Last night after tossing and turning in a tangle of sheets, I finally realized the reason I could not sleep was the full moon. I wasn’t exactly howling like a werewolf, but I was fully awake when normally asleep. This full moon alertness has happened before and apparently not just to me.
It is a recognized natural phenomenon that the full moon affects not just sleep but the mind and body. The word ‘lunatic’ comes from the Latin word for moon, luna and was coined in the 15th century along with myths of werewolves who come out full force at the full moon.
By the Light of the Silvery Moon
The moon’s light disturbs our sleep rhythm because of our programmed circadian wake-sleep cycle, but less so now we live in a world of electric lights and the ever-present intensely bright screens. But, for our ancestors who lived in a dark world, the moon must have been an amazing sight and lit the dark nights especially during its full phase. No wonder they worshipped the moon and legends and mythology grew up about the moon and its power and beauty.
Nowadays we scarcely notice it because we are so fixated indoors on our blue light screens. Only announcements of eclipses and rare moon events send us outside to scan the heavens once more. Unless, of course you happen to live nearer the equator, where the full moon makes it so bright, you can almost read a book in the moonlight.
The Pull of the Moon
The moon’s powerful gravitational pull exerts a small force on our bodies, another mass, despite the vast distance. Its pull affects our 70% water-based body. After all, it is the moon’s pull that creates tides, and our water content is much smaller than the world’s oceans. Though scientists maintain that the pull only operates on open bodies of water not the closed system within us. However, the brain is our most liquid organ so maybe it is possible that the moon affects us mentally.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is the same length as the time the moon orbits the earth, about 29.53 days. This is no coincidence, for like the ocean, the moon may create a tidal pull in us. Some animals wax and wane along with the moon’s phases. The reproductive cycle of marine animals, like tropical corals, follows the moon’s cycle as does the hatching of insects at neap tides. Old-time farmers said you never sowed seed on the waning moon, and so often that proves true. If you want your plants to thrive, plant the seeds only on the rising moon.
The moon in its orbit is most powerful at full moon so it is no surprise that we feel something, though apparently the pull is the same during the new moon phase when we see no moon. During the full moon, crime apparently rises, acts of aggression have been reported increasing, probably those werewolves again! Anxiety and depression especially in bipolar people seem to rise as well.
There needs to be more scientific studies on the matter, as literature is mostly anecdotal. But it does make sense that if animals and the oceans feel it, we feel it too. Could be even more interesting if the Earth had twelve moons like Jupiter.
The Phases of the Moon
Lunar phases represent the different orbital positions of the Moon, Sun and Earth. The moon is visible to us when it is sunlit. When the whole face of the moon is sunlit, this is a full moon. When there is no, or partial sunlit as the Moon and Sun are on the same side of the Earth, this creates the new moon. The four major phases of our moon are therefore new moon, first quarter, full moon and last quarter. As the moon ‘s visibility increases towards full moon it is a waxing moon but as it decreases from full, it is a waning moon.
The actual shape of the moon is dictated by latitude as well as hemisphere. Moon phase charts are quite confusing and mostly depict the moon as viewed in Northern Hemisphere. Unless you are a stargazer, scientist or a fisherman, full moon phases are not something you worry about.
Crazy Moon Events
Apart from phases, there are eclipses both solar and lunar. Solar is when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and lunar eclipse when the Earth is between the Moon and Sun. The Moon orbits the Earth 13.4 times a year and passes between the Earth and Sun 12.4 times a year.
Then there is my favorite term, ‘the dark side of the Moon’ which is the side in shadow from the sun. An unusual term called earthshine refers to the dark side of the moon illuminated by light from the earth.
But I also have to mention the blue moon which is a full moon in the year when there are 13 full moons. Not many years have 13 full moons as usually there is just one a month. It is a rare event hence the term ‘once in a blue moon.’ The next blue moon will be in 2143. The last time was 1961.
The Prophetic Blood Moon
This morning, I learnt that not only was it a full moon the night I couldn’t sleep, but a rare blood moon, even more alarming. This is a total lunar eclipse when the Sun, Earth and Moon align. The red colour of the moon is the sun’s rays peaking around the Earth which blocks them. This is the second blood moon this year and touted to be prophetic of the end times. It is also spooky that it occurs as the USA and Israel held important elections, two important players in world affairs, at the time of the Blood Moon.
In Acts 2:20 and Joel 2:31 the blood moon is mentioned; ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come.’ Revelation also repeats the prophecy in Rev 6:12. Some church leaders see it not as the end of times but as a turning point in world politics that could be good for us all. One thing for sure, the Blood Moon sends biblical prophets ‘baying at the moon,’ with all their prophetic voices.
The Romantic Moon
How many films and books have evolved around the romantic moon, blue ocean and palm trees blowing softly in the night air? The moon is a much-idolized object and in many cultures became the source of cults. Like the glittering stars, the moon is a romantic symbol due to its beauty, luminosity and associated mystery.
Because of its changing nature, size and constancy in the night sky, it holds special appeal to us earthbound residents. Even after man has landed on its surface and revealed it as a bare desert-like place, this has not stopped us gazing up at it in wonder. Now they plan to do another moon landing, supposedly starting in 2024..
The Moon in Song
The sentimental amongst us have penned multitudes of songs, poems and books about the Moon. ‘Fly me to the moon and let me dance among the stars’ sings Frank Sinatra. This was a hit before Armstrong ever landed there in the 1960s in that epic :”One small step for man, one giant step for mankind,” moment. Billie Holiday in 1952 sang ‘Blue Moon you saw me standing alone without a dream in my heart without a love of my own.’
Then in 1970, Cat Stevens sang about ‘being followed by a moonshadow.’ Elton John got jazzier and sang of a ‘Rocketman’ out in space. Pink Floyd named an album ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ There are many more moon songs, check them out if interested.
Mention of the moon abounds in literature, too. Goodreads has over a thousand quotes assembled here. In Shakespeare’s Othello, a maid tells Othello that the moon has drawn too close to the Earth making men act strangely. Othello certainly was under its spell. He saw ghosts, muttered to himself, and was indirectly responsible for most of the characters dying by the end of the play.
Mark Twain took a different tack, he thought ‘Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.’ Now there is a dark side to the Internet, that not many of us choose to traverse.
E. E. Cummings went further, “Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born: – you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars.” Shakespeare also referenced the moon as a romantic symbol in Romeo and Juliet, “Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly. Then your love would also change.”
Robert Frost, the poet says it simply, “We ran as if to meet the moon.”
The moon then is different things to different people. The moon is a constant, yet constantly changing. It is a symbol of the unknown, the vast heavens and ginormous universe with its hundreds of galaxies. The moon is large and luminous and makes us ponder ourselves and existence.
I hope you have enjoyed this piece of lunacy!
Photo Source; Guzman Barquin/Unsplash
Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts this women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.