People began tracking time approximately 27,000 years ago by marking the 13 annual lunations of the moon. Around 8,000 years ago, people erected great stone monuments such as Stonehenge and massive alignments of standing stones that did more than trace a year’s passing. They actually tracked the 18.61 years of the lunar cycle as well as its complete triple period of 55.83 years.
Moonlight has held people in a certain enchantment, about which poets have expounded for centuries. Even to walk in the moonlight is to feel a touch of magic; one cannot help but sense the energy. Luna does not give us a harsh bright light as does the sun. She provides just enough to part the darkness of night and invite us into other realms.
The moon has two basic phases: waxing (dark or new moon to full); and waning (full to dark). Some people celebrate only the full moons and others celebrate both dark and full.
The waning phase is a time for turning inward and reflecting. It is a time for reaping what was put forth in the waxing phase of the moon. The waning phase is often used for banishing rituals. The dark moon is a quiet time; a time for divination and personal workings. The dark moon is a time for holding power.
The waxing phase is a time for growth. It is a time to plant; literally and symbolically. Magic done during this time culminates on the full moon. This phase is conducive for creativity because of the high energy and clarity of vision it brings. It is also conducive for teaching. The energy of the full moon is intense. It is a time for sending forth intentions because of the high-powered energy that can propel them to manifest.
When we enter into ritual we strengthen our connection with the cycles of nature, bringing us into rhythm with the natural world and with our own nature. When we take time to step outside of the mundane world, we encounter the rich flow of spiritual energy. We can reach deep inside ourselves and connect on a level that nourishes and gives us the strength to carry on in the rough and tumble of the physical and mental parts of our lives.
The Esbats relate the advancing seasons with the magic of moonsheen. Even though the full moon rises at sunset on the opposite horizon from the sun, her mood reflects the seasons without being completely tethered to them. The Sabbats have their traditional purposes but the Esbats can run free. The energy is vibrant. Esbats are a time to laugh from the belly and dance like there is no tomorrow.