Perhaps the most crucial human function described by the Moon is mothering -- the mothering you give and the mothering you got. We'll see that the two are nearly inseparable. A less sexist word for this function is nurturing -- after all, we can get caring, feeding, and loving from our fathers and other people as well as our mothers. As grownups, men hopefully do take care of others (friends and relatives, as well as children), and this is one of the functions of the Moon in a man's chart, although an often suppressed or disguised one in our culture. For most people locked in a traditional upbringing, however, the Moon functions were most often filled by the mother, so the Moon in the chart may be read as the mother. The Moon describes how well we can take care of others, gratify their needs, and how well we can accept those same needs in ourselves. It show how comfortable we are with dependency. Can we tolerate feeling dependent and actively go out to get those needs met? And, similarly, can we respond when others are dependent on us?
With a Moon in Cancer, for instance, dependency is strong. The person may be extremely dependent on others and show it; or, conversely, may hide their own dependency, consciously or unconsciously, by going all out to take care of others. The trap here is that this mother-to-the-world pose can leave the person drained and feeling even more dependent. A Moon in Aries person, on the other hand, places a high value on their own independence and has a very low tolerance for other people's dependency. It gets in the way of all those bright, shiny new things they want to achieve.
Psychology teaches us that our attitude toward dependency in ourselves and others comes directly from our parents, particularly our mothers. If the parent was able to deal with our dependency in a loving but balanced way -- neither over-protective nor neglectful -- then we will also be able to handle dependency appropriately. A Moon/Saturn or Moon in Capricorn person had a mother (or parents) who was dutiful but cold toward their needs and who pushed them to grow up too fast. A Moon/Neptune or Moon in Pisces person may have had a parent who was outwardly more sympathetic to their needs, but who was oddly elusive when the chips were down. Both of these people might have the same problems in responding to others as their parents did.
Like it or not, we generally become the kind of parents our parents were. As psychologically aware people, we may vow to raise our children differently than we were raised. Nevertheless, when the children actually come along, we are often dismayed to find ourselves sounding and acting just like our own parents. Why is this? The Moon shows the patterns, habits, and memories from our earliest years, many of which are unconscious. We live what we learn, and one of the things we learn from our parents is how to be a parent. Since it is mainly unconscious, these patterns are difficult to put under rational control. Children who were abused, for instance, very often grow up to be abusive parents.
Need for Security
The Moon also rules your basic sense of security, which early parenting influences in a crucial but unconscious way. It is unconscious because it happens long before the infant is able to think in words. It comes from the way the infant is held, how it is fed, and how it is responded to when it cries -- whether all these things are done with love, with anxiety, with indifference, or even with hostility. At that time in our lives, we are totally dependent on the parent for our very survival. Thus the type of parenting you get at this preverbal stage shapes your attitude toward the world you live in. Is it a safe place or a hostile one? Do you feel lovable? Do you feel wanted or barely tolerated? An analysis of the Moon in your chart will answer these questions. In the preverbal stage, according to the theories of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, we either develop or fail to develop basic trust. Basic trust means that we find the world, and the people in it, good and trustworthy. This stage has a very great effect on our ability to allow other people to be close to us, and on our over-all orientation to life.
The person with Moon in Scorpio, for example, learned very early not to trust. The parent may have pretended concern and caring (even to the point of being over-protective), but there was often some other, less loving motivation behind it. Many times, the parent was manipulative and controlling, while pretending to have only the best interests of the child at heart. Thus, the child learned to be suspicious and, in self-defense, to try to second-guess others and find out their real motivation. As an adult, the person often adopts some of the parents' controlling patterns of behavior.
In contrast, the person with Moon in Taurus, unless the Moon has difficult aspects, had more positive nurturing. The parents were stable and accepted the child's needs. They were more forthright, not so hard to understand or so emotional as with the Moon in Scorpio. As a result, the child grows up secure and feeling that he and the world are basically okay. (Naturally, other aspects in the chart can modify this.) Taurus is the sign traditionally thought to be the best placement for the Moon -- its "exaltation". We always have to ask ourselves, "Best for what?" since Moon in Taurus has its drawbacks also, but for a sense of basic trust and security, it is a good sign.
Each person needs different things in order to feel secure, and the Moon in your chart shows the conditions under which you would feel most emotionally secure. A person with the Moon in the eleventh house would feel most secure when surrounded by friends or in some meaningful group. Someone with the Moon in the seventh usually only feels secure when involved in a long-term intimate relationship. The sign and house position can conflict -- to have it in Aquarius means there is only security in freedom and change. The Moon in Aquarius in the fourth? Better invest in a mobile home. Many people may judge themselves harshly. For example, the Moon in Aquarius in the fourth person may say "It's bad for me to be so restless." Astrology can help you recognize those needs as valid and important and help you set out to meet them.
Generally, the Moon's sign, house, and aspects will describe your actual mother -- to the extent that sometimes the child's Moon sign is the mother's Sun sign. What is interesting, however, is that children in the same family may have vastly different Moons. In one family, for instance, the older brother and sister both have Moon in Aries, but the younger sister has Moon in Scorpio. The older children were both encouraged to be independent (Aries), but at the time the younger sister was born, the mother nearly died. (Scorpio is sometimes associated with death.) For that reason, perhaps, the quality of the relationship between the mother and the younger sister was very different. She was pampered, overprotected, and called "Baby Doll" up to the time she was 14. We can speculate that the mother unconsciously resented that child bitterly for bringing her so close to death, but covered this feeling up by the overprotection and pampering. (This is one pattern you may find with Moon in Scorpio.)
