Because modern Pagans have two working definitions of New Moon, they also have two corresponding definitions for Dark of the Moon.
Definition #1) "Dark of the Moon" refers to time during the cycle of lunar phases when the side of the moon facing the earth is invisible to the unaided human eye. This definition of Dark of the Moon is exactly the same as the second definition of New Moon given in the New Moon article -- the astonomical definition used in almanacs and calendars. Many Pagans who refer to the time when the Moon as 0% illuminated as the Dark of the Moon, refer to the first visible slice of the Moon as the New Moon.
Definition #2) "Dark of the Moon" refers to the last sliver of the waning moon visible to the unaided human eye. This other use of the phrase Dark of the Moon indicates the last sighting of the waning moon before she is lost in shadow. Many who use this definition for Dark of the Moon, define the New Moon by astronomical standards (the second definition given in the New Moon article) -- when the Moon is 0% illuminated. To find the last sliver of the Moon in the sky, remember that she is leading the Sun. She won’t be leading by much, though. This Moon will set just before the Sun sets. The sky will be too bright to make sighting the Moon possible. Wait until just before sunrise instead. The Moon will still be leading and she will rise above the eastern horizon just before the Sun does. In those minutes, you have the chance to find her before the Sun catches up and she lost in the shadow he casts, at which time she dies away and completes her cycle.
As a matter of fairness and completeness, some people actually use the phrases Dark of the Moon and New Moon as synonyms. In this case, both phrases refer to the astronomical definition of a New Moon, when she is 0% illuminated.
At this point, you have learned what the Dark of the Moon is, what it looks like, and how to locate it. Continue on through the cycle to the rebirth of the Moon.
This article is part of the Quarters of the Moon Series.
To read the other articles in the series, please visit
The Paganism Examiner’s Quarters of the Moon Resource Guide.
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