If you even have the slightest whisper of interest in the wellbeing industry, you may have noticed more and more talk about the Lunar Calendar and its effects on us. But how does the full moon affect people really?
Whereas once upon a time it was usually only mad cat ladies wearing purple velvet who were seen quietly whispering to themselves under the full moon, now there are whole bookstore shelves dedicated to ‘living your best life’ by the comings and goings of the moon and it’s various phases.
So what exactly is the deal here, why the sudden resurgence (and it IS a resurgence, it’s nothing new) and does the moon really affect us at all?
Firstly, let me just briefly explain the moon cycle. There are eight phases of the lunar calendar, starting with the new moon and coming all the way back around in the space of approximately 29.5 days. From new moon we move to waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent – and then we’re back to the new moon. Some people will also add the dark moon as a ninth phase into this cycle. Witches, Wiccans, pagans, new age folk and now your average wellness coach on Instagram will celebrate and honour all, some, or actually sometimes none of these phases, and it really is a personal preference. It’s not like if you decide to become a pagan you suddenly HAVE to be interested in the moon. But, most of the people who follow this kind of path are doing so because they feel a connection to, not just the planet itself, but the celestial bodies that they believe affect us here on earth. Paganism, Wicca and witchcraft are all nature-based religions/spiritualities and their festivals and holidays are dedicated to the turning of the seasons and the cycles of the sun and the moon.
So let’s focus on the full moon. This lunar event occurs when the sun and moon are on opposite sides of the earth so that the light from the sun fully illuminates it. Think about when you take a photo of someone – you want them to be standing facing the window, not in front of it so they are lit well. The moon is actually only illuminated by the sun 100% for a few minutes, but from our perspective, it seems like the moon is full for a few days. It is said that the energy of the full moon lasts from 2/3 days on either side of the official date and time.
So those are the facts, what about the folklore? Ancient cultures and even the main religions of the world have celebrated and honoured the full moon with rituals and ceremonies. Islam, Judaism and Christianity all set some of their festivals according to the moon – for example, this is why Easter moves around – it occurs the Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. The Native Americans gave all the full moons of the year a name, depending on the particularities of the month, many of which we still use today. (By the way, there are actually 13 full moons in one year – in the month in which there are two full moons, the second one is the blue moon!)
The effect of the full moon on people and animals has long been recorded – you may even have noticed yourself that around the full moon your energy can swing one of two ways. You’ll either be desperate to get to bed early, or you’ll be bouncing off the walls! Many ex-dance teachers and bodyworkers of mine have spoken of a significant increase in injuries around the full moon because students think they can suddenly do a much higher kick than they really can! (yes, I am talking about me!) This has led to much storytelling and a great many myths and legends surrounding the mysteries of the full moon, not least the werewolf who was said to turn monstrous by the light of the moon. And of course, we still (unfortunately) use the word ‘lunatic’ to describe a dangerous, crazy or mentally ill person. There are more recent studies that have highlighted the effect of the moon on both our bodies and minds. For example, in 2008 The Royal Liverpool University Hospital found emergency urological admissions to be higher on full moons.
So, why are we suddenly becoming interested in the moon cycles again? I think it’s a reflection of our general sense of wanting to reconnect with nature as a whole. There is definitely a current backlash against the fast-paced, disposable, got-to-have-it-now-in-every-colour, ethos of the beginning of this century. The plastic-free movement is a huge thing, we have Extinction Rebellion, and we have people moving away from Big Tech and buying more locally in a more sustainable way. Having a more conscious, personal connection to the planet just reflects those needs. Connection to nature is about mindfulness, it’s about meditation, it’s about slowing down and noticing the small things and the more in tune we are to our natural surroundings and the cycles of life, the better able we are to do that.
In terms of how to celebrate the full moon, traditionally it is a time for reflection and gratitude, of looking back over the previous month to see what you have achieved and how you might move forward. A time to clear out the stagnant energy to make way for the fresh, so that you might see the path ahead of you clearly.
Here are some of the rituals I like to include when celebrating a full moon:
An important part of life for witches and pagans is ritual, and self-care is very much entwined with that. Make your regular bath time a special event by adding good quality Epsom or Himalayan Pink salt, a few drops of your favourite essential oil – I like to use Rose Absolut for my ritual baths – and some candles. You can if you want to, choose candles whose colour corresponds with what you would like to bring in for the next month. For example, green for abundance, pink for love, and purple for spiritual awakening. You can go as crazy as you want here – add crystals, petals, herbs – anything that makes it feel like you can sit peacefully and in reflection. Do this bath before any other ritual you may be partaking in, so that you are in the right head space.
- Sit in your preferred meditation position, spine long but not rigid, shoulders relaxed.
- Take 3 rounds of deep, releasing breaths – in through the nose and out through the nose.
- Sit for a while following your natural breath. Allow each inhale and each exhale to come and go with ease.
- Now allow your mind to focus on all the things you are grateful for over the last month. It can massive – ‘I am grateful for life’ – or really small – ‘I am grateful for the last piece of chocolate’. Make the list as long as you can.
- Sit until you run out of things to give thanks for.
- Notice your body and it’s reaction to the positive thoughts that have been running through your head. Try to keep this feeling with you as you slowly start to stretch and move. Or alternatively – as is my preferred way, do this just before you go to sleep.
So there you are! Some information on how the full moon affects people, and why people are becoming more and more interested in the phases of the moon.
If you are interested in learning more about the moon and her cycles, come and join our Full Moon Circle or New Moon Nurture evenings which happen twice a month – check the website for the schedule. If you’re intrigued, but aren’t sure what’s involved, read more in my blog ‘What Is A Moon Circle’ here.