The Moon


Tarot 18 – The Moon

By James Donahue

After receiving the promise of hope with The Star, the Fool now encounters The Moon, a card filled with the same old mental and spiritual challenges. It is as if our traveler is moving in circles and getting nowhere.

While the Moon dominates the scene on this card, it is being looked at by three beings on the Earth below. In the foreground is a crayfish crawling out of a pool of water. In front of the crayfish is a long path leading from the pool off into the hills directly under the Moon. Along the path are two dogs, both apparently baying at the Moon.

So what is the symbolism in this card?

One interesting interpretation is that the crayfish represents the traveler, or the Fool, who finds himself in a pool of polluted or stagnant water. Remember that in this deck water represents human consciousness, or emotions. Thus if the Fool falls into a mental point of spiritual stagnation, he must choose between staying where he is or rising above it and continuing on his journey. Thus we see the task lying before the crayfish.

Why is our character presented here as a crayfish? Note that this creature is protected by a hard shell, which in this case represents the ego. In the Fool’s case, it may be a misguided belief that without the shell he can be subject to injury and pain. In truth, it is only the ego that experiences the pain.

Notice the spears of light projecting out from behind the Moon, and the flashes of fire that appear to be falling from it. There is a secret being revealed here. Behind the Moon, which represents fear of failure, shines the Sun, the light of truth and success. The pathway to this light is clearly visible to the crayfish.

But the journey into the hills to reach the light appears fearful. Not only do we have the ominous figure of the Moon, its scowling face looking down on our traveler, but we have the dogs. We suggest that these animals represent the forces around us that would like to persuade us to remain in our old, stagnant place. 

Notice also that there are two towers that appear on both sides of the pathway. In our study of the Tower card we learned that the tower also represents the human ego, which becomes a stumbling block to everybody’s spiritual walk.

Thus our character, the crayfish, faces a long a fearsome journey, mostly of his own making, if he wishes to reach the light of truth that hides behind the Moon.

Thus the Moon card, when it appears in a tarot reading, always represents fear. Fear creates illusion. It reaches into the inner depths of the human psyche. Moonlight removes the color from our world, turning everything into black and white.

Another interesting interpretation of this picture is that the towers stand as a protection against the hostile environment under the watchful glare of the Moon. The animals are a wolf and a dog. The wolf is a symbol of untamed nature while the dog represents man’s ability to control what is around him. If the traveler listens to his inner voice, and overcomes his personal fears, the Moon will lead him up the path to enlightenment.

Yet another examination of this card perceives the image of the crayfish crawling up out of a primordial soup as an image of the beginning of life’s journey down a long pathway to evolution and enlightenment.

The Moon also symbolizes fertility since its 28-day cycle reflects the human female’s normal menstrual cycle. The Moon’s gravitational effects on Earth assure of the rise and fall of the tides and influence the changes of the seasons. The light reflected from the surface of the Moon comes from the Sun.

A brief examination of the numeric effects of this, the Card 18 of the Trump Deck gives us yet a different perspective. The numbers 1 + 8 equal 9, the number of the Hermit. This card represents a desire for solitude and taking time for thought and contemplation before making important decisions.

The number 1 represents the Magician, a card that teaches us to use our minds to tap into the spiritual forces and light around us, and using these forces to cause events to turn out in the way we desire.

Card 8 is the card of strength, which in this case is self-explanatory.



The Mind of James Donahue