Throughout recorded history, the moon has been a symbol of beauty, fertility, and of the Great Feminine Archetype. While men worshipped the sun, plotted the course of the planets and chased the glory of war, as men are wont to do, women looked to the moon in quiet contemplation, and danced beneath its glow.
Sheltered within the Pagan religions, women were the daughters and sisters of the moon, and they observed its cycles to find the meaning and direction concerning their own life journey. The knowledge that the cycles of their lives mirrored those of the moon compelled them to strive for deeper clarity in understanding the mysteries of their own existence. Women have known for centuries that the cycles of their lives were akin to those of the moon as it makes its journey across the night sky.
As a girl begins the journey through her initial cycle of life, her light is not overly bright. She is a traveler, one discovering not only herself, but her place in the scheme of things. It is in this beginning stage that she becomes conscious of her beauty and tastes, perhaps for the first time, her feminine power. As the beacon within her begins to shine, she becomes aware of herself. Likewise, with the "maiden" moon, or new moon stage, we witness a moon whose journey across the celestial heavens has just begun. Its light is still hidden, for the most part, and we see only its slim maiden form and a shadowy promise of its potential, yet unfulfilled.
During the next chapter of the journey through the cycle of life, a woman finds herself in the mother stage, even if she has borne no children. This is the stage of a woman's life when she is at her most fertile, and her radiance blazes forth. Even though she may not bear "fruit" in the traditional form of offspring, she will bear the fruits of her labors. Women are often seen during this time as having full and rich lives, and enjoying success within their chosen careers. They now shine fully illuminated, similar in appearance to the full moon. The full moon, often referred to as the "mother" moon, is the stage when the moon reaches its zenith and is shining at it's brightest. The moon has achieved its full potential and fulfilled its earlier promise of beauty to come. However, neither moon nor woman can remain stagnant in this stage of their journey.
As woman begins her descent into the last and final stage of her life, her brightness begins to decline, gradually fading over time. The perception is that she is somehow smaller, and diminished. She has completed her journey through the cycle of her life and all its stages. Once again, her beauty is obscured from the casual observer; her back arches painfully forward, like the shape of the "crone" moon. The crone is the final phase of the stages of the moon. Its luminosity begins to fade, and we are bereft of its warmth, with only a memory of its former glory. This too will eventually eclipse.
The stages of woman's life, of her growth, beauty, rise to power, and her subsequent decline seek their mirror in the stages of the moon as it follows its course through the night sky. It is Maiden, Mother, and Crone, and has been so always.
While men chased the power and outwardly obvious glory of the sun, women looked within themselves, delved inside the mysteries they found there, and gazed upward only to discover a kindred spirit in the night sky.