The moon is, in terms of distance, the closest heavenly body to earth. We can see it in the sky for three weeks out of four, and people have, for thousands of years, used its light to guide them in the dark. In addition to the personification of the moon as deity, there are all kinds of fascinating legends and myths associated with the moon and its cycles.
- The word lunatic comes from the Latin luna, because it was believed that people were more likely to exhibit aberrant behavior during a full moon. Although studies have been done showing that emergency room visits and accidents are increased during the full moon period, there has yet to be conclusive evidence for causation.
- The moon seems to have an effect on animals as well as people. A Florida expert on animal behavior reports that hamsters spin in their wheels far more aggressively during the moon's full phase. Deer and other herbivores in the wild tend to ovulate at the full moon, and in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the full moon is mating time for coral.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, was inspired by the strange -- and yet very true -- case of Charles Hyde, a London man who committed a series of crimes at the time of the full moon.
- There is a British legend that if Christmas fell on the day of a dark Moon, the following year's harvest would be a bountiful one. Some parts of the British Isles believed that a waxing moon on Christmas meant a good crop the next fall, but a waning moon indicated a bad one would come.
- In some countries, a halo around the moon means bad weather is coming.
- The first time you see a crescent moon for the month, take all your spare coins out of your pocket, and put them in the other pocket. This will ensure good luck for the next month.
- Some people believe that the fifth day after a full moon is the perfect time to try to conceive a child.
- In some Chinese religions, offerings are made to the ancestors on the night of a full moon.
- In some Native American legends, the moon is held captive by a hostile tribe. A pair of antelope hope to rescue the moon and take it the village of a good tribe, but Coyote, the trickster, interferes. The antelope chase Coyote, who tosses the moon into a river each night, just out of reach of the antelope.
- The night of the full moon is believed to be a good time for divination and scrying.