Astrological Forecasts

The Standstill Cycle of the Moon

The Standstill Cycle of the Moon

By Linea Van Horn. C.A., NCGR

The light bulb changed everything!! It turned the night into day and emitted into the atmosphere so much light pollution that the visibility of night sky is noticeable diminished, even in remote areas. The most drastic effect has been to sever human connection with the night and the night sky, which until the light bulb was integral, important, and inseparable from the human condition.
For it was through the sky that people have sought to understand their lives and their experiences. Connection to the cosmic was made through observing the motions of the stars and planets over extended periods of time. The cyclic nature of the seasons was understood intimately not only through changes on the earth but in the sky as well: where did the sun rise and set and how did that change over the course of a year? When were major star patterns (constellations) rising and setting? How could time be tracked and measured? How can the information from the repeating cycles in the sky be used to ensure survival and to improve the human condition? Early humans grappled with these fundamental survival issues and turned to the sky for answers.
Although we are far removed from these concerns, millions of years of human experience embedded into our DNA and our unconsciousness has not been suddenly erased. We still respond to these cycles even though we no longer observe them on a regular or ritualized basis. Integrating these cycles and consciously observing them whenever possible enables us to develop a much closer connection to the earth, the sky, and to life itself.

One of the most fundamental cycles is the seasonal cycle. This is the basic cycle of life, showing not only by the regular repetition of seasons but also in the pattern of all living things. The 4 physical seasons govern sunlight, temperature, rainfall, growing seasons, animal habits, etc. and the life cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.
The seasonal cycle exists because of a single factor: the earth’s tilt on its axis. Due to this tilt of 23 degrees 25 minutes, half of the earth is leaning towards the sun (creating longer days and hotter temperatures) while the other half leans away from it (shorter, cooler days).
When viewing this phenomenon from earth, this change appears as a repeating cycle of the sun’s risings and settings when measured across the visible horizon. Twice a year, the sun rises due east and sets due west. By June, the sun rises and sets quite a bit to the north of due east or west, and culminates high in the sky. In December, the sun rises and sets far south and does not achieve much altitude in the sky (in the northern hemisphere). The further away from the equator you are, the more pronounced is the range of the sun’s seasonal risings and settings.
This measuring along the horizon is a measurement of declination. Technically, declination is a system that measures north and south of the celestial equator, and is equivalent to degrees of geographical latitude extended into space. On a more earthly level, declination governs where on the horizon a body will rise and set, and this is connected to the culmination of the planet. The farther north a planet or star rises and sets, the higher it will culminate.

Of course, we have another celestial body whose cycles are deeply embedded in us. While the apparent motion of the Sun (which is really the motion of the earth) is extremely regular and predictable, the Moon is much harder to understand and even harder to predict. Its monthly phases are apparent and influential: indeed the Moon in the first marker of time. Yet the Moon has longer, more mysterious cycles which take more determination to discover. It is one of these cycles which will be our focus tonight.

Each month, as Moon spins around us, accompanying us in our orbit, it spends 1/2 the time north of the Equator (in north declination) and 1/2 the time south of it. It swings from one extreme to the other every 14 days. When the Moon crosses the equator going north or south, and its declination is 0. This monthly motion mirrors the sun’s annual declination cycle, but occurs in one month instead of one year. And there is extreme variability in the north/south “turnaround” points.
The full moon is opposite the Sun not only in zodiacal longitude but also in declination. This means that when the Sun rises and sets at its northernmost declination and achieves its greatest altitude near the summer solstice, the Moon rises far south and hangs low in the sky. In the winter, when the Sun rises and sets far south, the Moon rises and sets at its northernmost point.
Just as the earth’s axis is tilted in relation its plane of orbit by 23.5 degrees, the Moon’s orbit is tilted 5.2 degrees to the orbit of the earth (the ecliptic). Other perturbations can account for an additional half a degree in the declination of the Moon, so the Moon’s declination can differ from the Sun’s declination by up to almost 6 degrees. This means that the Moon can achieve almost 29 degrees of declination, far more than any other planet.
However, the Moon only seldom reaches the extreme declination of 28 + degrees. The Moon’s monthly declination cycle is part of a much bigger cycle, called the Standstill cycle. It is similar (even in name) to the solstices, where the Sun appears to “stand still” before returning on its declination journey in the opposite direction. Unlike solar solstices, however, which occurs in the same place on the horizon every year, there is great variety in the place where the Moon “turns around” and in fact at the Major Standstill achieves the highest possible declination of all the planets.
This cycle is an 18.6 year cycle. Sound familiar? It is linked to the nodal cycle AND the eclipse cycle in a way we shall currently see. The Standstill cycle has two distinct phases:

