The Moon has probably been a source of mystery and fascination since before recorded history. The Moon has been both revered and feared by those sensitive to her silvery power. Perhaps because of her waxing and waning, the Moon has attracted more folklore than the steady, always round Sun. To the ancient Egyptians, the Moon was the Mother of the Universe. In central Asia, the Moon is the Goddess’s mirror reflecting everything in the world.
Ancient Associations with the Moon
In the Basque language, “moon” and “deity” are the same word. Britain’s old name is Albion, meaning “the Milk-White Moon Goddess.” To the Persians, the Moon was Metra, “Mother, whose love penetrates everywhere.” The Vedas, sacred texts for Hindus, say that the Moon is a receptacle of souls between incarnations. And the Catholic Church’s Mary, is closely associated with the Moon. Early paintings depict her standing on a crescent Moon. It is unlikely that any civilization, ancient and modern hasn’t been influenced by the Moon’s magic.
Outside of religion and spiritual beliefs, a rich folklore about the Moon developed among common people in Europe. It was believed that:
- At the moment you see a new Moon, jingle coins in your pocket. This is a sure way to multiply your fortune as the Moon waxes.
- Never start a project during the waning Moon, it will not be successful.
- A woman who sleeps in the Moonlight increases her fertility.
- The New Moon is good luck, but should never be looked at through glass or tree branches.
- After seeing the Moon for the first time in a new year, ask a question of the first person you see. If the answer is “yes,” you will marry your love.
- A pregnant woman should never face the Moon; her child will be born with mental problems. To stop this, she must turn in a counterclockwise circle three times and spit.
Folk Magic and the Moon
Folk magic involving the Moon could fill pages and pages. How much of this is based on real magic and how much is mere superstition? Surprisingly, a lot of Moon lore and magic holds true power. One “superstition” about the Moon is that emotions become unstable during the full and new Moons. The Moon has been credited with lunacy for centuries. Paracelus, a 14th century alchemist and physician, claimed that insanity grew worse during the dark of the Moon. Before 1808, some mental hospitals routinely had patients beaten during certain lunar phases. This was to prevent outbursts of lunacy.
In 1940, a prominent Chicago physician noted that seven days before the full Moon, tuberculosis deaths rose considerably. Around the same time a Florida surgeon in a study involving over a thousand surgeries, found that 82% of the Patients operated on during the New Moon were “bleeders.”
Late in 1961, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania police department published a report stating that criminal activities such as pyromania, kleptomania, destructive traffic accidents, and alcoholic homicides grew rampant as the full Moon approached, but calmed as it waned.
Weather and the Moon
The Moon’s role in weather patterns has some interesting folk magic. When the crescent Moon lies on its back, with horns up, a drought is thought to be inevitable. When it is vertical, like the letter “C,” rain is on its way. A long drought is expected if the Moon hovers low on the southern horizon. A ring around the Moon is supposed to bring heavy rain or snow. Counting the number of stars in the ring tells how far away the storm is. No stars bring the storm within a day.
These indications may seem like superstition, but the Moon does affect weather. During its waxing phase, the Moon affects the earth’s magnetic field and may trigger thunderstorms. Reports from over 1500 weather stations during a 50 year period show heavy rainfall occurs more often in North America during the 2nd, and 4th quarters of the lunar cycle than during the other phases.
Moon and Romance
The Moon has long been associated with love and romance. An old folklore states that happiness in marriage is ensured if it is consummated at the full moon. A modern study done on more then half a million births in New York, over a ten-year period, showed that the birthrate rose considerably during a waxing Moon. The rate peaked just after the full Moon. And, the fewest births were reported just after the new Moon.
Pre-Christian Lunar Worship Rites and Rituals
Many pre-Christian lunar worship rites and rituals have carried over into modern times. These have long lost their original meanings but are nevertheless still practiced. The use of birthday candles and cakes is a good example. This tradition comes to us from the ancient Greeks. To honor the birthday of Artemis, goddess of the Moon, lunar-shaped cakes with candles were placed on her altar. Blowing out the candles and making a wish is a remnant of prayers offered to Artemis.
Every farmer knows that roots are supposed to grow best when planted during the dark of the Moon, and plants with edible parts above ground grow better when planted in the waxing Moon. A quick search in the internet will bring hundreds of sites on planting by the Moon. Many farmers—commercial and backyard —swear by the Moon method.
Fear of the Moon
People of ancient times often feared the moon. The Aleutians thought that if anyone offended the Moon, it would fling stones down at the offender and kill him. The Hakkas believed that, if on the 15th day of the 8th month, clouds covered the moon before midnight, oil and salt would soon be scarce. The Chaldeans, close observers of eclipses, believed that when the Moon was obscured, she had turned her back on earth. Many Native American’s believed that eclipses were caused by a serpent swallowing the Moon. Hindus explained an eclipse by describing a giant who grabbed the luminaries and tried to eat them. The Chinese had a similar belief, but a dragon instead of a giant grabbed the Moon for a tasty meal.
Some ancient peoples tried to help the Moon escape the monster’s clutches by shouting and making loud noises with musical instruments. This ,they hoped, would frighten the beast away. And since the Moon always reappeared, they naturally believed their din had indeed frightened the monster and saved the Moon.
More Research Needed
As more and more research is being conducted on the effects of the Moon, it is becoming apparent that most superstitions have a thread of truth. We know how the Moon affects tides, once considered a superstition. Questions remain however, about how much and what way do they affect our minds and bodies. Perhaps, with the new research in quantum physics, and other cutting edge sciences, the Moon’s power and effect on us will soon be revealed in full. But until then, self-evident research is the only way to tell if our moods, emotions, health, and plant growth are affected by the phases of the Moon.