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The Moon and Mothering Does What You Give = What You Got?


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Perhaps the most crucial human function described by the Moon is mothering-the mothering you give and the mothering you received. We'll see that the two are nearly inseparable. A better word for this function is nurturing-after all, we can also get care, food, and love from our fathers and other people. As adults, many men do take care of others (friends and relatives, as well as children). This is one of the functions of the Moon in a man's chart, though it is often suppressed or disguised in Western culture.

Decades ago, most people had a traditional upbringing in which the biological mother filled the lunar functions, so the Moon in the chart would have been read as the mother. Given the entry of the vast majority of women into the workplace, today's children often have a variety of caretakers of greater and lesser commitment to meeting their basic needs, and so the Moon might refer to any number of significant caretakers. The Moon describes how well we take care of others and gratify their needs, and how well we accept those same needs in ourselves. Can we accept feeling dependent and work to get those needs met? And, similarly, how do we respond when others are dependent on us?

With a Moon in Cancer, for instance, dependency is often strong. These individuals may be extremely dependent on others and show it; or, conversely, they may hide their own dependency, consciously or unconsciously, by compulsively caretaking others. The catch here is that this mother-to-the-world pose can leave them drained and feeling even needier. A Moon in Aries person, on the other hand, places a high value on independence and has a very low tolerance for other people's dependency. Caretaking gets in the way of all those bright, shiny new projects they want to work on.

Psychology teaches us that our attitude toward dependency in others and ourselves comes directly from our parents, particularly our mothers. If the parent dealt with dependency in a loving but balanced way-neither over-protective nor neglectful-then we will also be able to handle dependency appropriately. People with a Moon/Saturn aspect or Moon in Capricorn may have had a mother who was dutiful but cold toward their needs and who pushed them to grow up too fast. Individuals with Moon/Neptune aspects or Moon in Pisces may have had a parent who was outwardly sympathetic to their needs but who was oddly elusive when the chips were down. Both of these Moon signs might experience the same difficulty in responding to others that their parents did.

Like it or not, we generally become the kind of parents our parents were. unless we are very conscious of these effects. If we are psychologically aware, we may vow to raise our children differently than we were raised. Nonetheless, when children actually come along, we are often dismayed to find ourselves sounding and acting just like our own parents. Why is this? The Moon represents patterns, habits, and memories from our earliest years, many of which are unconscious. We live what we learn, and one of the lessons we learn from our parents is how to be a parent. Since that learning is mainly unconscious or preverbal-that is, it happens before the infant is able to think in words-such patterns are resistant to rational control. Children who were abused, for instance, may be dismayed to find abusive urges arising when they themselves become parents or caretakers of children. If you are unhappy with the way you were raised, you can keep those patterns from repeating.

The Moon also rules our basic sense of security, which early parenting influences in crucial but unconscious ways. It comes from the way the infant is held, fed, and responded to when crying-whether all these things are done with love, with anxiety, with indifference, or even with hostility. In infancy, we are dependent on our parents for our very survival. Thus the type of parenting we get at this stage shapes our attitude toward the world we live in. Is it a safe place or a hostile one? Do we feel lovable? Do we feel wanted or barely tolerated? An analysis of the Moon in our charts will answer these questions. In the preverbal stage we either develop or fail to develop basic trust, according to the classic theories of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. Basic trust means that we find the world and the people in it good and trustworthy. This stage has a potent effect on our ability to allow other people to be close to us and on our over-all orientation to life.

The Moon in your chart shows the conditions under which you would feel most emotionally secure-different for each of us. The house position of the Moon reveals more detail about conditions that lend a sense of security. 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 security in freedom and change. The Moon in Aquarius in the fourth had better invest in a mobile home, because Aquarius can feel stifled by putting down roots. Many people judge themselves harshly about the things that make them feel secure. 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 can 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 same as 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 their Moon in Aries, but the younger sister has her 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 relation¬ship 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 for bringing her so close to death, but covered up this feeling through overprotection and pampering.

Why do these discrepancies occur in Moon signs in the same family? 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 them the wrong way, and some remind them of people they love or hate. Then, too, conditions in the home can change or the mother herself may change for the better or worse, and this changes the quality of mothering.

Note: This has been an excerpt from Donna Cunningham's ebook, An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness, available from

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Cunningham, an internationally respected astrologer with over 35 years experience, is the author of 15 books on metaphysical topics. Listed in several Who's Who volumes, she has given seminars on astrology around the world and won the prestigious Regulus Award at the 1998 UAC. She also has a Master's Degree in Social Work from Columbia University. She uses this combined approach in her “Dear Abby" type column in Dell Horoscope and her ongoing series of articles in The Mountain Astrologer.


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