Full Moon in Cancer 2023

January 6 6:08 PM EST

This first full moon of 2023 could be a time of confusion or revision. Two out of the three inner planets, Mars and Mercury, are retrograde. This means that we are having second thoughts about our plans, or others may be changing the plans. Or, of course, the airlines or general circumstances around us are changing the plans for us! Depending on whether we are instigating these adjustments or they are being imposed upon us can determine our subjective experience of this full moon, and the two weeks that follow.

Cancer is, after all, a highly subjective sign. Ruled by the nebulous moon, and its ever shifting and evolving phases, Cancer is more about our inner experiences of events than about the “actual” events per se. So if there are changes coming up for us now around career, travel, family, etc (*look to the houses of Cancer and Capricorn in your personal chart so see which of these might be relevant for you personally) then the changes are one topic, and our feelings about those changes are almost another one entirely. It’s important now to make room for both. To not invalidate our own feelings or interpretations, OR those of the people around us. When Cancer is in its lower vibrational state, it can have difficulty zooming out of its own experience and validating the needs or experiences of others. It is simply too wrapped up in its own high sensory experience. But this can be challenging in relationships or work situations where the need to balance subjectivity and objectivity, feelings and reasoning, is required.

That is one of the major invitations of this full moon: to take an honest look at how we may do this in our own lives so that we can course correct as necessary. The sun is at 16 degrees of Capricorn conjunct Mercury retrograde at 17 degrees. They are both opposite the moon at 16 degrees of Cancer. Mercury retrograde not only can create confusion and chaos opposing the full moon, but also draws our attention to the less than optimal ways we may communicate or attempt to solve problems when we feel chaotic or unbalanced. Perhaps we go into shutdown, perhaps we take a ‘defend and deny’ stance and reject others perspectives, perhaps we go into ‘victim’ mode and absolve ourselves of the responsibility of attending to the situation. Cancer rules early childhood and the nurturing that we received (or didn’t receive) during our formative years. Hence, many of our emotional responses and habits become “soft wired” during this time (*and can be seen in our chart by our moon sign, and the moon’s placement and aspects) and rear up again, right on cue, when we are feeling “triggered”.

This is deep territory. The moon is after all, of course, also associated with the ocean. So these are not necessarily the easiest themes or patterns to look at in our own lives, let alone be in conscious response to others when they are in the grips of a lunar meltdown (*this is the original meaning of the words ‘lunacy’ and ‘lunatic’). But this full moon puts all of that on the table for us. Ultimately if we have unhealthy coping mechanisms in stress, we are not only making life harder on ourselves and others when stressful situations come up, but we are also depriving ourselves of the opportunity to coming into a balanced, empowered relationship with our own loving, nurturing, feminine lunar nature.

The moon in Cancer, at its best, is the “ideal” mother, the soft space of unconditional love, reassurance, comfort and safety. When we are in its embrace, we release, the tension drops away, we know that we are safe, we belong, everything is ok. We are held. Many of us did not have these experiences with our early care-givers and hence there is a feeling of deficit as we go out into the world, “seeking” that feeling from lovers, authority figures, addictions, job recognition, whatever it may be. We can feel like we are adrift in the ocean when we do this because ultimately the lesson of the moon is that only WE can provide this kind of comfort and nurturance for ourselves. Only WE can give ourselves the safe space and unconditional love we desire.

These are some of the tough emotional lessons on the human path. But ultimately, once we recognize this, we can decide to commit to being that safe space for ourselves. Then, slowly, our coping mechanisms begin to shift. We are able to experience our own feelings and responses and also hold conscious space and respect for others experiences (*this is demonstrated by the archetype of the King of Cups in the tarot, who has mastery of the water element/emotions). And then, our outer world begins to shift as well. We are met in a different way by all of the people and experiences we had ‘hoped’ would give us the love and ‘safe space’ we desired. When we are not going into these relationships or situations from this need-based place (however unconscious), then we can truly meet them from a place of balance, equanimity and personal power and the whole experience shifts. We may even end up getting the love and support we desired in the first place! This is all part of our lunar journey.

And this full moon is here as a barometer to help us see where we may still have more work to do on this. The sun and Mercury in Capricorn are very loosely conjunct Pluto at 27 degrees of that sign. Pluto is all about deep change and transformation, about helping us evolve, so again we are challenged to be honest with ourselves so we can adjust accordingly.

Venus, Mars Rx, and Jupiter are all happily supporting one another from the early degrees of the fire/air signs. Venus is at 4 degrees of Aquarius, Mars Rx at 8 degrees of Gemini, and Jupiter at 1 degree of Aries, all eagerly encouraging us “to try it a different way!” (Mars Rx), “don’t be afraid to follow your own path!” (Venus in Aquarius), “the new is better than the old!” (Jupiter in Aries). Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn are in more or less the same positions they have been in for the past few months, but are not highly involved with this full moon, with the exception of Neptune in Pisces trine the moon whispering lullabies of reassurance.

The moon also rules habits, patterns and repetition. When we respond the same old way we always have, there is a predictable outcome. And the planets are supporting us now in recognizing that so we can choose differently- in the moment- and slowly start building up new habits and ways of handling stress. When we had a series of powerful Cancer eclipses in 2020 we were tasked then (under unusual and extreme circumstances) to learn new ways of self-care and self-nurturance. Consider this full moon to be a ‘check in’ on that and spend some time exploring your own astrological moon (its strengths and weaknesses) and inviting a new wave of healing and upleveling into this part of your life.

*art by @hannah_panchenko