Lunar Cycles, Lunar Influence, and Lunacy

Lunar Cycles, Lunar Influence, and Lunacy

The Latin name for the Moon is “luna.” Many English words are derived from that root, including lunacy, lunatic, and even loon, as in “crazy as a loon.” Having grown up in the north, I know that hearing the cries of loons cry could lead to thoughts of them being crazy. Lunar cycles occur naturally, but many people believe a “lunar influence” is connected to abnormal behavior.

People have given unique names to certain full-moon appearances, such as blue moon, sturgeon moon, harvest moon, cold moon, snow moon, pink moon, flower moon, strawberry moon, hunter moon, beaver moon, worm moon, and wolf moon (which we will have tonight). You can find those names in the Farmer’s Almanac, so it should not be surprising that most of them have connections to agriculture or to a time when people did not have electric lights clouding their view of the sky. I have found that seeing the full moon in remote areas hundreds of miles away from city lights is a moving experience. If you were fishing, harvesting, hunting, or plowing, you would have no problem with just the Moon for illumination.

The Moon is not just an accident, nor is its influence on life. Genesis 1:14 describes God clearing Earth’s cloud cover to let the lights of the heavens (Sun and Moon) become visible “for signs and seasons and for days and years.” Some birds use the Moon for migration journeys that coincide with specific lunar phases. Many animals respond to both circadian rhythms and a lunar clock.

So, how does the Moon affect human activity? Studies show that there are more animal bites from cats, rats, and horses during full moons, probably because more humans are doing more things at night during a full moon. Also, data show there are more crimes during full moons. Apparently, criminals can use the light of a full moon for their activities just as farmers can.

The Bible refers to lunar cycles for time and mentions lunar festivals (Colossians 2:16) but otherwise makes no particular connections to the Moon. All of the claims of abnormal human behavior during various lunar cycles are in the realm of what is called “folklore.” Erika Brady, who teaches folklore at Western Kentucky University, says, “It’s a way of imposing order on something that feels frighteningly out of control.”

I hope you can take some time tonight to admire the full moon away from city lights and imagine how ancient people depended on it for nighttime light to carry on their lives. Meanwhile, don’t worry about it affecting you psychologically or causing biological changes. The animals and insects may be altered by lunar cycles, but you are not a bug or a werewolf.

— John N. Clayton © 2024