Two of the most striking observations in my work as a consulting astrologer came to me a few years ago. First, I noticed that the signs of the zodiac parallel stages of early child development. Second I noted that the progressed Moon, its sign and aspect pattern, reflects themes associated with early development. From birth to the first lunar return, and then around again, twice and up to three times in a life span, the Moon symbolizes themes of growth that repeat in each consecutive cycle. With it, the same underlying developmental issues recur again. Age and experience, and different transits and progression patterns contribute to either a more functional or more complex expression of the same themes. Repetition of the progressed Moon’s cycle can activate unresolved issues of the past that press to be resolved in the present.
As a psychotherapist, I work with developmental psychology because it gives me an understanding of the origins of many of my patient’s problems. As an astrologer, I see themes of development reflected in the charts of my astrology clients. By taking an interdisciplinary approach with astrology and developmental psychology, it is possible to see the interactions of these disciplines and the way cyclical development in astrology coincides with the more traditional linear view in traditional psychology. What emerges in combining the two is a holistic pattern, where the same cycle of development (the zodiac) is organized in more mature forms on the longitudinal path of ageing.
In the framework of this hypothesis the signs are symbols for stages of development from birth to the first lunar return. Aries is Emergence, Taurus is Security, Gemini is Language Development, Cancer is Attachment, Leo is Self-Esteem, Virgo is Cognitive Advancement, Libra is Relationships, Scorpio is Trust and Intimacy, Sagittarius is Expansion, Capricorn is Conformity, Aquarius is Community and Pisces is Surrender. Behind the titles of these stages are the emotional, cognitive and neurobiological changes that are specific to each age.
The natal Moon describes the quality of the child’s relationship with the primary caregiver and the effects on a child of the earliest attachment and inter-subjective experiences. The Moon is a self-other configuration – meaning that both the individual (self) and the mother (other) are merged into one symbol. The Moon in any sign or aspect to other planets in the birth chart renders a specific picture of an individual’s internalized relationship with a mother (or primary caregiver) that continues to press for and recreate the original model of nurturing in other relationships throughout life.
In the past several years, the importance of primary relationships in a child’s development has taken on a new significance. No longer can it be said that primary
relationships just affect a child’s growth. Instead, they actually shape growth at the level of neural networks in the child’s brain structure. This is especially true for emotional and cognitive development and the ability to regulate moods.
The Moon is a symbol for the relational nature of development. It represents the way each person connects with the world based upon the earliest relational system of mother and child. In its progressed placements, the Moon represents the way development continues to be shaped by experience and relationships throughout life.
Because each sign has a correlation to a stage of human growth, the meanings of the signs of the progressed Moon are related to the stage of development that they govern. In this framework, the interpretations of signs are virtually identical to those that we already know. Yet there is something more – an expansion of meaning connected to early development, especially to relational development – that adds a new depth, context and relevance to human growth.
For example, in the abstract, the sign of Aries conveys independence, courage, initiative and leadership. But, as a natal Moon sign, these characteristics would only be evident if there has been enough attunement and nurturing in the early years of life. For an individual born with a moon in Aries, with difficult aspects to outer planets, independence can be a pseudo –independence. The Aries Moon can just as often express a profound experience of being alone or can reveal a lack of autonomy, an absence of a strong sense of self, and strong dependency needs, however concealed. During a two and a half year journey through the sign of Aries, the secondary progressed Moon in Aries can pose a challenge to develop a sense of individuation in order to cope with surrounding circumstances. Further encounters of this progressed Moon with natal and progressed planets and transits can reflect the ways this challenge is triggered and affected by the external world.
Taurus, in the abstract, is the sign of security and stability. It is mother earth, the caregiver, and the strong one who provides for all. But it can be the sign of heightened fear of insecurity. The need for the natal Moon in Taurus is to be able to hold onto something concrete that promises and affords this sense of security, stability and status quo. This placement is vitally connected to the second stage of development where it is the concrete object that provides a sense of security. Depending upon the aspect patterns to other planets, a person with the Moon in Taurus might feel compelled to seek security at any expense, and express the need for safety and security through extremes of instant gratification or the need to hold on to a perceived sense of safety even in the absence of threat to that safety. In its progressed placement, the Taurus Moon generally poses a quest for stability, a need to settle in and acquire security and to establish this in the concrete everyday world.
