Cycles of the Sun and the Moon in Our Lives

One interpretation of the wheel in terms of our own activity

Humans evolved in alignment with the movement of the sun and the moon. As the sun moved, so did human camps of hunters and gathers. As the sun moved, so still move many birds, fish, and mammals as they migrate to avoid the biting cold. As the moon moved, so do the cycles within our bodies, the tides and flows, and wildlife. The sun and moon cycles are literally woven into our blood, into our DNA, and however disconnected some of humanity currently is from the cycles of the sun and moon, they are still there, ever present. How many friends or co-workers still talk about the full moon and how intense people get? How many people in the USA celebrate thanksgiving and a harvest season? How many people feel like staying inside during the darkest time of the year? The cycles of the celestial heavens are there, shining each day, if we only heed them. So today, I’d like to spend some time reflecting on the cycle of the sun in our lives, and how we can use this cycle within and without. This is especially pertinent because, at least where I live, the grumblings of winter have already begun and reflection helps us through the cold and the dark times.

The Moon and the Sun’s phases repeat themselves throughout our lives (whether or not we want them to), and we can see their same patterns occurring again and again. The graphic that I’ve used as a teaching tool that accompanies this post helps explain one way we can interpret these phases of the sun (and also we can apply this to understanding the moon phases as well). These are my own interpretations, but they are drawn from many years of living by the seasons as a homesteader, herbalist, and wild food forager, as well as 10 years of study in two druid orders, where we celebrate and meditate upon the cycle of the seasons.  Even if you don’t celebrate these events as holidays, they still have much to teach all of us in terms of life cycles.

Wheel of the Sun
Wheel of the Sun

The yearly cycle of the sun encourages us to understand that there are times of scarcity and abundance in our natural world, that there are times of high energy and growth and times of death and quietude, and that everything has a season. Why does winter come? So the trees and land can rest before spring is reborn anew. This cycle encourages us to understand that we must have both of these times in our lands and in our lives. The summer solstice (Alban Hefin in the druid tradition) is the high point of energy of the year, with the longest day. The winter solstice is the low point of energy of the year, with the longest night. On either mid-point, we have the equinoxes–the explosive growth and time of new beginnings at the spring equinox, and the harvest and reaping rewards and winding down at the fall equinox. The Sun’s full phase takes 365.256 days, and often teaches us lessons that are more long-term in nature (as each “year older” we are is a passing full phase of the sun); while the Moon’s full phase is 28 days (with each phase 7.38 days), and mirrors the phases of the sun in a shorter period of time. As the moon goes from dark to full and back again, it energetically creates periods of growth and beginnings, building energy, peaking energy, falling energy, and quietude.

Each of these phases is consistent, unavoidable, and part of the human experience. I think we’ve forgotten this quite a bit in our modern world, where each day is regimented into work weeks and we are always supposed to be at our peak performance. Dear workplace and modern life, it is not always high summer in our lands–why should you expect high summer performance 365 days a year? There isn’t a time for rest, there isn’t a time for reflection–its just go, go, go. Modern life gives us no time for anything but full “high summer energy” from us, and yet, that’s not realistic of human limitations and needs. This unrealistic expectation and leads to the glorification of busyness and the burnout of so many of us.

I think its interesting that we talk about it as a sun cycle, because that’s how we see it from earth. But its really an earth cycle that we are talking about–the movement of the earth around the stationary sun. The cycles are affected by the sun, but they are really earth cycles–how the sun is impacting the earth. The sun is masculine, and it is protective in nature. The moon, on the other hand, revolves around the earth and is impacted by earth much moreso than the sun–and the moon is the passive and feminine principle. So even the movement of the celestial bodies themselves reflect the principles they embody.

One of the wheel’s main lessons is that everything comes in a season and a cycle—if we feel we are in a time of darkness (as we might find ourselves in the Winter Solstice), we know that this will pass and that the sun will eventually be bright and full again. The cycle of the Sun, therefore, provides us the promise of change and growth.  Let’s take a look at each of these periods of time:

Balancing and Planning: Its during the Spring Equinox (March 21st) that we can first look to the start to a new season and begin to cultivate plans in our lives. The spring is a time where, after the long rest and rejuvenation of winter, we are able to start anew and build new ideas.  When we are excitedly making plans for the future, the message of balance is a critical one, and one that physically manifests during this period. In the physical landscape, by this point, farmers and gardeners have ordered their seeds and have begun to start them; and while we don’t see much in the way of new growth in many places in the Northern Hemisphere, the melting snows and returning light show the promise of spring. I remember on my homestead in Michigan, as soon as the pond ice would melt around this time period, you would see life in the pond. The water was only a few degrees above freezing and the ground was still covered with snow, but there was all this moving about on the warm edges of the melted water!

