What’s the difference between a New Moon and Full Moon? Astrology, astronomy, and rituals to make the most of that lunar magic

Everything you need to know to unlock the magical power of lunar phases, the New Moon, Full Moon - and how to harness their energy

All phases of the moon on a clear dark sky - stock photo.
(Image credit: artpartner-images/Getty Images)

The New Moon and Full Moon in each lunar cycle are often marked by those who look to the sky for guidance - though they’re only two dates in a busy schedule. As the fastest-moving celestial body in the sky, you’ve got to be fast to track the Moon’s movements. 

It moves so fast that it cycles in and out of every sign of the zodiac in roughly 28 days, just look at the Moon calendar 2023 to see what we’re talking about. It takes the Sun, which usually gets all the fanfare, 30 days to switch signs. At that point, the Moon’s been there, done that, and is back around again. 

This blink-and-you-might-just-miss-it pace means that over the course of one month, our nearest neighbour has connected with every planet in the solar system. During that journey, la luna has gotten all the major tea from everyone – and has got some stories to tell and secrets to spill. 

Because of this, tracking the movements of the Moon is the secret weapon in every predictive astrologer’s arsenal. It's also why it's often referenced in your weekly horoscope, and why its position in your astrology birth chart is incredibly important.

Luckily, you can discover the mysteries of the Moon and unlock its full power – and your potential – without having to become a daily watcher or a professional astrologer. It’s easy, all you have to do is pay close attention to its two most headline-making alignments each month - the New Moon and the Full Moon. 

Every month, the New Moon gives you a chance to start fresh while the Full Moon is your opportunity to check in and realign yourself with the energy of the stars.

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new moon

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What is a New Moon and Full Moon, astronomically speaking?

In astronomical terms, we can predictably and reliably track the phases from New Moon to Full Moon every month. When it’s positioned between the Earth and the Sun, that alignment is the New Moon phase -  Earth, Moon, Sun. At this point, the Moon is completely obscured in the night sky. 

Two weeks later, there is a Full Moon. This is when it's on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun - Moon, Earth, Sun. This is when it's at its brightest and most illuminating point in the night sky.  

Remember these alignments because as we add astrological interpretations to the significance of the Moon’s position and visibility from Earth, that’s when the astrological magic really begins.

What Do the Sun and Moon represent in Astrology?

The keys to any astrological interpretation are rooted in the placements and daily movements of the Sun and Moon. Called the two luminaries, these celestial bodies (note, it’s acceptable to call them planets in astrology) represent one end along a spectrum of dichotomous principles. 

Think opposites, like action and passivity, giving and receiving, yang and yin, hot and cold, light and dark. The Sun, and our Sun sign represents our outer world, namely our ego, personality, and purpose. As the center of the Universe, literally, the Sun points to what we want to be seen, known, and regarded for. 

Conversely the Moon, and our Moon sign, represents our inner world and represents our emotions, moods, and feelings. Because it is closest to the Earth, it shows us that which is closest to home. It represents our physical and emotional bodies and signals what we need to nurture and soothe ourselves.

What Is a New Moon in astrology?

Autumn full moon and red leaves - stock photo

full moon

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Now that we know what a New Moon looks like in the sky, here is where we begin to synthesize that alignment with our astrological background. Here we have the Sun – our outer world – meeting with the inner world of the Moon. Called a conjunction in astrology, it’s when the two planetary bodies involved completely fuse and blend their meanings together. 

Therefore, a New Moon is about a new cycle that signals fresh starts, new beginnings, and the blending of solar and lunar energies. It’s where our heads and hearts are both aligned with a vision - where we have both the will and the way to get something done. 

But remember, because a New Moon means that the Moon is not visible, this part of the lunar phase is when we have to have the most faith. This is because we are planting seeds in the dark but trusting that our intentions will help infuse them with the energy they need to manifest. 

If you're still wondering what is manifestation - a New Moon is the perfect time to learn how to do it, with an extra boost of lunar magic!

How to work with a New Moon

Think of a New Moon as growing a garden. By knowing what sign the Moon is in – and therefore what house in our birth charts is activated – we can think about what kind of seeds we’ve been handed that have the best chances of growing. 

On the day of the New Moon, consult your astrological birth chart to determine what house the lunation is taking place in. For example, if your birth chart shows that Leo rules your tenth house of career, a Leo New Moon is an excellent time to manifest a new job or promotion.

A New Moon in your seventh house for example means you’re primed to grow a new relationship. So, while we can focus on the topic of that house for our wishes and manifesting, we also allow the Universe to add details and dimensions that we hadn’t thought of or expected.

New Moon ritual

  • Gather a pen, paper, candle, matches, and glass of water.
  • Think about all of your long-term goals. Be specific and be imaginative – do not sell yourself short! Write down exactly what you want to happen, whether it’s a new relationship, a promotion, a vacation, a certain number in your bank balance.
  • Place the paper (earth element) with your wishes next to a glass of water (water element).
  • Light a candle (fire element) as you state each one of your goals out loud (air element).
  • Check back in at the Full Moon to assess your progress.

Blue Moon photo collection, stock image of moon behind trees.

(Image credit: Nitesh Ud/Getty Images)

What is a Full Moon in astrology?

The Full Moon represents the opposition aspect in astrology. When two planets form are opposite of each other, they are at the furthest part away from each other in the cycle. It’s usually a point of tension – not necessarily conflict, but it can be likely during a Full Moon. 

Whether it’s positive or more challenging, Full Moons mark times of a culmination. Everything is more heightened now as the Sun and Moon each stand on their own, not fusing their energy, but magnifiying their own personal power. Solar energy and lunar energy are both operating at a peak – which is why Full Moons have a reputation for bringing out intense emotions.

How to work with a Full Moon

Usually, there are endings that occur during a Full Moon – or at least, some kind of secret is revealed. Remember that during a New Moon, things were hidden and in the dark. Now, that the Full Moon is completely, illuminated, what couldn’t be seen before is brought to light by the Sun and shadow sides can be exposed. 

It’s a powerful time for assessment and letting go of that which isn’t working and appreciating what is.

Remember that garden we started growing during the New Moon? The Full Moon is the time of harvest when we can reap what we have sown. Or at least, if we don’t like the results of what has been shown to us, we can use this time to reassess and recalibrate as our senses are vibing higher and we are able to see things more clearly – especially emotionally.

During the Full Moon, you can practice a Full Moon ritual that's all about release. If you’re ready to move on from a job, a relationship, a current living environment, or a restrictive role, belief, or thought pattern, Full Moons can be powerful times for letting go.

Again, look to the house in your birth chart to see where you are most aligned for some energetic shedding.

Full Moon ritual

  • If you create a New Moon manifestation list, now is a good time to look at that sheet of paper and see if it still aligns to what you want. You may be pleasantly surprised to see that some of your wishes may have already come true!
  • If not, this may be a time to take a pen and paper and write down what you'd like to release and leave behind what no longer serves you.
  • At this point, you can find a fire-safe method and use the candle to burn the paper and release those wishes back to the cosmos. 
  • Then wait two weeks until the next New Moon and start it all over again!
Astrologer and tarot reader

Maria Sofia is a Greek-American writer, astrologer, Tarot reader, and intuitive. She is a lifelong lover and student of the stars, who has been practicing divination and magic for 20+ years. 

Maria is Leo Sun, Cancer Moon, and Virgo Rising. Her favorite natal placement in her chart is her Virgo Mercury conjunct the ascendant that makes her a fast writer and talker and she smiles anytime she pulls the Queen of Wands or the Nine of Pentacles.