Management of Measurement Constructs

Analytical Techniques, March 31, 2004

The Astrological Symbolism of the Apogee and empty Focus of the Lunar Orbit –The Black Moon

by guest essayist Juan Antonio Revilla of Cosa Rica

Juan Antonio Revilla is a professional astrologer from San José, Costa Rica. He started with Astrology in 1974, first inspired by Dane Rudhyar but later by Marc Edmund Jones, whom he considers his mentor. He has always had a keen interest in the theoretical and astronomical aspects of Astrology, and is the author of the freeware astrological program "Riyal". During the last five years, Juan has dedicated himself to research on the newly discovered centaurs and transneptunians, on which he is one of the leading experts


The Black Moon, Lunar Apogee, or "Empty Focus" of the lunar orbit is an essential element of astrological and astronomical symbolism. Its action is very powerful in every horoscope, but unfortunately it tends to be underestimated, and there is great confusion among astrologers about how to calculate it.

The "Mean Apogee" is the most popular of the alternative "Black Moons", mainly because it has been used for a much longer time than all the others, and also because astrologers often are not aware of the alternatives. It seems to have been introduced into astrological practice in France by Don Neroman (Pierre Rougie, 1884-1953) in the early or mid 1930's. He apparently was also the first to call it "Black Moon".

Its circular, extremely regular, and uniform motion (like the hands of a clock) belongs to the world of solar symbolism. Such type of motion is alien to the lunar world and to the symbolism of the Black Moon.

The Osculating Apogee, on the other hand, represents the shape of the lunar orbit at one specific instant of time. Some people reject this though, because it doesn't make any sense to them to have the point swing as much as 30 degrees from the mean position with abrupt and irregular changes of velocity and direction. But, in my opinion, I think it is precisely this erratic, obsessive, tantalizing, behavior what makes it the best representative of the irrational, instinctive, and primal symbolism of the Black Moon.

[NOTE: a detailed explanation of the different versions or calculation alternatives of the Black Moon can be found at the author's

Astrological Symbolism

The Black Moon is an isolated point, a point of neglect, repression, fermentation, and fantasy that belongs to a phantasmal, nocturnal, instinctive, and erotic world. It contains all the more instinctual of our energies. They include atavistic wisdom and clairvoyance, which are dependent on bodily functions deep within the psyche, with sexuality, of course, being paramount. They manifest themselves in fairy tales and in primitive lunar symbolism: the night, the dream, the mystery, the magic, the danger, the secret, that which is taboo.

There is a dynamic between the 2 foci of the lunar orbit (the Earth and the empty focus): they face each other, like 2 twins; although one is physical and has weight and the other is absent and ghostly. The latter focus represents an absence, a ghost, an emptiness, like the emptiness of the womb or an unattainable ideal. Seen dynamically, there will be important differences between men and women, which is part of the dynamics of the 2 foci seeing each other and becoming polarized, fighting against a ghost and against emptiness, or trying to attain their invisible and ideal counter-part.

It is hot and cold, fire and ice, Unicorn-like, never fully alive and awake, a place where there is never light, where it is always dreamy, like the dark side of the Moon. For this reason it may be a point where "consciousness" and energy may concentrate, but it is a slumber type of consciousness, an "entrance" into a world where knowledge is acquired by dreaming, not by thinking: a symbolic, dream-like, artistic, imaginative world of primal wisdom that resists rationalization.

The symbolism of the Black Moon cannot go beyond what the Moon represents: it is not the Moon but a "ghost", a point of its orbit that is isolated. It is not a planet in its orbit, but a reflection of it "that is not there", a point that is empty, a no-Moon. It is the dark and oniric aspect of the lunar realm. Psychologically, it is a point that represents how we react to its emptiness, isolation, loneliness, and inaccessibility.

The Black Moon is like a womb, a receptacle, an accumulator, a point of emptiness. As part of the "emptiness", this empty focus is also the place of dreams, the garden of desires, the pot at the end of the rainbow, the "impossible dream", the "primal mate", the twin-soul, etc., but this place is very, very dangerous... it can devour you like a whirlpool!
[NOTE: for an illustration of the psychological role of the Black Moon in the case of the composer Tchaikovsky, see the author's "A SWAN SONG"]

Reactive Formations

The level at which the Black Moon works is very primal and stems from sexuality and body-energies; it is related to the past, to the origins, to the "Great Mother" deep inside the psyche.

The Black Moon takes hold of our emotions. It is a reactive point; never a point of integration. As such, it can cause strong identifications or very powerful projections of unconscious emotions, which may not be recognized as such. The Black Moon always works at this reactive level.

