Howling at the full moon

Published 6:37 pm Friday, November 15, 2019

There’s almost nothing better than a good night’s sleep. You wake up feeling wonderfully refreshed and ready to take on the day. Plenty of things, however, can interfere in my quest for eight hours of good rest, but the most frustrating for me is the full moon.

Yes, you heard me right, it’s the moon that keeps me awake each month. To rephrase the immortal words sung by Dean Martin: when a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s not amore. That’s a giant nightlight!

(Yes, I know my version of the song doesn’t rhyme. Forgive me, I’m lacking sleep.)

It sounds silly, for sure, but the brightness of the full moon really does make it hard to sleep no matter how tired I am. But I don’t know if it’s truly the moon’s fault or simply because my body has just gotten stuck in the routine of not sleeping well when the full moon rolls around each month. I’ll probably never know for sure.

There was a full moon this past week, so the topic was on my mind. Since I had some extra free time—you know, because of the whole not sleeping thing—I decided to dig into some full moon myths and folklore to share. If I can’t sleep, I might as well learn something, right?

Before I get to the folklore, however, I’ll start with some interesting moon facts from space.com. I had no idea, for example, there were four different kinds of lunar months. We use the “synodical” lunar month, which is calculated by the length of time it takes the moon to circle the Earth using the sun as the reference point, as a basis for our calendar months. One synodical month lasts 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.7 seconds. The other three lunar months (anomalistic, nodical, and sidereal) last about 27 days, give or take a few hours.

I was also surprised to learn temperatures on the moon can vary wildly. On a normal day, the lows can get as low as minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit and the highs as high as 260 degrees. During a lunar eclipse with the Earth’s shadow covering the surface, temperatures can plummet 500 degrees in less than 90 minutes. (Sounds like normal weather in North Carolina to me, to be honest.)

This stat was particularly mindboggling to me: it would take 398,110 full moons to equal the brightness of our sun. There’s not even enough room in the sky for that many moons all at once. Thank goodness we only have one moon. It’s hard enough to sleep as it is!

But beyond scientific understanding, we like to assign all kinds of different superstitions and such to the moon as well. Almanac.com has a nice list of when the full moon can bring good or bad luck.

Apparently, it’s lucky to have a full moon on Monday (also known as “moon day”). I’m a bit skeptical about this because everyone knows Mondays are terrible.

Conversely, the full moon appearing on Sunday (get it? SUN day! Ha ha) is supposed to bring bad luck. It’s also apparently unlucky to view the moon by looking over your shoulder.

The Farmer’s Almanac also says babies are more likely to be born around a full moon. And the best time to accept a marriage proposal is during the full moon too. (But if you want to break up with someone, do it during the new moon instead.)

Perhaps one of the best-known myths (and personally, I think, most believable) is that the full moon makes people crazy. According to an article about moon myths on syfy.com, the word “lunatic” comes from the Roman goddess, Luna. The moon goddess apparently inspired madness from the “nonbelievers.” I’m not entirely sure Luna is the one responsible for crazy folk today, but they definitely do seem to be crazier when a full moon is hanging in the sky.

Of course, werewolves are probably the other most-known legend related to the full moon. But surprisingly, it’s only been the last one hundred years or so that the full moon has been connected to the supernatural creature.

Hey, I wonder… maybe werewolves are just cranky, mean monsters because they don’t get any sleep during a full moon either?

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.