The Moon was the subject of widespread folklore in ancient
times. While the brightest object in the night sky, it is not so
bright that its surface texture is obscured. The patterns on the
lunar surface have, like clouds, taken on anthropomorphic
characteristics. Some saw the face of a man; others, various animals.
The changing phases of the Moon and its seeming disappearance
for a day or two each month also led to additional
speculations. Modern werewolf lore has the wolf-like side of the
person showing itself only during the evenings of the full
The Moon was associated with various gods and goddesses,
though primarily the latter. In Hindu astrology, the Moon was
associated with the god Nanna, though the more common associations
are with the Greek Artemis, the Roman Luna, or the
Moonlight-Giving Mother of the Zuni. It was especially associated
with females as they identified the lunar cycle with the
menstrual cycle. In the contemporary world, the Moon has assumed
a central role in the mythology developed by NeoPaganism,
especially its feminist element.
The most comprehensive system for gathering the many observations
about the Moon, attempting to understand its significance
and drawing implications for behavior from it, was astrology.
The 28-day cycle of the Moon became a convenient
way of dividing the solar year into more manageable units we
have come to know as months. (Actually the Moon takes only
27.32 days to orbit the earth, but because of the movement
around the Sun it takes 29.53 days for it to complete a cycle
from full Moon to full Moon.
In astrology the Moon represents the inner emotional side
of the self, the subconscious mind and psyche. The Moon’s
placement in the chart reveals the creative side of the person,
where heshe might give birth to new ideas, how hisher nurturing
side is expressed, or where great passion is resting. The
Moon is paired off with the Sun, related to the overall aspects
of one’s outer visible life.
Over the years, from folklore and astrology, the Moon was
identified with a variety of behavior patterns, most notably
mental disorders, or lunacy. The moon has been seen as effecting
crime, suicides, accidents, and births, their occurrences believed
to rise and fall with the phases of the Moon. It is believed
by many still that, for example, the Moon will stimulate pregnant
women to give birth, an observation bolstered by the alternating
full and empty birth wards nurses have reported at hospitals.
These observations have become the subject of research
through the twentieth century, though many of these studies
have been somewhat buried in various psychological journals.
In the 1980s and 1990s psychologists I. W. Kelly and R.
Martens were the focus of several studies testing lunar assumptions
beginning with a sweep of the literature in 1986 attempting
to discover any evidence for a correlation between lunar
phases and birthrates. They discovered that studies had been
done in various settings in different countries with large samples,
but that no data tied a higher rate of spontaneous births
to a particular phase of the Moon. A similar negative correlation
has been found between the Moon and an upsurge of behavior
associated with mental illness or suicide (including number
of suicides, attempts at suicides, or threats of suicide).
Early in 2000, news reports appeared of a German study
that showed a statistical correlation between the Moon phases
and alcohol consumption. However, on checking, the report
appeared to have garbled the original report written by HansJoachim
Mittmeyer of the University of Türbingen and Norbert
Filipp of the Health Institute in Reutlingen. The pair of
researchers had done a study of arrests for alcohol in Germany
over a lunar cycle without finding any statistically significant
variations from day to day.
While much interesting and suggestive data on astrological
relationships have been produced over the twentieth century,
especially that associated with Michel Gauquelin, the data on
the immediate effects of the Moon on behavior as expressed in
popular folklore appears to be negative. While there remain
areas that have gone unresearched, enough has been done so
that the burden of proof has shifted onto the shoulders of those
who now make such claims.
Carrol, Robert Todd. ‘‘Full Moon and Lunar Effects.’’ Skeptic’s
Dictionary. httpwww.skepdic.comfullmoon.html. June 11,
Chudler, Eric. ‘‘Moonstruck! Does the Full Moon Influence
Behavior.’’ httpfaculty.washington.educhudlermoon.html.
June 11, 2000.
Kelly, I. W., and R. Martens. ‘‘Lunar Phases and Birthrate
An Update.’’ Psychological Reports 75 (1996) 507–11.
———, James Rotton, and Roger Culver. ‘‘The Moon Was
Full and Nothing Happened A Review of Studies on the Moon
and Human Behavior and Human Belief.’’ In J. Nickell, B.
Karr, and T. Genoni, eds. The Outer Edge. Amherst, N.Y. CSICOP,

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