Sowing: May 1st marks the point where the “spring” energy is really coming back into the land. Traditional celebrations around May 1st (May Day) involve many fertility symbols, like the maypole or the Beltane fires. The energy of this time isn’t only about physical fertility, but rather how we might sow seeds for many other kinds of things: creative projects, more positive relationships, finding ways of expressing ourselves, and more. This is the time when the flowers come back, when the nectar begins to flow, and when green is slowly returned to our lands.

Energizing and Growth: With the sun shining at its brightest and strongest of the year on June 21st, the Summer Solstice is a time of energizing and growth! The sun provides Vitamin D, a critical nutrient that supports strong bones and teeth—the very foundation of our bodies. Upwards of 60% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D–we are all in need of more sun. Spending time observing nature at this time shows us that we are in the height of summer—the first summer berries are in, the plants are growing vigorously, the trees are thick and lush, and much herbal medicine is ready.

Celebrating: Its not surprising that July and August are traditionally the months where people take a vacation—these months, even in a traditional society—were less busy than the coming fall harvest season. We don’t take enough times in our lives to truly just celebrate the positive things in our lives and simply spend time with those we care about—and this period of the sun’s cycle (around August 1st) encourages us to do this. These are the lazy days of summer, before schools begin again, when there is time to camp, to frolic in the fields, and to enjoy the coming harvest.

Balancing and Harvest: With all the work of planting, sowing, and growth comes the expectation and excitement of the harvest—when all of our hard work pays off. The land, too, is literally bursting at the seams in late August and throughout September with many of the traditional foods that would sustain people through the long winter: nuts, fruits, apples, pumpkins, winter squash, potatoes, and more. The Fall equinox (Sept 21st) also marks the point where we move from the light half to the dark half of the year—and a time for us reflecting and regaining balance in our lives.

Composting: We are uncomfortable with compost in this culture. Things are thrown away, discarded, but not always composted. The lesson of this time in the sun’s cycle can be a difficult but necessary one. As things that are no longer needed or no longer serve us build up around us, it is critical to clear them away and transform them so that we can move forward in our lives. Composting, in a physical sense, is what happens when the trees drop their leaves each season—these leaves turn into soil over time and that soil is host to a whole web of life. In the life of a farmer or gardener, this is when you clear out the old annual plants, trim things back, mulch your perennials, and prepare for the cold season—this is necessary work if anything is to grow. Failure to clear out the old prevents the new from coming forth. And by Samhain around November 1st, the land (at least where I live) is cold and appearing lifeless.

Resting: Despite modern surrounding productivity and cultural values encouraging staying busy and being workaholics; the lesson we learn from the sun cycles is that in order to be abundant and produce a harvest, we must rest, and this rest must be equal to every other phase in our lives. It is at this point, during the darkest night of the year (December 21st), that we can look to nature for guidance. The trees are still, their roots growing deeper into the earth; the perennial plants are alive and yet resting in their toots; living off of the stored nutrients of the past year. The beehive is sealed up, living off of honey stores, waiting for spring. Even many animals rest and hibernate during this part of the year. Without this resting period, the land would quickly be worn out. Without rest, we too are quickly worn out. This period of the sun’s cycle also provides an additional lesson: this is the time of darkness on our lands, but it is a naturally occurring process. This does not suggest that the dark are evil or to be avoided—they are a natural parts of our lives, and we can learn from them—and look forward to the sun’s light again.

Rejuvenating: As part of our rest in the dark half of the year, we need to find ways of rejuvenating our bodies, our minds, and our spirits—and February 1st is a perfect time to do this: light candles, take hot bubble baths, drink warm teas, find creative time, and get a weekend away! Rest is different than rejuvenation—after a period of rest, we are ready to inspire ourselves, treat ourselves, and start to look ahead.

Even if our lives in practice don’t reflect the cycles of the sun, what they do reflect for us is the importance of these periods of time in our lives. Do we get real relaxation? Do we get to nurture our own creative energies and birth things in the world? Do we have times to celebrate, to harvest, to compost, and to simply be still? The sun is there, each day, teaching us its careful and patient lesson. The moon, too, is always in her phase bringing in her quiet light. These cycles give us deeper understanding of ourselves, and principles to live by, principles that can help us create harmony and balance in our lives every day of the year.

I like to take time regularly to reflect upon the sun and moon cycles in my life. They help me balance, they remind me to rest, they comfort me when the composting or dark times are happening. I hope they do the same for you.

For more writings on the yearly cycles, see my posts on the Druid Wheel of the Year, a guided meditation, and Sustainable Activities for the Fall Equinox, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, and Summer Solstice.