  1. The Major Standstill. The Moon reaches its most extreme declination of 28+ degrees north and south. Since it takes 14 days between the maximum northern and southern points, which is about 60 degrees on the visible horizon (and the more extreme your latitude, the more extreme this horizon motion will be), the Moon’s daily changes in declination are quite dramatic at the Major Standstill. It will reach its maximum declination for 2 – 5 days twice a month for about 3 years around the time of the major standstill. This will occur when the Moon is in Sagittarius and Capricorn (southern declination) and when it is in Gemini and Cancer (northern declination). Several times during this 3 -year period it will reach its very maximum declination, and these events coincide with eclipses. It will rise and set noticeably more north or south than usual, and will attain its greatest height in the sky. In fact, at in far north latitudes, the Moon is circumpolar at the major standstill when it is in Gemini and Cancer. The greatest declination occurs when the North Node is at 0 degrees of Aries. The Major Standstill is occurring in 2006.
  2. The Minor Standstill. Nine years later, the Moon reaches its minor standstill. It follows exactly the same monthly motion pattern, however now it only reaches 18 degrees of declination for the 3 year period when the nodes reach 0 degrees Libra. Its monthly and daily swings are far less dramatic. The most recent minor standstill was 1997. The next will be in 2015.

The years in-between, the Moon reaches ever increasing or decreasing monthly declinations as it moves between one standstill and the next. We are moving towards a Major Standstill in 2006. In the past few months, we have begun to enter the Out of Bounds (OOB; when a planet exceeds the Sun’s maximum declination)) stage. Twice each month, the Moon will move OOB for a day or two. Both the declination and duration will continue to gradually increase until we reach Major Standstill in 2006, after which time the declination and duration of OOB will decrease, moving towards Minor Standstill.
Major standstills affect tides and weather conditions and probably other lunar related phenomenon such as birth rates, public reaction, real estate and the stock market (more volatile during Major Standstill) as well as the economy. Since the Moon repeatedly goes Out-Of-Bounds, there may be an overly zealous public response. The further OOB, the stronger the response. There is a maverick quality. Reactions and perceptions are extreme and not as controlled. The environment is not very stable. At Minor Standstills, reaction is more controlled and action is taken.
There are many ancient sites marking the points of both the major and minor lunar standstills. Even though it is a subtle and lengthy cycle, our astrological ancestors observed it and went to great lengths to include it in their sacred measurements.



  • Brown, Peter L. Megaliths, Myths and Men: An Introduction to Astro-Astronomy
  • Boehrer, Kt: Declination, The Other Dimension
  • Cornelius, Geoffrey, Secret Language of the Stars and Planets
  • Goodale, Rene, “Venus Out of Bounds” Geocosmic Magazine, Fall 1996
  • Hebel, Doris A. “Progressed Declinations” NCGR Journal, Fall 1997
  • Jayne, Charles, Parallels of Declination
  • Krupp, Dr. C.E., Echoes of the Ancient Skies: The Astronomy of Lost Civilizations
  • Krupp, Dr. C.E., Beyond the Blue Horizon: Myths and Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars and Planets
  • Scofield, Bruce: “The Moon and the Megaliths” The Mountain Astrologer (TMA), June 1996
  • Westin, Leigh: Beyond the Solstice by Declination
  • Willner, John: The Powerful Declinations
  • The following articles from NCGR Geocosmic Magazine, Spring 1998
    Westin, Leigh, “What on Earth is Declination”
    Christino, Karen, “The Progressed Moon in Declination”
    Ramsey, Martha, “Declination – the Basics”
    Gillman, Ken, “Stations of the Moon”
    McEvoy, Francis, “Out of Bounds Gallery”
    Vaughan,Valerie, “Occultation: The Conjunction in Longitude and Declination

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