Gemini, the third stage of development, is a very complex natal Moon position,
because it represents two phases in one. It represents preverbal communication in the first phase and it represents the acquisition of language in the second phase. Relationships with primary caregivers determine a host of developmental capacities that emerge in both preverbal and verbal phases. Therefore, the person with a natal Gemini Moon may be greatly influenced by one or both of these two phases of communication development. The preverbal theme of the first phase of communication is intersubjective. It is the I feel that you feel that I feel. It is the empathic communication that is emotional and sensory. Given ruptures in this area, an individual may question his ability to accurately sense what is going on, to accurately perceive his surroundings. The second phase of communication development, is the acquisition of language. Language objectifies what was felt and experienced in the previous phase of communication. Difficult influences to this Moon in Gemini can result in feeling not heard, not being able to speak up, or not being understood. The progressed Moon in Gemini generally brings an opportunity to experience some form of communication and learning that challenges the individual’s communication system with loved ones or friends, or it can bring about a corrective experience in this same area.
Each sign, in the context of this hypothesis, carries the signature of the earliest relationships in life. Aspects with outer planets further suggest the quality of those relationships. Aquarius, the future oriented, people oriented, and humanitarian sign can express qualities of openness, vision, and humanitarian interests. But if there are difficult aspects with Saturn, Uranus, or Neptune, connections early in life may be limited, unstable, or absent. The natal Moon in this position can be an indicator of disconnection – the experience of being cut off, not belonging. This can feel disturbing and dissociative to the individual who has difficulty connecting on a personal level. The progressed Moon in Aquarius, depending on other factors in the chart, will test the ability to balance involvements with groups and humanitarian interests, and with intimacy on a personal level.
These examples of the meanings of the signs of the Moon are general and should be considered as such. They underscore what is really at stake in the area of growth that each sign symbolizes. They depict extremes of what, most often, are more subtle influences of early childhood. And, of course, the natal and progressed Moon cannot be interpreted as isolated from other planets. They are part of a gestalt, a system that is inter-related with the rest of the chart. In the birth chart, the relationship of the natal Moon to outer planets mirror the nature of the earliest relationships and predict, to some degree, the nature of attachment for a lifetime. In the progressed chart, the progressed Moon is involved in whole network of inter-engagement with natal, and progressed placements and transits.
Every time the progressed Moon cycles around the chart and revisits the same natal positions, it awakens the same theme of maturation. The story will be different, and so will the progressions and transits. But the theme of human growth will be similar.
For instance, in the following case example, a 74-year-old client was born on September 29th, 1934 at 2:00 PM PST with the Moon in Gemini, representing the need for verbal communication as the means of engagement with the world. Here, again, the need for verbal communication as the preferred mode of relating means more than words alone. The Gemini Moon implies that relational development is dependent upon having the empathic connection with another and with being heard, being understood, and thereby being connected to another person.
When the individual in this example was 2 years old, his natal Moon had progressed to Cancer and it conjuncted Pluto in the 12th house. The developmental theme of Cancer relates to the need for attachment and the quality of attachment in the earliest relationships of life. When this man’s Moon progressed into Cancer, his father left the family and his mother started drinking. The Moon conjunct Pluto in Cancer (along with aspects to the rest of the chart) tells the story of ruptured attachment and the difficulty for a child at age 2 to mend that break. When the progressed Moon recycled around to Cancer again, 27 ½ years later, the attachment theme occurred again as his marriage ended in divorce. 27 1/3 years later when the progressed Moon traveled the same course, this man entered therapy to work on his attachment issues and the losses in his life that perpetuated them. His life changed considerably because it was in this third cycle that he was able to have a corrective experience.
Interpreting an astrology chart at any time in a person’s life is an art of synthesis. Other planetary cycles of growth, not just the Moon, repeat, and they too reflect significant effects on maturation. But, by singling out the Moon as a symbol for growth and signs of the zodiac as stages of development, it becomes possible to see the plasticity of development; the way development is repeating and changing at the same time. And this process is not happening without our participation. Therefore, when we look at a chart, we recognize that maturation is dependent upon our interaction with the cosmos, not upon the rhythm of the universe and the planetary cycles alone. And the Moon, as the symbol of relational growth, conveys that we can always co-create our lives with the cycles of the Moon and planets.
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Gisele Terry, C.A.P., is the president of ISAR, an astrologer and licensed psychotherapist in California. As an astrological consultant, she works with an international clientele, has published articles in astrological journals, and has written columns for newspapers in Los Angeles. Gisele is the co-director of the Consulting Skills Training Program for ISAR and designer of the counseling skills courses for The Avalon School of Astrology in Gainesville, Florida and The Academy of Astro-Psychology in San Raphael, California. In 2012 AFA published her first book “The Moon and the Relational Nature of Growth”.