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Mythologies of the Moon Are Mostly Wrong

I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

Learn about some legends and myths surrounding the moon—and why they're wrong.

Learn about some legends and myths surrounding the moon—and why they're wrong.

Everybody knows that car accidents are more frequent when there is a full moon. It turns out everybody is wrong. The moon creates tides, but it doesn’t cause car drivers to become mentally deranged and smack their vehicles into one another.

Ancient Roots

As our distant ancestors on the African plains watched the moon cross their skies, it’s not surprising they believed it capable of some mystical powers.

Deep thinkers of antiquity reasoned that the moon had an effect on human behaviour. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that as the moon caused tides to rise and fall so it also caused brain matter to move. The human body is 80 percent water, so why would it not be affected by the moon?

It is the very error of the moon.

She comes more near the earth

than she was wont. And makes

men mad.

— William Shakespeare, Othello

As reported by Scientific American, “Belief in the ‘lunar lunacy effect,’ or ‘Transylvania effect,’ as it is sometimes called, persisted in Europe through the Middle Ages, when humans were widely reputed to transmogrify into werewolves or vampires during a full moon.”

Those notions are still around us today as there is a widespread belief that a full moon causes a spike in suicides, psychiatric hospital admissions, and crime. But, there’s no scientific evidence to support these beliefs.

The astronomer George Abell once observed that the gravitational pull of the moon on the human body is less that of a mosquito landing on your arm. Does the mosquito provoke you to do anything other than swat it?

And, the full moon is exactly the same size with exactly the same attractive strength as the new moon. So, there is no scientific reason to assume the full moon has any special powers not conferred on the new moon.

The high and low tides on the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The high and low tides on the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Correlation Is Not Causation

The Roman name for the goddess of the moon, Luna, has been turned into lunatic and lunacy. The good lady was said to drive her silver chariot across the night sky. Perhaps, distracted by this vision, Marcus Principus drove his ox cart off a bridge and perished, or it might have had something to do with wine.

The distraction of a bright, glowing light in the sky at night might have a relationship to vehicle accidents. According to a study published in The British Medical Journal in 2007, during a full moon motorcycle riders have about a five percent higher risk of death than at other times.

The researchers say that this has nothing to do with motorcyclists suddenly becoming manic because of lunar influences. It’s the result of a moment of inattention that is likely caused by looking up as the moon appears from behind some trees or a bank of cloud. It only takes parts of a second to swerve into the path of an oncoming vehicle or a stationary and mature oak tree.

The moon did not cause this.

The moon did not cause this.

The Moon and Fertility

Since the beginning of time, the moon has been associated with fertility.

History.com notes that “Perhaps because the menstrual and lunar cycles are similar in length, many early civilizations believed that the moon determined when women could become pregnant.”

Myths about moon cycles determining pregnancy are wrong.

Myths about moon cycles determining pregnancy are wrong.

The Internet is littered with websites making extravagant claims about the phases of the moon most likely to bring about a pregnancy. Mostly, it’s twaddle.

Dr. Eugen Jonas promotes his fertility method based on an ancient Assyrian astrological chart he says he discovered in the 1950s. He even dispenses advice on how to determine the gender of the baby based on where the moon is situated according to a zodiac sign, or something.

Dr. Jonas’s theories seem to be based on the same scientific principles that a person born under Pisces will like rutabagas.

Let’s let Pregnancy Magazine have the last word. In discussing the connection between lunar cycles and pregnancy it says “so far there isn’t any really convincing evidence.”

Lunar Conspiracy Theories

Bill Kaysing was a technical writer for a California company that made the rocket engines used to boost the Apollo astronauts into space. He toiled away in relative obscurity until 1976 when he self-published his book We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.

In doing so, he created one of the most enduring conspiracy theories ever to trouble the minds of people wearing tinfoil hats. In 2001, “Fair and Balanced” Fox TV aired a documentary-style program that gave credence to the allegation that the moon landings were faked on a sound stage in Hollywood.

Some people believe the moon landings were fake.

Some people believe the moon landings were fake.

In January 2019, China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft landed on the dark side of the moon. Nutbars around the world eagerly awaited this mission because it was going to reveal the presence of alien bases on the side of the moon we can’t see. The Chinese cameras were also going to reveal evidence of a secret NASA bombing experiment.

Perhaps, there would even be proof that of the bunker allegedly built by German Nazis. According to one theory, Hitler faked his own death, whizzed up to the moon, and lived the rest of his life in comfort under the lunar surface.

Of course, Chang’e-4 found nothing but the barren moonscape. No little green critters. No bomb craters. No sign of der Bunker. But, as with Bill Kaysing’s, followers this won’t dampen the enthusiasm of the believers.

In folklore, full moons have been associated with insanity and other abnormal behaviours, but despite a plethora of studies no reliably consistent parallels have been drawn.

— Henry Bodkin, The Telegraph

Bonus Factoids

According to History.com “In 18th-century England, people on trial for murder could campaign for a lighter sentence on grounds of lunacy if the crime occurred under a full moon; meanwhile, psychiatric patients at London’s Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital were shackled and flogged as a preventive measure during certain lunar phases.”

The Incas believed that lunar eclipses were caused by a jaguar eating the moon. They feared the big cat would then come back to Earth and eat all the people. To stop this they shook spears at the moon and beat dogs to make them howl.

The moon’s orbit around Earth wobbles a bit, so sometimes it is a little closer to us. When this happens a supermoon appears that can look as much as 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger than normal. The next really spectacular supermoon will be in November 2034.

Sources

  • “The Full Moon and Motorcycle Related Mortality: Population Based Double Control.” Donald A Redelmeier and Eldar Shafir, British Medical Journal, November 1, 2017.
  • “Lunacy and the Full Moon.” Hal Arkowitz and Scott O, Lilienfeld, Scientific American, February 1, 2009
  • “Fertility Days Online Calculator.” Horoscopes.astro-seek, undated.
  • “Are More Babies Conceived During a Full Moon?” Pregnancy Magazine, undated.
  • “7 Unusual Myths and Theories About the Moon.” History.com, August 27, 2013.
  • “China’s Chang’e-4 Moon Mission ‘Will Find ALIEN BASES and Craters From Secret Nasa Bombings’, Crackpots Claim.” Harry Pettit, The Sun, January 3, 2019.
  • “More Motorists Die on a Full Moon, New Study Shows.” Harry Bodkin, The Telegraph, December 11, 2017.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Rupert Taylor

Comments

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 08, 2019:

I hadn't heard several of those old ideas about the moon. As a RN the ER staff always said they had much tougher night shifts during a full moon. It seemed to be true, at least some of the time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on January 05, 2019:

Thanks, and have a nice time on HubPages.

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on January 05, 2019:

Your welcome!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on January 04, 2019:

Hi, Ellison, I agreed with you. Such stories are not only interesting but fascinating. Thanks for reading Rupert.

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on January 04, 2019:

I think it is interesting listening to the stories and beliefs about things like the moon from all over the world and different cultures

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on January 04, 2019:

Hello, Rupert, I am an Ijaw ethnicity from Nigeria's Niger Delta. During the full moon, people have this wrong notion that mermaids usually appears though the existence of a mermaid is real. At this time persons who do not know how to swim are drowned and they say the mermaid claim the victim, and the burial takes place in the sea at the root of mangrove plants.

As you aptly, wrote much myth associated with the moon still exists. These to some are already cultural realities. Thank you for sharing, and good day to you.