The Dark of the Moon


Elderberries ripening

I am drawn to 

Deep Sleep.

and to Silence

only broken by chimes.

Endings must come

before Beginnings…

I sleep soundly

and dream

of the Grandmothers

on the dark of the moon.

My night vision is keen,

my body relaxed.


 exit without fear

almost all leave at once –

One thrumming body.

Flight is safer

 in the dark.

  Golden apples too

 bitter for red deer

 to imbibe, 

fall earthward

with a thud.


the dead

 nurtures the

 Tree of Life,

but first winter

must be borne.

  Just before dawn

I see my reflection

in a mirror

of rippling water, 

  a silvery sliver 

is cradled overhead. 

I pick clusters

 of green seeds in peace..

As the sun climbs high

I am assaulted by screaming

 motorcycles, battering trucks

 carting away the dead.

Fury takes root.

The fruit of the Elder – Berry

 is not yet ripe.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the dark of the moon because this is the time of the month when I sleep most deeply.

I also suffer from periodic depression and I think depressive episodes seem to intensify around this time. Consequently I also feel both drawn to and afraid of this cyclic moon phase. I find myself wondering if others have the same kinds of experiences.

 Like the Russian Baba Yaga, Hecate, Greek goddess of the crossroads has a powerful underworld aspect. This year I am being pulled under by an invisible force, on both a physical and psychic level. I keep reminding myself that both of these figures are also impersonal grandmother figures. They live in the spaces in between. Perhaps being drawn into the underworld is part of experiencing Woman in the third phase of our lives?

I have been creating ceremony around the full moon for about 40 years. Each month this is the time I bless my body and the bodies of my animals with clear waters from the brook; in the winter I melt fresh snow. I also set intentions. During the last few years I have noticed that the waxing moon phase culminating in the full moon (and for a few days afterwards) brings on insomnia and pulls me out of my body in unpleasant ways. I experience heightened anxiety, blurred vision/dimmed awareness, poor judgement, and powerful dreams during this period (if I sleep well enough). I used to love the milky white light of the full moon; now that appreciation has dimmed…

Because of my ambivalence I decided that I would continue to do a water blessing at the full moon, but begin to acknowledge the power of the dark of the moon, recognizing that it too is a transitional period that is immediately followed by a ‘seed moon’. I will experiment by setting my intention(s) during this phase instead of at the full moon. The preceding poem is my first attempt to engage with the dark phase in an intentional way. 

After I wrote the first draft (on the morning after the dark of the moon) I left to gather the last of the elderberries that I use for tincture calling on the powers of an imaginary mythical “Elderberry Woman” to be present for me as a helper. To my dismay, most of the berries I found remained unripe. Because it is so difficult to get to them I gathered clusters of the green seeds and placed them in a jar with water. This morning I discovered to my amazement that some are already ripening on my porch and went back to edit my poem.

Women have always had an intimate relationship with the moon and I think intuitively we are drawn to her cycles because they are mirror reflections of our own…Just as the moon is always changing her face I think our ceremonies need to be flexible to in order to adapt to personal changes.

One deeply distressing note is the amount of collective noise that drowns out Nature’s voices and interrupts my own thinking. Screaming motorcycles and logging trucks rumble by all day long. Planes drone overhead. Air pollution is increasing exponentially… There is apparently no end to this assault on our senses, and this cultural problem is, apparently, unsolvable.

Overall, what I learned from this particular experience is that  patience is required for ripening and that when the time is right just as the hard green seeds become rich purple berries ‘the way’ through my difficulties may yet become clear.


There is a reference to hummingbirds in my poem that deserves mention. Every year I keep a record of when the hummingbirds come and go. This year I had at least 50 – I was feeding them two quarts of sugar water every single day through the night of September 4th – to 5th – the dark of the moon. On the following morning all but two were gone. They all migrated on the darkest night of the month!

What is most fascinating to me is that the moon is invisible at the ‘dark of the moon,’ and that it is simultaneously the new moon! During this phase of the moon it is in conjunction with the sun. When this occurs the moon is invisible from earth for a brief time before it appears as a ‘sliver of silver’… Here we see “both and” becoming one! The highest tides also occur at both the full and new moons when the pull of the moon is greatest.

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