The Moon is the eighteenth archetype of the Tarot’s Major Arcana. One of the darkest cards in any Tarot deck, the Moon is shrouded in mystery and sometimes fear.
The Moon Major Arcana Tarot card is linked to the deep, dark waters of the subconscious mind. Much is hidden down there, and not everybody dares to look. It our own fear of the subconscious and its shadows that make the moonlit landscape depicted in the Moon card appear ominous.
But what if we can learn to howl along with the inner wolf, interpret our dreams and transcend our fear of our own subconscious darkness? If we can find our way through the confusion and anxiety created by dancing shadows, we just might find ourselves at the gateway to the inner temple where our true potential resides.
Is the Moon Major Arcana Tarot card negative?
There are neither completely negative or completely positive cards within the Tarot. The Tarot is nuanced; every darkness has a little light, and every light a shadow.
The Moon is one of the Tarot’s darker cards, carrying connotations of both mystery, anxiety, confusion, danger and dreams. Symbolically, the Moon is most closely connected with the subconscious realm and its shadows, disowned demons and unspoken fears, but also deep emotions, creativity, psychic powers and hidden potential.
Whether the Moon Tarot card carries positive or negative meaning always depends on its context, placement and position – upright and reversed – within a Tarot reading.
What is the best card in the Tarot deck?
Just as the Moon Tarot card is often viewed as negative – or certainly, troubling – so its light counterpart, the Sun, is considered positive and a good omen. Some would say this makes the Sun the best card in the Tarot, while the Moon, the Devil and the Tower are often pointed to as the worst.
These assumptions are based on the mistaken belief that the darker cards are necessarily negative. In specific contexts the Moon may be a better card than the Sun, because it brings up exactly what the querent needs to hear at that particular time. In other words, there is no best Tarot card – there is only the right card in the right context and at the right time.
Moon card symbology
Although the Moon Tarot card varies between different decks, almost all of them are based on the original Rider-Waite Tarot and include many of the same symbols and messages.
The full moon
The most prominent and eye-catching feature of the Moon card is the large, round, bright yellow full moon hanging in the sky, dominating the landscape.
It is well known that the mysterious tides of the moon exert influence and have a pull on the mind. When the moon is full, suicide hotlines find themselves inundated with callers and crime rates spike. The old werewolf tales were not based in pure imagination – there is something about the full moon that lowers our inhibitions and brings our animal nature and dark impulses closer to the surface
The full moon also has connotations of manifestation, fruition and flowering, empowerment, and magic. The full moon creates a liminal space where anything is possible, anything can come into being.
The dog and the wolf
In the Moon card’s mid ground are a domesticated dog – man’s loyal best friend – and a wolf. The two are roughly the same size, suggesting that they are equals, and they are both turned towards and howling at the moon above them.
The dog and the wolf together symbolise our dual nature. We are both the domesticated, tame and presentable self we choose to show to the world, and our dark, wild and dangerous side, which we keep hidden most of the time. The two sides depicted together indicate a harmonious balance and relationship between the conscious and the unconscious self. In truth, we are at our most balanced, happy, empowered and fulfilled when we embody our whole self, rather than just the parts we think are presentable.
In the Moon card’s foreground is a lobster rising up and out of the water, as if compelled by the rays of the moon.
The lobster is a reference to the Cancer astrology sign. It also represents hidden potential and truth rising to the surface, moving from the subconscious where it is unseen to the light of consciousness.
In the Moon card’s background are two tall towers, symbolic of illusion and deceit.
Towers, in the Tarot, always signify the constructs of the mind. They may have been created through self-deceit, through brainwashing, programming or socialisation. The towers are the limiting beliefs, stunted views and mindsets that are holding us back.
The Moon card is filled with water, which is very apt considering the moon’s strange influence on both the internal and external tides.
In the Tarot, water is always connected to emotion, creativity and the deep, dark waters of the subconscious mind. The fact that water is so present in the Moon Tarot card suggests that the energy of the card is driven by inexplicable feelings rather than intellect.
The waters in the Moon card is also represent the unconscious, replete with hidden or barely illuminated aspects of ourselves. Our uconscious mind may contain many hidden or suppressed desires, dreams, abilities, motivations or memories. When the Moon card appears in a Tarot reading, it is often a promise of some of these hidden or suppressed feelings and material are about to come to light.
The darkness and shadows
It is night in the Moon card.
The night is the domain of irrational fears, anxiety, confusion, desire and magic.
In the darkness, or when we are unsure or unaware of our own motivations, motives or desires, it is easy to fall prey to confusion and to loose all sense of perspective and direction. The inability to orient yourself towards the illumination of truth and clarity is one of the dangers of the Moon card.
The Moon Tarot card reversed
The Moon Major Arcana Tarot card meaning changes when the card is reversed, making the negative aspects stand out in stronger relief against the potential positive aspects.
When the Moon is reversed its warning signs are highlighted. The two towers in the background become important symbols of constraints and suppression. The shadowy landscape becomes symbolic of deception and deception, and the rising tide sweeps over us with uncontrollable dark feelings and myriad fears.
