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Moon is a frequent subject of folklore

Posted: May 20, 2012 - 12:00am

“Don’t commence your weaning when the moon is waning, nor should you be birthing then.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1994

Is the moon made of cheese? Does it have a dark side? And was there a man in the moon before astronaut Neil Armstrong’s 1969 arrival? Or is that vague moon silhouette a woman, as the imaginative eyes of the Polynesians believe, or according to the Japanese, a rabbit in profile?

Leave it to The Old Farmer’s Almanac to pour through time-honored legends and compile a list of facts and not-so-factual lunar lore for our reading pleasure.

Yes, the moon does control the tides, which is a good thing for earthlings to know if they fish, sail or live by the sea. But does it control the ebb and flow of earthling behavior, too?

Police records do show more criminal activity during a full or new moon, and medical records reveal an increase in patient bleeding at the same time. The latter has been confirmed by at least one Florida physician, who urges extra precaution when performing surgery during a full moon.

Folklorists agree that luck, both good and bad, is determined by moon phases, too. For example, it’s good luck to see a clear view of the first sliver of a new moon if you are outside, but unlucky if you see that first sliver through a window.

Also, you might be in luck if a full moon falls on “the moon’s day” (Monday), but out of luck if the moon is full on “the sun’s day” (Sunday).

And did you know your rabbit’s foot will bring you better luck if the rabbit was killed in a cemetery by a cross-eyed person at the dark of the moon? But you’ll be very unlucky if you happen to fall asleep or were born in the moonlight? (Some folks even fear that falling asleep under lunar light is courting insanity – hence the term, “lunatic.”) And never, ever point at the new moon, or look at one of any size over your shoulder.

But on the positive side, all those romantic ballads about full moons – “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” “Shine on, Harvest Moon,” “Blue Moon,” etc. – have their origins in moon myth, too. Proposing or tying the wedding knot during a full moon, according to the ancient Greeks, indicates the marriage will be prosperous and happy. On the other hand, “marrying during a waning moon bodes ill for wedded bliss.”

My favorite, by-the-light-of-the-romantic-moon story involves my Aunt Alice and her dear Leonard, the love of her life until he died one New Year’s Eve with his dancing shoes still on. My mother’s younger sister was a dancing kind of girl herself, until the accident that took most of her vision when she was still in her teens. Alice finished her education at “blind school” where she met the man of her dreams, not caring that he couldn’t see at all.

Alice and Leonard were totally self-sufficient. She made rugs, wreaths and other crafts to sell, and cleaned their house with one of the brooms Leonard made in his shop and shipped to customers all across the country.

They also sang and played the “funny little instruments” Leonard devised for any group that would have them.

Every fair-weather night they were not entertaining someone else, they took their evening walk together. Arm in arm, with Leonard’s seeing-eye dog leading the way, their nightly jaunts brought smiles of admiration from their neighbors – one night especially.

“Oh, Leonard,” Alice crooned, “there’s a full moon out tonight and I want a kiss.”

Leonard, whose romantic side functioned just as well with or without the moon, was happy to oblige.

The phone was ringing when they came in the door. Alice recognized her neighbor’s voice.

“What were you two lovebirds doing out there, smooching in plain sight?” she teased.

When Alice explained about the moon, her neighbor laughed.

“There’s no moon tonight, Alice. You were standing under a streetlight.”

Ah, but when you’re as “moonstruck” as they were, does it matter what light is falling?

(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer, and author of the recently published book, As Long As the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County’s Past. E-mail comments to seabara@aol.com.)

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