Of all the seventy-eight tarot cards, the Moon is one of the most confusing to understand and interpret. I think there are a few reasons this is so.
First, perhaps more than chariots, hermits and magicians, for example, the moon in the sky has so many cultural attachments. We all experience the moon in one way or another.
We associate the moon with lunacy, werewolves and menstrual cycles. The moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie to signal that you are in love. To the moon is where Ralph wanted to send Alice, back in the time when everyone seemed to think that spousal abuse was funny. When we ask for the moon, we are asking for the impossible. When we love beyond reason, it’s to the moon and back. When we are super-duper happy, we are over the moon.
In Ashtanga yoga, devotees refrain from their yoga practice during the new and full moon.
Wiccans and Pagans celebrate the moon cycles with specific sacred ceremonies.
In Judaism, Passover begins on a full moon.
In Christianity, Easter is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
In the Lenormand oracle, the Moon is card 32. While the tarot Moon can indicate secrecy and things that are hidden, the Lenormand Moon can speak of fame and recognition. The Moon shines brightly in the dark sky. In the Lenormand system, that bright light may be shining on you. The Lenormand Moon can also indicate romance, and reference activities that happen in the evening.
In astrology, the Moon represents emotions, comfort, your maternal side, feelings and vulnerability.
Does any of that help us understand Major Arcana 18, the Moon in tarot? For me, perhaps the most illustrative thing here is that the moon in the sky is something we all see, and something with which we all have some sort of relationship. The fact that the moon means so many things to so many people may help explain why the tarot Moon can be so confusing.
Very often in tarot the way we react to a card can be a clue to its meaning. So, if we feel confused by the Moon when it appears, we might interpret that to say that we are experiencing confusion in the situation for which we have consulted the cards.
Yet, the Moon can mean so much more.
If you read an older tarot book, you might see that keywords for the Moon include lunacy and treachery. The Moon may serve as a warning against hidden enemies and secret plots.
If you read a newer tarot book, you might see the Moon interpreted as an invitation to explore dreams, intuition and magic.
I have a theory about why this dichotomy might exist.
The moon in the sky has long been associated with feminine mysteries. The patriarchy of centuries past feared witchcraft, which was and is associated with feminine power and intuition, along with the cycles of the moon.
When meanings for the tarot cards were coming into being, the Moon might have been seen as a warning again witchcraft.
Today, more people understand the beauty and strength associated with the practice of witchcraft and magic. Many in the tarot community honor the traditions of the divine feminine.
That means that when the tarot Moon appears in a reading, we might see it as a call to honor your intuition, and to remember your own magical power.
We can square these two divergent meanings this way.
The path to spiritual understanding and clarity is fraught with dangers. Things are harder to see by moonlight than by sunlight. There are those who would trick us, like charlatans and false prophets. There are those who would ensnare us, like fundamentalists and cultists.
When we journey toward enlightenment, we must step carefully, and use our intuition to make sure our path is correct.
In a reading, the Moon can tell us to pay attention to the wisdom of our dreams. It can also speak to us of our spiritual faith, and of deepening our relationship to the divine.
When the Moon appears in a reading to speak of mundane matters, the allegory of the spiritual journey translates into the dangers of the pursuit of any goal. We must step carefully, we must cultivate clarity within, especially when the situation at hand lacks clarity.
In answer to a more mundane question, the Moon asks us to vet our associates and our plans carefully.
In any circumstance, the Moon may tell us to look for what is hidden. All is not how it seems.
When the Moon appears, there is a mystery to be solved, whether mundane or magical.