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (REDFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (REDFeather, 2022), and Land Healing: Physical, Metaphysical, and Ritual Approaches for Healing the Earth (REDFeather, 2024). She is also the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is an herbalist, certified permaculture designer, and permaculture teacher who teaches about reconnection, regeneration, and land healing through herbalism, wild food foraging, and sustainable living. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart. She also regularly writes for Plant Healer Quarterly and Spirituality and Health magazine.

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  1. Reblogged this on hocuspocus13 and commented:

    1. Thanks for the reblog!

  2. Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    Back in the days of many, many moves, I would migrate instead of living through any unpleasant season. Now that I’m rooted in a less than gorgeous area, honoring the change of Seasons and the Wheel of the Year has become an important practice of grounding and gratitude, regardless of the weather. I’ve so enjoyed hosting celebrations for others, too, as the community aspect of the Wheel of the Year helps us feel not only in tune with the Seasons, but also with the Land and Her People. Thank you for this beautiful description of all the turns of the Wheel. <3

    1. Thanks so much for the reblog!

      1. My pleasure. Great post!

  3. Reblogged this on litebeing chronicles and commented:
    Enjoy this informative and timely post about nature’s cycles and how to tap into our inner rhythms.

    1. Thanks for the reblog!

      1. You are welcome. Great article!

  4. Hi Willowcrow,

    I loved this posting. The Wheel of the Sun graphic depicting the seasons is one of the best I have seen. Is there a version of this particular graphic for the Southern Hemisphere? I would love to print it out and put it on my young daughter’s bedroom wall. Thanks again for your great writing.



    1. John, it wouldn’t be too hard. I’m out of town now but will try to get to it when I return!

      1. Thanks Willowcrow. I am aware you are pretty busy, but if you get the time I would be very appreciative.

        1. Hey John,

          I made the graphic–but its backwards, lol. it goes counter clockwise now. Is that ok?

          1. Yes that is fine Willowcrow. I deeply appreciate that you have taken the time to do it. Thank you!

  5. Reblogged this on Lost Dudeist Astrology and commented:
    Nice piece on this classic topic.

    1. Thanks for the reblog!

  6. Really interesting post, and it totally reflects how I feel at different times of the year. One minor quibble, if I may: you write that the sun is masculine and the moon is feminine. In some pagan cultures, including the Norse (who living where it was dark for months at a time were very aware of the power of the sun), the roles are reversed and the sun is a goddess, Sunna, while the moon is a god, Mani. Just another way of looking at things, I guess!

    1. Thanks for your comment! In terms of the sun and moon, that’s how they are viewed in the Druid revival tradition. But I can totally see how they could be reversed given the Norse context.

      1. Thanks for the clarification. It just goes to show, I think, that our concepts of gender identity and gender roles are totally culturally mediated. In my own practice, I tend to shy away from assigning gender to natural phenomena but it is interesting to see how different pagan traditions have done so in different ways. Anyway, I didn’t mean to derail the conversation: the point of your post, and the effect of the seasons, is something which I totally agree with and think needs to be given more recognition in our lives today.

        1. I think its a great point, and I appreciate your feedback :). Sometimes we get so much in the vein of our own traditions that we fail to see outside!

  7. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature

    Great post! I love living with the seasons. With each passing year, though I resist winter, i do enjoy the hibernating aspect. And I really do love the beauty of the snow and the black and whiteness of everything. For today, though, I am enjoying autumn, and hoping it lasts a long time before the coming of winter.

    1. I have really grown to love winter. Winter = rest, reflection, writing, and studying…and I appreciate all of that rest after a busy season :).

  8. Reblogged this on Forever Unlimited and commented:
    Following the rhythms of life’s ebb and flow…

    1. Thank you for the reblog 🙂

    1. Thank you for the reblog!

    1. Thank you for the reblog, Astrolenn!

  9. Great post! In the Creation Spirituality writings of Christian mystic Matthew Fox, he speaks of the same cycles and lists four that reflect the wheel of the year. Via Negativa, Via Positiva, Vis Creativa, and Via Transformativa. If more of us would be in tune with these cycles our world would be a happier and healthier place. Blessed be!

    1. Thank you, David! And thank you for the info on Matthew Fox!

  10. I really like your perspective on this. Thank you very much for posting it!

    1. Thank you for the comment 🙂

  11. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature

    What a nice post. I feel so balanced just having read it. I love the idea of cross-quarters. They sort of break it up in a nice way – get us thinking ahead in a way, or reminding us to get ready. Thank you Willowcrow.

    1. Thank you, Mary! 🙂

  12. Reblogged this on SunRay Sorceress and commented:
    Cycles of the Sun.

    1. Thanks for the reblog!

  13. […] Druid’s Garden: Cycles of the Sun and Moon in Our LivesInformation gathered […]

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