Understanding Tarot: The Moon

the moon tarot card meaning
Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck

The Understanding Tarot series is written by Claire Chilvers. It follows the Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana. You can find out more about Claire’s insights and readings at @ClaireChilversTarot

The Moon: The dimly lit path to enlightenment

When I was younger, my family once went on a summer holiday to Cornwall. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this idyllic part of the UK, it is the most South-Westerly point of England and the opposite side of the country to where I live.

Back in the 1980s, there were not as many motorway bypasses as there are these days. So, my Dad – aware of how many long, narrow, winding, seemingly endless roads we would need to travel down to get to our destination and, aware of possible congestion – decided to start the journey in the middle of the night. 

This seemed like madness to a young girl such as myself, who had rarely been outside past her early evening bedtime. It seemed such an unnecessary risk to undertake such a task in the dark and eerie silence of the wee small hours.

The promise of a glorious summer holiday didn’t seem real as my sister and I were bundled into the back of the car, bleary-eyed and confused. But, it made perfect sense when, eight hours later (and when other families were sitting in traffic queues many miles behind us), we were watching the glorious sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean enjoying a hearty Cornish breakfast with eagerness and anticipation for the excitement of our holiday ahead of us.

I’ve shared this anecdote from my past as it ties in nicely with the essence of The Moon and the picture it portrays. The dark, eerie night with only the light of the moon to illuminate the winding path to an unknown destination. It takes such a show of strength and belief that there is something better waiting at the end of this path shown for anyone to summon up enough courage to move on from this place.

In the journey of The Fool, he has been lucky enough to experience spiritual enlightenment as he has embraced the lessons of The Tower and The Star preceding this life lesson.

We left his story at a time when he had been elevated to a higher version of himself and is now feeling connected to the universe and welcoming lessons from his celestial masters.

The Moon arrives in The Fool’s journey at the latter stage of his life, he is wise, learned, and respected now. He is in tune with the waxing and waning of the moon and can feel his emotions and intuition ebbing and flowing at one with the universe.

The Fool can look to the moon and instantly respond to its message. Seeing the moon is full, he acknowledges this is a point when he should celebrate his achievements, to let go of what does not serve him, and to set his intentions for the next moon cycle that lies ahead. 

The Fool is no longer feeling the need to doubt himself. Nor would he let his inner voice be drowned out by the dog and wolf howling at The Moon. Nor would he feel ill-equipped to undertake this journey regardless of its uncertainty.

He would have faith in his instincts and know he is being guided to a better place. He would not let fear stop him, and realises that any setbacks or challenges he is faced with would provide him with opportunities to grow even further and to achieve more success than he had thought possible as he takes his first steps.

That is the positive message of The Moon at its most highest level possible and (luckily for The Fool) he has reached a place where he can fully accept this message. 

But, as I mentioned in previous articles, the cards do not always arrive in our lives in chronological order. We do not always feel ready to deal with the magnitude of these messages and the tasks they are urging us to. 

The celestial cards towards the end of the Major Arcana- The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement and The World can lose their message if we do not feel connected to the universe. We often allow ourselves to feel so small that we cannot resonate with their bigger, inspirational messages. 

Plus, the dark, mysterious night (when we should be letting the events of our day be organised and filed in our minds by the dreams we have) is not the ideal time to be awake making decisions about the future –  which is why we are told to ‘sleep on it’ if we are musing at the end of the day – the premise being that situations always look better in the morning!

The duality of this card and its message of fear and confusion are depicted well with our howling animals. How many of us have felt like crying out at the moon when we have felt lost or alone? 

You may also notice there are some shards of light floating down to the ground at the start of this treacherous path. This is reminiscent of the imagery seen in The Tower when twenty-two flames floated down with the falling people to the ground, reminding us of the link to all aspects of the universe. 

In The Moon card, there are only fifteen ‘flame-like’ lights, which seems an interesting link to The Devil card – also number fifteen in the tarot and the embodiment of fear and anxiety. A subtle reminder of the destructive voice within us who seeks pleasure in holding us back every time we have the opportunity to progress. 

But, these are not flames blocking the way – that is an illusion or a trick of the light as we so often get from the moonlit sky. Another lesson The Moon is urging us to master. If we pass through these specs, these tricks of the light, no harm will come to us. 

Ignore them and focus on what can be seen further ahead. The pillars shown in the card are closer than ever before. Previously, they have only been a glimpse in the distance. 

We saw the pillars from afar during the transformational lessons of the Death card. They were far away from the trauma of the foreground and depicted with the sun rising up between them. A tiny whisper to us that a brighter future was available. 

And now, having travelled so far, that sunny positive place is just beyond them. It can’t be seen, but we have to trust it is there.

Ideally, if life was fair we would arrive at this point when the sun was already out and shining brightly – but, unfortunately, the timing is a little off and the sun is not quite ready to shine. But, this does not need to be disheartening, because, the previous sightings of these pillars will remind us that the sun does light up along this path.

We know this, not only because it is the next tarot card in our sequence, but, because we have always known it. Day follows night. Night follows day.

So next time you see The Moon in a reading or pick this card for guidance, what will you do?

Will you push past the crazy howlers, optical illusions, and your own fears and uncertainties and follow your intuition and the whispers of the moon as it gently guides you with promises of a new dawn? Perhaps we should all promise ourselves we will do this when the time comes.

Collectively, each time I have written these articles, it seems some planetary aspects or global situation seems to tie in nicely with the messages.

As we left 2020 I wrote about The Star card and its message of hope and limitless opportunities that we could take with us into 2021. So far, having sampled the first week of 2021 – I think it would be safe to say it was not quite what we planned. 

The need to push on through this uncertain time to better times has never been so prominent than it has this week for so many people around the world. If you feel this way then you are connecting with one last message in the symbolism of this card. 

The crayfish who has climbed out of its small rock pool and taken its first touch on the path ahead. The crayfish is a spirit animal which brings the a message to tap into the sub-conscious and intuition. It is often seen as a symbol of regeneration, having the ability to shed its skin and can even grow back limbs and claws it loses along the way.

The crayfish seems an odd fit in this card, it doesn’t feel like it belongs there. Sometimes we all feel like we don’t belong in the surroundings we find ourselves in. 

One thing is certain for the crayfish in this picture, it doesn’t feel very fulfilling for him if he stay in this place forever. In many situations, like my own original story of my Cornwall holiday, it can seem to be madness to undertake a journey in the dead of night with the shadowy moon for a guide, but, often turns out to makes perfect sense if the alternative were to stay still. 

As 2021 leads us all along an uncertain path let us take the message of regeneration and resilience that this card brings us and the reminder that even though our first card of this new year is one that shows us as a time of immense darkness, we are all moving towards the bright and positive energy of The Sun.

Read more of the Understanding Tarot Series here

About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com.