Moon Phases in Western Astrology: How Were the Eight Lunation Types of Personality Born?

What is Lunation?

Lunation refers to the phases of the moon as it changes from day to day.

The illustration below shows the lunation cycle from the New Moon to the Full Moon and then back to the New Moon again, divided into eight phases. The names such as the ‘New Moon’, ‘Waxing Crescent Moon’ and ‘First Quarter Moon’ are what each lunar phase is called. The lunation begins at the New Moon and ends at the Waning Crescent Moon.

If you look at the illustration anti-clockwise starting from the New Moon, you will see what the lunation cycle is like. 

Firstly, at the New Moon, the moon is invisible, and from there it is gradually filled up with light through the waxing period, including the Waxing Crescent Moon, First Quarter Moon and Waxing Gibbous Moon, to Full Moon. 

After the Full Moon, light gradually diminishes through the waning period of the Waning Gibbous Moon, Last Quarter Moon and Waning Crescent Moon. And then it is the New Moon again, with the moon in complete darkness, and the next cycle of lunar phases begins.

The illustration shows how the moon looks from the Northern Hemisphere; in the Southern Hemisphere, the shapes are reversed except for the Full Moon. For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, the First Quarter Moon looks bright on the right side, while in the Southern Hemisphere it would be bright on the left side.

The Western astrologer Dane Rudhyar (1895–1985, born in France, later emigrated to the USA) developed the idea of a ‘lunation birthday’. He held that the human personality could be divided into eight types according to the lunation (or moon phase) under which they were born. This article describes the background of Rudhyar’s idea of a ‘lunation birthday’.

If you are more interested in the classification by moon phases itself than in the background – for example, if you want to know what moon phase you were born under, and which moon phase represents what kind of personality – see the article Let the Moon Phase You Were Born Under Tell You Who You Are.

Three Key Factors in Western Astrology by Rudhyar

In his book ‘Lunation Cycle: A Key to the Understanding of Personality’, where he discusses the idea of lunation birthday, Rudhyar frequently mentions the following as important factors in Western astrology: (i) cycles, (ii) spirit and (iii) relationships.

(i) Cycles 

Western astrology is a technique for studying life cycles, according to Rudhyar, and studying cycles is studying time.

In Rudhyar’s view, there are two types of time: objective and individual time. Objective time can be measured on a common scale (or unit), such as 2 hours, 54 minutes and 44 seconds, for example, and is the same regardless of who measures it.

Individual time, in contrast, is the time that a person feels unconsciously, and is an expression of their own unique rhythm, which has nothing to do with objective time. Individual time is experienced as subjective duration and is the result of a person functioning as a particular organic whole.

What does this mean? Suppose, for example, you were a drop of water in a lake. If you would say, ‘I am a drop of water in the lake, but I am functioning truly as an organic whole by myself, not merely as part of a larger whole, i.e., the lake’, you are living a subjective duration.

So, what happens when we live a subjective duration? We attain immortality. The fact that a person lives in a subjective duration means that they dwell in a world of their individual making, and that they hold the structure of that world intact even against death. Not even death can end their world. In other words, this is the triumph of subjective duration over objective time.

Objective time, on the other hand, is cyclic, according to Rudhyar. This is because objective time is established by periodical changes in the universe (just as, for example, the Earth’s day is approximately 24 hours, because it takes approximately 24 hours for the Earth to make one rotation). 

In a cycle, something is born, grows up and eventually, when it has grown up, it enters a phase of returning what it has gained through growth to a wider world. Cycles usually occur between two or more factors, each of which is active, moving and forever changing. 

The lunation is also a cycle which has three elements: the sun, the moon and the Earth.

(ii) Spirit

A horoscope is a chart showing the position of the sun, moon and planets, such as Mercury and Venus, at the time of an individual’s birth. In Western astrology, an astrologer uses the horoscope to interpret a person’s life and personality. According to Rudhyar, if they are able to visualise the entire horoscope as an individual and indivisible structure, i.e., when the astrologer succeeds in seeing the wholeness of the horoscope, the astrologer can perform a spiritual function. This is in stark contrast to thinking of a horoscope as a mere reading of the clock of objective time for a particular moment.

