The moon plays an important part in most, if not all, witchy traditions. In many traditions the new moon is a time for setting intentions and new beginnings and the full moon is for harvesting things manifested. In many traditions the full moon is revered over the new moon, but it’s the opposite for Jewish witches. The moon plays a vital role in the Jewish culture, and it all centers around the new moon which sets the basis for the month and the calendar as a whole. And while some of our holy days do fall on the full moon, it’s still centered around the new moon. So, let’s explore Jewish moon magic.
The rhythm of the moon emphasizes repetition. It’s a cycle- a constant wheel turning. There is no beginning or end, it’s just a constant repetition. It’s easy for us to think of change when we see the days lengthening or shortening, or the change from light to dark in a day. But, the moon isn’t about the change as much as it is the constant rhythm of the cycle and the repetition of the cycle.
The rhythm of the moon flows thoughout the month, from one to the next. And the cycle flows day to day. We may not observe the changes daily if we look at the moon every day. We can see changes daily, but they are subtle and are noticeable if we pay attention. But most people seem to notice the changes as the moon’s cycle flows closer to the next phase. So what are the phases of the moon, and what does that mean for Judaism and Jewish witches?
Yom Kippur Katan
The Molad, or rebirth of the moon, occurs at the Dark Moon. This is the central lunar phase in Jewish moon magic. In Jewish history this time has been marked with fasting and spiritual reflection to mark and honor the veiling of, or our inability to see, the Shekinah or feminine Spirit of G-d. Yom Kippur Katan was observed as a small Yom Kippur by the mystics of Safed in the 16th centory. It was seen as marking the exile of the Shekinah. We see this each week with Shabbat when the Shekinah comes in at the start of Shabbat and then leaves at Havdalah. It’s the same with the lunar cycle. The divine feminine comes in and then leaves, and the dark moon marks when she is gone, but the mystics honored the new moon and the rebirth of the moon as a symbol of hope and renewal because the divine feminine was coming back.
While this Dark period is technically the moment of rebirth, Rosh Chodesh has traditionally been marked with the first sighting of the sliver of moon as it begins waxing. And this is noticeable if you look at a moon phase calendar. The new moon is listed, and Rosh Chodesh or the start of the Jewish month (which is at the new moon) is usually a day or two later. Why is this? Well, in ancient times the new month began when the first sliver of the moon was able to be seen. We can calculate the exact moment of the molad or rebirth of the moon, and that is at the dark phase, but the new month generally begins when the moon can once again be seen in it’s small sliver.
Traditionally Rosh Chodesh has been seen as a festival or holy day for women. It was a day of rest for women where they didn’t have to work. There are several theories for this, but traditionally it has been said that this day was Hashem’s way of rewarding women for not worshiping the golden calf at Sinai. A more accurate reason, in my mind, is that the moon flows with women. The lunar cycle parallels the flow of women’s menstrual cycles.
This prayer marks the period of the moon’s waxing and can be recited anytime during the 15 days between the Dark and Full phases of the moon. Traditionally it is said on the Shabbat following Rosh Chodesh. Make sure you do this one outside on a clear night when you can see the moon! The prayer marks the waxing of the moon and blesses her for returning and growing full once again. This prayer was instituted by the Kabbalists of Safed in the 16th century.
The Full moon occurs 15 days after the New Moon. Keseh is derived from the word “kos” meaning cup, and represents a full and overflowing cup of abundance.
This prayer is a petition to the Divine for a good and blessed month. It can be said anytime during the waning moon, but is traditionally recited on the Shabbat immeditately prior to the New Moon.
While most magical traditions break the moon cycle into 8 phases, Jewish moon magic centers on four. I’ve given you a brief overview here. If you would like the text of the prayers for Kiddush Levana and Birkat HaChodesh, you will find them in my guide, Rosh Chodesh the Jewitch Way.