibling’s stories, so are our planets arranged in ways unlike other family members — but there is always a connection. In large families of four or more children, the odds increase on replication of Moon signs. The most common interchanges in family horoscopes are between the Sun, Moon and ascendant as one might imagine.”
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when studying your child’s chart is to think in terms of potential and not prediction. Although this is true of any chart interpretation, it is especially so when studying the chart of a child for obvious reasons. Your main objective should be to gain a deeper insight into the karmic patterns your child came into this life with and to better understand the way their basic emotional needs inform their behavior as expressed through the natal chart.
Every pattern in the chart represents a potential which will be modified, strengthened or weakened by every other potential in the chart — and, of course, by their experiences in life. It’s important to remember that, no matter what patterns you may read in your child’s chart, you are not looking into a crystal ball. For example, the same pattern that impacts one person’s chart negatively will become an opportunity for something positive and creative in another’s. If you keep an open mind, the moon can provide fundamental insights into your child’s personality, illuminating emotional patterns and subconscious motivations that might otherwise be mystifying.
The second thing to keep in mind is how your child’s chart relates to yours. In all likelihood, this line of thinking will be unavoidable as you begin to delve into the astrological literature on the moon, family dynamics and childhood. Much has been written on these subjects in a “self-help” style, aimed at an audience of adults seeking explanations to help them assimilate their own unhappy experiences in childhood. Don’t fixate on the negative interpretations when you come across them. For every aspect or placement in the birth chart of an individual, there is a wide spectrum of potential manifestations in their life. Every relationship we have over the course of a lifetime – with lovers, business partners, friends and family members alike – exists to teach us something about ourselves and how we relate to others. This is what it means to be human, and the relationship between parent and child is no exception.
The study of astrological patterns in our charts and in those of our families can help us identify the roots of interpersonal conflict that exist in every relationship. And more importantly, what we learn can enable us to move beyond the defensive need for control that’s often the cause of conflict. The more we understand each other’s nature, the better equipped we will be to constructively express the more dynamic and transformative aspects in our own charts.
“Each of the four elements (fire, air, earth and water) manifests in three vibrational modalities (cardinal, fixed and mutable). Hence, when we combine the four elements with the three modalities, we have twelve primary patterns of energy.” – (Saint) Stephen Arroyo, Astrology, Psychology, and the Four Elements
For those of you who are relatively new to astrology, let’s begin with a helpful way of simplifying without oversimplifying the fundamental nature of the moon in the 12 signs.
Onto this very basic system infinite layers of complexity can and will be added, but if you’re just beginning to get your head around the ancient science/ mythology/ metaphorical language that is astrology, remember you can strip away everything but the 12 signs in their respective elements and modalities and still learn a great deal.
According to Stephen Arroyo, “The element of the Moon’s position represents an attunement from the past that manifests automatically, a mode of feeling that one needs to pay attention to in order to feel inwardly secure and at home with one’s self.”
So for example:
“If the moon is in an air sign, one will have to express one’s thoughts to others in order to feel right about oneself… The moon in an air sign always reacts by thinking first and then acting according to the dictates of his evaluation. The moon in fire signs is found in the charts of people who react to changing circumstances with enthusiasm and direct action. They tend to leap before they look. Impatience is often a problem.
The moon in water signs indicates a way of reacting colored by emotional intensity… an immediate and deep involvement with every demand placed upon the person by life,” while the moon in earth signs “indicates one who tends to react in a very grounded, steady, matter-of-fact way.” – Stephen Arroyo
Each planet in the natal chart represents a different aspect of our personality. Combining and interacting, they produce what is seen from the outside as an integrated personality, but the action of these component parts is evident in all that we do. Sign placements can provide a profile of the individual “roles” played by each planet in your child’s chart, giving you a rough character sketch of every member of the cast. The sun and moon are the main characters in this ongoing internal narrative.
The twelve familiar zodiacal archetypes can also be applied to each planet in your child’s chart. You can ask yourself, what role is being played by the moon in this imaginary production? What is this character’s motivation? Keep in mind, however, that the moon is a supporting costar to the sun in any chart and its primary mode of expression will be far subtler than the outwardly-focused, instigating energy of the sun.
The inherent tendencies of the moon’s sign will be more evident in your child’s instinctive or initial reactions than in their planned actions, and often they will be expressed unconsciously, especially if the sun and moon are placed in very different or conflicting signs. The moon’s characteristics might in some cases remain completely submerged in terms of outward expression, only surfacing when the child is exhausted, ill or under stress.
The next question we can ask about the moon’s character is where it is coming from. Where does this character feel most “at home?” A planet’s house placement describes its base of operations, and it can suggest the area of life in which its energies may primarily or most readily be expressed.
Beyond the place where each planet resides, we can ask ourselves how all these characters interact with each other. Planetary aspects represent the relationships or dialogs between all the planets in a chart and studying these interactions can provide deep and meaningful insights into how that person might perceive and assimilate their life experiences. Aspects describe the mathematical angles created between the earth at the center and two or more planets in relation to each other. Looking at the angle formed by the sun and the moon (representing the parents), what can we say about the relationship between them? And how does the moon relate to all the other planets in the chart? Does one create more aspects than the other? Does one make more harmonious aspects than the other?
“An aspect is another way to say that planets (or points, such as the ascendant) are in contact. They are communicating. The kind of aspect tells you something about the style of communication. They can be fused or blended (a conjunction), working together with good leverage (sextile), in a tense, strong dynamic (square), in such total agreement that they may disappear or lose strength from lack of friction (trine), or fully distinct from one another and in a confrontational mode (opposition).” – Eric Francis
In An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness, Donna Cunningham reminds us that understanding the connections is the key to chart interpretation. “Aspects greatly modify the interpretation of the planet in a sign. For example, a Moon in Leo with Pluto nearby is a Leo Moon with a vengeance – a Scorpio-type vengeance – but also with a Scorpio-type capacity for analysis,” while “a Moon in Scorpio squaring Jupiter in Aquarius is certainly going to be very different from a Moon in Sagittarius squaring Jupiter in Virgo.”
One of the gifts parenthood has to offer is the chance to spend a lifetime getting to know someone who is a product of you in a very real sense, but who is at the same time a completely novel and unique individual.
We are each an eclectic assortment of character traits and habits collected over a lifetime, absorbed and refined into what we call our personalities as we grow and change, react and relate to others. These traits in combination form our identity; our feminine and masculine personas (anima and animus), the masks we wear at work and in various social settings, and the constructs of “id,” “ego” and “superego” (to quote Dr. Freud, just this one time). Inevitably, these layers of acquired complexity serve to insulate us from outside forces, but they can also shut us off from the people closest to us. The astrological moon can be likened to the molten core at the heart of all of those layers.
Just like the magnetic poles of the earth which may be counted on to point to True North (setting aside for the moment their periodic and long overdue shift for the purpose of this metaphor), the moon in one’s chart acts like a compass, reliably pointing the way to our subconscious needs, articulating that which sustains and feeds us and makes us feel safe. However antithetical those things may be to our public persona, they hold essential clues to our well-being and our ability to feel loved, accepted and protected. The more you understand about anyone’s moon, the better equipped you will be to look deeper, to acknowledge and embrace that molten, magnetic core of them which the moon can reveal.
Erin Sullivan, Dynasty: the Astrology of Family Dynamics. Read an excerpt.
Donna Cunningham, An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness
– Astrology, Psychology, and the Four Elements: An Energy Approach to Astrology & Its Use in the Counseling Arts
– Astrology, Karma & Transformation: The Inner Dimensions of the Birth Chart
Eric Francis, Astrology Secrets Revealed