The most well known and beloved moon phase is that of the full moon. This is the lunar phase where it is completely illuminated from your perspective on Earth. It is when the Earth is between the sun and the moon, causing the moon to be completely sunlit on the side facing the Earth.
The full moon has been a vital part of cultural belief systems for thousands of years.
In every accessible culture, historians and anthropologists have found that the full moon held great significance. Whether is be legendary stories of the past, epistles that explain important aspects of cultural life, or the documentation of emerging science, the full moon has influenced populations world wide for millennia.
It has been ascribed to the cause of insanity, insomnia and even mystical creatures that come out at night. And the full moon has held a center part of the creation of the world’s calendars. In the days before clocks and other measurements of time, the phases of the moon were the best, somewhat consistent way to mark time from day to day and month to month.
Folklore about the Full Moon is vast and found in many cultures.
From werewolves to rabbits, rumors of Nazi space stations, and even more stories about how the moon and sun coexist, there is folklore about the full moon everywhere. It is found throughout human history, in nearly every culture and is always used as a wonderful way to carry forth cultural traditions.
The word lunatic comes from the moon (specifically, the Roman Goddess Luna). This came from the belief that people act strange on the night night of the full moon, including an increase in violent behaviors. It is an idea that dates as far back as the Ancient Greeks. They attributed the lunacy to the influence of the Goddess of the Moon and would also call such lunatics as “Moonstruck”.
Werewolves, Rabbits and Nazies, oh my!
The most common and known myth about the full moon in European folklore, is that of the werewolf. This mythical creature is a human who turns into a wolf with the full moon. While the specifics of the transformation vary from culture to culture, the visage of the full moon constantly plays a part in it, and in many other creature tales.
The Rabbit in the Moon is a Buddhist story told in China and Japan, found in the Jataka tales. Rabbit, Monkey, Jackal, and Otter encounter an old man who is hungry and begs for food. Monkey goes to collect fruits and vegetables, while Otter catches fish in the river. Jackal steals a lizard and a pot of milk curds. But the rabbit, instead, offers himself by throwing his body into the fire. He isn’t harmed by the fire, however, and the man reveals that he is Śakra, an important Buddhist deity who is the ruler of Trāyastriṃśa Heaven and Lord of the Devas. Śakra honors the rabbit by putting his image on the moon, still surrounded by the smoke caused when he threw himself on the fire.
One of the more paranoid stories of the Full Moon, is about Nazis on the moon. During WWII, it was thought that perhaps the Nazis established a super secret base on the moon. The stories even claim that Hitler didn’t really die but escaped to live the rest of his life hidden in a sanctuary on the moon. The shadows on the moon are thought to be the elaborate moon base.
The full moon’s influence on culture hasn’t waned even in modern day.
How often have you heard on those days where people seem particularly crazy “It must be the full moon”? When I used to spend time around public safety and paramedics, we always braced ourselves for a busy time during the full moon.
For me, however, it is a time each month where things are brighter (yes, literally), more peaceful and more fascinating. I find each full moon to be an easy way to notice the time has passed and that the world has kept on turning. The ebb and flow of the lunar cycle is calming and moderately predictable, affording a sense of peacefulness to the chaos of the world.
at The Researcher’s Gateway