For example, if an astrologer reads your horoscope and says, ‘You will have this experience at this time in your life’, the astrologer only partially reveals what the horoscope says about you based on objective time. Such an interpretation of the horoscope would mean that we have no choice but to live according to the destiny set out for us by the universe.

However, Western astrology does not (or should not) deal with the compulsions of cosmic fate. 

Its aim is not merely to tell what will happen at a definite moment of objective time. Instead, Western astrology aims to indicate the possibilities for growth in individuals inherent in the important turning points in the cycle of their lives. In other words, we are given the power by default to create our own lives by the universe.

So, only when the astrologer reveals how you will manifest your uniqueness through creating your own subjective duration and how you will establish the beginning of your own era – the moment you were born is the beginning of your individual era – does the astrologer succeed in capturing the wholeness of you and your horoscope.

Wholeness is deeply related to spirit, or rather, in Rudhyar’s view, spirit is wholeness. Spirit deals only with wholeness and is the wholeness of every living whole. Therefore, whenever there is consciousness of, for example, a lack (greatness yet unrealised, fullness yet unattained), the spirit tends to re-establish wholeness, balance, harmony, integration, health, and plenitude of being.

(iii) Relationships

When reading a horoscope, one needs to capture its wholeness, Rudhyar says. This is, in other words, seeing a horoscope as a complex relationship between the many factors it contains (such as the positions of the sun, moon, planets, the aspects between them, etc).

As mentioned in (ii) Spirit, spirit is wholeness, and wholeness consists of relationships between many factors. In other words, (ii) Spirit and (iii) Relationships are linked, and (iii) Relationships are also linked to (i) Cycles. This is because relationships are also cycles (this world is full of cycles).

A relationship is born, waxing, maturing, waning, and it rebuilds itself for a new cycle or else disintegrates completely. Rudhyar says it is essential for us to understand the cyclic nature and the cyclic laws of relationship, because only with this understanding can we adjust ourselves to, and fully grow in spirit from, the experience of the relationship.

The Three Factors and Lunation

As seen above, Rudhyar attaches great importance to cycles, spirit (wholeness) and relationships.

The lunation includes all three of these. The lunation is a cycle where the moon waxes from the New Moon to the Full Moon and wanes back to the New Moon again.

For Rudhyar, of all the changes in the universe, the daily change of appearance of the moon due to waxing and waning is so striking that it deserves special importance. And although lunation appears to be a twofold relationship between the sun and the moon, it is actually a threefold relationship between the sun, the moon and the Earth. This is because lunation is the shape of the moon as seen from the Earth.

Lunation impacts the Earth, and in this sense, too, the relationship of lunation includes the Earth.

So how does lunation affect the Earth? In a nutshell, the operation is that the moon fulfils the wishes of people on the Earth through the light of the sun.

In a more detailed explanation, this is how it works:

❶ There are hopes floating on the Earth that have not been fulfilled, or a sense of inadequacy that have not reached harmony, and each of these is crying out ‘I want to fulfil my wish’ or ‘I want to be one’.

❷ The cosmic spirit, symbolised by the sun, hears these cries and begins to feel ‘I’ll lend them my power to make their wishes come true’. As mentioned in (ii) Spirit, spirit is wholeness, so if there is consciousness of lack, fullness yet unattained, etc., the spirit operates to re-establish wholeness, harmony or integration.

❸ However, the sun’s power is too strong for humans to use directly (just as we cannot gaze directly at the sun). Only when gradually given the power of the sun can humans use and assimilate it. This is why the Earth (and humans) need the moon. The moon allows the sun’s light or power to gradually release to the Earth through lunation so that we can fulfil our wishes. In other words, the moon is the mediator for both the sun and the Earth to fulfil their wishes.

