The Void-of-Course Moon

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If you have been reading my weekly horoscopes, you may have noticed that the “weekly moon” portion of the aspects usually says something like this:

VOC Moon in Leo: Jan. 22 from 8:19 – 10:21 pm

What does “VOC” stand for? It’s shorthand for void-of-course.

Explanation for astrology nerds

When I say the moon is “Void-of-course” (or VOC), I’m referring to the period after the moon has made its last major Ptolemaic aspect* in one sign and before it moves into the next sign. During this period, the moon is not making any major aspects to the sun or planets. Minor aspects or aspects to asteroids like Chiron aren’t taken into consideration.

* The Ptolemaic aspects are the conjunction, opposition, square, trine, and sextile.

This is the traditional definition of void-of-course as I understand it, recorded by Roman astrologer Firmicus Maternus and studied for 45 years by astrologer Al H. Morrison in the 20th century. Some astrologers throw in some other aspects or take asteroids into consideration, but I like to keep it simple.

The void-of-course moon is most traditionally used in horary astrology, the set of astrological techniques for divining answers to specific questions. It’s only more recently that astrologers and laypeople in the west have put it into everyday use.

Explanation for everybody

The moon is void-of-course once every two days or so, and may be VOC for only a few minutes, a few hours, or a full day.

When the moon is void-of-course, she is “resting,” but the influence is subtle. The astrological interpretation of this period is that we feel more like relaxing than being productive, thoughts are ‘fuzzier’, activities take a vague direction or need to be redone. With some similarity to a planet’s retrograde period, the VOC is a time for more inward reflection than outward action.

The most important reason for noting a VOC Moon is to plan the launch of a new project, deal, or decision around the VOC period. This is a time to avoid starting anything big and new, because it may not go anywhere, or it may need to be redone at a later date.

How to use the VOC Moon

Pay sparing attention to the VOC Moon. Schedule important beginnings for another time, and otherwise go on with business as usual. It’s too easy to spiral into a state of information overload when you start merging all kinds of astrological techniques to plan your life. Something that happens every two days or so is not a big enough influence to freak out about.

I know an entrepreneur who uses VOC moons to schedule important meetings. He won’t schedule a business meeting, especially one that will lead to an important contract, during the VOC Moon. Notice that this refers to client meetings—he might still have lunch with a friend, catch up with his assistant, or get a report from his team during a VOC period if he needs to proceed with work. Life does not have to stop altogether. However, he has noticed that client meetings during VOC moons tend not to deliver tangible results. This is one way to use astrology to plan your life without going overboard.

So if you have a big meeting with an important client to schedule, a magical working to perform, or a fresh start to make, plan a time when the moon is not marked “VOC.” Otherwise, live your life.

Image Credit: “Lunar Day" from Recreations in Astronomy by H. D. Warren D. D., 1879

Still in Shadow

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An Aries discovered this week that I’m an astrologer and wanted to know, as people usually do, what was going on with her. Mars had stationed retrograde on Monday, but things hadn’t gotten better yet. I understand where she was coming from, because this week wasn’t stellar for me either. If I didn’t know better, I could have sworn that both Mars and Mercury were still retrograde.

Astrology depends on accurate timing. A chart is a map of a moment, frozen in time. However, the cycles we track--aspects, retrogrades, lunar patterns--are moving, ever-evolving things. Most astrological patterns happen in a gradual way. Which means that while it would be nice to think that Mars retrograde frustration is all patched up instantly the moment Mars stations direct, it will take a little longer than that for you to recover. Charts are similar to photographs, frozen images, but when astrologers analyze charts we’re looking at something more akin to a video, with cycles moving forwards and backwards through time.

I don’t get into shadow periods a lot because I don’t want to make it seem like Mercury retrograde is six weeks longer than it actually is. It’s overhyped enough anyway. The shadow period is the period in which a planet moves (direct) through the degrees of the retrograde. This means that every planetary retrograde is effectively a three-part cycle. The pre-shadow period is a kind of preview of the themes that will come up. The retrograde itself is the main event. The post-shadow period is a time to integrate the lessons of the retrograde.

Think of a car slowing down from 80 miles per hour to a dead stop. That’s the pre-shadow period. The car slows gradually, not instantly. Once the planet stations retrograde, imagine for the sake of this example that the car has come to a full stop. Time to just sit, reflect and enjoy the scenery. When the planet stations direct, the car begins speeding up again. But it doesn’t go from 0 to 80 immediately. It happens gradually, over a short period of time. That’s your post-shadow period.

Your Mars car is revving up again, but you’ll have to give it a little time before it’s going full speed towards your desires. Mercury is out of shadow on September 2nd. Mars will officially be out of shadow on October 8th. In my experience, it’s the first few days after an inner planet stations direct that require your continued patience. The rest of the shadow period should be less intense. Don’t worry; your car will start moving faster!

As with everything in life, astrology has no silver bullets, and no instantaneous rewards. Astrology only allows us to see and work with continuous cycles. Expect that we will always be participating in a series of cycles, because the only constant here is change.

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