On the Southern Hemisphere Wheel of the Year Calendar the phases of the Moon orbit the High Priestess, waxing as we move towards summer solstice and waning as we move back to winter solstice. The first and last quarter Moons sit at the equinox points. On the outer edge of the zodiac the dates of the lunar phases are listed, including super and micro moons and lunar eclipses.
Just as the Sun can help us to find our general bearings during the day, so can the Moon at night. For nomadic tribes and travellers, especially in places where movement was difficult in the daytime heat, using the light and position of the Moon was a navigational guide.
During a crescent phase, you can find the general direction of north in the southern hemisphere or south in the northern hemisphere by drawing an imaginary line from the top moon tip to the bottom tip and extend this line down to the horizon. The higher the Moon is in the sky, the more accurate this direction will be.
A waxing or waning Moon can help find the approximate directions of east and west. Since the Moon reflects the Sun’s light, its bright side will be pointing towards the Sun. Between the new Moon and the full Moon, the waxing Moon follows the Sun as it crosses the sky from east to west so its western side will be lit. Between the full Moon and the new Moon, the waning Moon leads the Sun across the sky so its eastern side will be illuminated.
No matter from where on Earth you observe the Moon the phases occur at the same time. In the southern hemisphere, the waxing illuminated side of the Moon increases from left to right and the dark waning side also increases from left to right. These are opposite in the northern hemisphere and why the moon can be thought of as being ‘upside down’ from the other hemisphere’s perspective.
The Moon doesn’t rise at the same time each night, in fact it progressively rises throughout the day and night in the course of its lunar cycle. Due to the speed of Earth’s rotation and the Moon’s orbit, the Moon rises between 20-70 minutes later each day. It is this change in relative position to the Sun that makes the Moon appear to go through its waxing and waning phases.
On the Southern Hemisphere Wheel of the Year Calendar the Moon’s phase and oscillation are as viewed from the southern hemisphere.
Southern Hemisphere Waxing Moon
Image credit: Rafael Cerqueira