When we look at the night sky, the most beautiful and magical thing we see is surely our Moon. Night by night we follow its phases from dark and new to bright and full, then back again, as it revolves around our Earth. Its ebb and flow cycle of approximately 27-28 days informs the tides, our emotions, our energy rhythms and the female menstrual cycle.
As our nearest and most visible neighbour, it is surely a piece of beautiful cosmic synchronicity that the furthest planet that can seen by the naked eye, Saturn, has a cycle of around 28-29 years, making it a good macrocosm of the Moon cycle. The universe does indeed move in wondrous ways and there is one other cycle, which in some ways, ties the Moon and Saturn cycles together. That is the passage of the Secondary Progressed Moon* around our natal chart, a highly personal journey, which symbolically unites the emotionally based 27-28 day Moon cycle with the 28-29 year Saturn cycle of maturity and growth, because the Secondary Progressed Moon takes approximately 27-28 years to make a full circle of the birth chart, a cycle just slightly shorter than the Saturn cycle.
Just like the Moon, our lives ebb and flow, wax and wane. Sometimes our life experience is bright and full and outward looking, but at other times things are quieter and more reflective and life becomes a more inward looking experience. The passage of the Secondary Progressed (SP) Moon around our chart, just like Saturn’s passage, reflects these phases in our lives. In short, the SP Moon’s passage around our chart can be described as a cycle of emotional growth and maturity, as opposed to the more tangible, worldly maturity we associate with the Saturn cycle.
Tracking the SP Moon’s journey through our natal chart and its alignments to the natal Moon provides an illuminating marker for our emotional growth, especially as these alignments so often coincide with developments in significant relationships- which are key markers on our emotional journey.
To give a personal example, when SP Moon was square my natal Moon in October 2000 I started (in actual fact re-started) a serious relationship with the man who is now my husband. This was the waxing, first quarter square, a time of action when the emotional energy pushes outwards, manifests. Jon would become my husband one full quarter cycle later just a few months after SP Moon opposed my natal Moon in 2007. The opposition, its energies akin to a Full Moon, is a time of fulfilment, reaping the rewards, the union of opposites. The aspect was exact in March 2007 and while we didn’t marry until November of that year, the commitment to marry was made during the opposition alignment.
What of the start of that cycle, SP Moon conjunct natal Moon in 1993? Falling in my 10th house, not surprisingly this time was all about me embarking on a new career, finding my place in the world. This was also the lead up to my Saturn Return which happened in 1994. That whole period of 93-94 was the start of a new phase of maturation, in an obviously worldly sense (the Saturn Return), but also in a lunar sense (the SP Moon Return), because it was about the search for belonging, a time of trying to get my needs met out in the world. I was seeing Jon back then, but there were no significant developments in our relationship at this time. We simply weren’t in the right place emotionally to commit to each other and ended up breaking up for awhile further down the line. Remarkably, however, the original relationship began within days of SP Moon conjunct natal Sun in the fall of 1990.
Because it takes 27-28 years for the SP Moon to make a complete circuit of our chart, most of us experience three cycles during our life time.
These three cycles correspond beautifully to the idea of the triple goddess, the threefold life cycle of Maiden, Mother and Crone. For this article, I am going to rename these phases Child, Adult and Elder, gender neutral terms which I think better illustrate the emotional concerns of each SP Moon cycle.
The Child phase
The Child phase lasts until we are around 27-28 and tracks our early years of youth, innocence and inexperience. During this phase we learn, through experience and feedback, how to express ourselves emotionally and how to get our emotional needs met. As children, we tend to follow the emotional behaviour patterns set by our parents or guardians, most specifically our mother. The first square of SP Moon to our natal Moon, at around seven years old, is a time of emotional flowering, as we more and more express ourselves emotionally through relationships outside our family and begin to form friendship bonds with our playmates.
SP Moon opposite Moon occurs around 14-15 years old. The opposition is a time of awareness, fulfilment and blossoming. We have been through puberty and have become sexually mature on the physical level. It is around this time that we start to experience sexually emotional feelings towards others and many of us start dating. However, from an emotional perspective, we have not quite caught up with the physical changes we have been through. To enable our emotional processes the space to mature, we increasingly demand emotional and physical distance from our family, becoming secretive about our emerging sexual urges and hiding our blossoming bodies behind locked bedroom and bathroom doors. We begin to realise, consciously or unconsciously, that we are not merely extensions of our parents, we are individuals with our own unique emotional needs (according to our natal Moon by sign, house and aspect) and begin to experiment with getting our needs meet, through a process of emotional interaction and feedback from others.
At around 20 years, we experience the second and final square of the Child phase – the crisis, final adjustment phase. In the eyes of the world we are adults, but emotionally we still have a long way to go, even if we feel that we are emotionally ready for our first grown-up sexual relationship. We may even marry or live with our partner at this stage, have our first child, and/or serious emotional rites of passage. It was at 19 that Nina, a college student living away from home, had her first serious boyfriend. By twenty the relationship broke apart because her partner (who had a partnership oriented Libra Moon) felt ready to marry whereas she (with an independent Moon in Aquarius) felt a long way off from making that type of commitment. The boyfriend, the same age as her, went on to meet and marry someone else within months, an event symbolising his own emotional rite of passage. Nina on the other hand, experienced that unfortunate but essential emotional initiation, her first broken heart. However, despite the pain, she understood that the relationship could never have worked in the long term, a significant realisation and an important landmark on her emotional learning curve.
Nina’s story demonstrates how, during the second half of the Child phase, we learn through trial and error in our relationships, slowly understanding what works for us emotionally and what doesn’t, eventually becoming more intensely aware of our own unique emotional needs.
