7 things you need to know about moonbeaming (including WTF it is)

Feeling a little off today? Maybe the barista left that extra shot of espresso out of your latte, or maybe it’s the moon sucking you dry. Confused? Us, too. We love healing crystals and tarot readings as much as the next Vetements wearing, Kombucha drinking city witch, but moonbeaming is new, even for us.

Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, an LA-based designer and artist, has been teaching moonbeaming workshops for about a year. She describes herself as a “neo-pagan,” a comforting blend of Jewish and Buddhist non-denominationalism, all with a healthy, down-to-earth dose of “Whatever works for me!”

So what is moonbeaming? As Gottesdiener describes it, it’s the practice of “getting in tune with different phases of the moon.” Through a careful brew of astrology, rituals, and energy work, you can learn how the moon reflects your mental, emotional, and physical states.

Neo-witchy, sexy, and magical? We’re in. So what do you need to know about moonbeaming to get started? We’ve answered seven questions you probably have running through your head right now.

1. Isn’t this all a bit weird?

I mean, it’s new age-y, sure, but it’s not new. Gottesdiener says we all have “lunar DNA.” The practice of looking to the moon for guidance goes back as far as human history. Our first calendars were lunar, and many religions – including Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism – still follow lunar cycles. In our shift to the Gregorian calendar, we lost a very primal form of time-telling. “Moonbeaming is a remnant of using the moon as our calendar, following the timelines of equinoxes and the changing of seasons. The full moon historically was a super potent time, because before we had electricity it was the time we could see each other at night. It’s when shamans and priests and witches could come together. It’s a time of illumination and connection.”

2. Cool, but I live in a downtown condo, not a forest cave.

Fair. You might look a little bananas getting witchy on the loading dock in your back alley, but even for us urbanites, the moon is almost always visible. Gottesdiener lives in LA, and while she used to practice in her backyard in Portland, she says even in the city of angels she can find a quiet street corner to light a candle. The most important thing is just to do it at night (duh).

3. Alright fine, so what am I looking for up there?

The first thing to do is identify the phase of the moon. This is easily googled, and Gottesdiener also has some gorgeous resources on her site. From there, you want to think about a corresponding intention. For example, during a new moon, you might think about what you want to bring into or release from your life. Gottesdiener then recommends taking that energy out for a walk under the moon. Try bringing a sketchbook or do some spellwork to harness more particular energies.

4. Sorry, did you say ‘spellwork’? 

Yup. Spells allow us to access the energy of the elements to set concrete intentions. “Basically, you’re allowing the cosmos and elements to activate your conscious energy. You can use elemental talismans that correspond to the spell you want to cast – things like orange blossom oil, crystals, shells, frankincense, candles. You can even call on help from spirit guides, goddesses, animals, ancestors.” Are we losing you? Don’t worry, spells can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. It’s a practice similar to meditation or yoga breathing, says Gottesdiener. So just take a few deep breaths, clear your mind, and allow yourself. The right moon-communing energy should be a bit hypnotic—almost trance-like.

5. This sounds insane.

I know! But think about it this way—as Gottesdiener points out, the cycles of the moon reflect the cyclical nature of real life. “Practitioners of magic believe that most of our power resides in present moment – it’s not about the past, or trying to control the future, but rather realizing that past, present and future all exist simultaneously. Like, why do movies always end after the couple gets married? We should have a seven-year movie that goes through the whole relationship. Life isn’t linear, it is cyclical. Good times and bad times end and start again.” In other words, all you’re doing is trying to tap into that present energy.

6. Could this all be too intense for me? 

It’s pretty powerful stuff. In fact, a lovely side-effect of being more lunar-conscious is that you might even become more aware of your body. If you are a “woman who bleeds,” as Gottesdiener puts it (which sounds totally badass, tbh) and struggling with irregularity, she recommends spending 15 to 20 minutes at a time standing under the moon. Before written calendars, the moon cycle was a great way for women to track their periods. Paying real attention to your own cycle and how it corresponds to the moon can teach you a lot about your physical and psychological self. For example, “If you feel really great for a week and then you notice it is a new moon, just track that. See how your body feels. Maybe you’ll learn things like not to book a first date during this particular moon phase.”

(Obviously this isn’t a medical remedy: see a doctor if you’re really concerned about your health!)

7. Okay, I’m in. How can I get started?

“The easiest thing to do is just start noticing where the moon is and how you feel,” says Gottesdiener. “When you see new moon – that first sliver of light – set an intention, make a wish, let yourself dream. Think about what you want, and think about what you need to let go of in order to get closer to that. Then, at the full moon, look back (the cycle is about 28.5 days), and take a minute to write, draw, whatever – see how you’re feeling, and what you appreciate.”

The full moon, for example, allows for intense illumination. “Our senses are heightened; feelings can erupt almost spontaneously. We’ll have a twinge of surprising longing and wonder where it came from. Experience shows that the more we pay attention to these emotional impulses, experience them all the way through, and take note of them, the more these can serve as a guide to change, instead of just a random occurrence. ”

Above all, says Gottesdiener, stay curious! Studying the moon provides us with a “vast and exciting toolkit to use to harness different energies. Use it as a springboard for your own development.”