It works as an accumulator or attractor. When it becomes too strong, it can be a point of rejection and negation, like a no-Moon, an anti-Moon. It could be seen as the point where our "womb" or our primal sexuality is trying to engulf us, and the result may be either its acceptance and creative transcendence by "jumping" into the more dynamic world of the planets and asteroids, or the surrender to the neurotic identification with the primal maternal archetype.

One way of seeing its more negative manifestations --thinking on the "neglect" and "emptiness" of the empty focus of the Moon's orbit-- is that the Black Moon is a reaction against the "reproductive" and mothering role which "chains" women and leaves them "empty" as individuals (in the case of women) or against the devouring, "terrorizing" aspect of the mother archetype (in the case of men). The Black Moon can be seen as the polar opposite of the mothering woman, which, in turn, is a reaction against all sorts of forces that try to castrate a person.

Powerlessness and abuse suffered in early life can create very strong reaction formations that make people "hate" their own vulnerability and feelings, and this can manifest outwardly as feelings against those who show these traits. All this can be very complicated, "twisted", and dark. Sexuality is often the playground of unconscious reactions of this type, and the more negative or demonic traits of the Black Moon can be explained this way (and are often, in literature).

A girl may have a reactive defense mechanism against the mother, and refuse to submit to "nature", especially if she doesn't feel loved by her father. A loving and strong father will make her use her masculinity to fight integratively in a harmonious assertion of her womanhood. Then probably other feminine asteroids take over, those that deal with a woman's creative role in the community (the main belt between Mars and Jupiter), or with transcendent excursions into the prohibited or illicit regions of the centaurs (and to a larger extent, of the Damocloids). These are the ones that break the rules and jump fences and taboos.

Sociological Aspects

Astrologers traditionally identify the Black Moon and empty focus with the legendary Lilith of Jewish and Babylonian folklore. But the Black Moon and the archetype "Lilith" are not the same thing. Lilith extends beyond the lunar realm and transcends it; it can manifest in different astrological factors, planets or asteroids, although, like Pluto in its association with Scorpio, it normally remains "chained" to the lunar realm.

Each astrological factor has its own scope, it belongs to its own sphere or realm. The "emancipation" of Lilith, symbolically, is Lilith being liberated from the realm of the Black Moon, which is its cage.

The traditional, habitual emphasis on the "lilithian" associations of the Black Moon has prevented astrologers from developing the social and collective meaning of this point, so accurately described by Jung's "Great Mother" archetype: our ancestral and primal relationship with "Mother Earth".

The Black Moon represents the black virgins of ancestral folklore, it is the primitive mass consciousness, the mass movements that stem from one's primordial, telluric relationship with the nurturing and venerable "dark earth", as well as with our ancestral mythical past.

Sociologically, it speaks of our primitive relationship to the earth; it represents the peasants, the poor, the masses anchored to their past and depending directly on what the earth can give them. It is our desire to re-establish the primitive ecological landscape, the foundational or mythical "dreamtime" of the womb or of a collective, ancestral past. It is the animistic, magical jungle where we re-unite with the womb, returning to the bosom of "Mother Earth".

[NOTE: for an exploration of this sociological aspect of the Black Moon, see the author's notes on "The Second Vatican Council"]

Specific Example

One of the best illustrations of this (conflicting) dimension of the Black Moon can be seen in the personality and struggle of the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata (b. Aug 8 1879 / d. April 10 1919: Sun in exact square with the Apogee/Perigee axis at birth, Sun in conjunction with the Apogee at death), particularly in the last period before he was assassinated. Consider the following paragraph written by Alfredo Krauze in Biografía del Poder: Emiliano Zapata (Mexico, FCE, 1987):
“Zapata doesn't come out of his land because he doesn't know and fears ‘the other’: the central power is always perceived as an intruder, as ‘a prying nest of traitors and the greedy.’ His vision is not active or willed, like that of all religions marked by the father, but passive and animistic, marked by the mother. His war of resistance exhausts itself. During the truce of 1915, instead of gaining strength outwards, he goes inward in a search of the lost order, to the point of wanting to rebuild it with the memory of the elders. It is not a productive map what he is after, it is the bosom of Mother Earth and its constellation of symbols.”

This aspect of the Black Moon explained here was brilliantly presented in the film "Viva Zapata" (1952) of Elia Kazan (b. 7 Sept 1909, Sun=14 Virgo, True Black Moon=14 Virgo)

[NOTE: more details on the case of Zapata are given in the "Variants of the Apogee" mentioned above.]]

Next Update: April 20, 2004


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