Juliet tells Romeo not to swear by “the Moon, th’ inconstant moon,/ That monthly changes in her circled orb.” But to my mind, there is no more constant and reliable companion than our steady satellite. Long before there were label printers and dropper caps, witches used the tools around them to ensure their potions were as powerful as possible. One such tool is the Moon.
Our Moon has a very noticeable effect on what goes on here at the Earth’s surface. Because of its enormity and proximity, we feel the pull of its gravity. For most solid objects, the Earth’s gravity is too strong for the pull of the Moon to have an appreciable effect. But that’s not true at all for liquids.
Consider the Moon’s effects on the oceans– the Moon’s gravity is the largest factor effecting the tides, and scientists have found effects of the Moon’s phase on many types of animals and plants.
Now consider that our bodies are around 70% water! This explains why my Grandmother would warn us to watch out for “loonies” on the full Moon — some people are extra sensitive to the effects of the Moon’s gravity on their blood, lymph and hormones.
Now remember that our green allies are also bodies which are also mostly water, and you’ll start to see the connection. At the New Moon, the moon is under us at night and over us during the day. Therefore, its pull is following that of the Sun. So the plant’s waters are being pulled strongly up during the day and strongly down at night, as the gravity of these two bodies exert their power in tandem. That’s at least part of why it’s best to harvest many medicinal plants during the New Moon. It’s also the best time to put up tinctures and other liquid extracts.
The Full Moon, like the bright and lovely one we had last night, is the time when the Moon and Sun are opposite each other, relative to Earth. This means the energy is being pulled in opposing directions at all times for about 3 days (more on that below). This is the best time to extract tinctures, as the liquid magic of the plants is being pulled out into the menstruum. (Of course, what I’m discussing here is unknowable mystery. This is my understanding.)
The Moon’s light is also very special, and carries many magical properties. It is, of course, the Sun’s light reflected. But where the direct Sunlight is too strong and can be damaging, the Moon’s light may be just right.
After all, light is energy. Adding energy to tinctures, oil extractions, glycerites, oxymels, acetates, electuaries and other herbal extracts with even fancier names can wake up the magic in the plant and nudge it out into the surrounding liquid. Some herbalists feel this so strongly that they let their mixtures sit in Sunlight! But the prevailing wisdom is that Sunlight is too strong and can quickly degrade the quality of the potions. I think of it like this: a healthy person can do things faster and in some ways better if they’re on stimulants, but they’re going to fall apart after a while and be unable to do much of anything. I feel the sun’s light acts as a stimulant to the potions. If I ever needed to make a potion quickly, I might very well sit it in the sun for a while, but I wouldn’t expect it to stay useful for very long.
The method we use here at InsideOut Wholeness is to consider the freshness of the plants foremost and the phase of the moon as a close second.
Therefore, during the growing season, if it’s a beautiful, bright, dry day and the chamomile blossoms are calling to us, we may put a few up in tincture on any given day of the moon cycle, especially if they’re calling for rain around the New Moon. But where possible, we will time our collection with the lunar phase.
Thus, when the first frost came, I checked the weather prediction as well as the calendar. Seeing that it would stay cool and clear and crisp for the next 4 days, as the Moon finished waning for the cycle, I waited. I then got to spend a magical New Moon thanking my elegant Echinacea Purpurea for gracing my garden for the past several years before getting my fingers into the cold, dark Earth, untangling her roots and lifting her gently out.
That was December 14th. Those roots have now been macerating for 6 weeks, or 1.5 Moon Cycles. They are at the peak of their buzziness. But leaving them in the menstruum won’t hurt, either.
So last night, I took that jar, as well as the tinctures I made from Ashwaghandha I got from @hazelwitchfarm in Richmond, VA, Osha root from @manner_holistico in New Mexico, and the Nettle Root from my own garden, and reintroduced them to the Moon. I held them in the Moon light and spoke gently to them, encouraging them to release all their magic into the organic vodka to help us on our journeys to Wholeness.*
But instead of straining the whole bottles, I just poured off a few bottles of each and put the rest back in the dark cabinet. This way, I have some ready for you, while the rest keeps stewing in its own juices, growing stronger.
One lesson I’ve learned too slowly is that this is NOT true with oil extractions! Oils need only macerate for two weeks, ideally from the New to the the Full Moon. Any longer, and they have a tendency to go rancid. Not only does this smell GROSS, but interacting with rancid oils, either by taking them internally or putting them on your skin, can deplete precious stores of Vitamin K, which we need to absorb Calcium and clot our blood, not to mention to be Whole people.
The best way to tell where the Moon is in its cycle is to look for it in the sky. If you make a practice of looking for the moon every clear night, you’ll get in touch with the planet in a whole new way. So much becomes clear, from your position relative to the cardinal directions, to your hormonal cycles over the course of the month, to the number of days it ACTUALLY takes to remember to bring your gloves in from the car.
But, of course, sometimes it’s cloudy. And sometimes you’re stuck inside. So looking at a calendar can be helpful. But it can also be deceptive.
Because the Gregorian Calendar counts days from midnight-midnight, one night spans two calendar days. Needless to say, the Moon is full all night, but it is usually listed on the calendar on the date where it will be at the farthest point in it’s cycle. Yesterday, January 28th, that happened at 2:16pm EST. Therefore, the night of the 27th and the night of the 28th, the Moon appeared Full, and the nights of the 26th and 29th it looked pretty Full.
But when the moment of fullness is just after midnight, the date can be a little confusing. Say your calendar tells you the moon will be full on the 2nd, but the moment of fullness is 1am on the 2nd. That means the fullest moon will be the night of the 1st. And while it will still look pretty full on the night of the 2nd, by the night of the 3rd it will be clearly waning. So when people say the Moon is full for three nights, they’re right in many ways, but you’d better know which three!
Look for these newly ready, Full-moon infused tinctures to hit the Shop soon. And most importantly, start looking up and connecting with our steady friend, the Moon.
*The social media handles mentioned here refer to IG, where I first became acquainted with these dedicated herb growers.