I recently had a heated debate with a friend about the impact of the Moon on our little lives down here, and had to sit with the realisation that I *might* not have all my facts straight about the Moon. Questions like what is the Moon, and what does the Moon do exactly, really got my Googling and I’ve come away with a better understanding of that thing in the sky, as well as some of the myths and legends surrounding her.
What is the moon?
This is probably a good place to start, and quite a fun place, given the conspiracies hanging around that orb.
Here’s what we know:
- She’s massive. The Moon is nearly a third the size of Earth, the 5th largest Moon in our solar system. The other planets with Moons that size are massive gas giants. Neptune has a Moon closest in size to ours, but is four times the size of Earth.
- She’s musical. When the Apollo crew released the lunar module in 1969, it’s impact with the Moon caused their seismic equipment to register a continuous reverberation like a bell for more than an hour. The same effect occurred with Apollo 13’s third stage which caused the Moon to ring for over three hours. This gives weight to the argument the Moon is hollow.
- She’s metallic. Rocks have been found to contain brass, mica, titanium, and elements uranium 236 and Neptunium 237, not found naturally on our planet.
- She’s independent. Not completely, but the idea that the Moon simply orbits the Earth, just ain’t so. There’s another point, the Earth-Moon Barycentre that both the Earth and Moon revolve around. If Earth disappeared, the Moon would continue to orbit the Sun pretty much as it does now.
- She’s a mystery. We don’t know how she got to us: some say a giant impact knocked off the raw ingredients for the moon off the primitive molten Earth and sent her into orbit. Some say we stole her from Venus. Some say she’s older than Earth, others say they were born at the same time. No wonder conspiracies are so captivating…
What does the Moon do to us?
Full Moon Mania
This was the source of the debate betwixt me and my friend, as I suggested that if a full Moon could affect the number of people who enter emergency rooms worldwide, then surely she has an influence on our own mental wellbeing.
It’s the stuff of horror movies: the howling werewolf in the light of the full Moon, and there even appeared to be evidence from studies on Full Moon behaviour. However, these are likely flawed. A study published in 1982 reported traffic accidents were more frequent on full Moon nights than on other nights. But… they forgot to take into account that in the period under consideration, the full Moons they studied were more common on weekends, when more people drive. When the authors re-analysed their data to eliminate this confounding factor, the lunar effect vanished. Whoops…
So where did the Moon come from? Well, there’s a plausible reason, and one you might have experienced in your own life. Before we had outdoor lighting, the bright light of the full Moon would have had quite an impact on our ancestors’ sleep. It deprived people who were living outside of the darkness a good night of sleep requires. We know that sleep deprivation often triggers erratic behaviour, particularly in those with certain psychological conditions, such as bipolar disorder, so it seems understandable that the full Moon has been linked to a heightened rate of bizarre behaviour.
No excuses for yelling at your neighbour on the next full Moon then, so long as you get a good night’s sleep.
One of the reasons I (and many others) believe the Moon must have such a strong effect on humans, is the classic: the Moon’s gravitational pull creates tides. And tides are big! And humans are mostly water, so… the Moon must affect us similarly!
This too is a bit of an old wives tale. The Moon has a mighty gravitational pull, yes… but only on open bodies of water, like the oceans and seas. Not on enclosed water, like inside us.
But it’s still pretty cool, and super strong, depending on what phase the Moon is in. Spring tides, for example, are particularly strong tides that occur when the Earth, the Moon and the Sun are in a line (during the full moon and new moon phases.) Hence the dramatic sea you might see (heh) at these times of the month, adding to the lunar drama.
Keeps us steady
The earth’s axial tilt is only as steady as it is (between 23 and 26 degrees) because of our Moon. Contrast that with Mars, whose axial tilt varies from about 15 degrees to about 35 degrees over time!
Fun Fact for numerology geeks (like me)…
You could place 108 Moons between us and the Moon and 108 Suns between us and the Sun. How neat is that? It’s also why the Moon and Sun look roughly the same size to us from Earth.
Coincidence or otherwise, it’s a pretty mind-boggling fact that is worth marvelling over when you gaze up.
…It’s up to you
So whilst the tides, our tilt and our sleep may be affected, the Moon isn’t exactly the most in-your-face luminary in the sky. Unlike the Sun, she doesn’t give us an excuse to go on holiday, or make us slap on sunscreen at certain times of year (or all year if you’re a redhead like me.)
The Moon is subtle.
But that doesn’t mean she ought to go unobserved, unnoticed and unacknowledged.
Until relatively recently, the Moon played a much bigger role in societies mundane lives.
The Vedic people (c. 1750–500 BCE) would do ‘Surya Namaskar’, or salute the Sun, every morning. They saw the Sun as much more than just a big fireball in the sky. To them, it was the representation of a god, Surya — the deity of the Sun.
Vedic culture also tracked the Moon very carefully. Today, some of us are keeping this tradition alive, noting the astrological sign the Moon passes through on her travels. Since the Moon moves relatively quickly, we get to acknowledge her placement through all 12 signs of the Zodiac over the course of a month. This is an excellent calendar to keep track of that.
The term ‘Hatha yoga’ literally means to unite the Sun and Moon. Taking this concept further, the philosophy of the Vedic people states that the Sun and the Moon rule the ida and pingala nadis (right and left nostrils respectively) — the active and passive breath, the hot and cool, the yang and yin.
If you’ve tried alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodana) then you’ll know how powerful embodying this metaphor really is, on a real, physical level. Regardless of the story or the science, this stuff works. If it doesn’t work for you, or you have a snotty nose, then leave it behind!
The point isn’t to shove the philosophies down your own throat, but to sample them, taking what you want, and leaving the rest behind or for another time.
Other ways to work with the Moon
If you’re still with me, and willing to sample and explore other traditional approaches to working with the Moon, here are some things to explore:
- Yoga for the Moon phase – this is a great way to sync your physical yoga practise up to the Moon. Again, the yogic tradition honours this; Ashtangis typically taking days off on Moon days.
- Journaling – I’m a big fan of journaling anyway, but sometimes I get stuck for what to write about. Setting intentions, letting go of old thought patterns or habits – these are all great topics you can journal about depending on what phase the Moon is in.
Journal Prompts for Moon Phases
- Use it to garden – I can’t pretend I’m of the green-fingered variety, but I love the idea of timing your gardening activities to the Moon phase, and there’s plenty of evidence from various cultures to explain potential benefits of doing so.
- Acknowledge when it’s Void of Course – this is something Horary astrologers take into consideration, but it might be worth considering in your own life. The idea is that when the Moon enters a new zodiac sign, there is a pause, a period in which the Moon is thought ‘Void of Course’, and a time that is rather inauspicious for action-taking. It might be worth downloading an app like iLuna for iOS and iLuna for Android.
The Moon is undoubtedly mysterious, and whether you want to believe in or just act like you believe in her magic is up to you. Personally, I think my life is richer when I look up and take note of her size, shape and luminosity and when my routine – whether it’s action taking, yoga, resting or journaling – has her as my guide.
Geppi, Sam. Yoga and Vedic Astrology: Sister Sciences of Spiritual Healing (Essentials of Vedic Astrology Book 1)