Thee we invoke, by the moon-led sea,
By the standing stone and the twisted tree.
Thee we invoke where gather thine own,
By the nameless shrine forgotten and lone.
In fiery flame by starlight pale,
In shadowy host that rides the gale,
And by the fern-brakes fairy-haunted
Of forests wild and woods enchanted.
~ excerpt from Invocation to the Horned God
hen the sun and the moon are in perfect alignment the moon becomes invisible and the night sky is lit only with the stars in its absence. Our modern calendars only mark the new moon which is that first crescent sliver of light two days after the dark moon has passed. When I was starting out in witchcraft, all the information I found online said not to ever practice magic or rituals at the dark of the moon and to do nothing until it had passed. The (mis)information said this would be bad luck and all sorts of horrible things would happen. Now I know to say such a thing is akin to saying “take all the negative cards out of the tarot deck, they’re bad luck, you should never work with them”. There must be balance in the craft. If you honour the full moon you should also be honouring the dark moon. You remember what happened in Sleeping Beauty when the King and Queen didn’t invite the dark fairy to their daughter’s christening – it bit them in the ass. In days of old it was the laypagans who celebrated the seasonal agricultural festivals. For witches, sabbats were rituals performed on the full or dark moon and their reason for meeting was not about crops and livestock but meeting with spirits and deities and performing spellwork for good or ill.
So maybe you want to work your magic rites on the dark moon, but what do witches do at this time? Think of the moon as a door to the underworld. When the moon is full this door is closed, but when the moon is dark this door is open making it a perfect time for ancestor worship and summoning chthonic and crossroad deities. The same concept applies to lunar eclipses. The dark moon is for cursing, curse-breaking, necromancy, mediumship, psychopompery, banishings & exorcisms, divinatory rites, shapeshifting into nocturnal creatures, the worship of underworld deities, honouring your blood ancestors and the ancestors of our magical art — basically many things that scare the shit out of modern witches. I can say from experience though that once you actually practice such things they start to feel normal and the fear dissipates. Well, normal as things can get for a witch anyway.
Start with baby steps. Every dark moon you could honour the chthonic aspect of the deity(ies) you worship invoking them in a widdershins circle with incense, songs, chants, and drumming and leaving them appropriate offerings either at your ancestral altar (if you have one) or outside at a crossroad or in an offering pit. With stang and cauldron call up the Old Ones who dwell in caves, graves, hollow trees, and wild patches of poisons in the dark wood – the Hunter and the Huntress – harvesters of souls.
To take it a step further you could start honouring the ancestors every dark moon alongside deity. The dead are a bit miffed that we modern witches focus so much on deity and so little on them. They were once worshipped like gods and miss the good ol’ days. Some of them have even fooled us into thinking they are gods (those who work with them know who they are). I have conveniently written a couple primer’s on practicing ancestor worship: Ancestor Worship in Modern Witchcraft and Ancestral Altars & Rituals.
The Necromancer’s Chant
by Sarah Lawless
Black is the colour of womb and tomb
We meet at night on the dark of the moon
White is the colour of bone and ash
To speak to the dead we bathe and fast
Red is the colour of blood and death
We rub the bones and give them breath
If you are a plant worker, the dark moon is the time to plant roots and bulbs, to cut back plants and trees, to harvest poisons, and to concoct incenses, oils, and ointments to be used for dark moon work, cursing, banishing, or for ancestor worship.
If you are an animist, the dark moon is the time to bring out your bones to consecrate and redden them, to summon the spirits attached to them, to work with them, to shapeshift, and to leave your animal familiars their favourite offerings.
Remember to protect yourself well during the dark of the moon. The door is open and it’s not just benevolent beings who will be able to come through it. Guard your circle well, make sure to state that only who you invite may come in, wear a protective charm even if it’s just a consecrated ring or pendant, and have strong banishing herbs and resins on hand just in case. Otherwise the dark moon is a celebratory time – a celebration of darkness and death for in honouring death we appreciate and honour life as well.