“It is the very error of the moon.
She comes more nearer the earth
than she was wont. And makes
—William Shakespeare, Othello (1603)
On January 31, 2018, a rare super blue blood moon graced the sky. A super blood moon is the coinciding of a blue moon (a second full moon in a calendar month), a super moon (when the moon is unusually close to Earth, making it bigger and brighter), and a blood moon (a moment during an eclipse when the moon appears red). This happened for the first time since 1866.
I missed it. Or at least I thought I did. The same day, I faced the strangest emotions, experiencing heightened anger, distress, sadness, hysteria, intense moments of love and gratitude and loss of appetite, all within a matter of hours. I also ran into insomnia, tossing and turning in my bed until 5am. Little did I know, the moon may just have been part of the reason why I felt so unusual.
Over time, the saying “there must be a full moon out tonight“ has been viewed again and again in an effort to rationalize odd occurrences. Indeed, the term ‘lunatic’ dates back to the 13th century, for someone “affected with periodic insanity dependent on the changes of the moon.“
Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman historian Pliny the Elder suggested that the brain was the “moistest“ organ in the body and therefore most vulnerable to the apparently malevolent powers of the moon, which triggers the tides. The idea of the “lunar lunacy effect,“ also known as the “Transylvania effect,“ persisted in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, when humans were commonly believed to metamorphose into werewolves or vampires during a full moon.
Contemporary writers like psychiatrist Arnold Lieber echoes this, suggesting that the full moon’s assumed effects on behaviour surface from its impact on water. The human body, after all, is around 80% water. Lieber pondered that perhaps the moon weaves its mischievous magic by somehow disrupting the alignment of water molecules in the nervous system. However, this argument is largely disputed, with critics stating that the gravitational effects of the moon are much too minute to generate any meaningful effects on brain activity, let alone behaviour.
Another intriguing suggestion, proposed by psychiatrist Charles L. Raison, suggests that the lunar lunacy effect may have its origins in the time before artificial lighting. The bright light of the full moon led to sleep deprivation among people living outside, triggering erratic behaviour. The connection is now what Raison terms a “cultural fossil.“
I have always felt dubious about claims linking the moon and its triggering of strange behaviour. When there is a full moon and something particularly abnormal ensues, we typically notice it, tell others about it, and remember it. Books and movies have taught us that full-moon nights equate to fear, psychotic behaviour, murder, and other spooky occurrences. In contrast, when there’s a full moon and nothing weird happens, the non-event swiftly wanes from our memory. Our selective memory leads to an illusory correlation between full moons and untold inexplicable events.
However, after a bizarre week of emotion, coupled with another experience with the power of the sky, I changed my mind.
Recently I returned from a trip to Paraguay in South America. It was once considered to be a developed nation, but as I arrived, I was greeted with voices telling me it was now “fifth world.“ The country struck me with its an abundance of trees, energy, history, culture, and music. Small, humid towns featured amphitheatres, churches, art, and cathedrals displaying the country’s once-booming economy and flourishing population.
The sky in the southern hemisphere ignited new emotions and desires, the need for change and the need to admire and live each moment, while being honest and true. Something changed while there, where I realised I was part of something bigger; the trees, land, sky, sea, every woman, man, being, and universe.
I’m more than cleaning dirty dishes. As Frank Turner says, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go. I’m from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, UK. It has cunt in its name. We’re labourers, workers, millers, Starks, constructors, chavs, communists, capitalists, atheists, mormons, music cravers, racists, feminists, £2-a-pint lovers. We want life.
Construction, stability, happiness, peace. I’ve been waiting a while now, but time is ticking. I’m intelligent and accomplished. I have a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in English and a £50,000 debt to the UK government. But I don’t understand or care for numbers. I’m a white woman from a developed country. I know women who are abused, ignored, and silenced – how must it be for women in developing countries? Too many people are facing struggles simply for wanting to learn. Struggle is inevitable but doesn’t have to be permanent. Money is just another trick on us, and education is a product, but it doesn’t have to mean we have to halt our lives and desires.
A new need to feel and understand the beauty and passion of women hold unfolds to me. Women must feel change within before they can expect anyone else to change. I want to read five books at once, cement my ecofeminism, and continue to learn to make the life I want to wake up to. A home with a yellow door, flowers, and the sound of birds. Women need to lift other women up. Support them. Love and have faith in them. Think of their struggle. Walk alongside them. Talk about the moon, the rain, and each moment.
Many still claim the transcendent influences of the full moon increase erratic behaviour. It’s often coupled with increases in psychiatric hospital admissions, homicides, suicides, ER calls, traffic accidents, animal bites, fights, and all manner of often strange events. Some believe it affects women, animals, and children more than others. While I restlessly turned, the super blue blood moon was apparently putting on a show for much of the world. Whether it’s merely the brightness of the sky, or something more ethereal at work, the moon has a mystery surrounding it, and one in which I endeavour to learn more.