Why do these discrepancies in Moons in the same family occur? What the Moon describes is not the actual mother, but the child's experience of her. That is, it doesn't show the mother as a total person separate from the child, but only the child's-eye view of her. Parents cannot treat all children alike -- some children are better loved, some rub you the wrong way, some remind you of people you love or hate. Then, too, conditions in the home can change, and this can cause a difference in the mothering.
You can actually trace the history of a family through the sequence of Moons in the offspring. For instance, an early child or two may have Moon in Taurus, showing a warm and giving relationship with the mother. After the birth of a third child, however, perhaps economic conditions force the mother to go to work. Perhaps that child is born with Moon in Capricorn, showing that the mother is now more serious and intent on business, with less left over to give the child when the work day is finished. There are still similarities -- both Taurus and Capricorn are earth signs -- but the third child doesn't experience as much warmth from the mother, and isn't allowed to be a baby long enough. The mother pushes the child to grow up and be less of a burden on her, because she is worn out from working.
To take another example, sometimes a child with Moon in Libra (or other crucial placements in that sign) is conceived because the mother feels it will cement a marriage that is breaking apart (or, if not yet married, in the hope it will induce the man to marry her). This strategy rarely works out, because in reality a new baby puts a great stress on a relationship, even one that is working well. So, when the already-strained relationship breaks up or becomes more distant, the mother turns to her Moon in Libra child for the love and closeness she is missing from the child's father. The child then grows up needing that kind of constant closeness and being strongly motivated to form relationships. This may be a person who can't stand to be alone -- it makes him/her insecure and unhappy.
Dealing with Emotions
The Moon in our chart also shows our emotions and how we deal with them, as well as how we respond to the emotions of people around us. This, again, relates back to the nurturing we had as a very young child. How well our parents responded to our emotional expressions has a great deal to do with what emotions we allow ourselves to feel and how we deal with them and with other people's emotions.
Air Sign Moons
In the case of people born with the Moon in an air sign (particularly Gemini and Aquarius, not so much Libra), the mother was often cold to the child's emotions and tended to detach herself from the child when it cried or expressed some other emotion the mother found unpleasant. As a result, the child learned to cut off all emotions and to be detached from them... it was either that, or lose the mother's love and approval. In an extreme case, this can lead to a schizoid-type person, detached from all emotions. Often, with the air sign Moons, the mother could handle feelings only on an intellectual basis, asking the child to explain them away or make them rational. (But, then, there is little that is rational about our feelings.) As adults, these people intellectualize feelings rather than being in touch with them. They want to talk away their emotions and the emotions of other people. I've seen cases where imitative Moon in Gemini people know intellectually that people are supposed to have feelings about certain situations, so may counterfeit emotions that aren't really there in order to be more socially acceptable.
Earth Sign Moons
Earth sign Moons can also have a certain amount of difficulty in dealing with emotions. If you can't see it, touch it, or taste it, it ain't real. Moon in Capricorn and Virgo want to analyze those "irrational" feelings away. Moon in Taurus is more accepting of emotions and of nearly everything else, but will work hard to restore serenity. The primary emotion Moon in Capricorn or Virgo people allow themselves is melancholic self-recrimination over their lack of perfection -- an emotion that arises directly from their parents, who were over-critical. Nonetheless, earth sign Moons approach emotions on a practical level -- trying to find out what's causing the problem and what concrete steps can be taken to alleviate it. For that reason, they can be a Rock of Gibraltar to others who are going through an internal emotional crisis and who, as a result, are having difficulty dealing with the demands of the outside world.
Fire Sign Moons
Fire sign Moons (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) respond more actively, and even aggressively, to most situations that confront them in life, and that goes for emotions too. They instinctively mobilize to stop the thing that's bothering them, or to go after the thing they need. Anger is an emotion most of us have trouble dealing with, but here the fire sign Moons are better off than most, unless there are difficult aspects from planets like Saturn, Pluto, or Neptune. The main lack I find in the fire sign Moons is sensitivity to other people's feelings. They are so 'gung ho' about doing their own thing that they don't readily slow down to consider how you might feel about their actions. You first have to get their attention. Then, if you are somehow identified as being part of them (typical of Aries or Leo), or if their ego gets involved, they will respond to your emotions the same way they'd respond to their own -- "Charge!"
Water Sign Moons
Water, in occult studies, refers to emotions, and the water sign Moons are the most emotional of all. Some unsympathetic souls even say they revel in it. With Moon in Cancer or Scorpio, a considerable amount of energy is invested in discovering, experiencing, and digesting emotions. Paradoxically, Moon in Pisces, which is potentially the most emotional, constantly attempts to escape from unpleasant feelings, leading in some cases to an addictive personality or to living in a fantasy world. Water sign Moons are also very sensitive and responsive to other people's feelings. Often, on an intuitive level, they feel what you feel. The primary difficulty with water sign Moons is getting so hung up in their emotions that they lose some effectiveness in dealing with the outside world. With emotions, as with most other things in life, we need to strike a balance.
To conclude, the Moon in our birth charts has a very great significance, and the fourth house, which is connected with the Moon, rules roots and foundations. If the Moon in your chart is placed in a difficult sign or receives difficult aspects, then something went wrong in laying the foundations or establishing roots. In such a case, dependency and the ability to trust are deeply affected, and you may also have difficulty in dealing with emotions in a balanced way. Thus, getting a good understanding of the Moon in a chart is extremely important.
This article is excerpted, with permission, from "An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness", published by CRCS Publications, P.O. Box 1460, Sebastopol, CA 95472. 707-829-0735; fax 707-793-9434. This book may be ordered from the publisher ($12 + $2.25 shipping), or by clicking on the link below to order from Amazon.
About The Author
Donna Cunningham has a master's degree in social work and over 25 years of counseling experience. She is the author of numerous books.