Universal Moon Tarot card meanings
Tarot card meanings shift and change slightly between different decks, and between different tarot readings and tarot readers. But there are some Moon Tarot meanings that are universal and constant.
The subconscious realm
The Moon Major Arcana Tarot card is always a sign of the sub or unconscious realm, and all it contains.
When the Moon card appears in a Tarot reading it may look ominous and threatening at first glance. This is mostly due to the fears that we ourselves project and ascribe to the unknown – including the unknown within ourselves.
The unconscious is a powerful driving force in our life, whether or not we acknowledge it. Our unconscious is a storehouse for everything we forget, repress or disown about ourselves and our personal histories and influences.
The unconscious can be an unpleasant place to discover and explore, because it might contain a lot of painful memories and things we would rather not acknowledge about ourselves.
But the unonscious is much more than that; it is also an empowering key to greater mental health as we reintegrate our shadows and bring hidden aspects up to the surface.
The unconscious realm is a storehouse of deep and powerful feelings and instincts, intuition, art and creativity.
When the Moon card appears in a Tarot reading, it always pokes at our shadow. This can hurt, as we don’t always like to be confronted with our darker side -even if the meeting is cathartic and ultimately sets us free.
The shadow consists of the parts of ourselves that we disown and suppress because we find them wrong, unpresentable or embarrassing. The shadow is the part of ourselves that we try to shake but cannot get rid of. We can ignore it and pretend that it isn’t there until we are blue in the face – and often at great cost to our mental health and happiness – but this doesn’t make it go away. If anything, when the shadow is denied, it grows stronger and becomes our enemy rather than our friend.
Our true and complete selves include and embrace the shadow. Any Tarot reader worth their salt will tell you that.
Inner journey and self discovery
Unlike the Tower Tarot card, which promises cataclysmic, mind-altering epiphanies, the Moon card promises self discovery in a more tempered manner.
When we enter willingly into the moonlit but shadowy landscape of the unconscious, an enriching and thrilling journey of self discovery awaits.
There can be no true spiritual journey without also going through the shadow and making peace with it to some extend. This is the chapter of the spiritual journey that the Moon card talks about.
Hidden motivations, talents and desires
The reward for entering the moonlit realm is that you will uncover a heightened sense of intuition, as well as other latent abilities, driving forces and wishes. Integrating some of what you find into your everyday life has the potential to vastly enrich and enliven it.
Suppression, deception, distortion and fear
Even when the Tarot addresses sore or difficult issues, the purpose is always to help set you free and discover your most authentic path.
The lunar archetype talks about navigating your confusion, doubt and anxiety, as well as breathing free of deception or any false construct you may have become entrapped in. Escaping illusion or other mental constraints is no mean feat, but you are being encouraged to make the journey.
Occasionally, the message may be about deception, a warning that a person in your life is purposefully misleading you or lying to you, or simply keeping the truth veiled and hidden from you.
Surrounding Tarot card meanings
Each card within the Major Arcana is a complete chapter in and of itself, telling a story within the greater story of spiritual awakening and personal discovery. Looking at the Tarot meanings of surrounding cards helps understand each archetype better.
The Star is the seventeenth card of the Major Arcana. Its landscape looks familiar; it is moonlit and shadowy. In the foreground we see a figure, often a maiden, kneeling at the waters of the unconscious. She is filling her chalice with its inspiration, power and magical ability. In the Star card, there is no fear of the shadows – rather, the young maiden has made them her friends.
The Sun Tarot card is considered a good omen, a symbol of happiness, relief following the dark night of the soul that the lunar landscape represents. The Sun card often features a golden-haired child basking in the sun, or two naked and dancing figures celebrating and enjoying the sunlight.
It is important to realise that the lightness and joy depicted in the Sun card cannot be reached without traversing the moonlit landscape within.
What the moon tarot card tells you about your personal development
When the lunar archetype appears in the context of personal and spiritual development, it is a sign that now is the time to face your fears, to face your shadow and to abolish illusion from your world.
The Moon reversed
When this archetype is reversed it could indicate that your mental health is in crisis – you have become trapped in the unconscious morass, and the path leading to your future is fraught with doubt and confusion. Buried issues or trauma may be causing waves and anxiety in your day-to-day life.
What the Moon Tarot card tells you about love and relationships
When it comes to romance and relationships, the lunar archetype appears to tell you that there is some shadow work to be done. There may be things moving under the surface, and it is important that you uncover them. If conflicts or disagreements are left to fester, they will only grow stronger.
Sometimes what is being implied is that one of the people in the relationship has a secret or an issue that is causing problems. The nature of the problem could be deeply buried, hidden from conscious view.
The Moon reversed
When the Moon is reversed, love is toxic. Trust your intuition and watch out for deception in your relationships.
What the Moon Tarot card tells you about work, business and career
When it comes to your career or work situation, things are looking murky and unclear. It is more important than ever that you let your intuition guide your steps.
The Moon reversed
Tread carefully. Financial difficulty, deception or a toxic work environment are all options on the table.