There’s a harvest moon tonight, September 16 — a full moon. It’s commonly believed a full moon causes strange behaviour. Supposedly, suicides, accidents, and violence of every kind escalate when the moon is full. This perceived influence is known as “the lunar effect,” or, “the Transylvanian effect.”
In fact, the words “lunacy” and “lunatic” spring directly from the Latin for moon, which is luna.
Despite this age-old belief, scientists have been unable to prove any connection between human behaviour and the full moon. Extensive studies have delved into violence, crime, alcoholism, sleep-walking, depression, suicide, psychotic behaviour, accidents, emergency room admissions, etc. In no study has the moon been shown to have any effect.
If science can’t discover a correlation, why do so many of us believe the moon does impact our minds and actions?
The answer seems to be tradition. Our parents, grandparents, friends and neighbours have always believed this, so it must be true.
Such tradition has its genesis in folklore and myth although scientists also point to selective memory and coincidence. They tell us that just because some event occurred when the moon was at its zenith is no reason to assume that the big star was responsible.
Even so, the moon’s proven effect on ocean tides is both well-known and scientifically accepted. Since the human body is 94 per cent water, people reason we must also be impacted by this heavenly body. Also, it’s known that most women’s menstrual cycles coincide with the moon’s phases. As well, medical staff often claim to have personally witnessed increased psychosis during the time of the full moon.
Whether the moon’s power to influence human behaviour is a superstition or not, dozens of other superstitions involving the moon do exist. Here are a few examples from the Encyclopedia of Magic and Superstition.
• It is unlucky to look at the new moon through the branches of a tree.
• It is unlucky to point at the moon.
• Turn a silver coin over upon sighting a new moon. Silver is the metal of the moon.
• If two moons appear in a single calendar month, calamities like floods will occur.
• Rings around the moon foretell storms; the more rings, the worse the storms.
• The best time to pick herbs or to fell trees is when the moon is on the wane.
• If pigs are killed when the moon is waxing (getting larger), the bacon is richer.
• Seeds should be planted at the time of the new moon.
• It is unlucky to geld or spay an animal when the moon is on the wane (getting smaller).
• If you sleep in the moon’s light without covers, your face will become twisted.
• A red moon is a sign of war.
Magic also involves itself with the moon. It is said that magic wands must be fashioned on the first night of a new moon, and witches say the best time to cast a spell is when the moon is full.
But weird human behaviour? That’s about as likely as turning into a werewolf when the moon is full.