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Gardening by the Moon
by Caren D. Catterall

As a moonchild, born in Cancer, I guess I am naturally drawn to the Moon. A deep undercurrent of growing and contracting energy pulls on my focus and emotions. Her beautiful silvery orb incites me as she grows, and draws me inside myself during her dark phases. Several years ago I moved out of the redwood canyons, where the Moon played hide and seek with me from between trees, to a lovely hill top.  The complete privacy of my new land gave me an opportunity to select a spot to hold outdoor rituals. I also wanted to choose a place for my garden. It is not a big parcel, so there weren't many choices, and after walking around and feeling the spirit of the land there seemed one obvious spot suited to both purposes. How could I make ritual and gardening co-exist in the same space?

I came to the realization that the two are more related that you might immediately recognize. Our path shows us that the cycles of life include life and death, growth and decay, and organic gardening techniques agree that one feeds the other. What better environment for spring rituals and harvest celebrations? What more sacred act than creating life? What more perfect teacher than nature?
I decided upon a circular mandala garden, with the ritual spot at the center. The compass points were figured out, and we laid an entrance path into the center at each direction. Beds were built from bender board and stakes, curving in three concentric circles out from the center. The center was planted with creeping herbs of chamomile and thyme, which gives off a wonderful aroma when dancing under the Moon.
When gathering at the full of the Moon with my women's circle, the potency of our work has been heightened any time we can be out there in the moonlight. With our feet touching earth it is easier to imagine sinking our roots down. We howl at the Moon-"Ooooowwwww, Luuuuna, Diaaaannna, Ow Ow Oooowww"-- to raise energy. Like the warrior Diana we fling our arrows of worry and pain into her bright face, to be absorbed by her power. Amazingly strong moon shadows become dance partners, the ancestor spirits come to join us, as we drum and circle around.
"Drawing Down the Moon" is a beautiful but simple ritual from Diane Stein. Stand with arms raised, in the form of a chalice, letting her radiance fill you up, and say "Fill me with your brightness, that I might use your power for my good, and for the good of all".  State your intentions, surrounding each one with a bright aura of light, then release it to the night. So Be It.
My hilltop has no streetlights, so the dark of the moon is when the stars get a chance to sing.  The affect this phase has on me is subtler than the more expansive energy as she grows. The focus seems to be more inward, contemplative. It is a welcome respite, a resting phase before the next surge, a time to regroup and prepare for what is to come.

Gardening by the Moon

It was not long before I made more connections between my spiritual and my gardening practices. I knew that if I were feeling forces of the Moon's ebb and flow, then it was probably affecting the plants as well. I knew that some wise elders and "old farmers" swore by planting by the Moon and decided to learn more about it.
There are several ways to plant by the Moon. Some people pay attention mostly to the phase of the Moon. When she is waxing, or growing, the energy is pulling upwards, affecting leaf growth. After the full, in the dark phases, the energy is drawing down, which is good for planting root crops. This perfectly matches my feelings and responses as the phases change. My energy is high when she is full, and I want to draw in when she is dark. The gravitational pull of the Moon also affects the subtle bodies of water on the earth, such as wells and lakes, just as it pulls the tides. This means that during the growing phases, before the full, there is more moisture in the soil to keep those sprouting seeds damp.
Some people also take into consideration the sign the moon is in, which changes every couple days. The water signs, Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio, are the best for planting, and earth signs are good too. Fire and air signs are usually dry, which makes it a good time for harvesting and cultivating. So when the Moon is right, I plant and chant:

"May the Moon bless you,
May the earth embrace you,
May the waters quench your thirst and make you grow,
May the fiery sun shine down upon you,
May the winds blow upon you and make you strong
May there always be more than enough. Blessed Be"

My gardening style tends to favor letting some plants go wild, reseeding themselves. Plants such as lettuce, borage, dill, cilantro, and parsley are useful as edibles, habitat for bees and butterflies, and food for my chickens. Often these volunteers are more vigorous, and working with their timing brings more unexpected harvests. These, too, are lessons in the value and wisdom of nature, and the interconnectedness of all forms of life.  I find working in my garden to be very soul soothing. If I am feeling overwhelmed by other things, some hands in the dirt time will cure much of it. It is truly grounding, and rejuvenating to both the garden and me. If the garden is neglected, then often so am I. Whether it is the good vibrations left behind by my circle, the power of the Moon, the obvious feeling of abundance around me, or the evidence of the cycle of life, my body, soul and spirit gets tended and fed on that spot.

Caren D. Catterall is an artist, gardener and moon worshiper living on a beautiful mountaintop in Northern California. She publishes a yearly gardening calendar that shows the moon phase each day. You can purchase a moon calendar at She can be reached at

The Old Farmer's Almanac, by Robert Thomas. Yankee Publishing Inc. 2000
Living by the Moon, by Ute York. Bluestar Communications. 1997
Llewellyn's Moon Sign Book by Gloria Star. Llewellyn Publications. 2000, 2001
The Women's Spirituality Book, by Diane Stein. Llewellyn New Times.  1987
How to Grow more Vegetables. by John Jevons. Ten Speed Press 1991 [click here for the 2004 revised and expanded edition]
Astrological Gardening by Louise Riotte. McNaughton & Guan 1975 [click here for the 2001 edition]

Caren Catterall - Divine Inspiration Publications : Work with the forces of nature to get the most out of your garden

Gathering and Gardening by the Moon - © Caren D. Catterall



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