Only Selene Was the Moon Itself

In a scene from mid-February, I looked out the window into the early morning, contemplating the mysteries of the near universe.

“Darling, have you noticed that,” I asked my husband, “there never used to be a supermoon, but now it seems to happen all the time?  How come we never had supermoons when we were kids?”

Ric took me in his arms and pulled me close.  “Because,” he whispered, “we have more science now.”

We’ve had supermoons twice in the first two months of 2019, one of which was billed as the “BIGGEST AND BRIGHTEST EVER!!” (though, if you look at Facebook memes, every one is the BIGGEST AND BRIGHTEST EVER!!).  Mainstream media has picked up the Supermoon idea, and reports every occurrence as the BIGGEST AND BRIGHTEST EVER, even though it wasn’t really a “thing” until a few years ago.  Maybe it’s all part of the American obsession with bigger being better, or trying to make the moon great again.  Nowadays they seem almost as commonplace as drone deliveries, impromptu Fortnite celebration dances and zombie infestations.  Hopefully, the hype will pass in a few years.

According to Wiki, a supermoon is a full moon that nearly coincides with perigee—the closest that the Moon comes to the Earth in its elliptic orbit—resulting in a slightly larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as viewed from Earth, and has, of course, been happening since the moon and earth existed. The technical name is a perigee syzygy, triggering a perigean full moon.  But that just doesn’t have the same sort of ring to it (not a ring around the moon, mind you, which is called a “moon dog,” for all you Beach Blanket Bingo fans.  Go, ahead, you youngsters who need to Google that… we’ll wait…).  In practical terms, the visual difference between a supermoon and a “normal” full moon is virtually nil.  According to NASA, if the extreme perigean full moon (“supermoon”) provides an illumination value of 1.00000 on Earth’s surface, the illumination by…

  • the average perigean full moon is 0.99991.
  • the average distance full moon is 0.99963.
  • the average apogean (when the moon is furthest from Earth) full moon is 0.99934.

Pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference – could you?  This all seems like lunacy to me.  And for good reason!

Most of us who have had a high school English or Latin class know that the moon (“Lune” or “Luna”) forms the root of many words that connote some sort of insanity.  “Lunacy,” “lunatic,” and other derivatives hinged (or unhinged, as the case may be) on the belief, beginning in the 1300s, that certain phases of the moon caused insanity, anxiety, or criminal activity.  And that was the least of it!  Belief in the “lunar lunacy effect,” or “Transylvania effect,” as it is sometimes called, persisted in Europe through the Middle Ages, when humans were widely reputed to transmogrify into werewolves or vampires during a full moon.

However, studies, and even a 1985 meta-analysis of scientific studies done up to that time, have not yet proven a causal link between nights during which the moon is full and abnormal human activity (though one or two studies did show a slight change in the behavior of some animals during these periods).  This includes crimes, suicides, triggering of medical conditions such as epilepsy, mental health crises, etc.  Most of the reports of an increase of such happenings have been found to be anecdotal, or selective remembering.1   For example, if police and doctors are expecting that full moon nights will be more hectic, they may interpret an ordinary night’s traumas and crises as more extreme than usual.  Our expectations influence our perceptions, and we look for evidence that confirms our beliefs.2   I must say, when I worked at the Department of Health and Human Services, there was a general consensus among those who answered the phones that the calls were more bizarre around the time of the full moon.  But I also remember some days in which my co-workers would come into the office to say “Is the moon full?  Because it’s crazy out there!” to which I would just as often answer:  “Nope.  It just must be crazy out there.”

But here’s something that’s indisputable:  The Full Moon is beautiful, and has captivated us throughout the ages.  Pagans and others have been drawn to the magic of the moon since we could look up and see that huge fierce light in the sky.  We’ve noted its influences and captivation not only on the tides, but on our emotions and imaginations.  Countless legends and stories, songs, movies, paintings and so many other cultural bits and pieces try to highlight, make sense of or explain our relationship with the moon.3   The moon has long been a symbol of love, femininity, passion, fertility, change, alchemy, magic and the Goddess.

I have been caught more than once singing and dancing sky-clad in my back yard in all kinds of weather, just so that I could soak up those golden, energizing Yin rays of Goddess goodness.  But before the advent of Facebook it never really occurred to me to “rate” full moons based on their size, color (i.e. “blood moon”), brilliance, proximity, etc.  To me, each is equally beautiful and magical.  I once took a course in Goddess theology and learned a song that spoke to me.  I often sing it during my Esbat rituals:

            I am the wind that breathes upon the sea

            I am the wave of the ocean…

            I am the wind that breathes upon the sea

            I am the wave of the ocean.

             I am the weaver, I am the woven one,

            I am the dreamer, I am the dream…

            I am the weaver, I am the woven one,

            I am the dreamer, I am the dream.

Considering the very real physical effect of the powerful pull of the moon on our oceans and our emotions, whispering its luminescent breath upon us and making a palpable, measurable difference, the ocean wave image is apt.  Being both creator and created is, to me, the ultimate in Goddess imagery – as women we (with help, of course) give life and birth to the next generation, and at the same time we are the product of the love and wisdom of those who came before us.  Our collective consciousness keeps us in close contact with the suffering and triumphs of our mothers and grandmothers.  We Wax with the maturing of our young bodies, shine Fully during the growth of our creation inside our bodies, we Wane as our lives wind down and we internalize the wisdom of our age until we are released into our New life beyond this one.  We are the embodiment of the phases of the moon above, as is the moon a symbol of our life’s journey.

The moon has always connected me to the divine feminine, and always kept me feeling connected through the dark times of my life.  I still look up on clear nights (and even the times when the moon is visible during the light of day) and feel a sense of calm.  The perspective of knowing that I’m as small, and vast, as the Universe is comforting and awe inspiring.  Yes, that may be lunacy.  But the Goddess in me approves.

Celestial Pendants are on sale for the month of March 2019 here.

 

1 Find the 2009 Scientific American article here.

2According to a Live Science article reporting a review of scientific studies surrounding lunar myths.

3A brief recounting of ten interesting moon myths from various cultures may be found on this site.

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