Why Do We Need Lunation in Western Astrology?

Rudhyar states that modern (early 20th century) astrology places a great deal of importance on the birthday of the individual, their life and character, and that there is an over-emphasis on the sun signs, partly due to the influence of astrological magazines, which have to simplify and generalise the interpretation of horoscopes in order to reach a large readership.

The sun sign indicates which sign the sun was in on the horoscope when a person was born. For example, if the sun was in Taurus when they were born, then their sun sign is Taurus. The sun sign is usually what people are referring to when they mention their signs, such as ‘I am a Taurus’ or ‘I am a Sagittarius’.

According to Rudhyar, the sun can indeed be the most basic factor of the horoscope, but it is not the only factor of fundamental importance, nor does the sun sign alone characterise the particular significance of a person’s horoscope. Moreover, since the sun sign indicates which sign the sun was in when the person was born, it is ‘a cycle of positions’ and not ‘a cycle of relationships’, which is what Rudhyar focusses on.

In Western astrology, the sun represents the basic purpose of life and a person’s will. However, fulfilling the purpose requires ways and means to actualise them.

The moon, through its relationship with the sun and the Earth in lunation, allows the sun’s light to gradually release on the Earth, so that we can actualise our purposes. In other words, the moon is a means to an end for us (and for the sun).

The sun sign reveals the nature of a person’s fundamental energy and their basic purpose in life.

In contrast, by looking at which lunation a person was born under, we learn to understand how the process of life operates in the individual (because lunation is a relationship, and relationships are also processes), how they solve problems in relationships and how they work out the purpose indicated by the sun.

The threefold relationship among the sun, moon and Earth produces the lunation cycle, and every moment can be characterised significantly by its position within the lunation cycle. So, for example, you can say ‘I am a Waxing Crescent Moon phase’ or ‘I am a Full Moon phase’, with just as much justification as you can say ‘I am a Libra’.

While it is possible and reasonable to use the sun sign to understand an individual’s horoscope, it is also necessary to interpret a horoscope in terms of lunation, which is the absolute basis of the various relationships (between, for instance, the sun, moon and planets) in a horoscope.

Using lunation, Rudhyar says, humans can be divided into types according to the symbolic meaning of each lunar phase. Not to sound like a broken record, but to repeat Rudhyar’s perspective, which takes a relationship-oriented position, the classification of people according to lunation is a classification based on the relationship (among the sun, moon and Earth) and not a classification based on only the one factor of the sun, as in the sun sign.

Rudhyar emphasises relationships because we live in relationships and relationships are very important in understanding humans. Thus, Rudhyar’s relationship-oriented position and his desire for a deeper understanding of humans brought him to the idea of a ‘lunation birthday’, where people are divided into eight types according to the moon phase they were born under.

Why Did Rudhyar Divide Lunation into Eight Phases?

Lunation phases can be divided more finely into, for example, 29, or, conversely, more roughly into four. Yet Rudhyar believes that when dealing with a cyclical interaction between two moving factors, such as the sun and the moon, where the consequences of the relationship are constantly changing, it is the most logical and practical to use an eight-fold classification of these consequences.

Relationships generate power, and the rhythm of basic releases of power (at least in the realm of life of biopsychic, organic activity) should essentially be symbolised and measured by the number 8 (for instance, in Christian Gnosticism, the Greek cultural approach to Christianity between the first and second centuries AD, the symbol of Jesus Christ is 888).

If you divide a circle into four equal parts, you get four points of basic crisis in the relationship between the two polar factors being considered. However, four more points by bisecting the four quarters (like cutting and dividing a cake into eight pieces) are necessary to mark the positions or moments of greatest momentum and most critical release. Thus, there are eight parts and eight points.

* The eight lunation types of personality by Rudhyar are dealt with in the article ‘Let the Moon Phase You Were Born Under Tell You Who You Are’.


Rudhyar, D. (1967).  Lunation Cycle: A Key to the Understanding of Personality. Aurora Press.