The Adult phase
The transition from the Child phase to the Adult phase occurs around the age of 27-28, when SP Moon returns to its natal position and conjuncts the natal Moon. It is not until we have experienced our first full SP Moon cycle, closely followed by our first Saturn return, that we can truly understand our own emotional needs and get to grips with our place in the world in relation to others. While the Saturn return brings hard work, crisis and the need to let go of the material safety net of our childhood, the first SP Lunar Return, which precedes, it represents a major emotional initiation. We must work to remove the emotional crutches of childhood in order to move into our future. Along the way, we must lose our innocence, but in so doing we become emotionally mature in order to allow ourselves to experience emotional fulfilment and stability in the future.
There’s a case for saying that if we cope well with our first SP Lunar Return, we are better prepared for our first Saturn Return.
Ruth’s story demonstrates how we so often need to let go of something or someone emotionally during the SP Lunar Return. Ruth has had two serious relationships. The first one began during SP Moon square natal Moon (an alignment of emotional adjustment) and ended in her late twenties not long after her SP Lunar Return. By the time of the break-up she had been through one whole cycle of emotional learning, the Child phase. The break therefore represented a key emotional rite of passage. Despite the love and strong attachment she had felt for this man, she was emotionally mature enough to recognise that the emotional dynamic of the relationship had become deeply unhealthy.
While the actual break up occurred five months after her SP Lunar Return, what she describes as the emotional break-up exactly coincided with her SP Lunar Return. This timing also exemplifies the fact that Progressed Moon alignments so often represent internal, emotional processes, which eventually manifest further down the line. As for the Saturn Return that followed the SP Lunar Return, Ruth turned her focus to her career. Feeling unfulfilled in her job, she was inspired to learn new skills, which bore fruit in the form of exciting opportunities further down the line. Similarly, the emotional decisions made at the SP Lunar Return were also to bear fruit later. By letting go of the old relationship that was not working, Ruth freed herself to find a relationship which could better fulfil her emotional needs. When her second SP Moon cycle had completed one full quarter of its cycle (SP Moon square Moon) and at the same time as SP Sun opposing natal Moon, she met the man whom she is set to marry later this year, when SP Moon will be conjunct her natal Sun.
The Elder phase
The Elder phase begins at approximately 55-56 with our second SP Lunar Return, marking our initiation into the final phase of our life when we are called to become emotionally wiser, calmer and more compassionate. For women the transition coincides with the menopause, when our hormones being to wane and no longer have such a strong pull on our emotional reactions. This SP Lunar Return falls between the Chiron Return and second Saturn Return, and these three returns, as a whole, represent a stage in our lives when we must ask ourselves questions about how we have lived our life to date and plan for how we would like the rest of our lives to play out.
The SP Moon’s part is to remind us that old emotional habits die hard, but must be addressed to insure ourselves against emotional and physical ill health in the years to come.
Our memories become more and more important to us, and if our emotional process is a conscious one, we will be able to see how our emotional patterns have been played over and over again through the previous two SP Moon cycles. We may also see these patterns reflected back at us through our children and/or grandchildren. It is our job at this stage to use our wisdom to help support and mentor them on their own emotional journey, to let go of the emotional binds and expectations we have over them, so that they can be freer to grow emotionally into themselves.
Sheila’s husband passed away during her Chiron return in 1995. Four years later, she experienced her second SP Lunar Return. The second SP Lunar Return is a time that brings new challenges and new opportunities, and it was during this time that she returned to work. Utilising her many years of experience, she trained and mentored young people, helping them to improve their skills in the workplace. Around the same time, she describes how her husband returned to her in spirit, through dreams and what she describes as “ghostly” experiences. In emotional terms, this was a stage in her journey towards slowly, slowly letting go of the past. It also planted the seed for a significant new phase in her life, leading her to explore the spiritual and by the time of her second Saturn Return in 2003-04, she was practicing Reiki healing and mediumship. When she experienced the first SP Moon square Moon of this cycle, in 2006, she became a Reiki Master, devoting more and more of her time to healing others. This exemplifies how, for many people, this third SP Moon cycle, the Elder phase, becomes a less material and more spiritual journey. It is as if, as this third cycle unfolds, we unconsciously recognise that we have been on this emotional ride before and must and therefore strive to find a deeper meaning to it all, above and beyond ourselves. It’s also a good example of the progressive unfolding of the three major cycles which fall one after the other between the ages of around 51 to 60 – the Chiron Return, the third SP Lunar Return and the second Saturn Return.
The threefold SP Moon cycle is an illuminating way to track our own, very personal process of emotional development. In summary, the SP Lunar Return is a time of new beginnings and the seeds we plant at this stage will start to bear fruit by the time of the first, waxing, square of the SP Moon to our natal Moon. The waxing square is a time of action and manifestation, when what we planted at the SP Lunar Return has flowered and is soon to bear fruit. The opposition, when SP Moon opposes the natal Moon is a time of full awareness when we can reap the rewards and harvest the fruit of the emotional journey of the first half of the cycle.
After the opposition, which is akin to a Full Moon comes a more internal, reflective time, when we need to re-evaluate and let go of emotional patterns and bonds that have run their course. This leads us to the second, waning, square of the cycle, a stage where the real work of emotional maturity takes place, as we deal with old issues and potentially face emotional crises. As we come up to the next SP Lunar Return, we are asked to release old habits and apply new wisdom to old situations that we may have outgrown. If you are in your second or third cycle, look back to the alignments and phases of the cycle before to see if you can identify recurring patterns. Doing this with self-kindness, openness and awareness can provide an enlightening picture, which demonstrates just how far we have come on our journey towards emotional maturity and just how far we need to go.